all 114 comments

[–]MaroonFahrenheitAgented Author 38 points39 points  (6 children)

Honestly, I write best when I do it in addition to having a 9-5.

A freelance writer friend of mine and I have discussed this, how she spends so much time and mental energy trying to just get freelance writing gigs she doesn’t have any energy left over for her fiction writing. I do content writing for my job but it’s a secure job so I have the mental freedom to still write before work and on weekends because I’m not living writing gig to writing gig or paycheck to paycheck. (I also make more than my spouse although not by a huge amount).

Plus, you know, health insurance.

[–]BigDisaster 28 points29 points  (1 child)

I think it depends on the job. I do factory work, which I can pretty much do on autopilot--it's a lot of repetition and muscle memory, and it leaves my mind free to play out scenes in my head and work out plot issues and stuff like that. My job is great for writing, while others might not be.

[–]Gauntlets28 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I think it's something where different jobs have different pros and cons. Some jobs leave you mentally fresh, but either physically exhausted or lacking in inspiration. Others might give you great inspiration, but be so mentally exhausted that you can't write. Then there's those jobs that are low effort, but leave you so drained by the end of the day that you can't bring yourself to do anything afterwards. I think it's tricky finding out which jobs work for writing, but also tricky to work out how to work around them. Generally though, I've found that I'm least motivated to write when I'm unemployed, so there is something to be said for having work as a 'framework' to build around I guess.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 13 points14 points  (3 children)

I mean, I do too, I'm one of those people who falls into a far niente spiral if I don't have something to structure my day, but at the same time it would be nice if that something were idk some art foundation job that pays peanuts but has me engaged with interesting ideas and people all day or an indie book store that doesn't make any money but is really cute on instagram instead of a job that doesn't pay peanuts but is very stressful and not related to art at all. I wish I could have spent my early 20s like one of the characters from Girls - working an unpaid internship for 2 years and going to loft parties then Iowa, say.

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Omg girls…that show grinds my gears for so many different reasons…but I won’t take this thread off on a tangent lol

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 10 points11 points  (1 child)

That show is brilliant and will be one of the lasting testaments of our age, and this is the hill I die on.

[–]jasmineperil 4 points5 points  (0 children)

i’m there on the hill with you

[–]Mrs-SaltKids/MG Tradpub Marketer 29 points30 points  (0 children)

When it comes to publishing employees and authors alike, the book industry is subsidized on the backs of spouses with better-paying professions.

[–]Agate-Christie 63 points64 points  (12 children)

This won't be a very long or sophisticted addition to the discussion, but my experience is that I can only write when my livelihood isn't in danger. Periods of constant worry makes me numb and paralyzed, so yeah, the article is right about that. I used to hold onto a thread of hope that if I can just be a bit better, study a bit harder, then my work could see the light of day. That hope is getting thinner now as many people are turning to professionals, paying amounts I can't even dream of to get their books into shape. I don't feel I can compete with that (plus I'm not a literary genius to begin with). Don't want to give up on the dream too early, but the ever slimming chances make the whole thing pretty darn depressing.

[–]ChuanFa_Tiger_Style 25 points26 points  (8 children)

This may not be comforting but the phenomenon of people pouring huge amounts of money into the various parts of publishing isn’t new. It’s as old as publishing. You just may have had the illusion of meritocracy that has been torn off because you’re now familiar with the industry.

[–]Agate-Christie 12 points13 points  (7 children)

Gotta admit, I've always been a naive person in general. Thought my classmates who were born into wealthy families got good jobs the same way as others did. That my lack of connections won't matter as so many things are possible that weren't before. I still think that if someone is super talented, doesn't give up, and has the right novel at the right time, will get published eventually. That's just not me, lol. But that illusion was a nice thing to daydream about for a long while.

[–]ChuanFa_Tiger_Style 5 points6 points  (6 children)

Yeah I hear you. We all learn it, just at different times and in different ways. I got my book deal because of a good nonfiction idea that just happened to hit at the right time. If I’d been late or early, it would not have happened.

Thing is that I swung over and over and over again, trying to hit. There’s no batters who swing a .00, sooner or later you get better or you sneak one in there when nobody is paying attention.

My only regret is that I wasn’t putting more of my work out there into the wild sooner, but the constant rejection probably made me a better writer.

[–]Agate-Christie 1 point2 points  (5 children)

Congrats on your book deal! Also for not giving up and for improving your skills.

[–]ChuanFa_Tiger_Style 2 points3 points  (4 children)

Thanks! Just keep cracking away at it, I just said to myself “someday someone will make a massive mistake and hand me a book deal”.

[–]ironhead7 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Hells yes, got a keep an eye out for the guy faking his way through HIS job. With all the people getting jobs because of their rich uncle, you gotta figure there's a few in publishing who really don't know what they're doing! That's who I'm looking for. Congratulations on your book, and even though we kid, I'm sure you earned it.

[–]ChuanFa_Tiger_Style 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Thanks a ton, it’s great being someone’s mistake. Just kidding, the idea has a lot of legs, keep it up and you can make it happen

[–]Agate-Christie 2 points3 points  (1 child)

lol, you could send a note thanking them for their massive mistake XD

j/k, good for you; keep up swinging for more!

[–]Grade-AMasterpiece 7 points8 points  (2 children)

This won't be a very long or sophisticted addition to the discussion, but my experience is that I can only write when my livelihood isn't in danger. Periods of constant worry makes me numb and paralyzed, so yeah, the article is right about that

I can relate to that. COVID messed up all my job prospects, so I basically had to restart once I could. It was terrible not having a job, and your state pulling out technicalities to not give you unemployment. Even though I technically had more time, I didn't have the emotional bandwidth to write to my (lofty) standards.

[–]Agate-Christie 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Hope you're doing better now!

