Then: Corporate communications professional by day, Writer by night
Now: Writer by day and night
Amanda J. Clay writes romantic thrillers and young adult novels under A.J. McGoldrick. She currently lives with her husband in Denver, CO, where she writes full-time. She is represented by Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Literary. Her newest release, The Keeper’s Promise, was published earlier this year.
What kinds of day jobs did you have before you started writing full time?
For ten years I worked in corporate communications for large retail-based corporations. I started out in the PR/Marketing side then transitioned into internal/employee communications and ended up being an expert in employee benefits. I wrote a lot of sexy newsletters about pharmacy!
I was a high heel and pencil skirt wearing girl who spent a lot of time sitting in meetings.
Did you have a writing schedule? If yes, could you describe how it went? If no, how often and when did you write?
In the very beginning, it was more just jotting down a few words whenever I could manage. But once I got serious about wanting to finish my first book, I would squeeze it in whenever I could. I’d get up earlier and jot down a couple hundred words in the morning. I’d use my lunch break at work to write and then I’d come home and write in the evenings. I would also get up early on Saturdays and get some writing in before I did anything else.
Did you have a target of how many words or pages you wrote in a day?
Once I built a habit, I started shooting for 1,000 words 3-4 times per week.
What time of the day was the best time for you to write? What did you do when you couldn’t write during those times?
If I could manage, I enjoyed writing in the morning when my mind was fresh. But with a busy schedule it wasn’t always possible. I would just squeeze it in when I could.
Did you get inspiration from your day job? Why or why not?
I can’t say that my corporate job was entirely inspiring or related to what I was writing (my first book was a YA dystopian). But, as a writer I was always looking for funny situations, good dialogue. I worked for a company with thousands of employees so I inevitably came across hilarious things sometimes. I’d write down anything I came across that might have made for a good scene down the road.
Some people and scenes have definitely made it into later work.
Between your day job and writing, how did you fit in time with your family/partner/social circle, etc.?
I didn’t sleep much, haha. There’s some truth to that. There came a time when I realized that if I wanted to make this thing work, I was going to have to make some sacrifices. At that time I had a demanding job, a relationship, lots of family commitments and a busy social life. I had to learn to say no to things as well as communicate to my partner and my friends that I needed to dedicate more time to writing.
I won’t lie, people weren’t always accepting of this. Many people saw my writing as a hobby, not work. They thought it shouldn’t take precedent over a party or a night out or even just watching a movie together on the couch.
I missed out on some social things but my writing was so much more important to me than another happy hour.
How long did it take you to finish writing a book?
My first book took me about two years. That first year I was kind of just jotting down notes and ideas, a few scenes. The second year I really sat down and wrote. Then learned how to edit!
Every book has gotten a little faster, a little easier. I can now bust out a first draft in a few weeks!
Did you write alone or with a writing group?
I wrote alone, however I did find a local writing chapter for support. I think regardless of how you like to write, a community of like-minded and supportive writing friends is key.
What led to you writing full time?
It was always my dream. I have wanted to be a writer since I could remember. So I worked my butt off, cranked out a few books, learned about independent publishing, marketing, everything I could get my hands on. I moved from the strict corporate job into a consulting job where I had more flexibility with my time. I saved up my money and then once my books started making some money, I took a chance and moved to part-time consulting, then finally to writing full time.
It was still a risk, but I was ready to give it my all. And it paid off.
Was it your goal to be a full-time writer?
Yes, as I said It was always my dream.
What are the differences in your writing habits as a full time writer compared to when you had a day job?
Well, now that I don’t have another job to worry about, I can give all my energy to writing. I still keep a daily work schedule though. I still get up early, go to the gym, get dressed and sit at my desk.
I have a daily word count goal of 3,000 words, but I often go above that. Before I would only have so many hours I could give to writing, so whatever I was able to get done in that hour was that. But now, if it’s a slow creativity day, I force myself to sit there until the words are out!
But now I have the freedom to take a long lunch, go for a walk whenever, call it an early day or work all night if I’m so inspired.
I have a much smaller social life now than I used to. Partly because I’m alone all day, but also because the most important thing to me is my career. I need breaks of course, but most nights, I’d rather spend working on my next project than hitting the bar. I probably work more now than I ever have, but every ounce of effort I put in goes directly toward my own business, so I don’t mind. And luckily my husband is 100% supportive of this. (Frankly, I wouldn’t have married him otherwise!)
Do you have any other advice on keeping up with writing while having a day job?
This is a career that will take a lot of dedication and time. If you’re serious about making it happen, you have to make it a priority. I hear from a lot of aspiring writers that they don’t have time. I understand that life gets in the way and sometimes other things like kids and longs days at the office are going to take precedent. But how many hours this week did you waste browsing Facebook or binging Netflix? Did you sit around the house doing nothing on Saturday?
It’s amazing how much time we waste during the week. Time that could be used for writing.
Learn to tap out a few words on your phone, learn to use dictation. Typing or speaking out 100 words only takes a minute or two. It’s amazing how that can add up.
Another thing I can’t stress enough is that writing can be a lonely career. It’s crucial that you find a tribe of people who will support you because there will be times when you just want to quit. Your friends and spouse might be really supportive, but they will likely not fully understand what it’s like. Joining a local writing group can make all the difference.
And don’t be afraid to tell the people in your life that your writing is important to you and worthy of your time.