Once upon a time, I wrote stories and novels just for fun. I typed them up, polished them, and let them languish on my computer. Writing fiction was a job other people did, but not me. I went to work, came home, read books, and wrote stories.
One day, after I’d finished writing my (3rd? 4th?) (bad) novel, my husband looked at me, puzzled, and said, “Why don’t you ever try to get anything published?”
Well, honestly, it had never occurred to me.
This was back in the days before I used the internet for everything. Back before I had a computer in my pocket. So when I first started my journey, it wasn’t like I could just Google “how to get published.” I had to do research and such. I tried sending off short stories and querying agents regarding that really bad novel. And things went nowhere for me. I’d never been critiqued, and I honestly didn’t know I needed to be.
(I’ll tell you about my torrid love affair with adverbs sometime. *shudder*)
See, I’d been praised by teachers all my life for my writing. So I figured that since I did a great job at writing papers, I was good enough at fiction too. I had concentrated on Psychology and Philosophy in college, and hadn’t taken English classes. They bored me, and I figured I had nothing to learn. (Don’t judge… it was the arrogance of youth!)
Eventually, I found online critique groups, and after learning how to take criticism (the subject of Friday’s blog post) my first short story was published for the amazing amount of $50.
I told everyone, and I’m not a “tell everyone” kind of person. Most of my friends were supportive, but one said, “Really? You put all that work in and only got $50? It doesn’t seem worth it. How many hours did you spend on that story?”
And just like that, some of the air was let out of my bubble. I probably spent 10 hours (or more) on that story. So that works out to $5 an hour? That’s not even minimum wage. Not to mention all the stories I’ve spent time on that will probably never be published.
But then I remembered how many hours I spent writing stories just because it was fun, never intending them to be published. Some people watch TV, some people surf social media, some people watch the stars, some people read books. Hobbies don’t have to be profitable. And doing what makes my soul happy doesn’t have to make money.
I write because I love it. I love it when stories get published because I love to share things that make me happy. If one of my novels gets published, that would make me happy too, for the same reason. (And, quite frankly, because there’s something exciting about seeing my name in print.)
But if the novel never happens, if I just continue to blog and publish short stories, that’s okay too. I’ll keep writing, keep improving, keep trying and having fun. Because what my friend failed to understand was that it’s not about the hours spent or the money I make doing it. It’s about the fact that I’ve been in love with stories for as long as I can remember. And the ability to tell a good story is something special. If I can tell a story that makes other people think, or feel, or empathize, then I’ve done something amazing. I can’t put a price on that kind of connection with other people.
Do you feel that connection to others when you write or read stories?
Quite a bit of my writing is done for my own amusement. Also, I write stories for my blog, which doesn’t pay anything either. I’m okay with that.
I totally understand that! I feel that way about my scrapbooking/card making. When someone buys one of my things I love it but I also love making them! Keep on going!
And you make such lovely things, too!
(Blushing thank you!
At the core, I think we have to write because we love it. We can write with a market in mind (though I think that’s better left to the planning, then editing stages) but, if we don’t love it, it won’t matter. We have to tap into our passions as readers and storytellers. What satisfies us as readers and storytellers, goes a long way to guide what will likely be marketable anyway.
I think it’s appropriate to think about how well a story might sell in the planning stages. Mostly in terms of structure and concept. Does the story have a solid structure and concept? If that’s a go, you can move on. If not, you might want to fool around with it a little more. During the draft stage, we should probably just be writing because we love the story. Later, in editing, we can shore up any story weaknesses.
Overall, the idea has to drive us. We have to write what we’d want to read. Otherwise, it’s an awful lot of hard work for very little financial return. Most authors don’t pull down what Stephen King does. Which doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’d like to make a decent income off writing eventually…but I’m not really in it for the dough.
While I don’t write stories, fiction, etcetera, I do blog for those very reasons. And “waste” a lot of time doing it! 😉
Visit me @ Life & Faith in Caneyhead.