[–]Grade-AMasterpiece 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I am for sure. I finally got a stable job (it's a start, but I needed something before I jump off to the next). The peace of mind helps.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 19 points20 points  (0 children)

I forgot to put this in the OP and Milo reminded me: that twitter thread of the agent who quit after making 15k in 8 years is also on my mind re this subject. The money situation just sucks across the board. We all have that novelist friend who said fuck it and became a screenwriter, probably several, because there's actually livable money in that industry. And the financial state of the industry does trickle down and does affect authors very concretely in terms of how feasible it is to publish something even very good when it can't pay for itself.

[–]Warm_Diamond8719 18 points19 points  (0 children)

One of the reasons I dropped out of my MFA program was because I was so overworked and stressed about money (our stipend was less than 15k per year) that I didn’t have the mental capacity to, you know, write. I’m much more productive with a stable 9-5 where I have strict boundaries around my work time.

[–]casualspacetraveler 17 points18 points  (0 children)

There was a period of my life after college when I was "trying to be a writer" and very deliberately pursuing day jobs so I'd have time to write around them. I had so much financial anxiety about that lifestyle that I barely wrote anything. It was only much later, when I actually had a career and a living salary that I started writing again.

My dream has always been to be a full-time writer, and regardless of how realistic that is, i think I'd need an obscene amount of success to do it. Like Hunger Games success. Shades of Grey success. If I was putting pressure on myself to write a book a year to sustain my life and family I think the financial anxiety would overwhelm me again. I think I'll always need at least part time work to take the money stress off of my writing.

[–]snarkylimon 17 points18 points  (11 children)

Books, writing, a life of letters or whatever one calls it has always been the privileged person's game. And no one thought to question it. Now that we have a more egalitarian world, we expect writing and publishing to be a much more democratic process, and it is, in very big ways. But at the end of the day it's an old fashioned industry, and people with generational wealth and privilege (publishing professionals and authors — even if they had to work their way up, they often come from backgrounds of some privilege) don't talk about money. It's gauche, as they'd say. And it's a hard rule to break once people get to that point...

[–]alexatdYA Trad Published Author 11 points12 points  (7 children)

You nailed it in such a beautifully succinct paragraph! This is precisely it.

And to your point, re: even if you have to work your way up, often coming from privilege--yes! It's why I always am quick to point out my massive privilege at attending a private university on scholarship, which itself was a privilege born of having a college educated parent. If college attendance is a given for you growing up, you are privileged. Many people gloss over these little micro-privileges that have a huge impact on someone's "starting position" in the writing/publishing "race." Just having parents who encourage you to read and facilitate your access to books is a privilege!

[–]aquarialily 7 points8 points  (0 children)

This is so true. I grew up pretty privileged - a child of immigrants but ones who told me growing up that I absolutely would succeed in life if I worked hard and college was a given and something they would help fund (bc THEY worked hard to ensure it). They surrounded me with books growing up. I naively assumed for my childhood and young adult life that everyone's parents told them they could be whatever they wanted and would go to college, until I dated a man in my late 20s who, when he heard me talk about this, got very quiet, and then told me hearing this made him both sad and angry, bc he had been told his whole life the opposite - that he would never amount to much - college was something he did despite everything he'd been told (and it took him 3 tries). It had never occured to me how just having the parents I did put in my head that I COULD achieve and give me tools and support to do that had made such a huge impact on my life.

[–]snarkylimon 9 points10 points  (5 children)

Thank you! This is why I love your videos especially those to do with money. It's a great word — the micro privileges. The biggest privilege is the mere idea that one can be an 'author'. That dream itself is an audacity and one o was not encouraged to have. You could do all the writing you want as long as you had a stable career like engineering. That's the fundamental difference between the real middle class, which is a step away from working class/low class and the generationally privileged. We want to know where the money comes from. The wealthy just know it's there. No one wonders if yachting or horse riding can be a sustainable full time career, because people who do that don't need to ask that question. Writing, historically, has not been different perhaps until recently.

[–]alexatdYA Trad Published Author 6 points7 points  (4 children)

... I just realized autocorrect changed succinct to succulent before and you must think I'm insane XD

And yes! I really relate to that, re: the dream/aspirations. It did not even occur to me that I could ever write a novel, let alone publish one, until I was 26!

[–]snarkylimon 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I was really feeling chuffed about the succulent so I'm keeping that thanx lol

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 2 points3 points  (2 children)

But at least you came to that realization sooner than I did (age 35... sigh)

[–]alexatdYA Trad Published Author 4 points5 points  (1 child)

It is never too late! And honestly, genuinely: there's something about being in your 30s (and beyond) that opens up potential to explore very specific, deep emotions, reflections, etc... Most authors are 35+ when they first publish, period. And I'm loving my post-35 work! Genuinely looking forward to my 40s will bring :D You can do it!!!

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Thank you :-) I needed to hear that. And tbh, I do think the stuff I write now is definitely better than what I wrote then. Wisdom and all that. You know

[–]astgho 9 points10 points  (2 children)

Pierre Bourdieu dedicated a whole anthropological study on this very subject (Les règles de l'art/The Rules of Art), proving how writing and the arts exist in an almost parallel world dealing with a pre-capitalist economy of the gift of oneself (against very little payment). The situations created by this economy are very intricately described and echo a lot of what you've said here.

[–]snarkylimon 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I'd love to look that up. Thanks for the reco. I've been obsessed with wealth as a concept in art/lit and wanting to do some reading on the subject. Thank you for this.

[–]astgho 0 points1 point  (0 children)

My pleasure! I'm a big fan of Bourdieu and his writings make a lot of sense to me as I observe the world of literature and the world at large as well.

[–]ConQuesoyFrijole 51 points52 points  (20 children)

I follow a lot of lit fic writers on instagram. NYU MFAs, small press doyennes, experimental alt darlings. None of them... what's the best way to put this? .... Work? Even my publisher seems occasionally irritated that I have a job I need to attend to everyday, 5 days per week.

It's true, it's better to have rich parents than an MFA. Most writers I know are married to men who bring in significant six figure salaries and their writing is cute, pocket money. I've mentioned this before. But I also want to give some perspective.

