1. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Writing as a Career?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by seta, Jun 25, 2009.

    Is anyone here a career writer?

    I read an article about a writer in New York who had accumulated enough wealth to retire at a relatively young age (50 or so) through writing, but was "Madoff'd" - and I'm wondering how practical writing is as a career?

    I certainly love telling stories and expressing my ideas and I really do enjoy the actual act of writing, once I get into a story I can burn an hour or three just writing.

    But is it really practical? I'm an IT professional by trade, and I hate the daily slog. I want to be a writer or entrepreneur or something out of the ordinary.

    Are novels the "best" thing to write as a career? I suppose that question really depends on what I am best at writing. I've heard that technical books are EXTREMELY competitive to publish.

    I certainly don't want to be the next Stephen King, at least I don't plan to be. I just want to accumulate a couple million dollars and retire. Is writing a feasible path to this? I suppose I could always continue to write on the side while working a day job.

    Thanks in advance for any wisdom anyone is willing to share.
     
  2. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not practical at all, even if you can get into TV, because who knows how long the shows you're writing for will be on, and if other shows will want your talents. The last time I heard any numbers, the average writer in Canada earned only 7000 from writing annually, and that includes the rich ones and the ones who recieve a royalty cheque for 25 dollars or so every three months, if that.

    That being said, there is no reason not to try. Just be practical about it and have some skills that make you employable.
     
  3. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    That's disappointing. Of course, there is no harm in trying. Some people manage to make a career of it, so I might as well give it a shot. I do have some good productive skills which pay the bills at the moment.

    It looks like I'll have to become a small business owner to get that Ferrari that I want... ;)
     
  4. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I think the only more impractical major than Creative Writing is maybe history and definitely philosophy. The only "practical" job you could get with a Creative Writing major is that of an editor, though I've read that being an editor is really no fun (and, judging from all the stuff they have to read - 99% of which is, sadly to say, crap, I can understand why).

    Even most published writers have to have a real job on the side to get their income. Frankly, the thing is, unless if your books is popular enough to make enough money for you, you can't really make writing into a full-time job.
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    We weren't talking about majoring in it in school. Anyway, even writers say that it's not something you should study in school too much. You can read those books anyway, and there is still plenty of time to work on your skills while you're studying everything else so that you actually know stuff.
     
  6. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    You've just made me very aware that I'm studying creative writing at uni.. oh bugger :(

    I read somewhere that in a survey, 75% of writers in the British Writers Association (or whatever it's called) earn less than the minimum wage. So yeah, writing as a career definitley isn't practical. But you can't let that stop you trying, persay. I'm not, even though it's very likely i'll end up doing something else and only writing for fun...
     
  7. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    You can make a career of writing. Whether or not it's a lucrative career is iffy, at best.
    I do make a living (a one-bedroom apartment, one car, thrift store dressing kind of living) from writing. It was only last year, though, that I went over 50% of my income coming from fiction (romance novels and fetish erotica). The rest comes from newspaper/magazine articles, newsletters, ad copy, things like that. I guess those are my "real job".

    Accumulating a couple of million dollars is not a realistic goal for writing unless you hit it very, very lucky. It's not impossible, just highly unlikely.
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There was an article about a career in writing a long time ago. If I remember correctly, it said that a little less than 1000 full-time authors is the US live above the poverty line. For a one person household, that's about 11,000 USD. So, as you can see, the odds are against you. It seems like the best bet for most people is to keep their day job while writing on the side.
     
  9. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Well, I guess I'll just have to be a dang good writer!

    Thanks everyone.
     
  10. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also, it seems that a lot of writers previously were teachers (ex: Stephen King, Rick Riordan) or lawyers (Grisham, Baldacci). So they had full careers but kept their writing hobby, and it eventually paid off for them.

    Just one correction there--philosophy is a very practical major if you're planning on law school afterwards.
     
  11. Tobias
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    Tobias Member

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    I disagree. I've read that a lot of writers for popular television shows are usually fired promptly. And why would you want to write for the boob tube anyways? It's writing, but there's so much more.

    If you can afford a humble living, then writing might be the job for you. I'm still trying to get into the right groove, but I shall be joining the ranks of freelancers and short story writers soon. I'm very excited. Writing is a very creative and never ending career path. But if you currently have a family (wife and children), I suggest you start writing novels and short stories on the side. Publish a few stories to get your feet wet. Then just ride the wave when it presents itself.

    Good luck, man.
     
  12. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Don't know about the "wisdom" part, but here's my advice:

    1) Learn to write short fiction well before you need to earn a living (if that's possible). Read a lot of short fiction and learn to make judgments about it—your own.

    2) Keep learning to write better short fiction and get a day job--writing-related if that's where your talents and interests lie, or one that's sufficiently lucrative and/or flexible enough to support your writing habit. Read a lot of short fiction.

    3) Submit your best short stories and see if you can succeed at publishing those. Keep learning your craft and hang onto your day job. Read a lot of both short fiction and novels.

