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Cafe Doom  |  The Critique Crypt  |  General writing chat  |  A Labour of Love
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Author Topic: A Labour of Love  (Read 6357 times)

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Offline Ed

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A Labour of Love
« on: April 15, 2009, 03:55:02 PM »
I was reading Ralan's Webstravaganza earlier, and I saw he's got a heading called 'writing links', so I had a quick look through them and found what I thought was a very good article by Stephen Coonts. One quite startling statistic he quotes is this:

"My final piece of advice is this: Don't begin writing with the goal of getting rich. You will be deluding yourself, wasting your time. A few years ago the Writers Guild did a survey and discovered that the average published writer in America made less that $7,000 a year at the craft, hardly enough to quit the day job. Indeed, the Guild said at the time that only about 900 people in America made their living solely from writing."

When you consider the population of the US is something like 250 million people, so that's one in every 277,777.77r people manages to make a living solely from writing, the odds aren't great are they? :grin:

It really is a labour of love, isn't it? That or a compulsion, I suppose :scratch:

Link here: http://www.coonts.com/tips_for_writers.htm
« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 03:55:31 PM by Ed »
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline delboy

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Re: A Labour of Love
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2009, 04:41:23 PM »
Interesting article. Very pleased he mentioned Hemingway and John D MacDonald! Reading a John D book at the moment (I have more John D MacDonald books than I have by any other author - probably three times as many as I have by any other author!) and came across an interview with him today (http://newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com/2006/11/fred-blosser-john-d-macdonald.html) in which he states how lucky he was to be born when he was:

What was it like, as a young family man, to embark on the hazardous career of freelance writer?

It was nervous, but not too bad. I had four months of terminal leave pay at lieutenant colonel rates starting in September of 1945, ending in January 1946. I wrote eight hundred thousand words of short stories in those four months, tried to keep thirty of them in the mail at all times, slept about six hours a night and lost twenty pounds. I finally had to break down and take a job, but then the stories began to sell. I was sustained by a kind of stubborn arrogance. Those bastards out there had bought one story “Interlude in India,” and I was going to force them to buy more by making every one of them better than the previous one. I had the nerves of a gambler and an understanding wife.

What are some of your favorite memories of your early writing days?

Every sale had a kind of iron satisfaction about it. “I showed you guys.” I remember standing in front of the downtown post office in Cuernavaca and opening a letter with $1,000 in it for “Louie Follows Me,” bought by Colliers. In late 1949 I wrote a long pulp novelette. My agent, Joe Shaw, asked me to expand it. I resisted, but complied. I hate puffing things. Cutting is fine. Everything can use cutting. But puffing creates fat. Gold Medal took it for their new line of originals. It was titled The Brass Cupcake.

What are some of your least favorite memories of that time?

Professionally, I do not recall any particularly bad memories. The book which just won’t jell. The editor who gets fired when you have half a book in his shop. The clown who was taking my old pulp stories and changing the point of view and selling them to Manhunt. I began to learn my trade in late 1945. Had I begun ten years later, I would never have had the chance to earn while learning. The short-story market was sliding into the pits. Luck is being born at the right time.

Interestingly (we're back with Del now - in case anyone mixes me and JDM up!) I've also been reading about the 10,000 hour rule this week (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/10/30/8391794/index.htm?postversion=2006101915) and how 10 000 hours of seriously applying oneself to a craft seems to be the requisite amount of work before one becomes successful.

So... a bit of a tangent, but my take on it is that of those 900 people making a living at it probably a huge proportion have a very strong work ethic, have put in their 10 000 hours, and have no doubt also enjoyed some luck.

I worked out today, that measuring my writing time over the last 25 years very conservatively, I've passed my 10 000 hours, too. Alas, I guess it's not just a case of doing the hours...

Derek
« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 04:42:59 PM by delboy »
"If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it."
 
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Offline Ed

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Re: A Labour of Love
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2009, 01:56:51 AM »
I think you're right, Del - there's no substitute for putting in the hours, both reading and writing. Recently, and for the past six months or more, I haven't been able to sit and read at lunchtimes, which is what I usually did. Yesterday and the day before were the first times I've taken a book to work in ages, and what did I take? A book on writing horror, published by the HWA and edited by Mort Castle.