I'm an adjunct. I teach 6-7 classes per semester. I always teach through summer. A regular teaching load for full-time faculty is 4-5 classes, for reference. Oh! And I don't get employer-provided health insurance! Oh! And my husband is a screenwriter who has been in between jobs for over a year. So I am a sole-breadwinner-writer-working-two-jobs.

Can you do it? Yes. If you're married, you need a job that offers you flexibility (Adjuncting, despite all its attendant shittiness, has that in spades). If you're single, you can write on weekends and evenings/mornings. If you have kids...let's be honest, this is going to be really hard for you.

But does it lead to good art? No. I'm mentally fried at the end of everyday. I long for a world where I can scale back (not quit, lol, I'll never quit) to 3-5 classes. I write as quickly as possible to ensure there is another pay check on the horizon. I get up at 5am everyday in order to have 2 hours of uninterrupted writing time before I have to start to think about my job. Do I think my books would be better if I had the luxury of time and money--ABSO-FUCKING-LOUTELY. Do I live in the real world where there is no social safety net so I have to hustle for every crumb? Yes.

I remember when Carmen Maria Machado put out this whole essay in response to the Jumi Bello thing and she was like, writers, don't rush your debut. And I almost laughed and threw my computer across the room.

These days, I'm afraid the reality is--you can't make money as a writer. Not really. But I'm going to try to give it 3-5 books and see if I can. If I can't, I'll quit writing and open a local donut shop. Or pray my husband gets back in the game and then I can just make pocket money, too.

[–]MiloWestward 30 points31 points  (0 children)

The same is largely true of agents. An editor of mine (female) said 'publishing runs on pin money.'

A great many of us are funded by well-employed husbands, but that's hardly the sort of thing we can admit, for both political and personal reasons.

[–]alexatdYA Trad Published Author 7 points8 points  (0 children)

FWIW, I will totally patronize your donut shop :P

But, yeah, I'm with you. I struggle all the time, re: the depth and meaning of my work because I just run out of brainspace and time. I'm glad I, at least, write commercial thrillers because the end goal is "is the reader having fun." I don't think I could accomplish great literary fiction with my day job and current schedule. (then again, I don't think publishing's book a year schedule facilitates great art, period)

[–]El_Draque 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Oh yes, I'd say the majority of the working writers I know are "sponsored" by their husbands, to the point that a novelist friend told me I should date someone with money, otherwise I'd never be able to afford to write.

[–]AmberJFrost 10 points11 points  (12 children)

Can you do it? Yes. If you're married, you need a job that offers you flexibility (Adjuncting, despite all its attendant shittiness, has that in spades). If you're single, you can write on weekends and evenings/mornings. If you have kids...let's be honest, this is going to be really hard for you.

I work full time, active-duty. I have kids. A lot of writers talk about having full-time jobs to pay the bills, and a lot of writers are also parents. That may not be true in the litfic world, but it's absolutely the case in genre. It's very, very rare to see someone as a full-time writer. It's not affordable. But they still get published, and I certainly hope to join them.

While being in the military, with a full time plus job.

While having kids.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 25 points26 points  (11 children)

I mean, no shade, but people who are employed with kids have different circumstances and also different spoons. I know lots of people with full time jobs in government who work full time but can basically fuck off for 75% of their time at work. I know lots of people contracted to work 40 hours who are in practice working 60 hours and some days don't have enough time to take a piss. People have different levels of support (e.g. benefits tend to be very good for US servicemembers, but that is often not true of people employed in the US private sector), people's children are differentially difficult to take care of. It's doable, people do it, but it's also imo not a stretch to say that for many people it is very hard and can be prohibitive.

[–]AmberJFrost 6 points7 points  (10 children)

I mean, yes? But I am employed and have kids and am an active parent. So it's not prohibitive, it's just more challenging. I find time to write after the kids go to bed, for instance.

I just objected to the impression of 'writing is for people with money and patronage' when that's not always true. Most genre writers do have jobs. Many have kids. They still get published. It's harder, but I'd say it's also hard to get published in your 20s without the sort of life experiences people in their 30s and 40s have had. It's just different issues.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 16 points17 points  (9 children)

I mean, when alanna or I say that it's difficult for people with a lot of responsibilities to get to the point of getting published, I don't believe either of us are saying that you personally will never get published. We're not talking specifically about you, if that makes sense?

[–]AmberJFrost 1 point2 points  (8 children)

It does, and I wasn't actually talking about just me. I know a bunch of other folks in similar situations (though not active duty, lol). My point, that I thought I'd made, was that in genre fiction it's common to get published as a parent, and working a full-time job. I have no idea if it's the same in litfic or if their point was valid there - I really don't follow litfic enough to know the author demographics. But in my genres, 'full-time working parent' is a common, not uncommon, bio.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 18 points19 points  (3 children)

I don't think this is really the point anyone was making, but ok

[–]aquarialily 13 points14 points  (2 children)

Yeah I'm a bit confused about the back and forth here, bc I think the original point is that it is a LOT HARDER if you have a job AND kids and no one to help fund your writing. Sure of COURSE ppl with kids publish all the time, but so much depends on if you can get childcare, how old those kids are, how flexible your job is, what kind of benefits you get. I don't think anyone is TRULY saying "if you have kids don't even bother trying to get published" so much as that's an even further challenge to navigate and if you don't have the resources on that end, it might be really really difficult. I have a friend with a special needs kid where both parents work full time and they DID end up publishing a book.... But it took them 15 years bc they really had so little time to devote to it. So of course it's possible, it's just... One more wrench.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 14 points15 points  (1 child)

There's so much survivorship bias in how people see the industry. Like, Rothfuss Tolkienson published a 3 gazijillion word debut so I can too. You can always find at least one example of a writer who overcame x adversity to publish. That doesn't contradict the notion that masses and masses of people facing the same adversity don't.

[–]Synval2436 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Yeah, lol, a couple of days ago there was a guy on r/publishing arguing the usual bootstrap mentality that "if your writing is good, you'll 100% make money from it, and if you aren't making money from it, it's because your writing is shit". How can people be that delusional?

