Writing for Love or Money – Sara Sheridan Guest Post

In this recent series of posts – ‘Writing for Love or Money’ I wanted to explore what motivates writers to write, how money can be made from writing even without a traditional publishing contract – and to discover if money is ever the main motive. As part of the series I have invited several authors to contribute a guest post on what motivates them. The contributors write very different  things and for different reasons. I hope you enjoy discovering more about all of these talented writers.

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This is the second of the guest posts and it’s by author, Sara Sheridan. I really enjoy Sara’s novels and I first ‘met’ her on Twitter. And then last year I met her in person when I attended a talk given by her at Edinburgh’s Central Library. She was kind enough to invite me to meet her for a coffee before the talk. I reviewed Sara’s book, ‘The Secret Mandarin’ here on the blog.


Love or Money by Sara Sheridan

It’s an interesting distinction. I’m a full-time professional writer and I don’t see why I can’t have both these things. Being a writer is a more difficult job than people imagine. Everyone assumes writers spend their time lounging around, writing and occasionally striking a pose while having a think (fair play, I do my share of lounging). These activities however, are far too small a proportion of my job. I spend my days researching in dusty old archives, travelling across the country to speak at book festivals, libraries and independent bookshops and dodging the pile of administration tasks on my desk (an estimated quarter of my time goes on administration including social media.) On top of that most years I write two books (a total of around 200,000 words because historical fiction is, well, longer). All in, I work harder than many of my friends who are in safe 9-5 jobs and I probably earn slightly less than I would if I was putting in those kind of hours on a ‘real’ job. That said, I love what I do. Unexpectedly so.

I started writing about 18 years ago. I had never considered becoming a writer – it wasn’t a long held ambition. I had just got divorced and was struggling to hold down my 9-5 job as a senior administrator in the charitable arm of a major university. I needed to find something with more flexible hours so I could look after my daughter (only a toddler at the time) and retain my sanity (or near enough). One night I made a list of all the jobs I could do from home and decided to try one at a time until I found something that worked. At the top of my list was Write A Book. This story drives people nuts and I feel guilty about how easy I found it once I got going. I knew nothing and nobody but someone told me a novel was 70,000 words (that’s a minimum) so I figured that if I wrote 1000 words a day for 14 weeks (weekends off, naturally) then I’d have a novel. So I did. Then I researched publishers. There were 96 publishers of fiction in the UK in those days. I printed 96 manuscript copies and sent them off. Within three weeks I had my first offer – and only then set about finding myself an agent. It’s a jammy story, I know. I was incredibly lucky. I make a point of telling people that from those 96 manuscripts I ended up receiving 4 offers (it’s approximately a 4% hit rate – so mostly I failed, of course. But it only takes one offer, no matter how long the odds).  The book went on to become a Top 50 UK bestseller and I haven’t looked back.

If you’re lucky enough to have found something you love doing (inadvertently) then I have always believed you can’t be greedy for much more. I reckon as long as I’m earning the national average wage, then I can’t really complain. Most years since that book came out, I’ve achieved that. Sometimes I earn more. So yeah, I’m jammy (but I work hard for it) and I get to have love and money. Why not?


Some Sara facts:

Sara Sheridan is an historical novelist. The latest book in her Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series, London Calling, is out now.

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“Intelligent, accessible writing”www.sarasheridan.comTweet me @sarasheridan http://www.facebook.com/sarasheridanwriter
Order Sara’s latest book, London Calling, the second 1950s Mirabelle Bevan Mystery  here. The hardback is on special!
In the last few weeks..  taking part in the 26 Treasures of Childhood exhibition at the V&A’s Museum of Childhood, receiving a professional development award from Creative Scotland, writing an article about 1830s Rio for BBC History magazine, filming a talent taster for BBC television, appearing at Bath Literary Festival, publication of London Calling, becoming a guest blogger on the Huffington Post and talking about historical ladies on Woman’s Hour.

Coming up…  writing a first draft of The Melting Point set in 1820s Brazil and London, going to Colonsay Book Festival, interviewing Maggie O’Farrell, a Mirabelle Bevan short story going into ever Best Western hotel room in the country and taking part in a writing celebration of Norwich’s UNESCO City of Literature award.

8 thoughts on “Writing for Love or Money – Sara Sheridan Guest Post

  1. A great interview. Sarah makes it sound easy for her but I’d day 96 submissions isn’t easy. She aimed for something and did it. It shows it can be done. Thank you.

  2. I read The Secret Mandarin last year and loved it so much.I can’t believe Sarah just decided to write,just like that,well done.The novels must take lots of research though. Very interesting post Anne.

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  3. I enjoyed this post as it offers such a different take to how I write and what writing means. This diversity is a good thing, though with the caveat that all forms of writing has a chance to be read – and here the internet is a good thing, if not a profitable one for every writer.

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