CS's Journal

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by jacob » Sat Nov 04, 2017 4:49 pm

In case you haven't searched the forum archives, there are several published authors and aspiring authors here. Most successful in terms of $$$ is prosaic who got discovered and ended up with several titles on the amazon bestseller list resulting in a sudden $50k+/month income. I think she is/was more active elsewhere (MMM?). Didn't really hear much from her again after the breakthrough :mrgreen:

cimorene12 has posted a lot of long updates on the writing business in general; she built her writing out very deliberately (testing, strategy, etc.), pursued what worked and canned what didn't, and turned it into a good income.

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3764 (for first steps ... this is old stuff, maybe things have changed a bit, but it gives you an idea of the $-numbers)

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by wolf » Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:30 am

I had a look on portfoliocharts. I know what you mean. But in the long run (5+ years) it has a steady SWR of about 3%. I guess the mid- and longterm is more important than the shortterm returns. ERN wrote a good post about the importance of SR and AssetAllocation. He says: "This is the beauty of early retirement and the 50%+ savings rates: A larger portion of your nest egg will be principal and you rely less on capital gains and compounding than the typical retiree with a 40 or 45-year horizon. For early retirees, asset allocation “mistakes” are less damaging!"
https://earlyretirementnow.com/2017/11/ ... etirement/
But I guess you know that already and that you have a high SR. Keep it going!

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by CS » Sun Nov 05, 2017 11:39 am

Thanks for all those links! I've gotten about halfway through Cimorene12's update (and there is another journal to read too?). I've spent some time on lurking on kboards, but it is entirely something else to follow along on someone's path as they go. I need to do some actual writing today(!) so have to put it down as a later reward for getting some words out.

The best thing I got from it so far is 1. It takes time and 2. It takes effort. I can do those things. So I need to calm down about what is happening now, and worry about what I am doing now, and the result will come of it's own. The fact that I am making zero dollars from writing now does not mean I will always make zero dollars.

$50k a month so far past my goals, I can't even comprehend it. Not saying I wouldn't take it though! :D

I am going for the low withdrawal rate to hedge my bets. There is no reason to believe I can't make *some* money writing, but until I see cash in hand, I'm going on the assumption I need to live off my capital forever. :)


One of the links in Cimorene12's update was about Math Kids. My brother probably wasn't an 'official' math kid, but he was pulled out of his classes in sixth grade and sent to the University for calculus. I was little jealous of that. It turned out he hated it - loads of homework (busy work I'm guessing) -and hours on the school bus each day. My brother had stuff he wanted to do. And that math stuff was interfering. When I read the Math Kids article, what struck me was how it was about all who had PhD's, who had great jobs, etc. It really was about who was indoctrinated the most (my take). They were so bound to their framework that they had to evaluate girls verse boys who did more of those indoctrinated behaviors. And here is my brother who was going to have none of that. He hasn't worked for another person since he was eighteen (probably younger). He has had his own businesses all his adult life. He now has fifty plus employees, all making a living off of his creative output (well, now theirs too - he is training them). So who is more 'successful'? I'd say my brother - not because of the size of his current business - but because he hasn't had to take orders from others for close to thirty years. I feel like a sucker next to him sometimes. I hate working for others.

So I think the writers of that article sort of missed the point. But they are so far in the cave, they probably couldn't recognize it if it smashed them in the face.


I think I have a plan coming together. I'm going to hang on to be my current certifications, and take one gig a year (~ 3 months) if they come up, until I have three books published or make 15k a year, which ever comes sooner. The worst, worst case scenario is I work three months a year for another five years in my old field. The best, is that in 2019 I can shutter my old business. It will cost be 3-4k to leave it (yes, I have to pay to leave. This payment is in the form of a tail for my liability insurance), but I figure if I have other money coming in, that will take care of itself. Right now I have the cash for my 2018 maintenance expenses aside (2k).

The thing with the old business is I have to work once a year, or it's hard to get back in. And the jobs are not that steady, so there is the constant anxiety of 'will a gig come in time.' (Curiously, I didn't feel it at all while in school though. I want to get back to that zero f's place.)

So for the upcoming year, I'll have two business - one for writing, one for the old career. I don't want an LLC, so I might just file DBA in Minnesota under a pen name so I can get the checking account and the solo 401k started for the writing business. If I ever make tons of money where I want an LLC and/or professional accountant, I can always change things then.