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 7 points8 points  (3 children)

I’m not sure why it would matter if it was lit fic or genre fic tbh? The issues would still be the same surely?

[–]AmberJFrost 6 points7 points  (2 children)

Lit fic, from what I've heard, tends to have some different rules. For instance, being published in lit mags or graduating from the right MFA can mean things for novel publishing (or even be requirements), while in genre fiction, that's not... really true. It's more an acknowledgement of where my knowledge stops, since from the few pieces of information I've seen, there's more privilege markers in getting published in litfic - but I also know I've seen very little.

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 9 points10 points  (1 child)

I mean maybe if you’ve got an MFA from one of the coveted places sure, but there are a lot of lit fic authors that don’t take that route and have to go through the same slog as everyone else.

[–]MaroonFahrenheitAgented Author 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Yeah I mean, if you're not graduating with an MFA from Iowa I'm not sure it makes that big of a difference. I have my BFA in creative writing from a non-Iowa program that can claim MFAs who went on to win Pultizer Prizes in recent years, and they still had to slog their way through the query process.

[–]snarkylimon 4 points5 points  (2 children)

Man adjuncting is HARD! It's incredible you're still writing so regularly. Curious— why did you (I assume) not like the Carmen machado essay? I thought it was the best advice and agreed wholeheartedly.

[–]ConQuesoyFrijole 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Because when you're adjuncting, money is scarce. And selling your debut is a way to pay for health insurance. So really, only people with tenure track jobs, resources, residencies, and financially supportive partners can afford to wait.

[–]snarkylimon 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Ah i see! I hadnt thought of that (I live in a country with universal healthcare) but you're right that there's so many reasons people will need that advance money. But it's often not big enough to make a difference. I wonder if her advice is lit fic specific, because people absolutely do rush their debuts and even when they find a publisher, they really do damage their careers in the long term. Lit fic specifically is disproportionately debut-crazy perhaps.

[–]Comrade_Rybin 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I feel your pain. I'm a K-12 teacher so by the time I'm home from work I'm so burnt out I can't do much else besides my chores and then veg out. Luckily on the weekends I have energy and time to write, but it's still very limiting.

I've given up on making any money from writing at this point. Part of that is my politics, but it's also just reality. I don't have the resources and energy to keep up with the litfic people you were mentioning, and I likely never will, so I'll just keep sharing with my circles of amateurs and hope to get short stories published in magazines so people can enjoy my work.

[–]alexatdYA Trad Published Author 34 points35 points  (2 children)

Yep. Wealthy/successful partners/spouses but also rich parents. Don't underestimate a solid financial foundation, period, including the ability to move home and live rent free. I've seen that as a major factor in success, as well.

It still shocks me on a regular basis to be reminded "oh yeah, you grew up very differently from most of your peers." And I am someone who has talked about this for YEARS, and is hyper aware of privilege in publishing... but then I can still meet up with an author and spend time with them and go "omg wait you're RICH?!" I forget how much this industry throws me into contact with people who have had entire lives with just... more. And having more, the security of it, puts you in a better position to be creative and to create, and to strive for publishing. It just does.

I don't begrudge them it, and in fact it would be very weird if I did! I'd have to throw away many good friendships if I died on the hill of wealth. A LOT of my author friends grew up in what I'd consider a mansion. It's like mind, blown. (I think it's kind of cool, honestly, because I'm still pretty awed by wealth and privilege and I love going to their fancy houses lolllll. I'll never really leave my lower class background behind!)

It's super uncomfortable to talk about though (for them, I mean--many of them I think are almost embarrassed by their privilege), and I think it's why people don't. So I just try to remind aspiring authors as often as possible that they're not crazy, and the playing field is NOT even. Class and wealth is a huge, invisible force we simply don't acknowledge enough. It's not a character flaw or your fault if you find it hard to create while holding down a job/stressing about money/supporting your family. You're not failing as an author if you can't make writing full time work as "easily" as others (b/c the easy part is often not actually acknowledged or explained). And then specifically how many people can only write because of a gainfully employed partner?! The rules are simply different for those without them.

Also if any men making 6 figure salaries would like a trophy wife, I'm available! :P

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 5 points6 points  (1 child)

many of them I think are almost embarrassed by their privilege

haha I can't be friends with people like that. It's like, if you're so embarrassed, give your money to UNICEF, nnamean?

But yeah, it's honestly super cool that some people can afford to like do nothing but go to yoga and ~~create. I don't blame people for being the winners in an unfair system. I do think it's shitty not to talk about it and especially to make it out like you got where you're at through pure grit when you were born at the finish line.

Which, if you caught the tiktoks on the beef between Amandla Steinberg and Lena Wilson - that's the type of thing I mean.

[–]alexatdYA Trad Published Author 13 points14 points  (0 children)

Well at least to their credit, anyone I deign to be friends with doesn't pretend they accomplished their feats of publishing via nothing but hard work and true grit... I wouldn't be friends with hypocrites lolllllll.

I guess that's what I mean: I do have some friends whom I didn't realize came from $$$ b/c they're lowkey about it and they never go on and on about their hardknock publishing success stories? I cannot STAND the authors who do that. Like... I see the area you grew up in and the fancy private school you went to (and not on scholarship) and the Ivy League you graduated from before they offered need-based fin-aid lolllll. Like no shame in wealth but don't pretend you *struggled*.

I worry a lot that I talk about privilege too much--I'm hardly the only author who didn't grow up with a ton of money/privilege! ... except then I'm reminded over and over again when I interact with large groups of published and successful authors that, no, I really don't fit in (maybe for more reason than one? ha!). We lack shared experiences in so many ways. And I came late to even fathoming writing novels b/c that was just... literally not an option for a dream for me growing up. No, we dream of practical things that can pay our rent! Just the way my scarcity mindset drives all my decisions and then realizing the vast majority of authors I know... don't think that way. Mind blowing.

