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tricon7
04-07-2010, 08:37 AM
Can someone make a living at writing these days? I've written one novel (agent hasn't found a publisher yet), am working on the second, and have written several magazine articles (none reimbursed), and I've been wondering if I put more time into looking for work, if it's remotely possible to make decent money at it? I've heard some do it, but I really have no idea.

Soothing Snow
04-07-2010, 08:49 AM
It's possible, but not very likely. Many writers have a second job[or more] to support themselves. Unless your book becomes a great hit, like Smeyer and JK, you'll have to have write on the side while trying to make a living.

This is just my opinion, so of course I can be wrong. Happy writing!

tricon7
04-07-2010, 10:57 AM
Ok, fair enough. What about a second source of income? This seems more likely. I recall a friend from years ago who would write occasional articles for a magazine, and they would pay him quite nicely for his work. It wouldn't support him, but it was a nice "extra" paycheck when he got it.

ghost
04-07-2010, 11:42 AM
There are a lot of writers here who make a living off of just writing.

Meyer and Rowling are examples of writers who have made millions. There are thousands that make a decent living off of their royalties. I can think of dozens that frequent these forums.

shaldna
04-07-2010, 11:51 AM
There are writers who do it. I did it for a year, and I found it very hard. Not just the money side, but the social side of it. I went back to a day job. More security.

It can be done, but most writers I know have a second job. You need to be really sure of your finances before you take the plunge and go full time.

aruna
04-07-2010, 11:55 AM
There are a lot of writers here who make a living off of just writing.

Meyer and Rowling are examples of writers who have made millions. There are thousands that make a decent living off of their royalties. I can think of dozens that frequent these forums.

I did it for about four years. I could have gone on doing it but I was naughty! And I was never anywhere near Rowlings stature.
You don't have to make millions in order to make a living from writing, just have decent, constant sales from a fewl midlist books out there, longsellers instead of bestsellers.

tricon7
04-07-2010, 12:34 PM
I did it for about four years. I could have gone on doing it but I was naughty! And I was never anywhere near Rowlings stature.
You don't have to make millions in order to make a living from writing, just have decent, constant sales from a fewl midlist books out there, longsellers instead of bestsellers.

Thanks for the encouragement. I'm still trying to get an agent for my novel, and then on to finding a publisher willing to take a chance on a never-before-published author. I've been at it for about four years now (but on-again, off-again).

I think that once a person gets a book published, it's far easier to get additional works published - but that's my opinion. It couldn't be any harder!

Forbidden Snowflake
04-07-2010, 12:58 PM
I guess it's easier when you have a stedy job, knowing that the finances are stable, it keeps you from worrying. However it also keeps you from writing, because you have less time.

It is my dream to one day only live off writing but I also need to become more focused altogether. Apparently my attention trails off too often to stay on one subject. Not helpful. It needs a lot of self discipline.

shaldna
04-07-2010, 03:01 PM
I guess it's easier when you have a stedy job, knowing that the finances are stable, it keeps you from worrying. However it also keeps you from writing, because you have less time.


Actually I write much more now that I have a day job again. The problem was that faced with more or less unlimited writing time I always managed to fill my day with other 'more important' things. The temptation was always there to put another load of laundry on, wash the windows, watch jeremy kyle, take the kids to the park, regrout the bathroom. Seriously, there's only so many times you can vacuum the living room carpet.

Now that I have a day job again I'm much more focused on writing. I know the half hour time slots where I can fit it in, and I make sure I do it then.

KTC
04-07-2010, 03:11 PM
I never expect to make a living at it...but for the past few years it has definitely made my living better!

larocca
04-07-2010, 03:15 PM
Thirty years and seven published novels down the road, I've finally got all my authorial moves together but very few ideas that interest me enough to write about them, so I've become an editor. Full-time. I don't know that I could live on my wages if I were back in the US, but here in Thailand it works. Meanwhile, recently writing my first novel in THIS century is just a happy bonus.

CaroGirl
04-07-2010, 03:21 PM
I'd love to make a living at it but that's just not practical for me at this point. Unless you have a breakout success, I hear it takes some time, and several published works, to be able to live off the royalties (if this ever happens).

KTC
04-07-2010, 03:30 PM
Yeah...but you can get regular cheques in the mail if you freelance too. I can't imagine ever getting royalties...I have tunnel vision and can't picture ever having one of my manuscripts published. But I enjoy writing OTHER things and being reimbursed for them. There are so many types of writing that pay.

CaroGirl
04-07-2010, 03:34 PM
But freelancing is so hard *whine*. I'm not sure I have the personality for freelance work, you know, the networking, interviewing, and so on. I'm too introverted and shy.

Strictly speaking, however, as a documentation specialist, I do make my living writing, just not in any way creatively.

shaldna
04-07-2010, 03:36 PM
There are so many types of writing that pay.


This true. I write alot of academic papers and training programmes etc and that pays quite well considering. Although my speciality is in a quite obscure subject area, so there are less people writing about it than if I was say, a specialist in Shakespeare or dolphins.

KTC
04-07-2010, 03:44 PM
But freelancing is so hard *whine*. I'm not sure I have the personality for freelance work, you know, the networking, interviewing, and so on. I'm too introverted and shy.

Strictly speaking, however, as a documentation specialist, I do make my living writing, just not in any way creatively.

Seriously...and you will discover this at the conference...I am the MOST shy person in the world. Introverted is my middle name. I joined the WCDR and BAM I was freelancing all over the place. I'm horrible at networking...but I can fake it by doing it electronically. Even my interviewing skills suck...but I somehow and inexplicably manage to pull it off. It's scary, really...I have defied all logic. If I can do it, so can you.

Besides...I make money writing poetry too...NOW THAT'S FUN!

NewKidOldKid
04-07-2010, 04:18 PM
I write full-time. It's definitively doable, especially if you write non-fiction. Like KTC, I'm shy. No, let me rephrase that: I'm shy and I'm also probably the less sociable person you'll ever met. All my networking and interviewing is done over the internet. This is my third year freelancing full-time and it's still working out great.

CaroGirl
04-07-2010, 04:24 PM
Besides...I make money writing poetry too...NOW THAT'S FUN!
That's AWESOME!!

aruna
04-07-2010, 04:57 PM
Seriously...and you will discover this at the conference...I am the MOST shy person in the world. Introverted is my middle name. !
You lie, sir. That's me.

scarletpeaches
04-07-2010, 05:01 PM
Can you? Yes.

Will you? Up to you.

KTC
04-07-2010, 05:28 PM
Can you? Yes.

Will you? Up to you.

oh, dear scarlet...it must burn you so to be wrong. i do, however, suggest to you that this is one of those times, my dear.

Can you? The answer to this question is not always YES. It is sometimes---quite often, in fact---NO. Not everybody has the talent to do this. It is not up to the individual. Some could try for eons and still not pull it off. Some are chasing dreams that will not pan out. Some are too shitty to write for a living no matter how hard they try. you must consider talent, silly girl. effort is not the only factor.

LOG
04-07-2010, 05:31 PM
Can you? Yes.

Will you? Up to you.

QFT

It's possible, just not really likely at all.

scarletpeaches
04-07-2010, 05:36 PM
oh, dear scarlet...it must burn you so to be wrong. i do, however, suggest to you that this is one of those times, my dear.

Can you? The answer to this question is not always YES. It is sometimes---quite often, in fact---NO. Not everybody has the talent to do this. It is not up to the individual. Some could try for eons and still not pull it off. Some are chasing dreams that will not pan out. Some are too shitty to write for a living no matter how hard they try. you must consider talent, silly girl. effort is not the only factor.Talent comes with effort. Effort comes with desire.

No, this isn't one of those times when I'm wrong. It happens, but not this time.

I've had conversations with people before who say "It's all right for you because..." then they give me a list of reasons why it's so easy for me to do this, that and the other.

To refuse to acknowledge desire, effort and yes, talent, is to devalue the work I've put in up to this point. It didn't 'just happen'. I worked for it.

No, I'm not making a fortune by any means, but what little success I do have isn't down to chance. It's down to me working for it.

The harder you work, the 'luckier' you get.

ETA: If it was all down to talent, none of us would have to practise. None of us would need to be here now, because it would be inborn.

thethinker42
04-07-2010, 05:42 PM
Talent didn't make me spend 20 years writing shit while I learned how to write properly. Talent wasn't what drove me to take classes, read books on writing, analyze books good and bad, write ream after ream of failtacular prose and shitty story telling. Talent didn't get me a thick skin to deal with rejection (almost 200 to date) or bad reviews. Talent sure as shit didn't give me the discipline to write 5,000 words a day, 5-7 days a week.

No, that wasn't talent. That was desire. Desire made me put that effort in, and that effort is what has gotten me where I am. Am I making a living at it? Not yet. But I'm getting there.

CheyElizabeth
04-07-2010, 05:46 PM
My dream is to own a business. And to slack off so much at my business that I can write all day.

And to spend my royalties on fancy sunglasses.

I dont think I could ever live off of writing unless I had a super rich husband. And last time I checked, video game designers aren't super rich =)

KTC
04-07-2010, 05:58 PM
Talent comes with effort. Effort comes with desire.

No, this isn't one of those times when I'm wrong. It happens, but not this time.

I've had conversations with people before who say "It's all right for you because..." then they give me a list of reasons why it's so easy for me to do this, that and the other.

To refuse to acknowledge desire, effort and yes, talent, is to devalue the work I've put in up to this point. It didn't 'just happen'. I worked for it.

No, I'm not making a fortune by any means, but what little success I do have isn't down to chance. It's down to me working for it.

The harder you work, the 'luckier' you get.

ETA: If it was all down to talent, none of us would have to practise. None of us would need to be here now, because it would be inborn.


it's not all down to talent. but i stand firm on my opinion that you are wrong. people can try until they are blue in the face. they can go to university, study with the greats, write and write and rewrite and rewrite and write every day and every hour and still be the SHITS. that's a fact, jack. So...not everybody who tries as hard as is humanly possible will be able to make a living from writing. you are wrong.

KTC
04-07-2010, 05:59 PM
Talent didn't make me spend 20 years writing shit while I learned how to write properly. Talent wasn't what drove me to take classes, read books on writing, analyze books good and bad, write ream after ream of failtacular prose and shitty story telling. Talent didn't get me a thick skin to deal with rejection (almost 200 to date) or bad reviews. Talent sure as shit didn't give me the discipline to write 5,000 words a day, 5-7 days a week.

No, that wasn't talent. That was desire. Desire made me put that effort in, and that effort is what has gotten me where I am. Am I making a living at it? Not yet. But I'm getting there.

yep. desire. yes. but you got better through pushing yourself. i hold firm that not everybody is going to do that. some will do everything you did and still not be any better than they were when they first started trying. i've seen it.

Jamesaritchie
04-07-2010, 06:02 PM
From my experience, it is easier to get rich from writing than it is to simply earn a living from writing. Especially with fiction.

Part of the problem is that it always takes more to live on than most who have full-time jobs think. It isn't just rent/mortgage, food and clothing, etc. It's health insurance, it's paying both parts of SSI, it's fifteen percent to your agent, it's gaps in income that mean you must manage money well because you don't get paid every Friday. And you don't get sick days or worker's comp. It's thinking about retirement, dealing with markets that may not be there tomorrow, etc.

Many, probably most, who just earn a living from writing take my route, which is to pretty much be willing and able to write anything and everything that promises a buck, be it a novel, a short story, an article, a screenplay, a brochure, or a recipe.

But, sure, there are thousands of writers who earn a decent living at writing, and a surprising number who get extremely rich from turning words into gold.

It can be tough, but it's doable, if you have the talent and the work ethic. And it's sure as hell better than having a boss telling you what to do forty hours per week.

scarletpeaches
04-07-2010, 06:03 PM
...not everybody who tries as hard as is humanly possible will be able to make a living from writing. you are wrong.No, I'm not.

We're never going to agree, but I am not wrong. It is not out of the individual's hands.
yep. desire. yes. but you got better through pushing yourself. i hold firm that not everybody is going to do that. some will do everything you did and still not be any better than they were when they first started trying. i've seen it.And my point is they could if they wanted to.

You may have seen it, but how badly did those people want it? Did they work hard enough? Did they KEEP ON knocking? Did they KEEP ON seeking? Did they KEEP ON asking?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

But I will never, ever accept that I got where I am today through having an inborn talent. I had an interest in storytelling, true. But I worked to cultivate the skill I now have at writing those stories down.