I have also set aside close to 2k for the new business, for software, editors and fees. It should be enough to get started. I know I am going to have to pay for copy editing - my typo rate is amazingly high. Having a development editor would be nice too - if it's not too expensive. I am figuring ~$400 max per book to start, including covers. I can spend more when I have money coming in, although I'm not sure it would be much more... Amanda M.Lee posted about her editing and that is about what she pays - and she has a crew of three editors she uses in various ways. Of course she is a practiced journalist, so her copy is much cleaner than mine to start with! I might have to pay some sort of idiot/pain in the butt tax.


I know I am being too precious about this first book. Last night I worked on the characters and wrote ~800 words of a new beginning in a literary style. And hated it. I am not starting over from scratch. I decided to string the first five chapters I've already done in the Caper style (light hearted fluff mysteries with stupid humor) together into one document and viola, I'm already 9k words into my first book. Onwards and upwards.

When I wrote my first screenplay, one of the readers told me the beginning was awful, but it got much better as it went. The later part, that he liked, was written fast, fast, fast. Clearly I can over think things if allowed to.

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by CS » Wed Nov 08, 2017 1:52 pm

33 more work days until I am done with this job. I cannot wait.

Just this morning, had to deal with loud laughing (yeah, it could be much worse) from one room over, my officemate's LOUD (like, what-the-heck-loud), and constant, text messages notifications, with a whistle to the sound that hurts my ears (bonus points), and loud conversations between him and others right next to me.

I'm sensitive to noise. My throat hurts just from being here for two hours. I cannot wait to be done. This is so bad for my health.

270 hours.

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by anomie » Wed Nov 08, 2017 9:26 pm

Hi CS -

If you have considered and are truly interested in deleting your LinkedIn account, they do still allow it . How To Here

It is pretty liberating once you have made the decision.

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by CS » Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:41 pm

Last edited by CS on Sat Nov 11, 2017 6:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by CS » Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:01 pm


Thanks for the tip. I'm considering it. It seems less is more on the internets.


Back in the midwest for the weekend. Facing the issue that I really don't have a long term place to live that I'm all that happy with. Trying to use it as motivation to get the writing stuff underway so that can change.

I registered with DD and read a load of threads. Read a few more stories and confirmed (again) that I don't want to do erotica, and probably not romance (although the money for romance is tempting). The categories of cozy and science fiction are more comfortable fits to my natural interests. So that is some progress.

Outlined the next sequence of my book. I'm finding it difficult to outline chapter by chapter, unless I have more structure. So I drill down, by acts (three - but really four), and sequences (generally two per act, except the first and last). It helps me. I am dead in the water unless I know where I'm going. I'm just too, too, too (I really mean it), too lazy to write a bunch of stuff that just goes into the trash. Yes, I'll kill my stuff when needed, but I'd rather not go 200 pages in the wrong direction. :cry: :shock:


In the interest of focus and efficient use of limited energy I think it would be prudent to sign out of/ perhaps delete - Facebook, LinkedIn, and track down what ever happened to my MySpace account (remember those?). Facebook takes way too much of my time. It's worst than TV. I find myself scrolling down pages like an addict looking for just one more interesting story at 10 pm, when I should have been asleep for an hour. Nope.


It was funny to read that Taleb goes to bed at 8 pm. With the time change in Portland, I've been changing into PJ's after work and hitting the sack between 6 and 8. Of course I read for a few hours in bed (research, ya know? :lol: ), or less usefully, scroll through Facebook.

So it's work, cook when get home (lunches and dinners), and read. I take shocking pleasure in my solitude. I hope I don't regret it someday, but it feels good right now to have the peace and quiet. (I can see that changing after this job is over and I'm not overstimulated eight hours a day.)

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by cimorene12 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 1:24 pm

jacob wrote:
Sat Nov 04, 2017 4:49 pm
cimorene12 has posted a lot of long updates on the writing business in general; she built her writing out very deliberately (testing, strategy, etc.), pursued what worked and canned what didn't, and turned it into a good income.
Excellent and succinct summary of my journal.

Prosaic is still out there and doing well. She has evolved with the market but she has a very engaged reader base and I think she will be publishing for the foreseeable future.

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal » Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:08 pm

@CS welcome back to the Midwest. That white stuff is snow.

I think sometimes you have to take a leap of "faith". If you really want to write and these contract jobs are getting in the way, there is no reason not to give it a shot. Too often the high net worth/savings rates on these forums make us forget how much security a multiple six-figure savings really provides. Sure, you may need income again, but there's plenty of time to figure it out. Even if you lose your ability to take these high paying contracts due to lack of recent experience, it seems you pretty-much hate them anyway(?).

