Tuesday, May 11, 2010

There's Nothing Wrong With Writing For Money

Shakespeare did it. Poe did it. Twain loved doing it. Even Tolstoy did it, though he was an emotional wreck over it.

I'm talking about writing for money.

Whether fiction or non-fiction, in some writing circles there seems to be a stigma about writing for money. You're looked down upon if you write for money, if you even dare to ask for a mere pittance for something you've written. You receive scowls and frowns in person, and on the Internet you can receive diatribes that become personal and downright nasty.

All because you are writing for money or want to write for money.

Professional writers and those who want to be professional writers write for money. If you're not writing for money, you're a hobbyist.

Not that there's anything wrong with that either. Some people write only for themselves. Some people like to write free articles for their small town local newspaper. Other people like to write stories they read to their kids at bedtime. Some folks write a thousand-page novel just to see if than can do it, then hide the novel away in a closet. There are millions of reasons to write and not want to get paid for it.

But that doesn't mean you're better than me or any other writer who is writing for money.

If you want to talk ethics, how is it wrong to write for money? In what way?

Sure, there can be writers who take it too far, those who are constantly spamming forums about their writing. Those who can have another conversation with a human being only if it revolves around writing, specifically their writing. Those who post links and blogs and memos talking about their new book or short story or article.

But those are just annoying writers. And most all writers can be annoying at one time or another (probably like I'm doing right now).

Some of those who write for money do so because it gives them an ego boost. Others approach writing for money with a more capitalistic agenda, thinking the money they've earned from their writing is sort of like scoring points in a ballgame ... the more money you've got, the closer you are to winning (by the way, in case you wanted to know, the game's at a tie right now between J.K. Rowling and Stephen King).

Me? I've just got bills to pay. And writing is how I make my living.

It's not uncommon (though not extremely common) among smaller book presses and the smaller magazine and ezine publishers for there to be an attitude that beginning writers should just be happy they're getting published, even if they're not getting paid for it. To some extent that makes sense. Beginning writers are going through an apprenticeship of sorts.

But that doesn't mean they can expect to never get paid. If you've had three or four articles or stories published professionally, even if at smaller publications, it's probably time you started looking at the markets that pay, even if it's the markets that pay just a little. You can work your way up to the better-paying markets. If you're getting regularly published, you'll eventually start making some money.

Some folks use the word hack when referring to those who write for money. A writer writing for money is not a hack. A bad writer writing for money (after being fortunate enough to find someone to pay them) is a hack.

And yes, there is plenty of drivel out there. Some people frown upon thrillers. Some frown at horror novels. Myself, I don't care much for romance novels (and yes, I've given some a try, all in the name of gaining experience). But some folks like those genres. It's just that you don't. What constitutes bad writing is all subjective, and what constitutes a bad genre is subjective.

I'm not a great writer. I don't claim to be. I'm fair at this game. I get paid a little money for my work. Yes, I'd like to get paid more. When is enough money enough? I'll find out when I get there, with no expectations of becoming rich.

But I don't look down upon those who have higher goals than myself, or who just want to get paid to write. There's nothing wrong with that.

1 comment:

magicdarts said...

Well said! It's certainly a tough business writing for money (which is why for the time being i'm sticking with part time, writing to raise money for good causes) but just because there are some quick buck, poor quality , volume writers out there, doesn't mean that genuine committed writers should suffer!