    4) Write your novel (while you continue to submit your short stories and work at your day job). Continue reading everything you can.

    5) Stash your first novel in a drawer somewhere and write a few short stories, then begin your second novel--all the while continuing to submit and publish your short stories as well as improving yourself in your day job. Read a lot of fiction that interests you.

    6) IF and ONLY when you've acquired strong (and PAID) publishing credits with your short stories (know in advance that almost no one makes a living on publishing short fiction alone), seek out an agent for the second novel you just wrote. Dig out your first novel and reread it to see if you still have a connection to it. If so, improve it (by then you'll probably know how to do that and, importantly, why). You can do some of this while you're on vacation paid for by your day job where you'll continue to develop your professional life. Take a great book with you on that vacation, too.

    7) Keep you day job and keep honing your writing skills (either through short stories or novelling or both), while you inform your agent who's still seeking out a publisher that your second novel (really the first one you wrote) is about ready (assuming, of course, that it is). Keep reading novels and see who publishes the kind of work that you write.

    8) Enjoy every little or large success you meet with along the way, including finding a agent and publisher when that happens. But don't let even that fool you into counting on that two million till it arrives in your hot little hands. Keep reading and writing (by now, you probably won’t be able to stop) while you maintain that day job.

    9) Value any connection you make along the way to writers, teachers, and others in the publishing industry. Don’t burn any bridges, if you can avoid it; but learn to make discriminating choices.

    And finally …

    10. Let me know when you've made it. I'll probably have already bought one of your books, but I'll send it to you for your autograph, and I promise to turn your book “cover out” on the shelves of my local bookstore.
     
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  13. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    How are you disagreeing with me, when my point was that it's impracticle and there is no guarantee of job stability and your point is that they are fired quickly? And why wouldn't I want to write something that could be produced into something watched by millions of people?
     
  14. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    I think what we are talking about here is statistics. Most writers are dirt-poor apparently. Just like most millionaires are not writers. Anyone can succeed at anything, but whether or not they do is down to statistical probability and perseverance.
     
  15. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Not dirt poor, just sort-of, almost lower-middle class.
     
  16. Tobias
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    Tobias Member

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    This is true for artists too, but usually artists and writers work for a reason other than making money. I remember reading something from a Kurt Vonnegut story that I took to heart (dangerous, I know). He said something along the lines that a writer's job is to entertain a reader, so the reader won't go crazy and with him the whole world.
     
  17. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Sadly, perseverance doesn't really have anything to do with success. A lot of great writers lived in poverty or something along the lines of poverty (those that didn't often had other jobs). Luck is a big factor (if not the biggest) in the writing industry. Ultimately, the general public chooses which books they like, and this doesn't always correspond to the best writing.
     
  18. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    The thing is, you may be a pretty good writer. But there's at least a few thousand other pretty good writers out there trying to get published, too. So even if, ideally and unrealistically, the only writing ever accepted and read by the general public is pretty good writing... Your chances of being able to make a career out of it are still low, given that there's tons of good writers out there, too.
     
  19. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Connections are a factor, too. One of the few teen authors who genuinely deserved to be published so young knew a friend of Rahld Dahl. They showed him his work, and he passed it along until it reached Dahl's agent.
     
  20. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There are also many bad writers, too. They just happened to get lucky because the publisher thought that their work might bring them a lot of money. No matter how bad your writing is, if it makes money for the publisher, then there's a good chance it will get published.
     
  21. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Don't underestimate "perseverance." I think that has quite a lot to do with success. I agree that "luck" is a piece of the puzzle (though I think it's much smaller a piece than "the biggest"; but I also think writers can optimize even that (e.g., by participating in forums like this one). You're certainly right that the general public chooses what they're willing to pay for. And while they may not be purchasing the best published writing on earth, it's for sure they won't be paying anything at all for writing that doesn't make it that far.
     
  22. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    1) Please don't listen to anyone who says it's not "practical"

    2) Please stop worrying about whether or not things are "practical" and just DO IT.

    :)

    Look, some of the most amazing people in history didn't worry about whether something was the sensible thing to do or not, they just followed their dreams and lived in a way that felt right to them. Sorry, I know that doesn't answer your question properly, but the way I feel is if you are worried about whether or not its practical, maybe it's not practical for you. Me, I'm crazy. I do all sorts of things that are completely non-practical and I don't care. Does it get me into trouble? Sure. Have I lived more of my dreams in 27 years than some people have in their entire lives? Hell yes!

    If you want to be a career writer then do it, and don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't.
     
  23. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    My personal experience is that the more I persevere, the luckier I am.
     
  24. starseed
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    I don't personally even believe in luck, myself. You want something, you make it happen. You believe in yourself and NEVER give up. No matter what. Consider that you might die trying and decide whether or not you accept that. Perseverance is everything. So many people are willing to give up on their dreams.
     
  25. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's all about the Plan B, yo. Must have a back-up plan.
     

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