Life is short, find a different way to make ends meet. If not writing, something else will show up. You've already won the game with a half million dollar savings and reasonably low outflow.

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by CS » Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:59 pm

I sent you a PM.

Life is short. I'm reminded of that every day looking at the charts of people with cancer. The funny thing about saving that money is now it feels like not a lot. I think the difference is the mind-set. Once, it was 500k, woohoo!, look what I can buy, now it's "that's 1250/month for living at 3% SWR". :)

I made the (probable) mistake of letting a friend of 20+ years know I was retiring due to savings. Their reaction was I could buy a house they could live there!! I was like "no, then what would I live on?". It might not be a bad idea, except 1. owning a house is a lot of headache, 2. mixing friends and money and 3. what *would* I live on? (unless said house was much cheaper than the average where I'm currently at.) Unless we have some sort of bust/interest rate hike, I don't see that massive a correction coming. Especially not if they ramp the deficit to within an inch of it's life.

It's not so much I hate the actual work - it's more the required 9 hours a day away from my other interests, and often the lack of control of my environment. I've had a few jobs with offices - those I love - but more often than not, I'm in some common area with loud noises and all that. I don't think I'd ever be happy in an environment like that... I don't care if it paid 500k/a year. No thanks.

Plus, there is some internal embarrassment that I'm still doing this career many years after deciding I was not too happy with it. Golden handcuffs. At least there has been loads of time off to do other things.


Writing efforts

So I'm putting time in and learning what scrivener is verses vellum, and other nitty gritty details of how to make the writing go smoothly. I've been writing in word, but my irritation level with trying to keep chapters organized, etc is reaching a painful level. So I think I'll start with scrivener, and and deal with vellum (for formatting books) in the 2018 tax year, when I'll officially start my business. I'll also be at home with my 2012 macbook pro 15", so will have more screen real estate. I like my 12" computer I have for traveling work, but the small screen is brutal for digitally 'spreading out' and getting organized.

Finally bit the bullet and got KU for reading more books. I have a few authors that I am studying. I'm also finding a lot of authors that I give up on after a chapter or two. I hope to move my writing past some of their mistakes as quickly as possible. I know it's going to have some of them in there, but you have to start somewhere, eh?


Health Insurance

The HSA plan I was on switched doctor networks, so I switched plans. Now I'm on a Bronze plan, but not HSA. It should be cheap enough if I make the minimum I need in MN for tax credits (2x's the poverty level). I don't want to get on the state plan and will just convert traditional IRA to Roth if needed to get the income level right. Yes, I know I'll be paying some income taxes at that amount. If that (the worse case) comes to be because I have such poor writing income, then I figure out a different plan for 2019. I'm worried about this horrible tax bill passing, since it would affect both my health insurance and general tax rate. Now would be a good time to have all dividend income. Oh well.


26 more work days

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by CS » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:12 pm

Update for the end of the year.

I was offered a five week extension and took it. So my would have been two more weeks is now seven weeks. Thought for a hot second about buying a car, then got a grip and instead congratulated myself on solidly crossing a nice, round, number in savings. :D

I've also earned almost all my needed continuing education done for the year (and next, actually). I only need two more credits and then I will not have to worry about this at all next year and can just concentrate getting my business up and running. Bonus.

33 more work days.

Not sure if this counts as investing or not, but I did for the first time try Treasury Direct for buying T-bills. Not too shabby. It was on my 2018 goal list, but I had some energy last weekend and just did it then instead of waiting. It has a better return than my savings account, that is for sure (and that tells you how bad that account is!).

I've also been also reading on the Bogleheads forum just for fun. A lot of them seem confident about a 20-30% correction coming up. I dunno. I saw the graph for one small cap value fund that one of the big brokerages was toting, and it had a huge 50% drop right in the middle. It was easy to overlook that data point in the middle of the rather long climb upwards, but it was there. I wonder how truly confident these "all-in" index stock people will be if the correction is at that magnitude. There was also a prediction thread for the peak for bitcoin (date and valuation). That situation is like watching a car crash in slow motion... fascinating and awful all that the same time. Apparently there is a lot of money coming in from Asia... the old problem of too much money and nowhere to invest it. (Obviously not one of my old problems...)