I will never, EVER accept that anything about my life now is accidental. Ever.

I created my life, for good AND bad.

wrangler
04-07-2010, 06:06 PM
Can someone make a living at writing these days? I've written one novel (agent hasn't found a publisher yet), am working on the second, and have written several magazine articles (none reimbursed), and I've been wondering if I put more time into looking for work, if it's remotely possible to make decent money at it? I've heard some do it, but I really have no idea.

You can do whatever you WANT to do. If you desire to make a living (this differs for each person) at writing you will find a way.

thethinker42
04-07-2010, 06:06 PM
yep. desire. yes. but you got better through pushing yourself. i hold firm that not everybody is going to do that. some will do everything you did and still not be any better than they were when they first started trying. i've seen it.

Maybe some, but in my experience, that's the exception to the rule. As you said, I got better because I pushed myself. Period. Not because I have some gift or deity-bestowed talent.

KTC
04-07-2010, 06:08 PM
No, I'm not.

We're never going to agree, but I am not wrong. It is not out of the individual's hands.And my point is they could if they wanted to.

You may have seen it, but how badly did those people want it? Did they work hard enough? Did they KEEP ON knocking? Did they KEEP ON seeking? Did they KEEP ON asking?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

But I will never, ever accept that I got where I am today through having an inborn talent. I had an interest in storytelling, true. But I worked to cultivate the skill I now have at writing those stories down.

I will never, EVER accept that anything about my life now is accidental. Ever.

I created my life, for good AND bad.


god jesus. you can't be serious. have you not heard the term 'died trying'. the world is not a pretty little place like you imagine. what i was saying in that posted reply to thinker when i said not everybody is going to do that is that NOT EVERYBODY IS GOING TO GET BETTER. they're not. some will die trying. as in try until the day they die...a failure. all the pressing and pushing and trying and trying in the world is not going to make everybody better. you can not seriously think that. give your head a shake.

IT IS NOT A QUESTION OF WANTING IT BAD ENOUGH.

CaroGirl
04-07-2010, 06:08 PM
I knew a lad who had an IQ of 80. He wanted to write but he didn't have the intelligence to do so competently. He could practise all day long for years and never be good enough. Desire and hard work could not overcome the organic barrier of a low IQ.

There are, in fact, many external barriers, seen and unseen, to success that desire and hard work simply can't cure.

thethinker42
04-07-2010, 06:08 PM
And my point is they could if they wanted to.

You may have seen it, but how badly did those people want it? Did they work hard enough? Did they KEEP ON knocking? Did they KEEP ON seeking? Did they KEEP ON asking?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

QFT.


But I will never, ever accept that I got where I am today through having an inborn talent. I had an interest in storytelling, true. But I worked to cultivate the skill I now have at writing those stories down.

Exactly. You had the desire. That's what made you put in the work, the 10,000 hours, the million words, whatever it took to get you to this point. Putting all, most, or even a substantial portion of the "blame" on talent negates the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears you put in to get to this point.

scarletpeaches
04-07-2010, 06:09 PM
I knew a lad who had an IQ of 80. He wanted to write but he didn't have the intelligence to do so competently. He could practise all day long for years and never be good enough. Desire and hard work could not overcome the organic barrier of a low IQ.

There are, in fact, many external barriers, seen and unseen, to success that desire and hard work simply can't cure.A low IQ doesn't stop one becoming POTUS.

KTC
04-07-2010, 06:10 PM
Not because I have some gift or deity-bestowed talent.

no. but don't be blind to the fact that talent played a role. talent is nothing without desire. but desire is also nothing without talent.

scarletpeaches
04-07-2010, 06:11 PM
the world is not a pretty little place like you imagine.I don't remember saying it was. Please don't tell me what I 'imagine' the world is like.
you can not seriously think that.I can, and I do.
IT IS NOT A QUESTION OF WANTING IT BAD ENOUGH.Never said it was.

I said desire makes you work for it.

I want credit for the work I've put in and won't listen to excuses about it being easy for me, or something I was born doing.

CaroGirl
04-07-2010, 06:13 PM
A low IQ doesn't stop one becoming POTUS.
Do you have a statistic for that? They might seem stupid but I think they've all had IQs above average.

CaroGirl
04-07-2010, 06:15 PM
I want credit for the work I've put in and won't listen to excuses about it being easy for me, or something I was born doing.
Nobody said hard work wasn't the key to YOUR success. But for some people, hard work and desire simply aren't enough.

scarletpeaches
04-07-2010, 06:16 PM
I'm done arguing in this thread. It's an insult to people who've worked to get where they are.

I'll be over there working instead of whining about why I haven't achieved what I desire.

CaroGirl
04-07-2010, 06:17 PM
I'm done arguing in this thread. It's an insult to people who've worked to get where they are.
No, it isn't. This statement tells me you're missing the point.

KTC
04-07-2010, 06:22 PM
No, it isn't. This statement tells me you're missing the point.

clearly.

shaldna
04-07-2010, 06:25 PM
Personally I think that while it's POSSIBLE for someone to earn a living just writing, it's not likely for the majority of aspiring writers.

However, I also belive that if you want something badly enough then you will find a way to make it happen. And if that means writting gardening articles 18 hours a day just to pay the rent then kudos to you.

For me personally, I found that writing full time was simply not paying me enough. Could I have earned more? Sure. But what I would have had to sacrifice in order to do that was too much for me. So writing full time went out the window and my day job allows me to spend more time with my family and alot less stress about paying the bills.

Jamesaritchie
04-07-2010, 06:29 PM
Talent didn't make me spend 20 years writing shit while I learned how to write properly. Talent wasn't what drove me to take classes, read books on writing, analyze books good and bad, write ream after ream of failtacular prose and shitty story telling. Talent didn't get me a thick skin to deal with rejection (almost 200 to date) or bad reviews. Talent sure as shit didn't give me the discipline to write 5,000 words a day, 5-7 days a week.

No, that wasn't talent. That was desire. Desire made me put that effort in, and that effort is what has gotten me where I am. Am I making a living at it? Not yet. But I'm getting there.


All true. But if the talent isn't there, all the hard work in the world isn't going to matter. I've known many a would-be writer who worked as long and as hard as you have, who took all teh classes, who wentto college, who write book after book after book after book, but who still, after decades of effort, couldn't write anything remotely worth reading.

Such writers are as common as broken promises from politicians.

It is true that the harder you work, the luckier you get, and a strong work ethic is almost as important as talent, but it's also true that the more talent you have, the less work it takes to make that talent pay off.

Many a writer never has to write five thousand words per day for years on end, never has to take a class, or analyze a book, or do anything more than sit down and start telling good stories that readers love.

I'm not that lucky, but I'm damned if I'd stick with any profession that meant working that hard, for six or seven days per week, for twenty years, or even for three years, in order to succeed.

Hell, I could find a real job and be retired, sitting on a beach sipping Jameson, in twenty years, and not work that hard to get there.

Given my drutehrs, I'll take more talent and less work evrytime.

I do enjoy writing, but one of the things I love most about writing for a living is that smart work gets you farther than hard work, and it isn't how long or how hard I work on something that matters, but simply how well I write it. I get the paid the same whether the project takes a week or a year.

Then again, I write in order to make money, and I make money in order to spend as much time as possible doing things that do not involve making money.

defyalllogic
04-07-2010, 06:35 PM
yeah but all that talent and desire theory aside, how much would you have to sell to make it your occupation? (assuming we've already solved for talent and desire... you have them both)

X books a year at X% royalties? if you sold a best seller, are you likely to clear an advance and start earning new funds?

how many articles or short stories would you have to write/sell per year or month to earn rent (if rent was like $1200/month)?

does trying to be a full time writer become more work than actual full time work? ...considering QLH and all the submission guidelines that are so much work per query and you'd have to write and revise a novel or article fairly quickly so as not to be wasting time that could be spent earning... billable hours...

aruna
04-07-2010, 06:41 PM
I'm with KTC on this. Some people do work their asses off and eventually become successful, but there's a certain X-factor that was there already, and that was what they are nourishing with their hard work. It's not at all an insult to tell someone that they had that spark of talent to begin with. We don't start with nothing at all. We start with an aptitude.
There are scores of people in all walks of life who work their asses off to get somewhere, but because the initial seed of talent is not there, it all comes to nothing.




it's not all down to talent. but i stand firm on my opinion that you are wrong. people can try until they are blue in the face. they can go to university, study with the greats, write and write and rewrite and rewrite and write every day and every hour and still be the SHITS. that's a fact, jack. So...not everybody who tries as hard as is humanly possible will be able to make a living from writing. you are wrong.
Yes. I know such people.

Back to the OP: I should say that when I lived from writing it wasn't all royalties; the first couple years it was advances, and then royalties from good sales in France. If I'd kept up the momentum I'd have had more advances to keep me going, and more royalties eventually.


it's gaps in income that mean you must manage money well because you don't get paid every Friday. And you don't get sick days or worker's comp. It's thinking about retirement, dealing with markets that may not be there tomorrow, etc.
.
-- the gaps in income -- was the hardest bit. I would get one or two lump sums a year, and had to manage that for the rest of the year. I'm not all that good at money management at the best of times, and that was really, really hard. And towards the end of the year there was no income at all, and you're gasping for breath waiting for the royalty payment that your big fat publisher is sitting on for months past the due date, earning interest on YOUR money while you are counting pennies!
I was lucky in that I had the safety net of my husband's income; if not for that it would have been almost impossible.

timewaster
04-07-2010, 06:51 PM
I'm done arguing in this thread. It's an insult to people who've worked to get where they are.

I'll be over there working instead of whining about why I haven't achieved what I desire.

Talent is a necessary but not a sufficient prerequisite for making a living out of writing. I'm not sure you need a great deal of talent but you need some. I have met and seen the work of a number of people who don't have enough of it however hard they work.

As it happens I don't think talent even with hard work is enough - I think you need a few breaks along the way. Yes the harder you work the luckier you get but you still need a measure of good luck. I have no doubt that I got lucky when I first got published.

I think that the notion that you can have anything you want in this world if you want it enough and work for it is among the most damaging fairy tales that we peddle. It isn't true.
You are pretty unlikely to get anywhere without hard work but you are not guaranteed to get anywhere with it either.

CaroGirl
04-07-2010, 06:56 PM
I think that the notion that you can have anything you want in this world if you want it enough and work for it is among the most damaging fairy tales that we peddle. It isn't true.
You are pretty unlikely to get anywhere without hard work but you are not guaranteed to get anywhere with it either.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^This.

aruna
04-07-2010, 07:08 PM
I think that the notion that you can have anything you want in this world if you want it enough and work for it is among the most damaging fairy tales that we peddle. It isn't true.
You are pretty unlikely to get anywhere without hard work but you are not guaranteed to get anywhere with it either.

I third that. ABsolutely true. It's a companion myth to that other big one, "you can be anything you want to be". Not true.

timewaster
04-07-2010, 07:20 PM
yeah but all that talent and desire theory aside, how much would you have to sell to make it your occupation? (assuming we've already solved for talent and desire... you have them both)

X books a year at X% royalties? if you sold a best seller, are you likely to clear an advance and start earning new funds?

how many articles or short stories would you have to write/sell per year or month to earn rent (if rent was like $1200/month)?

does trying to be a full time writer become more work than actual full time work? ...considering QLH and all the submission guidelines that are so much work per query and you'd have to write and revise a novel or article fairly quickly so as not to be wasting time that could be spent earning... billable hours...



It is a weird business.
Let's say you get an advance of $20,000 (an OK amount for a first novel.) Yay!!!!You get half on signature,a quarter on delivery and a quarter on publication.
You sign the contract in 2009 Yay! - the money does not come immediately but a month later, so for 2009 you get $10,000 less tax and agency fees.

You deliver your mss but there are a few more edits, so one way and another you don't get any more money, that all important $5,000 until 2010. Wonderful- you immediately start work on something which the publisher is keen on - they sit on the mss for about six months - not sure whether to make an offer or not - meanwhile you keep writing and send out a few more queries.

