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Pieces of time

I love to write. I think it's safe to say that no one becomes a writer without wishing to write. Unlike some jobs, I don't think you can write - creatively, I mean, not copywriting, or technical writing for a job role - unless you genuinely have a desire to write the story. Which means, of course, that I can warn anyone starting out that they will find it hard to get their book noticed, that they will most likely make very little money, and that they will find the going tough sometimes, and they will still write. No amount of warnings would have stopped me writing, at any point, nor do they now.

But! Writing is a slow process. I'm by no means a turtle at this process, but nor am I among the quickest writers I know. Somewhere in the middle: a reasonable rate of getting-things-out. How long does it take?

I tracked my last book from the day I started it to the day I had a draft I was prepared to let beta readers get their teeth into. It took me 72 writing days - not day-days, but days where I actually had the opportunity to write something. Those 72 days were spread over 7 months. I reckon, as a crude mechanism, that that equates to me writing on something like 35% of available days.

I used to write every day to get into the writing habit. That's not possible anymore, sadly. Why not?

Well, I've got the day job, the kids, the pets, the hobbies, the family, the things-I-do-when-I'm-not-writing. But they've been there since the day I started this gig.

What I now have that I didn't have before is 5 books in the wild that require me to promote them. I have a profile as a writer, of sorts. I do panels, and networking and conventions - and I love them all. I don't want to not do them. I have beta reading and forums I not only like being on but that my books get visibility from me being on that forum. In short, on top of an already busy life, I now have a busy second career. Which doesn't, generally, pay that well. Or, at least, not well enough for me to give up the day job... (not that I especially want to).

Herein lies the quandry that brought me to the blog today. Readers want to read. They want good writers to produce good books that they'll enjoy reading. And writers want to write. But it doesn't pay very many writers enough money to give them time to write.

The music business has, of course, faced this for years. Consumers - me! I'm guilty, too - don't want to pay. We expect our apps to be free, our internet time to be free. We expect to go onto YouTube and listen to that song right now, without paying. And some of us expect our books to be less than a cup of coffee, especially our ebooks. (And, to be clear - I am not innocent. I have a huge second-hand book habit, although this often acts as a gateway to new writers whose work I then purchase)

I don't have the smart answers of how this gets solved. I only have the answers that work for me. That has meant a downturn in the amount of writing I'm producing. I'm not alone in that. If we ask people to divide their time, because they can't make a living, something will always be dropped.

I'm lucky. I started writing as a hobby. My day job remains a focus. Which means I can do what I like with that writing time. (Writing to a market has never worked out for me, anyhow.) In deciding that the current model of writing is a sink hole of time that will never pay back, I'm able to return to writing for myself - which, today, has been a new Abendau book that seems determined to make itself known.

What I wonder is it a model that readers are happy with replicated over the writers they love? Because it's not just me struggling to fit it all in. I also wonder where the industry goes. Do we end up with writers making their money from personal appearances rather than their writing? (I probably made as much last year from lecturing about writing, appearing at events, and adding-on skills of all sorts, as I did from book sales. This year, it looks like that will continue to rise and surpass sales money.) 

Do we end up with a market where the book is free but the add-ons aren't. Or one where the book price is higher but the value-for-money contained within more extended? Or, indeed, one writers will be generating their content on patreon-style accounts, available only for those who chose to invest?


Toby said…
It's a tricky one. There does seem to be a movement these days that, if you enjoyed making something, you're being unreasonable in expecting to be paid for it. This is nonsense, really: jobs should be satisfying (writing and similar jobs may be enjoyable, but they're not easy) and I very much doubt that hedge-fund managers and the like have a dreadful time at work.

The best I can say is that a book requires more effort to consume than a song, or even an album, and is therefore less likely to be pirated or for people to want it for free. As you say, it does seem to be a problem of the internet, and yet another hurdle in the way of being able to make some kind of living from writing. Not good.
Interesting discussion on writing and priorities and where you believe it's all heading.
Joanne Zebedee said…
Toby - yes, not good. I'm going to try an experiment with the next Abendau book and see what happens. It doesn't really matter to me how that sells since I want to write it for enjoyment, provided there is little pressure on me to complete it between more commercial endeavours (hence why I won't do it on a Patreon platform).

Thanks, Terry - I'd love a crystal ball at this stage!