Upgraded my computer (free OS software) so I could use the latest Scrivener software just released AND made it through the tutorials and helpful videos last weekend. This weekend's project is importing my current book into it and getting organized. Bit frustrating that I only make progress on the weekends, but progress is progress.

My entertainment has been Sherlock (the TV series) and reading mysteries. All what I call research. I also get to see why my girlfriends were gushing about how sexy Benedict Cumberbatch was a few years ago (when it originally aired). Between that, and the possibly better environment in Hollywood, I am somewhat tempted to go back and try to be a TV writer. But my best shot at that, and all of my other goals frankly, is to first become a successful book writer on my own first. So first things first. Work, work, work. (Don't let the four letter word fool you, I am rather excited for it.)

Treasure Booking
So, one of my friends has invited me to make a treasure book of what I want from the Universe. (Don't even start on how silly that is... I'm willing to give it a go, so you can just let me without mockery, k?) The challenge is - how to do this without spending money (or much money) and without pulling a lot of magazine clutter into my life. I found a good scrapbook I like for ~$6 - yay for that. Now just for the pictures.

In case you don't know, Treasure booking is where you make a scrapbook of images of the things you want in your life, and are asking the Universe for (or just reminding your subconscious to keep working on that problem and solve it already). Since I want things like 'quiet' and 'time freedom' it also makes finding the right image a bit of a challenge. Now if I wanted a Forest Green F150 pickup truck, that would be easier to solve... buy a couple issues of Motor magazine, find the perfect photo, and be done with it. Instead I have to find concrete definitions for vague desires I have in my mind. Which I think is important. I stopped making progress in music when I stopped 'seeing' where I wanted to be. Same with other areas of interest. Not sure if it's a chicken and egg problem or not, but there does seem to be a correlation between Vision and Results. (No vision, little results.)

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by CS » Mon Jan 01, 2018 4:59 pm

2018 Goals and End of Year Status*
(with actual numbers!)

End of 2017
*These numbers include funds from my contract extension through Jan. My income is so sporadic that thinking of it in terms of each job's net is the easiest for me. (With my best effort this coming year, this is the last contract in this field, but that is another section.)

Also, before I start, I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself. :D I've just about doubled my net worth since 2013 (Edit: I DID double my NW! Woot). I know back then I was married, so those numbers were technically for two, but most of it I brought to the marriage, and took away again, thanks to the prenup. (Don't worry about the ex - his NW went from negative in loan debt, to a net positive in savings, as well as a future career he would never have had if left to his own devices. No reason for guilt. :P )

403b $8700 (rolling over this year)
Tradition IRA $271,585
Roth IRA $68,027
TSP $54,047
AU $27,200
Taxable** $108,600

Total $538,159

None (yay!!)

** This number includes allocations for living expenses for 2018 (16.8k), as well one time expenses, such as 12k in dental work I have finally earned the money for, funds for a birthday trip with a good friend, and 4k in start-up funds for writing business which I hope to not use (but it's there if I cannot find other ways to accomplish my tasks. I'm not planning on doing something stupid like splurging on a large advertising budget for my first book, or other money pits that abound for the novice.)

My monthly budget is $1400, which includes $365 for health insurance. I might get ~$309/month in credit back, or I might get zero, which means I've been successful in earning some cash through writing. I sincerely hope to get zero back. :lol: I'm not going to split the details out, because (insert fake reason here so don't have to admit embarrassing reason), but I will say I spend $300 on groceries and $45 on eating out/coffee (or just fancier groceries). This will probably drop with my having more time but I too have run into unintentionally losing weight due to frugality. I am not trying to lose weight! Hence more treats.

Forward Tax planning for 2018
Of the net income I'll have for 2018 (as of right now), I'm planning on stashing 24.5k into my Roth 401k and the rest (~10k) into a split of traditional 401k and traditional IRA. Why not all into tax-sheltered, you ask? Because in Minnesota a person is not eligible for the Tax credit for health insurance unless they make twice the poverty level (there are other options instead, including Medicare). And I have no idea how much total money I'll make in 2018. Hopefully some from writing, but in case I'm an utter failure, this is the plan right now. It will wipe out my ready cash down (besides spoken for allocations) to a little over one year's worth of expenses (19k) for 2019, but it will net me 24.5k in Roth. Oh yes, please.