It takes a further six months before you get a new contract. You get signature money for a new book early in 2011 - wow $10,000!! and your first novel is finally published late in 2011 yay!! (but you don't get paid for a couple of months until the beginning of 2012 when you get that princely sum of $5,000 )
So that fairly meagre 20,000 has actually had to last almost three years. If the book sells well you may earn out and get royalties, but these days discounts are high so it is harder to earn out and books are not kept on shelves for that long. ( Oh and I forgot retentions against returns) Likewise you can forget much earnings on back list because by the time your second book is out - say in early 2013, the 2011 book is long gone.
These are the economics of a mid list novelist. Sometimes they are a little better sometimes a little worse. Yes you can do journalism, freelance writing , ghosting, write many books a year but it is not an easy way to earn a living. Many mid listers are really very good writers, garnering great reviews and a devoted, if rather exclusive, following.
It is much better if you are a top seller because there will be better advances, decent royalty cheques, foreign editions , film rights etc but even so to make a good living every year you have to keep making good sales or your earnings go down and in a long writing career some dips in sales are likely.
There are easier ways.

DeleyanLee
04-07-2010, 07:23 PM
Can someone make a living at writing these days? I've written one novel (agent hasn't found a publisher yet), am working on the second, and have written several magazine articles (none reimbursed), and I've been wondering if I put more time into looking for work, if it's remotely possible to make decent money at it? I've heard some do it, but I really have no idea.

Living off fiction money requires some skills and lifestyle that not everyone is comfortable with.

First off, when you finally sell your novel that you've spent months-to-years of unpaid work on, your advance will likely be around $5-10K, which is a reasonable sum, but not enough for most single people to live on for a year, let's not talk about a family. That money will be paid out in anywhere from two to four checks, depending on your contract. It will also be sent to your agent, so they can pull their 15% and issue you a check in whatever timely fashion their office handles.

After the book is published (not an uncommon time to get the final installment of your advance), then it's generally 18 months before you have a prayer of getting any royalty check. IF there's a royalty check, considering the standard deduction for returns that can seriously damage the numbers being in your favor. If your sales hasn't exceeded your advance total, there will be no royalty check. Many publishers attempt to cut loses on first-time authors by giving them only what they think they will make as their advance, after all.

Then it's six months later for the next opportunity for a royalty check.

All of this is assuming that you didn't sign off on basket-accounting or some other trick to keep royalties from the author that's not unheard of in publishing contracts, of course.

I have several friends who sold 3-book contracts to NYC Fantasy publishers since 2000. All of them had reasonable sales. One friend's second contract included hard covers, so we know she was doing well. However, it still took each of them until the third book was released before they got a royalty check that hit in the thousands of dollars. And that was the royalties on all three books combined.

It's an honest question to ask whether or not you're able and willing to live on that kind of pay schedule AND whether or not you can survive on whatever may or may not come in. Most people want more security to their lives than what this provides. Some don't. It is very much a personal choice of what works for you.

Yeah, there's other options for writing for a living, as has been mentioned, but the OP specifically mentioned novels.

WildScribe
04-07-2010, 07:32 PM
I freelance full time, but I also have a darling hubby who supports me right now (we're hoping to transition in a few years so that my income will support us and he can quit, but we're not there yet!)

YAwriter72
04-07-2010, 07:36 PM
While hard work goes a very long way, and determination and drive are important, I think you have to have something there to build on.

If I wanted to be a singer with all my heart and soul, no amount of voice lessons, practice, etc. will make me good enough to be a professional singer. I'd probably get kicked out of karaoke night! Some people can sing, some can't, no matter how much they want to.

Some people can hit the ground running with writing and find success from the start (I've met some amazing people that can weave a story like you wouldn't believe. Its a talent, not something they do on purpose or practice), and some people practice and give for 50 years and still never get to the level of publishable material.

Yes, wanting it a huge part of winning the battle, but there is simply more to it. Its not black and white.

djf881
04-07-2010, 08:22 PM
I think talent is something people take for granted. Your facility with language correlates strongly to your intelligence. Fields that require sophisticated communication skills have historically been limiting to people who aren't smart. In fact, the bulk of the population entirely lacks certain mechanisms and processes that are fundamental to the way intelligent people synthesize information.

Being talented helps at every stage of the writing process. When you read a book, you intuitively understand how its various moving parts function. This is extraordinarily difficult for most writers to grasp, and the structural elements of a three-hundred page story are very difficult to break down into a series of rules that can be applied with any success by people who aren't bright.

Stories and plots are also much easier to manage for someone who has an strong grasp of logic and an ability to comprehend chains of causes and effects. If you are pretty good at this, it's effortless. But many people have to work at it, and some people never figure it out.

Dimmer folks are going to struggle with vocabulary and grammar. They are going to have trouble writing dialog that feels real without sounding clunky. Humor, clarity, specificity and evocative description are all easier skills to develop when you're clever. It is difficult to cultivate a surprise when you're dumber than most of your readers. It's very hard to develop skill at developing voice in plot when you struggle with the basic tools.

Symbolism, themes, multiple meanings, subtext and subtlety are also going to be difficult for some people to grasp. I think it's fair to say that it is beyond the capacity of most people to write a good book.

It's true though, that, even if you are very talented, actually getting the thing done well still requires practice, development of skills and hard work.

cwfgal
04-07-2010, 08:24 PM
I have to side with those who say that some level of talent/aptitude is necessary to being "successful" at something, with success in this case defined as the ability to regularly sell the resultant works. That said, there are likely many people out there who possess the talent/aptitude but do not possess the drive and determination to put that talent/aptitude to work. I think there are also varying degrees of talent/aptitude. Those with less of it but a strong drive to succeed and a willingness to work hard may well achieve the same level of success -- maybe even greater success-- as someone who has a huge amount of talent but little drive or willingness to work hard.

As for making a living at writing, it is possible, but it isn't easy. I did it for six years but it was with a mix of nonfiction freelance stuff and fiction. The upfront money was decent--more than I made with my prior "day" job, but by the time I paid for taxes, health insurance, life insurance, and retirement savings, I made quite a bit less than I had at my day job, which provided me with free health/life insurance and a retirement plan. I also found myself feeling stifled in my fiction writing for two reasons. One was the lack of social interaction I had with my day job--amazing how much inspiration and creativity that sparked for me. The other reason was that the freelance stuff, which was my steadiest source of income, often consumed so much of my time and so much of my writing energy that I found myself not wanting to write fiction...not wanting to write anything, because writing started to feel like work.

As others have pointed out, the money flow with novel writing is hardly consistent, timely, or predictable. Beyond the hit-it-big authors, I think an established novelist who is generating new contracts, and who has numerous published books that are still selling well and still generating royalties, can live off fiction writing alone. How much they make and how well they can live off that money will depend upon their lifestyle, the contracts they get, and how well and regularly their backlist is selling.

I posted the breakdown of my novel income a few years ago somewhere on this site to show how much I earned for the three novels I sold in the nineties. I can't find the post now (I think it was in 2005) but basically it showed that my PRETAX income was well below the poverty level annually, despite making around $45K on each of the books.

Beth

mscelina
04-07-2010, 08:33 PM
What it boils down to in a nutshell is this: the craft of writing can be learned and does improve through hard work and dedication.

But the art of writing is either there or it isn't. And that's the X factor that can't be taught or learned.

Lots of people can turn out well-crafted books. Few people turn out beautifully artistic books. Only the rare author turns out both.

DeleyanLee
04-07-2010, 08:37 PM
I have to side with those who say that some level of talent/aptitude is necessary to being "successful" at something, with success in this case defined as the ability to regularly sell the resultant works. That said, there are likely many people out there who possess the talent/aptitude but do not possess the drive and determination to put that talent/aptitude to work. I think there are also varying degrees of talent/aptitude. Those with less of it but a strong drive to succeed and a willingness to work hard may well achieve the same level of success -- maybe even greater success-- as someone who has a huge amount of talent but little drive or willingness to work hard.

My favorite analogy on this:

Think about "The Ladder of success".

Talent determines what rung on the ladder you start out on.

No one ever starts at the very top rung of the ladder. There's always at least one rung to be climbed because the climbing is vital. If you don't DO something with your talent, you'll never be successful.

If you have any speck of talent, you have a ladder to climb. Success may or may not come easily, depending on how far you have to climb, but you have a ladder and, thus, a shot at it.

Some people don't have ladders in an area, but see other people's ladders and want that kind of success for themselves. After all, it should be easy, since they see their friends/neighbors/anyone going up and up and it just can't be that hard. Doesn't matter how much they work, they can't gain success because they have no talent/ladder of their own.


That always made sense to me.

Celia Cyanide
04-07-2010, 08:38 PM
I'm with KTC on this. Some people do work their asses off and eventually become successful, but there's a certain X-factor that was there already, and that was what they are nourishing with their hard work.

Me too. Everyone knows that talent, in any field means nothing without hard work, but neither does hard work without talent.

I once knew a girl who wanted to be an actress. She had wanted it her whole life. She auditioned for everything I did, and she majored in theatre in college, whereas, I just took acting classes a few years after I graduated. She was also a lot prettier than me, and yet I continued to be cast much more often than she was.

Because she was my friend at the time, I believed that she just needed an opportunity to prove her talent to everyone. A close friend was directing a small independent feature, and I got her a lead role. It was then that I realized that she sucked. It wasn't that she couldn't get a substantial enough role. The role she had was perfect. Not only was it a lead, but it was interesting and complex character and not a typical ingenue. But she was really bad. I could tell she had been practicing a lot, too, because she never missed a cue. But her performance was just terrible.

Hard work is important, but some people just suck. They want things they were never meant to have.

wrangler
04-07-2010, 08:45 PM
To the OP,

Oprah, Sylvester Stallone and many other people who have successful rags to riches stories strongly advises/cautions those of us with dreams from speaking to others about it. Either surround yourself with like-minded people, people who are constantly growing or none at all.

We are humans, each of us having very different perspectives, so whenever you ask a question such as the one you posted you are most certain to receive many different responses.

Watch out for this!

Whether you know it or not, what you believe at your core is usually the determining factor as to whether you persevere when things get difficult. Which we all know they will.

Therefore, if you take advice from people who believe something that totally goes against what you are trying to do (or give you a list of reasons why certain things can not be done) this is what you will pull from when the time comes. Likewise, if you take counsel with those who are like-minded and believes each of us control our own destiny; this is what you will draw from when the going gets tough.

Phaeal
04-07-2010, 08:48 PM
Another option is the one I've taken, which is to live relatively poor on a part-time job that frees lots of hours for writing. My bestest beta does the same, but since she's a nurse, she's not nearly as poor as I am. ;)

Phaeal
04-07-2010, 09:34 PM
Concerning the question of talent:

For all its factual problems, Amadeus remains the most brilliant exploration of the limitations of desire (and hard work) and the soul-killing poison of envy. To see the "ultimate beauty behind those meticulous penstrokes" and still to oppose it? The tragedy's crushing.

More on topic, Salieri did make a pretty good living on a middling talent and hard work. Mozart did pretty well, too, but was a poor money manager, hence that pauper's grave. Gotta be a pertinent lesson in here for the OP and others with similar aspirations. ;)

aruna
04-07-2010, 09:44 PM
I have to side with those who say that some level of talent/aptitude is necessary to being "successful" at something, with success in this case defined as the ability to regularly sell the resultant works. That said, there are likely many people out there who possess the talent/aptitude but do not possess the drive and determination to put that talent/aptitude to work.

Case in point: my first husband. He was a very gifted musician, but didn't care. He got into a good musical academy at the age of 14 to study cello; most students don't get in till they're 18. Then he got a job straight out of the academy without having even to graduate, with a radio entertainment orchestra. It was a dream job as far as conditions were concerned: great pay, great pension and health plan, and only a few hours of work a week. Sometimes, he just had to go in for only an hour a day.

That was the most low-brow orchestra at the radio station. There was also a concert orchestra and an opera orchestra, both of which he could have easily got a job with, but they required HARD WORK and lots of practice at home. With the comfy job he had he never had to practice; the expectations were not high, and he could get by on basic talent.

I always wished he would go into one of the better orchestras, but he never applied because of the work he'd have to do.
When he was 50 his orchestra was dissolved and he had the option of entering one of the "good" orchestras or taking early retirement, with less money than he'd have if he waited for the right retirement age. Guess what option he chose! He never touched his cello again.

What a waste of talent! I'm in great awe of music, especially classical music, and would give an arm and a leg to play an instrument well, but I've no talent whatsoever. I don't even have the right ear: I can't identify the various notes, and every instrument I've tried I've only ever been mediocre, and I know no matter how much I wanted, no matter how much I practiced, I'd never make it to professional status.



What it boils down to in a nutshell is this: the craft of writing can be learned and does improve through hard work and dedication.

But the art of writing is either there or it isn't. And that's the X factor that can't be taught or learned.