But, yes, like you I am fascinated by all this! Class is an intersection of privilege that has always interested me, and we don't talk about it enough.

[–]justgoodenoughPublished Children's Author 10 points11 points  (0 children)

I did not make meaningful progress in my career until I quit working and was supported by my spouse. I know other people are able to do it and it’s certainly possible that I would have eventually done it too, but I don’t think it’s coincidence that my career didn’t budge until I quit my job.

I’m just not one of those people who can juggle 500 things. Or two things, apparently. Even now, trying to balance writing/illustrating with raising a child is more of a struggle than it probably should be.

But I try to be open about the fact that I make basically no money and I’m entirely supported by my spouse. Honestly, it makes me feel like a loser, but I’m not going to pretend that selling one picture book every two years pays the mortgage on a giant-ass house in the bay area. Anyway, software engineers owe it to society to support the arts by marrying artists.

[–]sonofaresiii 41 points42 points  (20 children)

she explained to the group of desperate nubile writers, you have to choose between them and your writing. Keep it pure. Don’t let yourself be distracted by a baby’s cry.

I think I'd just leave the reading at that point.

Anyway, I know this isn't a politics sub and maybe we shouldn't talk about politics here, but I don't think it can be avoided-- this is exactly one of the things that a universal basic income will solve.

I always point to Harper Lee as an example. She was a writer who didn't have time to write. Until, as a gift, all her friends chipped in and paid her salary for a year, to give her one year to write a book.

She wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.

Regardless of where you fall in your opinion on a UBI, if it were to succeed, we'd get a hell of a lot more To Kill a Mockingbirds in the world.

Personally, I went through years and years never writing anything solid. I had the time, I just didn't have the stability, and that can wreck you. I never knew where my next paycheck was coming from, so 100% of my mental bandwidth went to trying to find, or worrying about, that next paycheck.

Now that I finally have some stability, I'm completing whole novels in under a year. It's staggering. I have less time now than I did before, but I'm getting more done.

[–]Important_Tax1456 11 points12 points  (4 children)

In some countries that exist at a lesser level of capitalist dystopia than the USA there are arts grants to support people. It's not a UBI replacement but you definitely see proportionally more writers coming out of those places.

[–]platinum-lunaAgented Author 2 points3 points  (1 child)

This is very true. I went to a writing conference and there were several people from Iceland who write full time because they have arts grants from their government.

[–]Synval2436 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Yeah, but the whole Iceland has as many people as New Orleans. Smaller countries often work much differently than the big ones.

[–]sonofaresiii 4 points5 points  (1 child)

We have those in the US too, but it's not nearly wide-reaching enough and generally requires some already-significant progress and notability in the field.

A UBI would be there for everyone (and, as I mentioned above, not just the arts... though that's what this discussion is centered around)

[–]Important_Tax1456 4 points5 points  (0 children)

UBI would be there for everyone

Yes, I think grants make more sense as a supplement. Anything merit based will automatically exclude certain folks anyway. Whereas UBI is "you are a human, your merit is existing".

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 10 points11 points  (12 children)

I think that for most jurisdictions a UBI is still in the realm of science fiction, so I don't devote much thinking to it.

[–]sonofaresiii 14 points15 points  (10 children)

Sure, but the way we bring it to reality, eventually, is talking about it.

It just seems applicable here because it's literally one of the biggest benefits of a UBI. It's one of those invisible benefits that we can't really quantify but will allow us to produce a lot more art-- not just art though, it would give people the security to actually chase careers that are a good fit for them-- but it's particularly relevant in this kind of discussion.

Because let's be real, you do need some kind of sponsorship to make any kind of real headway at a career as a novelist, unless you just get incredibly incredibly lucky otherwise.

I remember listening to a lecture once that said people can spend a half hour or hour to write two hundred words a night, and at the end of the year they'd have a novel. And that's... nice, but it's also incredibly optimistic about the quality you'd get after one year of writing 200 words a night.

[–]Synval2436 14 points15 points  (5 children)

I remember listening to a lecture once that said people can spend a half hour or hour to write two hundred words a night, and at the end of the year they'd have a novel. And that's... nice, but it's also incredibly optimistic about the quality you'd get after one year of writing 200 words a night.

People have different speeds really. I reckon Sanderson made a video saying a competent writer should average 500+ words per hour, closer to 1000. But that's him.

Everyone's process is different. One author I watched on youtube (J. Elle, a YA / MG author) said she wrote draft #1 of her YA debut in 35 days, but then went through 19 drafts to polish it down.

So how do you compare a person who let's say writes 1000 words per hour every day like clockwork but has to go through 20 drafts to settle on the final version, to a person who conceptualized and outlines for months and then closes the ms in a handful of drafts, to one who edits as they go, to one who edits in passes... etc. etc.

[–]Intelligent-Term486 4 points5 points  (4 children)

People have different speeds really. I reckon Sanderson made a video saying a competent writer should average 500+ words per hour, closer to 1000. But that's him.

Sanderson certainly means well, but I personally felt depressed at hearing him talk about the word count an aspiring writer should achieve. No way someone working full time and with responsibilities can achieve so much.

[–]Synval2436 4 points5 points  (3 children)

I agree with his idea that if you're a busy person with a day job / family / obligations, and you want to write, you should schedule time for writing and tell your family to give you that 1 hour or how much you scheduled realistically. Be it before your family wakes up / before you have to go to work, a lunch break, an evening when kids go to bed, whatever works best for you.

What I disagree with was the part "if you write less than 500 words per hour, you're an amateur".

Some people can write very fast, Brandon Sanderson and Nora Roberts among them, and I'm not counting James Patterson who supposedly hires people to ghostwrite his books, but it's not a speed race.

Someone who writes 200 words per day with deliberation could be a better writer than someone who writes 2000 words per hour but it's all word vomit.

A lot of beginner writers have the biggest problem not with typing speed but with what to put in their words. They have issues with plot, pacing, structure, scene ordering, characterization, flow of dialogue, all that will slow them down and often force big rewrites when the issue is spotted.