Leaving the Current Career
I have approximately a year to a year and a half to ignore my current career without repercussions. Some places are really picky that you've worked within the last year, some don't care. Most agencies *I* don't want to work for since they insist on hiring me as a W2, for less than stellar pay. And going forward, it's even less attractive due to the tax law change - and the huge savings afforded by Solo 401ks that they just cannot compete with. Plus, I've had bad experiences with them sharing my SSN willy nilly. No. Now is the time to be my own business. My last two contracts have been 1099 and it is the way to go.

My current job though might be getting some new (like first one the west coast new) technology, that ironically enough I am ideally suited for because of my PhD project. How often does a decade plus old PhD come in handy? This also re-enforces how far ahead thinking my advisor was. Have I mentioned he's had projects on the space station? :lol: (proud much? Yes, yes I am) They might call me for an interview if they get the new thing. As much as I'm planning on leaving the field, I'd consider it - because shiny new many million dollar toy!

Reducing Fragility
This is my big, big goal for 2018. It comes in two parts: 1. Getting my Italian passport and 2. Getting a second income stream from writing.

The Passport
The Italian passport is actually going to be a lot less work than I somehow recalled. I've already found a company that will secure all the documents for me (an Italian couple), I just need to get them the full names, dates, and locations of the relevant events. Yes, I could probably do this myself. But I'm willing pay to not have to deal with government agencies, especially in Italy. I started this in 2016 and sort of just dropped the ball due to work. I think I can do this by the end of the year.

Going to Iceland this year was educational. I didn't realize just how restrictive some countries are towards American visits, rather than say a Mexican passport. Being able to enter a place on an EU passport could be very handy.

The Writing
This had been my goal for 2017 (three books) and I failed completely. In true procrastinator fashion, I went and worked and made money instead. So, my goal for 2018 is to fix this. I want to do five novels in a series for the first year (at least three in a series, and two in a different series if I end up hating the first one, or it doesn't sell anything). Thanks to Cimorene12 from this forum (and Jacob for pointing her out), as well as some online resources, I know exactly what I need to do.

I'm planning on starting my efforts the first week in Feb. I'm considering starting today, but know I can't do the word counts I want while working this job. Do I start now and do a little each day? Or should I wait? The procrastinator in me says to wait. And it might have a good reason to since the switching costs between tasks is so high - I swear, I spend most of my time thinking "okay, where was I?" and by the time I'm rolling again it's time to go and do some chore, like going to work. But it's only five weeks from now. I think what I might do instead is continue the research and see if I can outline my first two books. Or outline the first book in great detail, do the character sketches (this first, actually), and figure out the series arc and write the loglines for each book. I learned this process from a TV writing class. There is something about the writing (for me) that changes when it is done a lot, in an immersive style. I once wrote twenty percent of a full-length script in one day - and it was some of my best writing ever.

My three-year goal is to make 3k net per month from writing that I can use for living expenses and do things like going to writer's conferences, traveling to a warm place for the winter and all sort of luxuries like that. I'd like to be able to live off the writing income and just let the rest of my savings grow. And add some savings to the total each year. Why not just live off of what I've already got? Well, it took so much to earn that money, that I really don't want to spend any of it(!) and two, I like challenges. Becoming a successful author will really cement that FI status so I never have to work for others again.

My goal for the first year is much simpler - get producing content, get the books completed and make something *net*. :) :) :) This first year is all about getting the foundation in place.

I feel like I probably repeat myself a lot in this journal. Sorry for that folks. Happy New Year!

Edited (many times) for grammar. Always the frickin' grammer. (Yes, I want to be a writer.... :lol: )
Last edited by CS on Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by Chris » Mon Jan 01, 2018 6:03 pm

CS wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 4:59 pm
Of the net income I'll have for 2018 (as of right now), I'm planning on stashing 24.5k into my Roth 401k and the rest (~10k) into a split of traditional 401k and traditional IRA.
And I have no idea how much total money I'll make in 2018.
Will you have 24.5k+10k in compensation for the year? AFAIK, to make retirement account contributions, the contributions must be from income earned in the tax year of the contribution.
CS wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 4:59 pm
The Italian passport is actually going to be a lot less work than I somehow recalled. I've already found a company that will secure all the documents for me (an Italian couple), I just need to get them the full names, dates, and locations of the relevant events to them.
Huh, I never considered this as an antifragile move, but you're right! I too was put off by the amount of work necessary when I first read about it. Care to share the details of the company you've found? (PM if you want)

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Re: CS's Journal

Post by CS » Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:23 pm

That will be from earned business income. I don't know what additional income I'll get for 2018. Perhaps nothing.

I sent you the name of the company in a PM

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