Lots of people can turn out well-crafted books. Few people turn out beautifully artistic books. Only the rare author turns out both.
Exactly. It takes both, and the art just cannot be learned. It's either there or it isn't.

shadowwalker
04-07-2010, 10:24 PM
Living off fiction money requires some skills and lifestyle that not everyone is comfortable with.

Agree - and if you have a family to support or enjoy the "good things" in life, it makes it harder to say yes, you can live off it.

I've gotten to the point in my life where the house and truck are paid for and my son has moved on, so living expenses (for one person) are very small. I've gone through the 'material needs phase' of my life, so I don't need money for that. I need to work at least part-time until I see if I can sell my writing (and I'm looking at short stories, flash fiction, books - and contests along with 'normal' publishing). But then - if I make megabucks off a best-seller - fantastic. If I sell enough short stuff to magazines to ensure I don't have to punch a clock - just as good.

scope
04-07-2010, 11:35 PM
I've been writing full time for a number of years, so I know it can be done. However, of the millions of people who would like to do the same, only an infinitesimal number wind up doing so. Why, assuming the individual is a more than capable writer? Here's some things I've noticed.

1. Those who write nonfiction have many more markets to tap than those who write fiction.
2. You don't have to be a great writer, but you do have to be good enough to get a few books published early on that sell to the publishers satisfaction.
3. Consistency is key.
4. Knowing that income for some years will be very good, and other years not so good, you try in advance to put together some sort of monetarily plan (personally, that's my biggest challenge--I really enjoy spending and what it brings).
4. Obviously it's a big help if a person is single.
5. It's not ALL about writing. Writing talent and/or an acceptable ability to do so has to be considered a given. What I believe writers must be are very good business people. They can't only think of themselves as writers (even if they have agents), they should know the basic tenants of business, and certainly every aspect of the publishing business (e.g., the entire publishing tree and what each twig expects and needs, who does what and why it's important, that all for profit business' operate just for that--to make a large enough profit to satisfy themselves. Learn all you can about the publishing business and continue to learn something new every day.
6. If you want longevity, study and examine the marketplace and write what they want or obviously need (sometimes this takes anticipation). Talk about this with your agent or editors.
7. Welcome and take on works as either/or ghostwriter (if you have this ability), co-author, special project director, managing editor, etc. Get to know as many people as possible who are associated with the industry.

The list goes on and on, but I do believe it all begins with a commitment to same. Will some make it another way? Sure. So lets call this a very brief idea of what's involved for the pedestrian writer who wants to make writing a full time job.

Bushrat
04-08-2010, 12:06 AM
I live on it, though I live on a lot less money than most people. But, after all, it's everybody's daily choices that determine how much money they "need" to live on.

If you can get a regular writing gig like a column, it takes a lot of pressure off you because it gives you a regular income without having to spend time on querying. So if you have that as a base income, you can build on that with magazine articles and books.

KTC
04-08-2010, 12:49 AM
I live on it, though I live on a lot less money than most people. But, after all, it's everybody's daily choices that determine how much money they "need" to live on.

If you can get a regular writing gig like a column, it takes a lot of pressure off you because it gives you a regular income without having to spend time on querying. So if you have that as a base income, you can build on that with magazine articles and books.

Exactly. It's always a comfort knowing you have that regular column to count on...and to motivate you to write. I don't have one now, but at one time I had three. I enjoyed them immensely...and the guaranteed money that came with having them.

firedrake
04-08-2010, 01:13 AM
What it boils down to in a nutshell is this: the craft of writing can be learned and does improve through hard work and dedication.

But the art of writing is either there or it isn't. And that's the X factor that can't be taught or learned.

Lots of people can turn out well-crafted books. Few people turn out beautifully artistic books. Only the rare author turns out both.

This.

It's not just about busting your balls. You can write until your fingers drop off but it's not just about that.

Jamesaritchie
04-08-2010, 01:41 AM
does trying to be a full time writer become more work than actual full time work? ...considering QLH and all the submission guidelines that are so much work per query and you'd have to write and revise a novel or article fairly quickly so as not to be wasting time that could be spent earning... billable hours...

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Honestly, frankly, admittedly, when writing for a living becomes more work than a nine to five job, it's pretty much always my fault. I work better under pressure, under deadline, and I can easily find a way to procrastinate until several deadlines are way too close for comfort.

I went through such a stretch last year, and spent a couple of months eating, and sometimes napping, at my computer. Completely my fault, and it's a mixed bag when this happens. I have to work like hell for a couple of months, but I had a bunch of free time before that to spend with friends and family, doing this and that, going here and there, and those times were valuable.

I paid for it with two months of brutal work, but that's fine because it was a conscious decision.

But most of the time, no, writing for a living doesn't even resemble the hard work I did before I started writing. My day in, day out routine is to write five hours each day, with a long lunch/take a walk break between sessions. In reality, I could do the same amount of work in three hours, but only at a cost. I've found that, for me, pacing myself is as important as pacing a story.

Writing for a living is a very good thing, and the benefits have always outweighed the disadvantages.

Jamesaritchie
04-08-2010, 01:54 AM
-- the gaps in income -- was the hardest bit. I would get one or two lump sums a year, and had to manage that for the rest of the year. I'm not all that good at money management at the best of times, and that was really, really hard. And towards the end of the year there was no income at all, and you're gasping for breath waiting for the royalty payment that your big fat publisher is sitting on for months past the due date, earning interest on YOUR money while you are counting pennies!
I was lucky in that I had the safety net of my husband's income; if not for that it would have been almost impossible.

I tried several plans, but the only one I found that worked was to make sure I did, in a real sense, get paid every Friday. This meant working my ass off for about three years until we had a decent cushion in the bank, and we withdrew it each week at a set rate.

Every new check goes into the bank, and is essentially divided into however many parts necessary to keep the cushion intact, even if this meant next week's withdrawal wasn't going to quite pay the bills.

Do this long enough, keep the cushion growing, and eventually you have both a safety net, and a weekly withdrawal that makes managing your money fairly easy.

But it sure takes a lot of discipline to resist pulling out extra money when you need a vacation, or just want to visit friends or family in another state, or see a car better than the one you're driving for a price you could pay, if only you didn't need that cushion.

What I didn't count on was how expensive kids can get. Especially as they get older. Especially when they're involved in sports and band and you name it. And then comes the thirty thousand per year college, and such colleges do not have a "Well, hell, pay us when you can" plan.

It isn't for everyone. You have to be versatile and fast, you have to be able to manage money, and you have to be able to do the necessary work without killing yourself, or what's the point?

And you do need the talent. Hard work alone just isn't going to cut it.

I would like to try the Stephen King, J. K. Rowling method of earning a living as a writer, but until I do manage to make a billion dollars, this will do nicely. It's one heck of a lot better than shovelling coal or digging a ditch.

Celia Cyanide
04-08-2010, 02:14 AM
I live on it, though I live on a lot less money than most people. But, after all, it's everybody's daily choices that determine how much money they "need" to live on.

If you can get a regular writing gig like a column, it takes a lot of pressure off you because it gives you a regular income without having to spend time on querying. So if you have that as a base income, you can build on that with magazine articles and books.

Very true, and I think it's true of many types of freelance work. If you're an actor, you can do a national commercial and earn enough to live off of for a long time. But then you still have to keep looking for work and taking what you can get. If you don't, you'll miss out on a lot of opportunities.

Some people can't do this type of work full time, just because they can't stand the "looking for work" part of it. IMO, this has very little to do with talent, or hard work. These people work very hard at their actual craft, just not as hard at finding freelance jobs. Some people have no trouble constantly looking for work, and some can't stand it.

I have a full time job, and I also act. The thing is, I can accept roles that don't pay very well that I want to do just because I like the script. If acting were my only source of income, I wouldn't be able to do that. It's a trade off. Some people would rather be doing any kind of acting and earning a living. With me, some kinds of acting are so unchallenging and dull, I might as well be at a regular job. But everybody's different.

Brindle Chase
04-08-2010, 02:52 AM
For the original question. You betcha it's possible. But let's get real. It's unlikely for most. I envy those to whom it came easy. I've only just begun and I hope to get to achieve a level of success where I can write as my only source of income!

For the arguement. I Believe both are needed, in regards to the original question. If you want to write for a living, it's simply not possible without talent. It is equally not possible without hard work and dedication to the craft. But also, having both talent and a great work ethic, will not assure you a comfortable living with writing. Fate, Destiny, luck, whatever you want to call it also plays a hand.

case in point:

Mario Lemieux wanted to break all of Gretzsky's records and he was well on his way. He worked extremely hard, dedicated his life to improving his skill and chipped away at those all-time records. But fate played a card he couldn't overcome with both mega-loads of talent, and a work ethic unmatched by even the most successful people in the world... He was struck with Hodgkin's disease. But he desperately tried not to let that stop him. He retired for awhile, built his strength up and came back and played harder and better than nearly all of the other stars in hockey... but it tore him up... eventually and most sadly, he had to retire for good.

He had the talent to beat Gretzsky's records... he had the drive, he had the knowledge and the work ethic... but couldn't do it... because fate decided he was not the one.

cllorentson
04-08-2010, 03:04 AM
no. but don't be blind to the fact that talent played a role. talent is nothing without desire. but desire is also nothing without talent.

So are we going with the assumption that all the published writers out there on the bookshelf are just "so talented?"

I've read books that were total garbage, seen movies that were total garbage...we all have. Yet, the books were published, and people were buying them. The movies got made, and people were buying tickets.

Some sort of non-talent related effort was involved, call it hard work, call it being in the right place at the right time, call it having powerful friends "in the business", but don't call it talent.

Yes, I suppose if you have an I.Q. of minus 12 and you eat your own boogers, then no amount of hard work is going to make you a successful writer. But I think we can be a little more encouraging to the average person with a functional brain who works hard at writing.

I think this whole "If you ain't got talent, you got nothin'" mindset is a little elitist, personally. There are plenty of talentless hacks out there that make a pretty good living with their pen, in spite of their shortcomings.

firedrake
04-08-2010, 03:10 AM
So are we going with the assumption that all the published writers out there on the bookshelf are just "so talented?"

I've read books that were total garbage, seen movies that were total garbage...we all have. Yet, the books were published, and people were buying them. The movies got made, and people were buying tickets.

Some sort of non-talent related effort was involved, call it hard work, call it being in the right place at the right time, call it having powerful friends "in the business", but don't call it talent.

Yes, I suppose if you have an I.Q. of minus 12 and you eat your own boogers, then no amount of hard work is going to make you a successful writer. But I think we can be a little more encouraging to the average person with a functional brain who works hard at writing.

I think this whole "If you ain't got talent, you got nothin'" mindset is a little elitist, personally. There are plenty of talentless hacks out there that make a pretty good living with their pen, in spite of their shortcomings.

Whether a book or not is garbage is a reader's opinion.

I too have seen a fair few writers who I wouldn't consider to have talent for writing get published and do well but, what they lack in technical skills, they make up for in story telling. For instance, I happen to think Jeffrey Archer is an appalling writer but he tells a damn good story, that's a talent too.

KTC
04-08-2010, 04:10 AM
So are we going with the assumption that all the published writers out there on the bookshelf are just "so talented?"




Holy fuck, no. Try reading what I said...not picking out what you want to hear. Nice try, though.

CaroGirl
04-08-2010, 04:15 AM
So are we going with the assumption that all the published writers out there on the bookshelf are just "so talented?"

I've read books that were total garbage, seen movies that were total garbage...we all have. Yet, the books were published, and people were buying them. The movies got made, and people were buying tickets.

Some sort of non-talent related effort was involved, call it hard work, call it being in the right place at the right time, call it having powerful friends "in the business", but don't call it talent.

Yes, I suppose if you have an I.Q. of minus 12 and you eat your own boogers, then no amount of hard work is going to make you a successful writer. But I think we can be a little more encouraging to the average person with a functional brain who works hard at writing.

I think this whole "If you ain't got talent, you got nothin'" mindset is a little elitist, personally. There are plenty of talentless hacks out there that make a pretty good living with their pen, in spite of their shortcomings.
Oh, no! Not more missing of the point.

cllorentson
04-08-2010, 05:03 AM
I think that the notion that you can have anything you want in this world if you want it enough and work for it is among the most damaging fairy tales that we peddle. It isn't true.
You are pretty unlikely to get anywhere without hard work but you are not guaranteed to get anywhere with it either.

The problem with this argument about talent versus hard work is that no one can really judge whether another person has talent. Not ultimately. The guy who writes every day for ten years without seeing success may finally send his work to the right publisher after ten years and one month, and his book could hit the bestseller list.