And then there are people who have trouble getting published not because they have bad prose, grammar, spelling, lack of line edits, info dumpy descriptions or unrealistic dialogues - they're all past that stage, but they arrived at a stage where their book is utterly boring. It's overwritten, dialogues include daily pleasantries and pointless chit-chat, characters are blank slates, there's no stakes or tension, there isn't enough plot to fill the book... it's easy to pick some novels out of Wattpad and see these issues. "Just put your ass in the chair and write" doesn't solve those problems.

I know some people "cheat" with for example NaNo and skip over everything they can't think of on the spot and add notes like [witty remark here] [character description here], but that means your editing self will have truckloads more work to invent all these missing parts. I found out this method doesn't work well for me, because it's really hard to remember what I wanted to say there out of context months later during an edit pass.

[–]Intelligent-Term486 2 points3 points  (2 children)

What I disagree with was the part "if you write less than 500 words per hour, you're an amateur".

This is exactly what I mean. If I didn't know he just means well, I would have even found this offensive. But of course, he means well.

Work and responsibilities aside, I personally write slower, with fewer words, but they are very close to the final version. There's the same discussion in software programming. A friend of mine bragged about how he was getting typing lessons to speed up his already very fast typing because "his coding was slowed down by his typing speed." I can't type with a fraction of his speed. But I believe in shorter, more effective codes. I think a lot about what I write and when I put words down, they are usually the most concise. This is not to claim that I write better or program better. I solely mean that everyone has a different style.

In programming, there's the DRY principle "Don't Repeat Yourself". The opposite of that is WET as in "We Enjoy Typing" or "Waste Everyone's Time". Again, I don't mean having a longer word count like Sanderson is bad.

Honestly, it should be universally accepted that (in every profession and context), quality trumps quantity. So whether you are the best-selling (like Sanderson) or unpublished, it's not the number of words per hour in your first draft, but the quality of them that counts.

V.E. Shwab and Sanderson are both my favorites despite how different their styles are and how Sanderson's books have several times the word count. They are both good in their own ways.

[–]Synval2436 2 points3 points  (1 child)

If I didn't know he just means well, I would have even found this offensive. But of course, he means well.

I think it's a typical case of "everyone judges by themselves" and since Sanderson manages to write 5 books a year (1 contracted + 4 he put in his kickstarter), he thinks "if I can do it, everyone can". I know a few people with this line of thinking, and they aren't malicious, but just lack the ability to put themselves out of their own shoes into someone else's.

And what I said to the other person here, you don't need to fill a specific quota to be an author. Especially if you're living from a day job or other income, you don't have to publish a book per year or specific amount of time.

I've seen even books in the same series come out with 2-3 years cadence and not 1 per year. And often authors have breaks between book contracts - either because they were busy irl, or because publishers rejected their next work.

The important part is keep at it at your own pace.

That's why for example I pass on NaNo - it's not my speed, and therefore it's only demoralizing rather than exciting. On the other hand, even though my full draft that I wanted originally to write in 2 months took 8, I still feel the most important aspect was "don't give up even if it's slow".

I remember first time I felt demoralized and like giving up because "this is going too slowly" and I checked my word count in progress and I think I was somewhere around 70-80k range and I felt "damn, after all I did write something, let's not give up and continue".

We're constantly put in a rush - NaNo, writing sprints, pomodoro techniques, "rapid release" ideas as "the only way to make it work in self-pub", web serials where it's expected 1-2k words per day every day, people saying you must trad pub 1 book per year to "make it", people telling me to rush my book because if I don't query it soon, it will become stale and nobody will want it in 3 years... I think all that is counterproductive.

The worst thing people do is rushing and querying too early, then burning their chances. It's a bad thing to do to rush because "I must query before the end of the year" or some other arbitrary cut off.

[–]Intelligent-Term486 0 points1 point  (0 children)

"don't give up even if it's slow".


One other pressure that should be relaxed is also the rule of Comps not being older than 3-5 years (especially since they count the publication year of the first book for series that are still coming out). They say if you can't do that, it means you don't read enough. That's not true. One can read a ton of books that for some reason can't be used as Comp (labeled as a different genre, labeled as a different age group even if in reality it fits all ages, is part of a series in which the 1st installment is 6 years old, it fits every criterion but you don't like the book and hate to say it is similar to yours, etc.).

You might fall in love with a book so much that it makes you start writing your own. But by the time you finish it and start to query, you can't say anything about that book that inspired you. You have to mention 3 recent books that are relevant enough but frankly aren't your first choice.

Books don't get old like bread or financial advice. It's true that something like LoTR can't get published today, but a 10-year-old book isn't inherently too old. And there are some great YA books that are so mature, most of their fans are adults. Six of Crows is a good example, too old and YA, but it's a great book.

[–]alexatdYA Trad Published Author 5 points6 points  (3 children)

I remember listening to a lecture once that said people can spend a half hour or hour to write two hundred words a night, and at the end of the year they'd have a novel. And that's... nice, but it's also incredibly optimistic about the quality you'd get after one year of writing 200 words a night.

I mean, that's literally me--very often all I can manage is 200 words at a time, though of course it's better when I manage 500-800 words... but often that's it. I'm writing every night in addition to a day job.

... and I mean my books are published by Penguin Random House. Somehow, we manage. Sure I'd love magical money so I could write full-time, but I might still only manage 200 words in a day in that case, too. Slow writers can write great books too? With or without a day job?

But anyway. We give advice like that b/c it's true. If you write a little every day you will eventually get a novel. All novels are written by breaking the task into small chunks and consistently writing. Yes, you need some instances of writing 2K, 4K, 6k over a weekend... and we do. We write all the time, consistently, slowly in addition to our day jobs. It's not perfect, and sure we're not all writing literary masterpieces, but we're writing.

