Michelle Isenhoff

Confessions of a Newly Full-Time Writer

I’ve been pretty silent on here lately. Those who have been hanging with me awhile know everything changed for me last spring when I decided to send my last homeschooler to public school. I made the decision to go mercenary–write in a popular genre and see what I could accomplish and what kind of money I might bring in as a full-time writer. But I had no idea how fast I could write or what to expect. The past three years while homeschooling, I’ve managed only one 100K novel per year. So this past July, I began a four-book dystopian series. I thought I’d let you guys in on my journey of the last eight months.
I decided to go big and sketch in plans to finish a book every three months. Crazy! That’s roughly 35K per month. Far more than I’ve ever accomplished. When I first started writing years ago, that was actually my annual word count. I jumped in, started writing RECOMPENSE, and was stunned when I completed 55K words by the end of the month. More than half of book one!
So, could I keep it up? I adjusted my schedule to finish a book every two months, thinking you’re crazy, Michelle. But I did it anyway. And I finished out the 100K, completed rewrites, and sent the book off to my editor by the end of month. Wow!

Because the RECOMPENSE trilogy is tied so closely to the revolution of 47 years prior (the Provocation), I wanted to tell that background story through the lives of two sisters. The first would be a short prequel entitled PROVOCATION that I would make free for my mailing list subscribers. As I planned to publish it several months before book one and use it as advertising for the upcoming series, I got on it right away. Again, I surprised myself. I finished the 20K story in under two weeks and sent it off to my publisher. (It published in November and is still free!)
The second sister, a prominent player in the trilogy, would get a full novel. Since bits of her story play out gradually over the course of the main trilogy in a series of discoveries, I didn’t want to publish her story too soon. So I planned for it to release after the trilogy as a book four prequel entitled ABDUCTION. But since it takes place at the same time as the short prequel, I began writing it next so details would jive.

By the end of October I had ABDUCTION’s rough draft 85% finished (85K) and all necessary details hashed out. Only the ending remained. So at the end of the month, I set it aside. Again, extremely pleased with my progress. Combined with the short prequel, I finished over 100K again within the two months.
November and December

I started and finished book two, BETRAYAL. Excellent! I can really do this!
January and February
I started and finished book three, RETRIBUTION. Yes!
January 25, RECOMPENSE published.
February 25, BETRAYAL published.
Maybe you’ve noticed, but today is the first day of March. I just sent book three to my editor today. It will release on March 25. Tomorrow, I will pick up book four, ABDUCTION, which is already 85% finished, and have it ready for my editor by the end of the month. It will publish April 25.
There. You’re caught up. Today was my big watershed. The hardest work is behind me. Two books have now published. The other two are almost there. Eight months of hard work, and I’m absolutely thrilled with what I have written. And early response has been overwhelmingly positive.
So how’s the financial part going? you ask.
Well…book one has only been out a month. It sold many times more in its first month than any other book I’ve ever released. When it sells at 99 cents, though, and I get only 35% of that, I haven’t even put a dent in my $2000 investment. Book one is all about exposure. Book two has only been out five days and it’s making a decent showing. And that’s netting me 75% of its 2.99 price tag. I’ve got some promos planned, but it’s still REALLY early. So I’m going to delay judgment until all four books are out and the series has had a little time to gather steam. But I am really stoked, and I’ve loved every minute. I can do this! If I get paid. I guess I’ll find out shortly if I’ve worked the last eight months for free. I’ll keep you posted on when the series breaks even.
Meanwhile, I think I might add a book five, then I’ve got two more series I want to flesh out. This full-time writer gig is a two-year experiment, so I plan to be busy, busy, busy. Hopefully, enough money to consider it a real job will follow.

Confessions of a Newly Full-Time Writer

10 thoughts on “Confessions of a Newly Full-Time Writer

  1. You’re doing amazing, Michelle. I enjoyed Recompense and bought Betrayal. Haven’t started it yet, but I’m looking forward to the whole series, and I wish you great success! You go, girl! Whoop! Whoop!

  2. Wow! I new you are a prolific and disciplined writer, but I am speechless at 55K words in August. And, you outline and write books side-by-side. You are beyond remarkable. I would like to be a fly on your wall. Great to see Recompense is in paperback. I just ordered it.

    1. Aw, thanks, Pat. I hope you enjoy it. My mom is not a fan of dystopian, but she told me she got hooked, and several of my historical fiction/not dystopian fans have said the same, so I must have done okay. I have totally had a blast writing these.

      1. I like dystopian, I just don’t review it very often because of my blog theme. I love the Keeper of the Lost Cities series. Your enthusiasm has sold me. Should have it this weekend or Monday!

        1. You should be good then. I’m told I hold my typical writing style within the new genre. Yeah, I can see how dystopian wouldn’t go over well on your blog, lol. I like Shannon Messenger, too!

  3. I am so impressed! I thought when I retired I could write full-time and increase my productivity. Alas, that hasn’t happened. I need to eat what you’re eating! I hope the money starts rolling in. I think it will, just give it time.

  4. It’s been a matter of meeting ambitious goals. Which broke down into 50 hours a week for the past 8 months. I kept track. And I’m more than ready to cut that back for spring and summer.

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