But some of the posters here would have told him to "throw in the towel...you'll never make it with hard work...you don't have the talent...it's all about talent."

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it IS all about talent. Who's to say whether the original poster has talent or not? You? Me? The publishing companies?

I can list dozens of authors who had their manuscripts rejected, and were told by the publisher that they had no talent: Sylvia Plath, Judy Blume, William Golding, John Le Carre.

One publisher told another about Le Carre, "You're welcome to Le Carre, he hasn't got any future."

Another publisher said of Sylvia Plath, "There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice."

Some of the most beloved authors were rejected for years, by numerous publishers. What if someone told them, "Hard work won't get you what you want, if you don't have talent." That's dreadfully discouraging.

Scarlet Peaches was right. If you have the will, you will make it. No one can correctly judge whether you have talent or not, since history has shown that even the experts in the publishing field can be wrong.

DeleyanLee
04-08-2010, 05:06 AM
The problem with this argument about talent versus hard work is that no one can really judge whether another person has talent. Not ultimately.

Please reread the posts. There is NO ONE who said that it's "all about talent". Everyone has said that it's a mix of both talent and hard work--one without the other isn't enough.

Even more, I disagree with your statment that "no one can really judge whether another person has talent." In my experience, other people are the sole judge of whether or not I have talent. I am the one who cannot judge it for myself.

If the story I write touches someone's emotions or life, then that's storytelling talent. You can learn how to tell a story better through hardwork, but telling the story in the first place, knowing what story is good to tell, that's a talent. A talent on making dialogue flow naturally, of creating a world that's seamless and beautiful, of doing so many different things within the totality which is writing--those are all talents. Some people have a few, some have many. Some are very talented, some have to work harder. But it's all talent, that ability to instinctively "know" and "understand", those "gut feelings"--that's the closest thing to talent that I know in myself, but the proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes. Other people can see the talent--and the hard work--and if I'm really good, they'll never see the difference.

KTC
04-08-2010, 05:17 AM
The problem with this argument about talent versus hard work is that no one can really judge whether another person has talent. Not ultimately. The guy who writes every day for ten years without seeing success may finally send his work to the right publisher after ten years and one month, and his book could hit the bestseller list.

But some of the posters here would have told him to "throw in the towel...you'll never make it with hard work...you don't have the talent...it's all about talent."

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it IS all about talent. Who's to say whether the original poster has talent or not? You? Me? The publishing companies?

I can list dozens of authors who had their manuscripts rejected, and were told by the publisher that they had no talent: Sylvia Plath, Judy Blume, William Golding, John Le Carre.

One publisher told another about Le Carre, "You're welcome to Le Carre, he hasn't got any future."

Another publisher said of Sylvia Plath, "There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice."

Some of the most beloved authors were rejected for years, by numerous publishers. What if someone told them, "Hard work won't get you what you want, if you don't have talent." That's dreadfully discouraging.

Scarlet Peaches was right. If you have the will, you will make it. No one can correctly judge whether you have talent or not, since history has shown that even the experts in the publishing field can be wrong.

Try reading a thread before going off on a tangent. You totally missed the point. Nice going. Reading comprehension might help you out a bit.

tricon7
04-08-2010, 11:23 AM
So with all the talk of freelancing, can someone direct me to some resources for that? It doesn't have to be solely fiction, either. Thanks.

shaldna
04-08-2010, 12:22 PM
What if someone told them, "Hard work won't get you what you want, if you don't have talent." That's dreadfully discouraging.


Then they would be right.

All the hard work in the world won't make up for a lack of talent, but equally, all the talent in the world means nothing if you aren't willing to work for it.

Discouraging or not, it's true.

Jamesaritchie
04-08-2010, 06:01 PM
The problem with this argument about talent versus hard work is that no one can really judge whether another person has talent. Not ultimately. The guy who writes every day for ten years without seeing success may finally send his work to the right publisher after ten years and one month, and his book could hit the bestseller list.

But some of the posters here would have told him to "throw in the towel...you'll never make it with hard work...you don't have the talent...it's all about talent."

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it IS all about talent. Who's to say whether the original poster has talent or not? You? Me? The publishing companies?

I can list dozens of authors who had their manuscripts rejected, and were told by the publisher that they had no talent: Sylvia Plath, Judy Blume, William Golding, John Le Carre.

One publisher told another about Le Carre, "You're welcome to Le Carre, he hasn't got any future."

Another publisher said of Sylvia Plath, "There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice."

Some of the most beloved authors were rejected for years, by numerous publishers. What if someone told them, "Hard work won't get you what you want, if you don't have talent." That's dreadfully discouraging.

Scarlet Peaches was right. If you have the will, you will make it. No one can correctly judge whether you have talent or not, since history has shown that even the experts in the publishing field can be wrong.

If you don't have the talent, you don't stand a chance in hell of succeeding. It isn't all about the talent. It is about hard work, usually, and it is about having the patience to develop whatever talent you have, but no talent, no success.

Having someone tell you that you have no talent means nothing. Having someone tell you you're loaded with talent means nothing. But having talent means pretty much everything.

That guy who sends his book somewhere after ten years probably isn't sending the same book he wrote back in the beginning, and he sure as hell isn't sending out the books I've routinely seen in slush piles. There is no right time or right place for 99% of what lands in slush. It's never going to sell anywhere because it's bad. And all the work by all the King's horses and all the King's men will never, ever make those manuscripts good enough to buy.

Someone may have said Le Carre had no talent, but someone else aid he did, else his books never would have sold.

Like it or not, you never will make it with hard work alone. There's nothing special about writing, nothing that separates it from any other profession in the world. Hard work alone will never make someone with an average mind a great mathematician, or a great sprinter, or a great musician. Or a great writer.

I can't say for sure whether the original poster has talent or not. I can absolutely say that if the original poster has no talent, then failure is certain.

I can seldom say whether any given write will succeed, but any editor can look through the slush and spot many a would-be writer who almost certainly will not succeed, especially when he sees several manuscripts by that writer over a four or five year period. Many who try, probably most, simply lack any talent at all for writing, or worse, for telling a story. And they never, ever get any better, even after ten years, or after twenty.

Much is made over landing a novel at the right place and the right time. Too much. Far too much. There is no right time and right place for most novels the average editor sees, and the good ones do land where they belong over the course of the submission process.

This happened to Le Carre, to Plath, to every writer you can name.

Like it or not, having the will to be a successful writer isn't going to make it happen any more than having the will to jump to the moon is going to do away with spaceships. If you want to be a writer, you must have the talent, just as if you want to go to the moon you'd better be lighting the fuse on a Saturn V.

People simply cannot be anything and everything they want just by willing it. You also need the tools, and talent is a tool not everyone has.

Libbie
04-08-2010, 06:47 PM
I'm really curious to see some of these super-awful manuscripts that will absolutely never sell. I am not at all doubting that they exist -- I just want to know what's so bad about them. I'm curious enough to try my hand at slush-reading some day, if I ever find the opportunity.

djf881
04-08-2010, 07:00 PM
I'm really curious to see some of these super-awful manuscripts that will absolutely never sell. I am not at all doubting that they exist -- I just want to know what's so bad about them. I'm curious enough to try my hand at slush-reading some day, if I ever find the opportunity.

Find a creative writing group on Meetup.com and go to a meeting. Or just pop over to SYW and bask in some sadness.

Libbie
04-09-2010, 01:34 AM
I have a weekly writing group (tonight, actually) but I guess I'm fortunate in that even the weakest members aren't AWFUL. I mean, if they really wanted to pay attention to what they were doing, I think they could make their stuff publishable. But for them, it's just an enjoyable weekly activity -- they aren't submitting their stuff to actual agents and/or editors.

I am burning with curiosity now. I'll find some way to experience a slush pile first-hand before I die.

Medievalist
04-09-2010, 02:38 AM
I am burning with curiosity now. I'll find some way to experience a slush pile first-hand before I die.

Have a first-aid team on call.

Ken
04-09-2010, 02:50 AM
... becoming a columnist is one way to make a living at writing and probably 'a bit' easier of a way than making one from writing novels. There isn't the possibility of a big payoff, but there is the promise of a steady income. I had a taste of this for several years and am currently trying to get something else like it again. Doubt I'll succeed, but figure I might as well try.

defyalllogic
04-09-2010, 04:11 AM
So with all the talk of freelancing, can someone direct me to some resources for that? It doesn't have to be solely fiction, either. Thanks.

try elance.com

djf881
04-09-2010, 01:33 PM
I have a weekly writing group (tonight, actually) but I guess I'm fortunate in that even the weakest members aren't AWFUL. I mean, if they really wanted to pay attention to what they were doing, I think they could make their stuff publishable. But for them, it's just an enjoyable weekly activity -- they aren't submitting their stuff to actual agents and/or editors.

I am burning with curiosity now. I'll find some way to experience a slush pile first-hand before I die.

I think there's a pretty big chunk of slush that comes from crazy people. But most writers don't fail in interesting ways. The problem is that, once a writer achieves technical competence, there are still so many ways to be mediocre.

When you say that most writers' work can be refined into something publishable, I wonder what you mean. If you mean grammatical or technically clean, maybe that's possible. And many people can learn effective communication skills, but that will leave them far short of being good novelists.

If a central idea is unoriginal or uninteresting, the author fails. If the voice is dead on the page, the author fails. If the characters are dull or flat, the author fails. If the conflict is limp or uninteresting, the author fails. If the plot is cliched or predictable or illogical, the author fails.

These are concepts that can seem very esoteric to people who don't intuitively grasp them. When we talk about talent, we mean an instinct for story, and a natural capacity to unspool a plot in a way that feels organic or even inevitable over a span of 300+ pages. When we talk about talent, we mean an ability for the characters to act in furtherance of believable motivation while still always moving in furtherance of the story and its themes. When we talk about talent, we mean an ability to surprise the reader without resorting to contrivances and transparent cheats (which goes back to an intuitive understanding of a story's moving parts).

When we talk about talent, we also mean decision-making skills. Telling a story requires the author to make a series of constant decisions. Some of these can be decided by hard-and-fast rules (no prologues), while others are situational and left to the author's discretion. Talented writers can learn from the pitfalls of others and can adapt things that work well into their own stories. But the ability to form analogies among disparate situations is fairly rare. Many people, in writing and in other contexts, will continually make the same kinds of mistakes without recognizing that the mistakes they're making are the same.

Take another look at your writing group, try to separate your friendship or personal affection toward them from your assessment of their work, and see if there aren't some among them who you can't imagine ever producing a book-length work you'd want to read from start to finish.

aruna
04-09-2010, 02:40 PM
If the idea is unoriginal or uninteresting, the author fails. If the voice is dead on the page, the author fails. If the characters are dull or flat, the author fails. If the conflict is limp or uninteresting, the author fails. If the plot is cliched or predictable or illogical, the author fails.

.

Great points. And these are things that simply cannot be taught, or learnt.

shaldna
04-09-2010, 02:44 PM
When i was at college I was in a local writers group which consisted of myself and seven elderly middle class ladies who called me Dear and were simply the most wonderful, sweetest and utterly enchanting people I have ever met.

None of them wanted to write a book, they just wanted something to do on a thursday evening, and it was a writing group or crochet. They kept diaries, they wrote articles about obcure plants and how to properly cook a duck.

But they were vicious. I remember the first time I read my work to them,. and they completely tore me a new one. I had gone in expecting thier minds to be as soft as their attitude, and boy was I ever wrong. They jumped on every mistake, every awkward sentence, every place they thought I just wasn't trying hard enough.

I learned two things from that,

1. Never ever underestimate your reader.

2. Never knowingly produce half-assed work.

Those women worked as hard and took as much pride in their diaries and articles and poems as any professional writer.

timewaster
04-09-2010, 02:56 PM
Great points. And these are things that simply cannot be taught, or learnt.

I hope that they can be taught because I try to teach them. As a self taught, intuitive writer I used to think teaching Creative writing was a waste of time, but I have known people to improve enormously over time so it is obviously something that can be learnt to some degree.

I teach CW now and I wouldn't be doing it if I thought it was pointless. I feel I can help people to improve, point out things that they may have missed, illustrate alternative approaches etc
I can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but I can help someone make themselves a silk purse if they have the raw materials lying around. You can learn how to paint, sing, dance why not write?

Jamesaritchie
04-09-2010, 05:00 PM
I hope that they can be taught because I try to teach them. As a self taught, intuitive writer I used to think teaching Creative writing was a waste of time, but I have known people to improve enormously over time so it is obviously something that can be learnt to some degree.

