Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm Definitely Not In This For The Money

Charles N. Brown, publisher and EIC of Locus Magazine, recently gave his annual "pep talk" speech to this year's winner's of the L. Ron Hubbard's 'Writers of the Future' contest at the annual awards ceremony in Los Angeles. As usual, he pointed out to the winners that this would be the crowning achievement in their writing careers, and that they should really quit now since it was all downhill from here.

Heh, heh, it's surprising how some people actually fall for that line. I mean, some of the winners are actually fooled into believing that they've accomplished something big, rather than taking it all with a huge grain of salt and appreciating their win for what it really is--a small baby step down the long, treacherous path of SF writerdom.

But what surprised me the most is when Mr. Brown went on to detail just how poorly SF writers are paid. Now, I wasn't there at the ceremony, but accounts reveal that some in attendance were horrified by the bleak but frank picture he painted. Some were downright crestfallen, and a few even expressed doubt they could ever make a living writing in this field.

And to that I say: good riddance! And also, who the hell are these people? What fantasy world do they live in where this *isn't* already common knowledge? I mean, who doesn't already know that a beginner sci-fi writer's earnings doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this day and age? Anyone in it to strike it rich better search elsewhere.

I guess it has to do with age. I'm of the age where, while I'm not quite long in the tooth, I'm at least old enough to not have unrealistic sensibilities about the state of the field I've chosen to try and break into. I don't set unreasonable goals like planning to quit my job and write full time, which is good. Because the less of such stupid notions I have inside my head the least likely I'll be disappointed later on when this dream never materializes.

The way I see it, I'm perfectly happy to pay my dues and scrape out a few novels and some short stories while still holding down a 9 to 5 job. Forcing myself to find the time in the day after work, and through the fatigue and gloom from a long day on the job, has taught me discipline I never knew I had. When I was younger, I thought being a full-time writer was the only way one could write.

Boy was I wrong!

While it would be great if one day I'm successful enough to afford to quit my job, I don't count on it. In the meantime I plan to work my normal job for the pay and benefits. And on the side, I will write and write as much as I can. Heck, I'm amazed at how prolific I am writing only an hour or two each night as it is. So how exactly is working a full-time job hampering this? If anything it makes me that more tenacious to get my writing career off the ground.

Point is, Mr. Brown's speech has no spell over me. When revealed that writers get paid pocket change (a typical short story in today's market can sell anywhere from $15 to $400), I laugh. Because, as of right now, I write for free. Any money I make off of sales will only be a bonus. That's how I choose to see it.

Put it this way: I write expecting nothing I complete will sale. This way, at best I'm proven wrong; at worst I'm proven right! It's a win-win situation in that light then, right?

And yes, in case it wasn't obvious, I'm being decidedly tongue-in-cheek here. Of course I would love to quit my job and live on a million-dollar Hollywood movie option buy-out (hello Richard Morgan!).

But until that day I live in the city of Realsburgh--population: one, apparently.


  1. it's definitely tough. and a writer should do it because s/he loves writing! have you been writing? i haven't read a post on writing routines for you? or did i miss it?

  2. Well, I've been writing short stories for the past two years in an attempt to hone my skills before I tackle something big like a novel. I've written roughly 21 stories in that time, all within the 6k - 13k range. So far only one story has sold, but to be fair I haven't sent out many. I'm my own worst critic, and feel that I still haven't written something worthy to even be sent out, let alone published.

    But you gave me some good ideas for future blog entries -- so check back in this space! I'll talk about my routine sometime soon.

  3. Realsburgh--population:two. I'm with ya on this one. You have to be severely mentally challenged if you think being a new author/writer and/or winning a writing contest, no matter how respectable, is going to send you into the upper echelons of money making authorship. The people who were surprised and/or disappointed at the news were probably just lucky to win in the first place. As we know not all of the stories that get chosen are even remotely good. I've read some really seriously hideous stories in WOF. Some of those things just slip through.

    I guess most good artists are their own worst critics. I suppose that's where the drive to get better comes from. Gotta learn how to moderate that shit though or you'll drive yourself crazy. I know, I'm sorta the same way. You're getting better at it though.


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