One of the authors said much the same thing about putting in the hours, and I suddenly thought to myself, why, in my very few opportune moments to read something, am I reading a 'how to' book? I could have been reading a classic instead, but then I suppose it's also good to get advice from the pros, isn't it. :smiley:
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline delboy

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Re: A Labour of Love
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2009, 02:39:10 AM »
Exactly the same thing went through my mind last night when I was reading a How To book. But I was picking up some damn good tips, too. So, as with everything it's a case of balance. Read some great books, read some best-sellers (not always great books), read some how-to books. Read some non-fiction. It's all grist to the mill.

Derek
"If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it."
 
Robert B. Parker

Offline Geoff_N

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Re: A Labour of Love
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2009, 04:33:46 AM »
MacDonald's experiences are similar to those of  S King in his 'On Writing'.

In the UK there are alleged to be only a 100 or so fiction writers, who make their living from writing.  Even many of those have another income. eg Jon C Grimwood has a 'wife' who happens to be the editor of Cosmopolitan. Jon reckons he has to write three novels a year to clear £15k. The Gollancz editor told me that authors can expect to make around £3k from their first novel in the first year, becoming less each subsequent year. (taking advances into account). This is why so many of them are in other paid but related work such as at writing workshops and literary festivals. It ain't easy.

Geoff

Offline Pharosian

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Re: A Labour of Love
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2009, 08:07:00 AM »
I worked out today, that measuring my writing time over the last 25 years very conservatively, I've passed my 10 000 hours, too. Alas, I guess it's not just a case of doing the hours...

Well, let's look at one big difference:

JDM: I wrote eight hundred thousand words of short stories in those four months, tried to keep thirty of them in the mail at all times... I was sustained by a kind of stubborn arrogance. Those bastards out there had bought one story “Interlude in India,” and I was going to force them to buy more by making every one of them better than the previous one. I had the nerves of a gambler and an understanding wife.

DR: With short stories, at the moment I tend to write a first draft, revise it moderately, occasionally place it here for critique, generally decide it's rubbish, and file it away.

Seems like maybe that "deciding it's rubbish" thing isn't working out very well for you, especially contrasted with the "stubborn arrogance" of your role model. Seems like keeping a large number of stories in the mail at all times had something to do with his success. I notice he didn't say he finished the 800,000 words worth of short stories and then just mailed them out and they were all published. That "tried to keep thirty of them in the mail at all times" makes it sound like a good number came back and had to be sent out again.

The only way to get published by filing all those stories away is to die and have someone else submit them after you're gone. And where's the fun in that?  ::)

delph_ambi

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Re: A Labour of Love
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2009, 09:30:08 AM »
Exactly. (At time of writing, I have around 60 poems and short stories 'in the mail'.)

Offline JonP

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Re: A Labour of Love
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2009, 10:25:52 AM »
One of my old favourites turned up again on my doorstep last night, having failed to find a home yet again. But I'll get the bugger into something if it kills me.

Offline Geoff_N

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Re: A Labour of Love
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2009, 03:42:14 PM »
It's only reading this thread that I realize with a shock that I've only 3 pieces out there. I've always wanted to get something into Interzone but my impression is  they always reject my hard scifi kind of stuff. On counting I've only sent them 4 pieces in 5 years! The last few months I've only written a few humorous pieces - mostly put here in the crit weeks. All of them will be published in various chapbooks / mags though only one paying real money. Time to re-evaluate. Though that will be after judging the Whittaker, after finishing my novel-in-progress, after writing two non-fiction articles I've been asked to do, after... oh dear.

Geoff

Bec

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Re: A Labour of Love
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2009, 05:23:29 AM »
Aah, Geoff, that makes me feel better. I'd assumed that you always have dozens of items 'out there.' I don't have much 'out there' at the moment. Just four short stories and two smaller pieces. I'm trying to get more of my short stories out, and I've recently been resurrecting some that have been in a drawer doing nothing for a few years.

I've still got a long way to go to catch up with Delph though; 60 pieces out - that's very good!

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