It seems that in the past few weeks I’ve heard from a lot of people who want to write so that they can get rich quickly, and I worry about them.
I don’t begrudge people the desire to get rich. If you’re a writer and you make a decent wage at it, it will give you the freedom to keep writing. That’s a good thing.
But I’ve met a couple of novelists who have told me that they have a terrible time writing, that even though they make good money at it, every word that they write is a chore. That strikes me as being . . . rather painful. Why do a job that you hate just for money?
In both cases, the novelists seemed to write less and less until they went out and took other jobs.
So that’s one problem with writing just for money. But there are others. I see many writers trying to take shortcuts. They try to go out and get major publishing deals before they’re ready—before they’ve really learned to write. In fact, many of them will go write a novel and then work to get that major deal without ever having gotten a single critique.
That’s like sitting down at a piano and banging out your first concerto while hoping for a recording contract. It’s foolishness. These same people will pay decent money for stupid scams. For example, there’s a writing book that claims you can write a bestselling novel in thirty days—in only five minutes per day.
Robert Heinlein once said, “The greatest gift that any writer can have is a solid-gold bullshit detector.” If you’ve got it, just turn it on and it will tell you that a book that makes the kind of claim mentioned above is just bullshit.
As an editor, I frequently get asked to edit novels from folks who want to get into print and make a lot of money quickly. They don’t want to take time to learn to write. They’re in a hurry to get published. I understand their sense of urgency, and even understand the economics of their situation. The truth is that some people have a lot of free money but not a lot of time.
So I worry that they’re throwing money at a problem when they really need to be investing more time.
Here is what I want to say: The best publishing deals almost always go to an author who has invested the time needed to master their craft, and then paired their skills with a great concept for a novel.
Yes, you can make money in the writing field. I have one client who works at a high-level job for one of the world’s top companies. He is, I suspect, on the verge of making a significant publishing deal. He has a great novel that has found a powerful agent and is being shopped to all of the best publishers. I hope he gets the deal. He has been working for it now for several years, and he deserves it.
But I have another client who is as poor as a church mouse and who has merely been investing time. That’s all that she can afford to do. When I look at her work, I’m amazed. Her future is blindingly bright. Though she has no money that she can invest, she will get a major deal, too, and she too deserves it.
So take some time. Develop your skills. If you love to write, it will show in your work, and whether you make a little or a lot, the time that you spend writing will bring you joy.
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