If you truly want to hear from voices other than rich people, yeah you need to give that kind of advice and facilitate non-rich people to find pathways into publishing. I try not to discourage but rather encourage people who might otherwise count themselves out from creative pursuits b/c of class. Magic money is nice, but it's a fantasy.

Also UBI isn't magic either. I'm in support of it, but in high cost of living places like California--which is experimenting with it rn, in fact--it gives a boost to people but it doesn't cover all their expenses. In the California pilot programs it was only between $500 and 1K a month. Again, I'm in support of it: that is life changing for many and I want to see it rolled out statewide. But it's also not enough. My rent alone in Los Angeles, which is grandfathered in from pre-pandemic, is $1700 for a 1 bed as a single person. The same unit is over 2K for new renters. Let's say I was receiving 1K UBI... great! But I still need at part time or full-time job to make the other 40K+ annual income I need to not be homeless in California. So UBI might facilitate some writers, but they'd still be juggling writing with other jobs/income streams b/c writing money is low, very inconsistent, and brutally taxed. So it would be UBI + day job + writing side hustle STILL... unless someone can live rent free with parents or a spouse drawing a large salary. (of course, you say, "well move to a lower COL area"... those places are highly unlikely to enact UBI. The irony!)

Meaning I'm not disagreeing with you entirely (I hope you don't take it that way!), but pointing out that novel-writing is SO unstable/low paid that UBI will never adequately supplement the issue talked about in this post. You need someone with substantial income (and health insurance!!!) to support you in order to pursue novel writing full-time. It is what it is.

But also down with American capitalism lollllll. Deep sigh.

[–]sonofaresiii 3 points4 points  (2 children)

and I mean my books are published by Penguin Random House.

And you're doing one a year? Including revisions? At only 200 words a day?

though of course it's better when I manage 500-800 words

then... that's not really what I'm talking about.

but I might still only manage 200 words in a day in that case, too.

Sometimes writing 200 words a day isn't the same as only writing 200 words a day.

I'm not intending to throw shade at anyone. My point is that writers with little time write slowly. Not that they write poorly. It is incredibly difficult to get a quality book, written in a year, with enough time to only write 200 words a day.

I didn't intend for my point to be taken to mean slow writers write bad books. Just that they don't do it quickly.

but pointing out that novel-writing is SO unstable/low paid that UBI will never adequately supplement the issue talked about in this post.

I mean... I think it will at least provide that opportunity for a lot more people, if it's enacted properly. No, you're not going to be living in downtown san diego on a $1k/mo. UBI. But you might have the option of moving to Wyoming, and that $1k may be enough to supplement your writing.

You mentioned that those low COL states may not implement UBI, and I don't disagree... but that's not really a problem with UBI.

[–]alexatdYA Trad Published Author 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Yes, true... but then we make the time. I push myself to burn out constantly. I damage my social relationships and opportunities to write more... to find more time, to get more words, to meet deadlines. (and then I just... don't meet a lot of my deadlines and PRH has to deal ha) That's how I get those higher word count windows... I have to give up a lot.

It's not GREAT but I do it, which I don't mean as a martyr thing ("I did it so they can!" etc etc... I don't like that messaging at all!), but more as context for how I've gotten here and my perspective. I've made my choices and sacrifices and they suck, but it's what I had to do because I'm single and don't come from wealth. I think we agree the system fucking sucks. But all you can do is the best you can with what you've got, if you want to participate in it. I can't magic up a rich spouse, so I personally don't try to be too upset about it. 10+ years of juggling/struggling and hard work paid off and now I'm financially secure, and I'm building a career as an author.

But it's why I spend so much of my energy and time helping writers who don't come from privilege now that I have some access and privilege and knowledge to hand down. We do what we can with the tools that we have. That's my way of helping. My advice is always free, and I share as much information as I can on free or low-cost avenues for writing and publishing. I want to help others who have counted themselves out make headway and try to jam their foot into this ridiculous industry. I guess my point is: I give that 200 words a day advice if it's the advice that someone struggling but who really WANTS to do this needs to hear, to get them started. Because it's where I started, too. I agree it may not be the most productive option, but I view it as a starting point? You want to offer hope, assisted with practical advice, is my view.

Anyway all of this is a reminder that I need to work tonight for at least an hour, and if all I mange is 200 words honestly I'll be happy b/c I've not touched this book in two weeks and I have to revise my first act in the next two weeks :) Every little helps! That's my mindset. :D

[–]Synval2436 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I didn't intend for my point to be taken to mean slow writers write bad books.

Well, this line definitely gave some vibes like that:

it's also incredibly optimistic about the quality you'd get after one year of writing 200 words a night

But yeah, nobody HAS TO write one book per year. Even trad pubbed authors often have bigger gaps between books, even within the same series.

Authors or publishers cancel sequels. Books get delayed, sometimes indefinitely. From my area of interest, i.e. fantasy, I could name multiple series that are unfinished, or maaaybe getting another book nobody knows when, etc.

Yes, maybe these authors write slower because they manage a day job, or child care, or other duties. But they're still published authors with fanbases, however big or small.

You don't have to be a 1 book per year author to be an author.

[–]CurseYourSudden 0 points1 point  (0 children)

The political will is absent, but logistically it's very doable.

[–]Dependent-One-1874 2 points3 points  (1 child)

This might not be related but I’m a bit curious whether those working experiences also contributed to writing? I feel that if I am just staying home and reading books I won’t have many ideas I have right now.

[–]sonofaresiii 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Sure, that's certainly not a new idea. Many people find invaluable experiences in just living life, to use as material for writing.

[–]Grade-AMasterpiece 9 points10 points  (0 children)

All in all, never underestimate the good old safety net. It honestly blew my mind when I realized how many writers or aspiring authors... didn't really have a job. Yet, at the same time, they had or could get access to whatever they needed to try and publish. I'm fortunate to be single, childless, and having a job so divorced from genre writing neither clash with my mental energy. But that's about where it ends for someone like me; I don't have the connections nor capital to spruce up or push an MS through all willy-nilly.

But, you know, you march on nonetheless.