I teach CW now and I wouldn't be doing it if I thought it was pointless. I feel I can help people to improve, point out things that they may have missed, illustrate alternative approaches etc
I can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but I can help someone make themselves a silk purse if they have the raw materials lying around. You can learn how to paint, sing, dance why not write?

Who says you can learn how to sing, dance or draw? Maybe, if the student does have the raw material, but any rational analysis says very, very few have the raw material for singing, dancing, drawing, or writing.

If writing could be taught, you'd think there would be a very high percentage of good writers emerging from the hundreds of writing courses, MFA programs, etc. There isn't. I simply can't get past this point. Either there are hundreds, or thousands, of incredibly bad teachers out there, or writing can't be taught to any but the very, very few who come loaded with talent.

Phaeal
04-09-2010, 05:00 PM
...since history has shown that even the experts in the publishing field can be wrong.

Publishers and editors and agents need talent, too. One: the talent to recognize what is good*. Two: the talent to understand why it's good. Three: the talent to see how that goodness can be exploited.


* "Good" can simply mean marketable, in this context. In other words, good enough to sell to a sufficient audience.

timewaster
04-09-2010, 05:40 PM
Who says you can learn how to sing, dance or draw? Maybe, if the student does have the raw material, but any rational analysis says very, very few have the raw material for singing, dancing, drawing, or writing.

If writing could be taught, you'd think there would be a very high percentage of good writers emerging from the hundreds of writing courses, MFA programs, etc. There isn't. I simply can't get past this point. Either there are hundreds, or thousands, of incredibly bad teachers out there, or writing can't be taught to any but the very, very few who come loaded with talent.

Everyone can learn to draw and most people can learn to sing - whether they do them those things well enough to get paid for doing them is a wholly different thing. Many people don't necessarily want to get paid for them - they are good things to do in and of themselves. I draw and sing badly but both activities have given me a great deal of pleasure.
People get something from the activity of learning about writing too, from the exercises, from discussion, from crits etc and I don't know that all of them ever expect to make money out of it. People write because they like doing it and I am happy to help them develop as writers. Some definitely get better at it.
In order to be published sure, you do need some native talent. I would never claim anything else, but on every course I've taught there have been some people with enough talent to maybe get somewhere. It isn't just about talent.
I don't think it is reasonable to expect everyone who gets on an MFA to publish a novel - common sense will tell you that there just aren't enough publishing slots - but I do think it is reasonable to expect them to learn something. Writing well is a useful skill to have whether you earn your living as a novelist or not.

Libbie
04-09-2010, 05:45 PM
When you say that most writers' work can be refined into something publishable, I wonder what you mean. If you mean grammatical or technically clean, maybe that's possible. And many people can learn effective communication skills, but that will leave them far short of being good novelists.

I was referring to the writers in my weekly group. I don't think any of them are so failtastic that they are really incapable of making something interesting and good to read, but most of them just do it for fun and aren't concerned with getting published. I'm cool with that. Two of them are actually really excellent writers who could most definitely be published, but lack the confidence in their own work to try it.

That being clarified, I think it's plausible that most technically competent writers COULD be published under the right circumstances. There is a lot of mediocrity that made it to publication. I must assume it's because of a variety of circumstances in the industry at the time they submitted their work. Of course, getting published doesn't mean a novelist will be *successful*.

All the things you call "talent" I do firmly believe a person is capable of LEARNING. But it would certainly require an immense amount of focus and self-criticism to learn these things effectively. Most people lack the drive to put in so much work.


Take another look at your writing group, try to separate your friendship or personal affection toward them from your assessment of their work, and see if there aren't some among them who you can't imagine ever producing a book-length work you'd want to read from start to finish.

Oh, believe me, there is little affection there. They give great critiques, but I probably wouldn't hang out with most of them outside of Thursday evenings and without a red pen in my hand. Most of them also write poetry, and not prose of any kind. They are all capable enough with their poetry that I believe it could create something an editor would publish, if they wanted to put the work into getting there. But they don't, and the fact that they don't might be why their work suffers. They are happy to stop at "good enough." If that makes them happy, then huzzah. ;)

The ones who I do believe could get published without much change to their current work are starting to gain confidence. I'm the newest member of the group, and I came into the group already having an agent and with my novel going on submission to major publishers. That has inspired them, I think, and made them realize that this is something they can do, too. I'm really glad to see it, because I would definitely read novels written by either of them (though they'll probably stick to poetry and short stories. ;) )

shadowwalker
04-09-2010, 05:49 PM
Who says you can learn how to sing, dance or draw? Maybe, if the student does have the raw material, but any rational analysis says very, very few have the raw material for singing, dancing, drawing, or writing.

I think I'd throw in a qualifier here - yes, anyone can be taught to sing, dance, draw - or write. And anyone can be taught the tools needed to improve and how to use them. But...

I was taught to sew by a professional seamstress. I know how, I have the tools, and I love to do it. I can sew a skirt or dress to wear out to dinner, even embellish it a bit - but I'll never make it to Project Runway. I don't have that gift that shows me, in my head, what makes a show-stopping dress. It's just not there.

And if a writer doesn't have that "thing" that makes their stories 'show-stoppers' - a genius teacher and all the practice in the world is not going to give it to them.

DeleyanLee
04-09-2010, 06:07 PM
All the things you call "talent" I do firmly believe a person is capable of LEARNING. But it would certainly require an immense amount of focus and self-criticism to learn these things effectively. Most people lack the drive to put in so much work.

I understand what you're saying, but my experience disagrees with it.

At one point, I was talking to a man who is one of the cleanest writers I've ever read. His sentences are strong. His prose is crisp and easy to read and understand. His story, however, is duller than dirt and his characters aren't even thick enough to be cardboard. His plots are simplistic and greatly resemble 1980's video game plots. He's a great writer, but he's a lousy storyteller.

At one time, I sat for several hours, attempting to explain the basic concepts of story conflict and building stakes to him.

He couldn't grasp it. His mind could not make the connections needed to understand what story conflict was, why stakes were important or why they had to be built. Even with illustrations from books/movies he enjoyed, he couldn't comprehend what I was talking about.

To me, talent is the hardwiring of the brain which allows the person to make leaps of comprehension. The thing inside us that allows the lightbulb to blaze gloriously. The thing that allows us to finally "get it". The thing that makes complication things others struggle with "so easy".

That can't be taught. Many things can, but without the ability to make sense of the information, all the teaching in the world won't make a difference, especially in the arts. The student simply cannot make the connections and cannot learn, no matter how much they may want to. They will always be limited in their understanding and expertise compared to a person who "gets" it.

I come from a line of artists. My grandfather was locally renown throughout his lifetime for painting. My mother has won several awards for her ceramics. Since I was a child, I've taken art class after art class. Painting, sculpture, ceramics. I suck at them all. I can't even take a photo that's well framed. I have zero sense for composition in any medium. None. Nada. Zip. I have no color sense--my wardrobe has to be centered around black & denim because I'm that totally hopeless. I've learned all the rules, but there's no art in anything I produce. I've seen paint by numbers that has more artistic merit than anything I've created. I am completely unable to comprehend even the basics of artistic requirements. My grandfather and my mother spent many long hours with me. Every art teacher I've taken a class from has agreed. I have no artistic talent.

And that's OK. Once I got that through my head, I took the energy and time from pursuing something that always frustrated me and devoted it to something that I seem to have talent in--writing.


(I'm starting to think this conversation should be made into its own thread by some mod)

timewaster
04-09-2010, 06:27 PM
[QUOTE=DeleyanLee;4838537]I understand what you're saying, but my experience disagrees with it.

At one point, I was talking to a man who is one of the cleanest writers I've ever read. His sentences are strong. His prose is crisp and easy to read and understand. His story, however, is duller than dirt and his characters aren't even thick enough to be cardboard. His plots are simplistic and greatly resemble 1980's video game plots. He's a great writer, but he's a lousy storyteller.


I see storytelling ability as a completely different thing from writing ability. It is harder to teach storytelling. I don't know if I have managed it yet, though I am working on it.
I think most people have the capacity to tell stories because we all do it in our daily lives, but fewer seem able to translate that into written form or to sustain it over anything longer than an anecdote.
As for artistry I'm not sure I'd know what that was if you hit me over the head with it. I'm not an artist.

wrangler
04-10-2010, 12:07 AM
To add to the discussion about there being a difference between being able to write a story and being able to tell a story, if you read about the history of "storytelling" and the novel you can observe the evolution of the two.

Storytelling started out something people believed you were born to do. The greater of them becoming elders, sages, prophets and such.

Others toyed with it, but it was common knowledge and widely accepted that you either had it, or not. (I once read something where Sir Henry Morton Stanley made mention of how some of the Africans he encountered had a "natural" ability for storytelling. Being able to pull from the air the necessary elements to tell a fascinating story. Then he went on to say something about being so overwhelmed with emotions by their stories as they were being translated for him, he refused to listen anymore. For fear.)

So there was a time when people believed only those who had a natural "talent" were the ones who should be responsible for telling stories.

Along the years, because it seemed best (marketable) to try to extract the mystery, esoteric, secrecy aspects that eventually became synonymous with natural storytellers, this was shortened to: "how to write a novel." and "the ten things a writer should never do"

Now, we have simply people who believe one or the other -that talent can be taught, or it can't. which might i add is not the general's public fault because for years "how to write" books literally flooded the market. In fact, at one time there were more how-to write books being written and published than actual novels.

And so with this 'program' in operation, you have writers (some of them absolutely brilliant) being rejected because their material is just not marketable. the most marketable novels being written is what is going to sell in a capitalistic country such as ours, not those who have talent. however, if the author happens to be naturally talented AND his book marketable, that is a plus.

artists, especially writers have always been practical and pragmatic in their philosophy and it served well, however we lost it when we stopped studying our history and questioning the motives of the people writing it, instead digesting everything that was being shoveled to us.

aruna
04-10-2010, 10:52 AM
It isn't just about talent.
.
But that's what everyone has been saying! No, it isn't JUST about talent. But native talent HAS to be there to begin with. Just as I will never, ever be a singer no matter how much I'd love to sing well, there are some people who will never, ever be storytellers.


You can learn how to paint, sing, dance why not write?
This has been answered adequately by others but I'l like to give an example: as a child I always had stories going on in my head. I could sit for hours just spinning them out. Or I;d take real situations involving myself and spin them out, with endings which I knew were much better than real life couild ever be.
For a long time I thought that everybody dreamt up stories all the time. Then I discovered that I was a freak. My teachers called me a dreamer, and it was a bad thing to be. But when I finally put my hand to writing fiction it was just what I was made to do. The talent was there to begin with; I didn't make it. Just as some kids grow up with music in their blood, or painting.
You can certainly analyse a story and find the element of it and teach it. But that natural flow that requires no effort: no, you cannot teach that.

And just for fun, my favourite example. This is on a different level altogether, namely the difference between talent and genius, but it says it all!
epiphany (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5BpzmTIZMU&playnext_from=TL&videos=Kg0Pm7t8q_Q)

Priene
04-10-2010, 11:54 AM
Peter Gibbs put it (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2010/apr/07/frank-keating-cricket) pretty well:


"I'd hit my twelfth century in Derbyshire's match at Edgbaston when, of a sudden, sublime revelation took over. I hit Lance Gibbs off the back foot through midwicket, an old-fashioned attacking shot, one of the most difficult imaginable, and I played it to absolute perfection, consummate, transcendental, flawless. Yet back in the pavilion, the moment taunted, tormented me. I knew I'd probably never recapture such a supreme sensation again, never ever play such a shot as that while somebody like Barry Richards was strolling out and doing it without a thought on any day of the week." Gibbs called it a day there and then.

It's easy to see why he then became a writer.

shaldna
04-10-2010, 12:49 PM
Everyone can learn to draw and most people can learn to sing

Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you can do it with any ability - natural talent or otherwise.

I can sing. Should I sing? No. Because it makes small children cry. I understand the principle, and can do the actions, but I have no talent for it at all, and so all the drive and determination and practise in the world is not going to make me Katherin Jenkins.



It isn't just about talent.

I think this is the point we are all making here. It's not just about talent, it's about hard work too.

But, and I'm getting a bit tired of repeating this, YOU NEED BOTH TALENT AND HARD WORK to suceed. In anything. Not just writing.

Marian Perera
04-10-2010, 01:12 PM
I am burning with curiosity now. I'll find some way to experience a slush pile first-hand before I die.

