The Nomadic Novelist: How To Make A Living Writing Fiction On The Road

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Although most digital nomads know about web design, nonfiction writing, and marketing as careers that lend themselves well to travel, few have considered fiction writing as a possibility.


Writing a novel is not only rewarding, and potentially lucrative, but the lack of clients and need for reliable Wi-Fi makes it a good career choice for digital nomads.

Intrigued by this unusual remote career option? Here’s how to make a living writing fiction from anywhere


** Before I forget I also recommend checking out these 15 awesome travel job courses that’ll teach you the exact skills you need for many kinds of remote jobs you can do from anywhere.

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The pros and cons of being a nomadic novelist

Like any digital nomad lifestyle, there are pros and cons to being a nomadic fiction writer.


The obvious pros are that you can easily move to somewhere where the cost of living is cheaper, the weather is better, and the food is tastier. All you need is your laptop, an occasional internet connection, and a good idea.

Rather than having to limit yourself to traveling once or twice a year, you can travel full-time or part-time whilst working on your masterpiece.

When considering how to make a living writing fiction it’s not all sunshine and lollipops of course.

One of the biggest cons is that writing and moving around can be incredibly unsettling. Stability is important when you’re a writer.

Many writers have a favourite place to write and a routine that goes with it. Unfortunately, when you’re a freelance novelist on the road, all of this has to go out of the window.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to travel every day. It’s possible to spend a couple of weeks or months in a place, allowing you to still maintain some element of normality.

Working as a freelance novelist VS other digital nomad careers

Regardless of which digital nomad ‘job’ you choose, whether that’s working as a consultant, running a blog, working as a developer, a translator, or whatever – working and traveling at the same time is difficult.

The good news, however, is that working as a freelance novelist is considerably easier than many other digital nomad jobs.

Firstly, there are no clients to deal with if you’re writing completely for yourself.

As many people know, dealing with clients on the road can be incredibly tiresome. Meeting deadlines and making phone calls all become that little bit harder when you’re doing it in a different timezone with less reliable Wi-Fi.

If you work as a ghost writer, you may still have to check in with clients occasionally. Generally, though, clients tend to be more reasonable about giving you time and space to get your work done.

There’s also less need for a solid Wi-Fi connection. You’ll probably need to do a lot of research, which requires Wi-Fi, but you won’t need to be connected 24/7.

In fact, it’s probably better if you’re away from the internet so that you have less distractions. (Many writers who have reliable connections even use apps like Freedom App to block them from accessing the internet and getting distracted).

Writing for yourself VS working as a ghost writer

James Cave - How to make a living writing fiction while traveling

When considering how to make a living writing fiction while traveling, there are two main ways that you can work as a novelist: either write and sell your own work or write for others.

Ghost Writing

Starting off as a ghost writer can be difficult.

Clients will want to be certain that you can write a compelling novel and will be slow to hire you if they aren’t convinced that you know what you’re doing.

You’ll probably need to write a few novels yourself to convince them.

Who uses ghost writers?

Celebrities aren’t the only ones who use ghost writers to write their books.

Go on Craigslist, Upwork, or just about any other freelance writing job site and you’re bound to find one or two novel ghost writing jobs.

The reasons people pay others to write a novel for them vary. Most of the job adverts you see will be from publishing houses.

These publishing houses work backwards from the traditional way a novel gets published i.e. a writer brings a published novel (in the case of an amateur) or a proposal (in the case of a seasoned novelist) and the publishing house pays them for it.

Instead, the publishing houses on Udemy or Craigslist will have come up with an idea for a book that they think will sell and are now looking to commission a writer to produce it.

As well as publishing houses, you’ll also find plenty of entrepreneurs or average Joes who’ve come up with an idea that they think will sell but are too busy (or lazy) to learn the craft of writing themselves.

How to become a freelance writer

Firstly, don’t quit the day job just yet.

Even if you’ve been successfully blogging or writing non-fiction for years, there’s still an entire craft that needs to be learned. This takes time.

Secondly, get a Kindle publishing account.

As a freelance writer most of the money you make is going to come through Kindle and Createspace (both Amazon companies). Kobo, Nook, Smashwords, and selling books directly through your website are all other viable ways of making money.

The vast majority of your income, however, is going to come through Amazon.

On the subject of Amazon and Kindle publishing, get a Kindle.

Kindle - How to make a living writing fiction while traveling

Good writers do two things: read and write. If you’re on the road (or planning to be), carrying paperbacks isn’t very practical.

As well as reading fiction, you’ll also inevitably find yourself reading a lot on the craft of writing – from On Writing by Stephen King to Story by Robert McKee.

You never know when you’ll need to access these books so it’s always good to be able to have a digital copy to hand.

Third, learn the craft.

If you want to know how to make a living writing fiction, it’s important to understand that fiction is very different to non-fiction.

In its simplest form, it’s about someone wanting something and having trouble getting it. It could be someone wanting to stop a terrorist, get a job, escape from jail, or win the love of someone else.

It’s easy to dismiss learning structure and the craft of writing in favour of ‘art’ but you’re not here to write Dubliners. You want to write a novel that sells and that means learning the craft of commercial fiction.

Tip: as a starting point, take a look at the Save the Cat Screenplay Structure.

Like most writers I have a love-hate relationship with Blake Snyder, and don’t necessarily suggest that you need to hit all of these beats, but it’s a good example of what story structure looks like.

Helping Writers Become Authors is another favourite resource for understanding structure.

Next, and most importantly, write.

This is the hardest part. I like to write out an outline of the story first and then expand it into the proper thing. Amazon Studios has a free cork-board program that’s useful for outlining.

Once I have the scenes of the story outlined, I’ll then expand each scene into a paragraph. Eventually that paragraph expands to become a chapter and so on.

Finally, proofread.

Some people like to leave their work untouched for a few weeks to read it with a pair of fresh eyes. I think this is good advice and highly recommend it. If you can, I also recommend passing your story by some other people to get a few outside opinions.

Then, when you’re satisfied that you’ve written the best story that you can it’s time to hit publish and begin marketing it.

Congratulations, you’ve just written your first story and are on the road to becoming a nomadic novelist.

Related: How To Start A Blog That Gives You Freedom To Travel More In 2019

Now it’s over to you! Leave your thoughts in the comments section below…

Have you been looking for ways to make money anywhere by combining your passion for storytelling and travel? Want to know more about how to make a living writing fiction from anywhere? Or have some more tips to share on how to make a living writing fiction? Tell us below…