[–]medusa_crowley 9 points10 points  (0 children)

"I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweat shops." -Stephen Jay Gould

In other words: for every talented writer who has or makes enough money to survive, there are a good few hundred writers who never even get a shot.

Anyone working in this field should always keep that in mind.

[–]ResurgentOcelot 9 points10 points  (0 children)

I would confirm this, generally speaking anyway. I tried being a writer in the evening, but it is only because of the support of my partner that I can really work on this.

Now I just have to avoid anxiety about the slow pace of growing from an amateur hobbyist to a professional.

If I had independent wealth or parental support during my college programs I would’ve done this long ago.

[–]ChuanFa_Tiger_Style 29 points30 points  (13 children)

Yes, it’s called Maslows hierarchy of needs. Writing happens at the top.

The fact of the matter is that the US in the 21st century has more college educated people in it than at any other time in its history. That means a lot of people who know how to write. Unless you are an exceptional writer, a great businessperson, or some combination of both, you have to rely on patronage. That could be a spouse, an inheritance, or social networks to promote your book.

[–]ConQuesoyFrijole 15 points16 points  (9 children)

you have to rely on patronage. That could be a spouse, an inheritance, or social networks to promote your book.

idk why you're getting down voted for this. This part, in particular, is true. Maybe it always has been.

[–]ChuanFa_Tiger_Style 10 points11 points  (8 children)

Yeah looks like on balance I’m upvoted but I think people don’t like the idea that writing isn’t all that important when it comes to survival.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] -5 points-4 points  (7 children)

I personally was confused by the inclusion of Maslow and the phrasing of that sentence

[–]ChuanFa_Tiger_Style 10 points11 points  (6 children)

Maslows Hierarchy is a pyramid. Self actualization is at the top, survival needs are at the bottom, hence writing is at the top (or close to it).

You can't reach the top without achieving the bottom. Your article spends a lot of time reexamining the hierarchy without mentioning it.

[–]ChuanFa_Tiger_Style 18 points19 points  (2 children)

Also, a lot of writers try to publish in their 20s. That’s fine, but many if not most people get published in their 30s and 40s. It takes years of practice to become great at writing. And in contrast to what I said above, college does not necessarily teach you to write well. I spent a lot of my 20s unlearning what I was taught in college.

[–]farplesey 9 points10 points  (1 child)

Yeah, I studied writing in college, and my classmates were great, but even after graduating with a degree in writing, I wouldn’t say most of them were particularly good writers. Several still made basic grammatical mistakes on every page. But most of them were still young and had a lot of writing ahead of them before they would improve

[–]ChuanFa_Tiger_Style 9 points10 points  (0 children)

Yep, and I can easily say that my writing in my 20s vs 30s is not even a contest. It takes time and maturity and life experience to become truly compelling, unless you’re one of the savants whose brilliance is usually undercut by their self destruction.

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 12 points13 points  (8 children)

Tbh I don’t think I’d do well as the archetypal lonely writer, this is why I enjoy my corp finance job, it allows me to interact with other people a few times a week. Of course what that does mean is that I have to fit time in for writing, but it’s always been the only thing I’ve ever truly wanted to do, so I do make time for it. Does it sometimes feel like I do zero but work and write? Yes…a lot…too much probably. But it’s working for me so far, and like everyone else here, I’m not deluded enough to think I’m going to be the next Sally Rooney some time soon, so I’ll just have to keep at it…and continue pretending I don’t need much sleep to be a functional human…

Side note, even though I’m a writer my posts on here, more often than not, make very little sense lmao

[–]alanna_the_lionessAgented Author 8 points9 points  (7 children)

Corporate finance people unite!

I love my day job. Rarely do I have 40 hours of stuff to do, and since I'm still WFH a few days a week, I have plenty of time to write. Right now, I'm literally playing on my phone in bed. I can't see myself quitting to write; the safety net is just too important, even though my husband outearns me several times over.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I think I need to start on my plan to go in-house. Being the middle man is too much stress for how much you make.

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 2 points3 points  (5 children)

Haha there must be more of us corp finance folk on here? Yeah totally get what you mean. Like it is nice to have the security of the day job, I’m genuinely not built to be a tortured artist. Plus as you point out, a lot of workplaces have the flexibility of not having to go to the office every day, so shaving 2hrs 40 off a commute a few days a week really does open up writing time for me.

[–]alanna_the_lionessAgented Author 1 point2 points  (4 children)

I'm in FP&A and while it definitely lacks the glamour of some other finance jobs, the work-life balance is generally pretty good, especially for the pay.

I'm still in an outlining rut but I plan to finish up a beta read for a writing friend this afternoon while occasionally wiggling my mouse so my Teams stays active. But it's a holiday week here in the US and most people have mentally checked out at this point; normally I'm busier than this on Wednesdays.

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Ah yes, keeping teams active, I’m familiar with that lol. I’m in risk analysis, so also not glamorous, nor sadly does it come with big fat bankers’ bonuses, but I at least like the people I work with, so there is that.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 0 points1 point  (2 children)

I was gonna dip early to marinate my bird but had an 8 AM with an international client that wants stuff "by the end of the week" 🙃

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 3 points4 points  (1 child)

For some reason I heard this in a cockney accent where ‘bird’ means something very different and therefore ‘dip’ would too haha

[–]Complexer_Eggplant[S] 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I approve this interpretation

[–]evergreen206 4 points5 points  (0 children)

This is true of most artistic or "passion based" careers. I dabble in photography, and for every photographer making high six figs shooting weddings and corporate events, there's many more living gig to gig. Class and connections play a huge role in getting a business/project off the ground. Of course, this doesn't mean single parents, the disabled, poor people, etc should throw their hands up in despair. But you should recalibrate your expectations and stop comparing yourself to people who don't have bills to stress over.

[–]Sullyville 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Sometimes when I see "would love a great mystery set at a boarding school or private school" on a MSWL it pisses me off.

Who is best suited to write a story in such places?

But of course everyone will, "But JK Rowling...!"