Offer to review books from a press that prints the slush, like PublishAmerica.

In a mad moment, I once signed up with a certain service to do just that - except it wasn't just PA, it was other vanity presses as well. One of the books they sent me was excellent. Everything else needed a good editor, and the PA book was just appalling.

timewaster
04-10-2010, 05:40 PM
[QUOTE=aruna;4841730]But that's what everyone has been saying! No, it isn't JUST about talent. But native talent HAS to be there to begin with. Just as I will never, ever be a singer no matter how much I'd love to sing well, there are some people who will never, ever be storytellers.


I don't disagree. Just to clarify I believe that
1. You need some talent to make it as a writer.
2. You need some writing ability and to be able to tell a story to publish children's and genre fiction.
3. Most people can improve their writing with guidance, critical feedback or tuition.
4. Not everyone can or will be published.
5. It is possible to write for pleasure as one might sing or dance or draw for pleasure.
6.Even with talent it is very difficult to make a living from writing.

I don't think any of these are particularly contentious are they?

wrangler
04-10-2010, 06:13 PM
timewaster, has someone ever said to you that you did not possess the "talent" or "gift" to be a writer?

timewaster
04-10-2010, 07:56 PM
timewaster, has someone ever said to you that you did not possess the "talent" or "gift" to be a writer?

Nope.

ilookcool
04-16-2010, 01:19 AM
A friend of mine went to a conference a few professional writers attended. He was told the average income for a fiction writer is 96K. So yes, you can make a living writing.

GregB
04-16-2010, 01:25 AM
A friend of mine went to a conference a few professional writers attended. He was told the average income for a fiction writer is 96K.


Unfortunately, the median is $6.78.

Bubastes
04-16-2010, 01:27 AM
A friend of mine went to a conference a few professional writers attended. He was told the average income for a fiction writer is 96K. So yes, you can make a living writing.

That number sounds way, way, WAY off, especially since most fiction writers have day jobs to support themselves.

ilookcool
04-16-2010, 01:27 AM
Unfortunately, the median is $6.78.

That's why I say you can, but not you will.

ilookcool
04-16-2010, 01:31 AM
That number sounds way, way, WAY off, especially since most fiction writers have day jobs to support themselves.

He was also told that sometimes fiction writers play poor to get sympathy, and in other cases the selling figures were exagerated. In either case the purpose is to boost the sale. JK rowling was used as an example. They said she did not make 1b, but more like 200m.

Edited: Oh by the way I remembered something else. He was also told that fiction writers play poor also because they want to "scare" aspiring writers away so there's less competition.

Also to let you know none of those are my opinions. I'm simply passing information on.

firedrake
04-16-2010, 01:38 AM
He was also told that sometimes fiction writers play poor to get sympathy, and in other cases the selling figures were exagerated. In either case the purpose is to boost the sale. JK rowling was used as an example. They said she did not make 1b, but more like 200m.

Edited: Oh by the way I remembered something else. He was also told that fiction writers play poor also because they want to "scare" aspiring writers away so there's less competition.

Also to let you know none of those are my opinions. I'm simply passing information on.

Good lord! What conference was this?

It sounds like utter bollocks.

Bubastes
04-16-2010, 01:45 AM
Edited: Oh by the way I remembered something else. He was also told that fiction writers play poor also because they want to "scare" aspiring writers away so there's less competition.


Judging by the growing size of slush piles, it's hasn't worked.

I agree with firedrake's assessment. What a bunch of B.S. on both the income and the competition (mis)information.

ETA: The high likelihood of working very hard for very little money is the truth, not a scare story. And frankly, aspiring writers who can be scared away that easily should be scared away. But that's just me.

BenPanced
04-16-2010, 07:51 AM
He was also told that sometimes fiction writers play poor to get sympathy, and in other cases the selling figures were exagerated. In either case the purpose is to boost the sale. JK rowling was used as an example. They said she did not make 1b, but more like 200m.

Edited: Oh by the way I remembered something else. He was also told that fiction writers play poor also because they want to "scare" aspiring writers away so there's less competition.

Also to let you know none of those are my opinions. I'm simply passing information on.
She doesn't tell people how much she makes because she's a lady and it's tacky to talk about how much money one has.

waylander
04-16-2010, 01:12 PM
He was also told that sometimes fiction writers play poor to get sympathy, and in other cases the selling figures were exagerated. In either case the purpose is to boost the sale. JK rowling was used as an example. They said she did not make 1b, but more like 200m.

Edited: Oh by the way I remembered something else. He was also told that fiction writers play poor also because they want to "scare" aspiring writers away so there's less competition.

Also to let you know none of those are my opinions. I'm simply passing information on.

Either these writers are b#llsh#tting him or he is b#llsh#tting you

KTC
04-16-2010, 01:24 PM
ilookcool---- you went to the WRONG conference, man. What a bunch of bullshit. All of it.

KTC
04-16-2010, 01:24 PM
Everyone can learn to draw and most people can learn to sing.

WRONG. This is a fallacy. A big one. A horrendously huge one.

brainstorm77
04-16-2010, 01:47 PM
She doesn't tell people how much she makes because she's a lady and it's tacky to talk about how much money one has.

Agreed, and why should she ever have to reveal her income?

Saskatoonistan
04-16-2010, 03:21 PM
I'm not quitting my day job anytime soon.

timewaster
04-16-2010, 03:33 PM
WRONG. This is a fallacy. A big one. A horrendously huge one.

I don't think so - I'm not saying that everyone ends up doing them well, but one is about learning to look the other is about learning to breathe; they are both innate inabilities. Story telling is also a general human ability and while not everyone can do it well enough to make the stories worth listening to, let alone worth paying for, I think people can get better at it if they pay it enough attention.
I have gone from seeing creative writing as something different from the other arts, in being essentially unteachable, to something much more like music and art where low level innate ability can be nurtured and developed. The results might not be worth making a fuss about but I certainly think improvement is possible.

lucidzfl
04-16-2010, 05:28 PM
I believe the 96K number for people that "make a living as novelists".

Just because you published a book or two does not make you a professional novelist.

A professional novelist is someone who makes a living doing NOTHING but writing fiction and selling it.

Basically, if you have a day job, you're not a professional novelist. You may be a published novelist, but you are not a professional novelist.

So yeah, I believe the 96K number, definitely. And I believe it can actually be a lot more if you work hard.

DeleyanLee
04-16-2010, 05:39 PM
WRONG. This is a fallacy. A big one. A horrendously huge one.


I don't think so - I'm not saying that everyone ends up doing them well, but one is about learning to look the other is about learning to breathe; they are both innate inabilities. Story telling is also a general human ability and while not everyone can do it well enough to make the stories worth listening to, let alone worth paying for, I think people can get better at it if they pay it enough attention.

I have gone from seeing creative writing as something different from the other arts, in being essentially unteachable, to something much more like music and art where low level innate ability can be nurtured and developed. The results might not be worth making a fuss about but I certainly think improvement is possible.

It's not about "learning to look" and "learning to breathe" at all. Looking is not seeing, which implies comprehension on how to recreate what you're looking at. Breathing does nothing if one cannot hear the notes to recreate them with their own voice.

I have both these problems and, despite many years of lessons in both voice and drawing, I am utterly incapable of either singing close to tune (I've described by my father as sounding like a coyote being disemboweled with a dull knife) or drawing even comprehensive stick figures, let alone putting together a full picture. I, literally, cannot see all the colors that other people apparently can.

Your experience may say that it's always possible for those you've worked with, but my experience says that it's not always possible for everyone.

What I don't really understand is why people can't just admit that they have something that makes them different and be OK with that? Why does their talent/gifts have to be shared by the rest of humanity?

Kalyke
04-16-2010, 06:13 PM
Just because you published a book or two does not make you a professional novelist.

A professional novelist is someone who makes a living doing NOTHING but writing fiction and selling it.

Basically, if you have a day job, you're not a professional novelist. You may be a published novelist, but you are not a professional novelist.



For real? You mean Nabakov and all those other novelists who had day jobs teaching or were journalists were not professionals? I know many many novelists (professional) teach at least summer workshops and so on. Novelists also are editors and other related jobs.

So this would mean that someone who has published one book and happens not to work, is different from someone who has published 50 books and is a university teacher during the day?

Wouldn't that have made Gresham and Chrighton non-professionals at one time?

And as for an answer: Writers are small business people, or contractors. There is nothing wrong with being the owner of a part time lawn service, or a part time writer. I don't think whether you do it to the exclusion of all else is the definition of "professional."

I always acknowledge that I might be wrong.

Bubastes
04-16-2010, 06:18 PM
So this would mean that someone who has published one book and happens not to work, is different from someone who has published 50 books and is a university teacher during the day?


Exhibit A: Joyce Carol Oates.

timewaster
04-16-2010, 06:19 PM
Your experience may say that it's always possible for those you've worked with, but my experience says that it's not always possible for everyone.

What I don't really understand is why people can't just admit that they have something that makes them different and be OK with that? Why does their talent/gifts have to be shared by the rest of humanity?[/QUOTE]

You misunderstand me. I think you need some talent to get published as I said way back thread. I know I have a modicum of natural writing talent. I have never formally learned how to write, I got published soon after I started submitting; I get good reviews and have been nominated for awards.
However, I am not wonderful and some of the people I teach are or could be as good and some may be better.

What I am arguing against is the view (that
I used to hold myself ) that you either have it it or you haven't and if you haven't there isn't much point. I think there is plenty of point, that you can learn and improve, though you may not end up publishing conventionally.

CaroGirl
04-16-2010, 06:21 PM
I believe the 96K number for people that "make a living as novelists".

Just because you published a book or two does not make you a professional novelist.

A professional novelist is someone who makes a living doing NOTHING but writing fiction and selling it.

Basically, if you have a day job, you're not a professional novelist. You may be a published novelist, but you are not a professional novelist.

So yeah, I believe the 96K number, definitely. And I believe it can actually be a lot more if you work hard.
Naw. Professional, by definition, means getting paid to do something. How MUCH you get paid, or whether you do other things AND get paid for them, doesn't make any difference: you're still a professional. Is Tiger Woods any less a professional golfer because he also gets paid for making TV commercials? I don't think so.

lucidzfl
04-16-2010, 06:25 PM
Naw. Professional, by definition, means getting paid to do something. How MUCH you get paid, or whether you do other things AND get paid for them, doesn't make any difference: you're still a professional. Is Tiger Woods any less a professional golfer because he also gets paid for making TV commercials? I don't think so.

Ok, a Fulltime Professional Novelist. :)

Also, I mean someone is Fulltime who doesn't have a day job. Fulltime novelists often conduct workshops and do public speaking as well, to your Tiger Woods point.

But no one would say Tiger Woods is a professional commercial maker, or a spokesman. He's a golfer. Thats what enables the tangential income. Just like being a novelist enables the tangential income of workshops and signings.

Bubastes
04-16-2010, 06:27 PM
Ok, a Fulltime Professional Novelist. :)


And that qualifier was NOT in the workshop speaker's bogus comment as far as I can tell.

ETA: Scott Turow still practices law. So, where does he fall on the spectrum?

In the end, I don't really care about labels. I don't see what difference they make.

lucidzfl
04-16-2010, 06:30 PM
And that qualifier was NOT in the workshop speaker's bogus comment as far as I can tell.

Its just what I took it to mean. Regardless, discussing something like that publicly does seem like it would lead to trouble. Especially if the guy is sitting next to someone who only clears 50 a year.

But if you do a bit of math, and realize that most non-best-seller fulltime authors, write under pseudonyms and publish 2,3 or more books a year, and you realize that non-best-seller writers usually make 15,000-40,000 per book, plus royalties which keep coming in as long as your books are in print, and may have 10 or more books in print bringing in royalties.... Well you're looking at even publishing 2 books a year, within a few years, its easy to imagine clearing 6 figures a year.

Why do you guys think I want to write 7+ books per year? :D

ETA:

In the end, I don't really care about labels. I don't see what difference they make

Its not a label. Either you make a living as a novelist, or you don't. I'm not labeling someone a fulltime professional novelist, its a description. A person who's source of income which provides for their living, which derives or can be derived entirely from payment for novels written, is a fulltime professional novelist.

Tiger woods may make more from endorsements, but if he didn't have that income, he'd still be living off his golf. (Just not as well)

KTC
04-16-2010, 07:36 PM
I don't think so - I'm not saying that everyone ends up doing them well, but one is about learning to look the other is about learning to breathe; they are both innate inabilities.

