Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Novelist

Novelist working on laptop

If you're thinking about becoming a novelist, you're probably weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the profession. Writing a novel can be thrilling and heart-wrenching, sometimes both at the same time. Professional authors who have already made a name for themselves know the tremendous amount of work and energy that goes into writing novels, but those who are jumping in for the first time might be surprised at how tedious the task can be.

Pros and Cons of Being a Novelist

Each novelist will experience different feelings toward writing a novel, and no two novelists will have identical experiences. What one person might consider an enjoyable perk, such as the need to utilize social media to promote her novels, another person might consider a burden and a chore. One size doesn't fit all. Individual perspective has a great deal to do with what any particular novelist might consider an advantage or disadvantage.

Potential Advantages

People often assume that the advantages of being a novelist far outweigh the disadvantages, and in some cases this is true. There are a number of potential advantages of being a novelist.

  • Fame - You might become quite well-known for your novels, or even famous. Some novelists, like Stephen King and J. K. Rowling, have become household names. If you become a famous novelist, your name will be considered by millions of people to be synonymous with good, page-turning reads.
  • A career you love - If you truly enjoy writing, then a career as a novelist could give you the opportunity to make a living doing something you truly enjoy and love, providing you with a career of the heart instead of just a job to bring in money.
  • Entertaining readers - Nobody can deny the potent power of storytelling or the way in which novels can move, entertain, and inspire people. As a novelist, you could experience a great deal of reward and gratification knowing that you're bringing joy and pleasure to people with your work.
  • Setting your own schedule - As a novelist, you will have a great deal of freedom regarding when and where you work. Are you a night owl? Write late at night. If you're a lark, you can start work first thing in the morning. You can work the schedule you choose, from any location you choose. This can give you more latitude when it comes to juggling all the to-dos of daily life.
  • Excellent money - If your novels sell well and you gain a large readership, a career as a novelist could give you a lucrative income. When you have millions of fans who are not only reading every word you have ever written but who are also waiting with bated breath to buy your next book, you will do very well financially as an author.
  • Intrinsic reward - People who are passionate about writing novels often cannot imagine doing anything else as their life's work. They simply have to spend their days getting the stories out of their heads. This, in and of itself, brings them enormous reward and pleasure.
  • More than one career - As a novelist, you can have more than one profession if you choose. Some novelists have other jobs that they are able to balance nicely with their writing careers, allowing them the best of both worlds.

Potential Disadvantages

Being a novelist may not be the ideal occupation for some people, even if they are quite talented and enjoy writing. Disadvantages of this profession include:

  • Competition - Whether you're traditionally published or self-published, the market for novels is crowded and competitive, with everyone clamoring for attention. The market is flooded with novels, whether digital or paper, from publishing houses of various sizes or from authors who self-publish. It's very difficult to attract readers to your work, especially if you're just getting started.
  • Sporadic income - As a novelist, your income might be more sporadic than steady. Indeed, it is difficult for many novelists to make a living wage. If you are traditionally published, you might get an advance on royalties, but then you must earn out your advance before you start getting those royalties. Whether you are traditionally published or self-published, your books must sell at high enough rates to earn a dependable income.
  • Discipline - You must be able to produce novels on a consistent basis. You can't just write when your muse is in the mood. To become a successful novelist, you must write even when you're feeling less than inspired. The completion of any project is entirely dependent upon your ability to stick with the story, so you must have a great deal of focus and discipline.
  • Marketing and promotion - You might not enjoy doing what it takes to market and promote your novels. If you dislike traveling and public speaking, you won't enjoy making appearances or doing book signings. If you aren't fond of blogging and social media, you'll find it difficult to do the work required to build and maintain a digital platform where you can connect with readers.
  • Criticism - No matter how many fans you get as a novelist, you'll always have people who dislike your work, whether readers, critics, or both. You will need to maintain a thick, tough skin when it comes to negative reviews and criticism of your novels. Like it or not, you will have to deal with criticism if you are a novelist, and you must do so graciously.
  • Time spent alone - As a novelist, you'll spend a great deal of time alone with your writing, which could mean less opportunity for social interaction than you might prefer. You might also have to contend with frustration on the parts of your family, friends, and loved ones over the fact that you spend so much of your time immersed in worlds of your own making.

Writer's Block

Woman novelist working on computer

Writer's block is troublesome enough to warrant a category of its own. Sometimes, when you're working on a novel, you get stuck. When the words won't come and the story won't flow, you're experiencing writer's block. It's a difficult experience that can have a strong negative impact on a writer's job satisfaction.

Who Experiences Writer's Block?

Both amateur and professional novelists can have significant issues with writer's block. This can be incredibly frustrating, and it can be particularly devastating to certain novelists:

  • Seasoned novelists who have never dealt with writers block while working on their previous novels
  • Amateur novelists who assumed it would be an easy process to write a novel

Of all the drawbacks of writing novels, the threat of writer's block is a constantly looming issue.

Ways to to Break Out of Writer's Block

Fortunately, there are things you can do to overcome writer's block. They share one goal in common: to help you reduce pressure on yourself and get back into the creative flow. Examples include:

  • Enjoy another activity - Take a break from trying to work on your novel and do something that relaxes you, whatever that might be. Draw pictures. Build something. Work on your blog. Sing a song or two. Play a musical instrument or listen to music. Take a long walk in a beautiful natural setting. Do some yoga. The key is to lose yourself in something you love that inspires you, refreshes you, and energizes you.
  • Do some freewriting - Freewriting will help you get in touch with the words in your mind, whatever they might be. Simply start writing about anything at all and keep going for about twenty minutes. Don't worry about the content. Let it flow. Do this every day for about a week. You might even find some interesting nuggets in your spontaneous prose.

Best Option for You

The best way to figure out whether the life of a novelist is conducive to your temperament and your wants and needs is to start living your life as though you are already a novelist. You can do this trial run while maintaining another job. Remember, most successful novelists start writing while also bringing in additional income from another source. It simply isn't a realistic option for most people to quit working altogether while writing a first novel.

  • Write every day.
  • Stay within deadlines that you set for yourself.
  • Actively pursue opportunities to market yourself and your work.

Making Your Decision

While you attempt to live the lifestyle of a working novelist, figure out if the thrill of writing a novel is enough to make up for all the extra hours of work you have to put into a day. If you truly want to be a novelist, the answer will be a definite yes!

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Novelist