As someone who is an artist, I object. Art is not about learning to look. An artist does indeed look. But that is a tiny part of what they do.

I do understand what you are saying, but not everyone can learn these things. It is not so. I was fortunate enough to have a temporary position where I 'taught' art. I use that term broadly. You can spend days/weeks/months/years trying to teach a VERY WILLING student the basics of 'art' (I also use that term broadly---as it covers such a broad array of meanings) and they may never get past lesson one.

I was despised in my highschool art classes. I was a druggy who would spend most of his days getting high. Occasionally I went to school for shits and giggles. I could walk into an art class and see everybody struggling to get a piece completed that they've been working on for days. I'd sit down and rush something together and toss it in the teacher's general direction. I'd get it back with an A+ and enough gushing to make me believe the teacher did nasty covetous things with it. He hated me too...but unlike the students, he hid his hatred. I got to know him a bit through his desire to talk art to a person who just could not give a shit. He let me know how much he struggled and how he'd watch me 'whip something up'. HE was an example of someone who was taught to the point where he could make a living in the 'field' of his desire. But, fuck...he was a bitter, bitter man.

I can't remember where I was going with this. Yes...I think I got it. If someone is crazy with desire to write and they kill themselves to get better...but they have no talent...they will find a way to be close to writing...maybe they will sit in a bookstore with an angry look on their faces selling books that other people write. Or maybe they'll work in the field without actually writing. But NO...they will not make their living putting words to paper.

It's not a fairy tale world. There are those who can never do the thing their heart desires them to do. And there are some who have no gumption to do the thing that comes naturally to them. I haven't drawn/painted/shat out a piece of artwork in years. I still have a list of people who wanted to commission me to do pieces for them. I keep it as a reminder of the fact that I'm a lazy slob with no motivation.

timewaster
04-16-2010, 07:53 PM
[QUOTE=KTC;4864729]As someone who is an artist, I object. Art is not about learning to look. An artist does indeed look. But that is a tiny part of what they do.

If you look carefully you will see that I was talking about learning to draw and to sing. Unless you have a serious problem with coordination or are one of those rare people who are tone death - I do think pretty well anyone can be taught the basics. I am talking skills here. I am also talking about learning to write at a fairly basic level - helping students to write in a way that makes sense, tell a story that has some tension in it; simple things.
People can learn skills, though that is not to say that everyone can be bothered. I am not talking about 'art' as you term it. Sometimes teaching skills is a first step to getting it, sometimes it isn't. For myself I am not an artist but a common or garden story teller and I would not presume to teach writing as an 'art' - not my thing at all.



It's not a fairy tale world. There are those who can never do the thing their heart desires them to do. And there are some who have no gumption to do the thing that comes naturally to them.

I don't disagree with either point and in fact made both earlier on this discussion upthread.

KTC
04-16-2010, 08:04 PM
If you look carefully you will see that I was talking about learning to draw and to sing. Unless you have a serious problem with coordination or are one of those rare people who are tone death - I do think pretty well anyone can be taught the basics. I am talking skills here.

yep. i gotcha. i knew your intent. and i was disagreeing with it. eyes and coordination do not make someone an artist. being taught the basics isn't really an issue here. in my opinion, crayons are the basics of art. we start eating them at about age 3. and the abcs are the basics of writing. we start singing them at about age 2. basics don't pay the bills.

lucidzfl
04-16-2010, 09:18 PM
one of those rare people who are tone death

CAN I BE TONE DEATH PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

timewaster
04-16-2010, 09:28 PM
CAN I BE TONE DEATH PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think you are already rare - as in unusual rather than undercooked : )

lucidzfl
04-16-2010, 09:31 PM
I think you are already rare - as in unusual rather than undercooked : )

Don't be angry at me TONE SARCASTIC, just because I get to be TONE DEATH!

Jamesaritchie
04-16-2010, 11:37 PM
Naw. Professional, by definition, means getting paid to do something. How MUCH you get paid, or whether you do other things AND get paid for them, doesn't make any difference: you're still a professional. Is Tiger Woods any less a professional golfer because he also gets paid for making TV commercials? I don't think so.

Getting paid make technically make you a professional, but it sure as heck isn't what anyone means when they use the word professional.

How much you get paid makes all the difference in the world. Sell one short story for three dollars and you're technically a professional, but you'd have to be a whole bag of fries and half a hamburger short of a happy meal to go around answering the question "What do you do?" with the answer "I'm a professional writer."

Jamesaritchie
04-16-2010, 11:39 PM
spectrum?

In the end, I don't really care about labels. I don't see what difference they make.

Labels always have meaning. The label doesn't make any difference, but the difference makes the label.

lucidzfl
04-16-2010, 11:51 PM
Labels always have meaning. The label doesn't make any difference, but the difference makes the label.

Thanks for chiming in James. So in your mind, is the 90K~ per year range pretty doable for a 'professional novelist' ?

Bushrat
04-18-2010, 01:32 AM
How much you get paid makes all the difference in the world. Sell one short story for three dollars and you're technically a professional, but you'd have to be a whole bag of fries and half a hamburger short of a happy meal to go around answering the question "What do you do?" with the answer "I'm a professional writer."

Then what should I answer if somebody asks me? I make about $6,000.- to $7,000.- a year with my writing, that's my sole income and I live on it. Yes, that's possible.

DeleyanLee
04-18-2010, 02:55 AM
Then what should I answer if somebody asks me? I make about $6,000.- to $7,000.- a year with my writing, that's my sole income and I live on it. Yes, that's possible.

I tip my hat to you if you can live just on that. That's flipping amazing to me.

tricon7
06-07-2012, 07:22 PM
Well, I'd love to change careers and go from IT (my current trade) to writing. Problem is, I just haven't taken the time to search for writing jobs or make it a semi-livable income. I consider myself a decent writer, and I've had several articles published for a national magazine (albeit for free - natch).

Instead of trying to climb up in the IT job world, which is better than manual labor I guess, and as my family really needs extra income, I'm seriously considering focusing my energies on writing if for no other reason than to provide a part-time income. If it becomes more than that, so much the better. I do have a completed novel that I on-again, off-again submit to agents, but I think it's time to jump on that and make something happen.

I'm reminded of director Peter Jackson who said that he shopped his idea of the Lord Of The Rings movie around to about 60 studios before Wingnut Films took a chance on him. Perhaps getting a manuscript published is 50% effort and 50% content (though great content doesn't hurt).

mccardey
06-07-2012, 07:29 PM
I'm reminded of director Peter Jackson who said that he shopped his idea of the Lord Of The Rings movie around to about 60 studios before Wingnut Films took a chance on him. Perhaps getting a manuscript published is 50% effort and 50% content (though great content doesn't hurt).

The really important part of that story is that you only heard about it because Peter Jackson succeeded, finally. There are so many - so many - people who have the same story except for the ending.

Writing is hard, but earning a living at it in this climate, when you're starting from scratch - think long and hard about any risks you're planning to take with your current profession. In another thread you mentioned the long wait for an agent, but the fact is that the wait can - and most often does - go on until one gives up waiting. Agents are hard to get. And getting an agent is just the start of the battle.

Don't want to be depressing, and not saying anyone should give up a dream - dreams have their place. But reality has to be weighed in the balance as well - especially where spouse and kids are involved (assuming that's what you mean by family).

Filigree
06-07-2012, 08:27 PM
I have a friend in the IT business, who works at a level where a 100K income or better is not out of the question even in this economy.

I'm an artist. Some years, I gross 6 to 7K a year, sometimes a little more. I'm hoping writing adds another 1 to 2K to that. I'd be stunned to make 100K a year writing, and I seriously doubt that's ever going to happen.

EngineerTiger
06-07-2012, 09:00 PM
Last time I checked, there was still a demand for technical writers in the IT field. Check with your company and see if someone needs manuals, user documents, specifications, online web site help, etc.

Filigree
06-08-2012, 12:56 AM
What EngineerTiger said. Honestly, a technical writer for IT has a better chance at making a decent living wage than most fiction writers. I'm not writing fiction because I think I'm going to be the next G.R.R.M. I write because it's fun. If I get some trivial amounts of money for it, so much the better.

tricon7
07-25-2012, 07:02 PM
But I enjoy writing OTHER things and being reimbursed for them. There are so many types of writing that pay.

Care to elaborate on that last comment?

Marceline
07-25-2012, 07:14 PM
I make a living writing, but definitely not as a novelist. I do a lot of article writing through sites where people pay to have you write articles about things like home improvement and hemorrhoids. I get some ad profits from a website I write for, and get adsense money from blogs I've set up on my own. None of it's great money, but it adds up. It helps that I live in a pretty isolated area with a low cost of living and that I'm a very quick typist.

WeaselFire
07-25-2012, 09:34 PM
Writing that pays enough to live on:

Technical writer
Journalist
Script writer
Copywriter

There are a ton of writing jobs. Almost none pay as much as neurosurgery, but many pay a living. After all, there are many thousands of writers earning their living full time.

Can YOU make a living writing? Not while asking these questions in a non-paying online forum. If you want to earn a living writing, go write.

Jeff

Cyia
07-25-2012, 09:40 PM
Writing that pays enough to live on:



Script writer





:ROFL:

:roll:

Oh... I'm sorry... were you being serious? Because, in all seriousness, you've got a better shot of making a living writing novels than breaking into screenwriting.

dangerousbill
07-25-2012, 09:45 PM
...people pay to have you write articles about things like home improvement and hemorrhoids.


Once you've done the research, though, you can turn these into novels. For instance, 'The Hemorrhoid Games', something like Hunger Games but the competitors are over 70. Picture a bunch of arthritic geezers with walkers and scooters pursuing each other in deadly combat.

(Speaking as an arthritic geezer.)

CQuinlan
07-26-2012, 02:26 AM
Writing that pays enough to live on:

Technical writer
Journalist
Script writer
Copywriter

There are a ton of writing jobs. Almost none pay as much as neurosurgery, but many pay a living. After all, there are many thousands of writers earning their living full time.

Can YOU make a living writing? Not while asking these questions in a non-paying online forum. If you want to earn a living writing, go write.

Jeff
MWHAHAHAHAHA!

Maybe at one stage.
Sorry but not so much anymore.
I have a journalism degree and one person who graduated with me now works as a journalist...and a barman to cover his bills. Yes, there are sites, e-zines and it is possible but you'll have to troll for opportunity, hunt for your pay (and often give up on it before that hunting takes more time than you can afford) and watching Reuters like a hawk.

Features aren't as hard. The research can be interesting but it is hard, time consuming work. It leaves little energy and time for writing fiction.

Hard news callouses the soul.
You will not be trusted by anyone and always regarded suspiciously by some. If anything usual/news worthy happens to you/someone close to you...well your workmates will sell you down the river and rightfully so.

Take into that all the professional journalists who currently went freelance as newspapers and magazines can't afford to keep them on and it's highly competitive. Hard work often isn't reflected in the pay.

It's not a job you should do unless you can fully dedicate to it. And definitely not as an aside to writing fiction.

Yes, people do it, but not lightly and not easily. I wouldn't advise it.

CheshireCat
07-28-2012, 02:58 AM
This is a damned long thread, and I haven't read it all, but just wanted to comment that I've made my living on writing alone for more than twenty-five years now. And for most of that time, I was not a bestseller; I wrote genre fiction.

If you do that, you have to write and publish a LOT, because no one book earns you very much -- and forget about royalties, because a lot of genre fiction doesn't get shelf space for very long.

However, you build a body of work, and if you DO eventually hit the big bestseller lists like the Times, that body of work becomes extremely valuable -- to the publisher and to you. My earlier books have earned ten times more as reissues than they did originally, so I get very nice royalty checks four times a year (March and April, then again in September and October).

It was difficult, and I spent a lot of time broke and eating noodles, but I got there eventually.

The business has changed enormously in the last couple of decades, so I can't say whether a writer starting out now has it easier or harder than I did, but I do know new writers who make a good living at writing alone, so it can be done.

Just stock up on the noodles.

:crazy:

Layla Nahar
07-28-2012, 03:37 AM
Hi Cheshirecat -

I'm glad you posted in this thread. It's encouraging to hear that it can be done. I was wondering if you could quantify 'a LOT'. Also - if you're writing that much, do you need to use a pen-name?

L

NyxAustin
07-30-2012, 04:05 PM
Just like to say that all the success stories in this thread have been inspiring. Its nice to know that its possible even if it is very difficult as well.