Myth: the pulps paid badly (and by badly I mean better than anybody today)

My previous post on the economics of writing short stories has generally been received in a way I was not expecting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always overjoyed when someone reads my posts and comes to the conclusion that what needs to be done is to write MORE! That’s the spirit! But that’s not really what I thought was the most notable conclusion.

Perhaps I was being too timid and afraid of spelling it out, but there’s no need to hide it anymore: don’t try to make a living writing short stories, it’s impossible. The numbers simply don’t add up.

Of the examples I wrote, the only one who managed to get somewhat close to reasonable money was the guy who wrote more than a million words per year, never got distracted, barely ever rewrote or edited anything, and got more than half of his stories into magazine that paid, on average, 4 cents per word. Ah, yeah, and he had to publish between 72 and 110 or so short stories per year, and that just to get the equivalent of minimum wage in some Western countries.

Now, if you read that and you get all hyped up to write, by all means, do it, but don’t expect to make any serious money. Write because you love it or because it gives you a few extra hundred bucks from time to time, but that’s it. You are not going to make a living out of it, in fact, I’m not even sure there are enough pro-rate magazines out there to actually publish all the crap you’ll have to write just to be able to survive.

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From Somali dung catcher to King of the Hobos, how poor will you be as a writer?

My recent (a few hours ago, in fact) entry into an online group where the business side of writing is discussed has put me into an accounting mood. So I have been playing and running some numbers to come up with my (or yours) expected return as a short story writer. That’s the key concept here since novelists or self-published authors will have to come up with their own numeromantic equations to see how much they need to sell to not be ashamed of saying that they are writers.

It’s really not a complicated thing to calculate since the short story market is relatively open and static about key economic data. If you know their payment and rejection rates, you can improvise the rest.

Continue reading “From Somali dung catcher to King of the Hobos, how poor will you be as a writer?”

Psychology of writing: word accessibility

You can pick out a skilled painter or draftsman because they keep their eyes on the canvas or paper without having to constantly check every line they draw by comparing it to the model or original image, or having to look up, again and again, pictures of what they have to draw on google images. They trust their instincts and skill, and their lines are precise, and they have developed the necessary muscle memory that allows them to be skillful artists.

All the arts have that, a combination of skill, knowledge, and automatism that baffles the uninitiated. It’s mostly years of experience and practice. Well, I said all the arts, except writing apparently. There doesn’t seem to be a writing equivalent for that process of learning the fundamentals that other arts have, like painting has color, tone, and values, while draftsmanship is mostly line, shadow, and perspective.

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November 30 post: To sum up…

this has been a productive blogging month. And I didn’t have to put in that much extra effort, which is interesting. I haven’t made a post every day, and certainly not a flash/short story each day (and I already knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that anyway) but this will be the 24th post this month, which is quite good. I have written a few short stories, I have started something that may become a larger work, and I wrote a few posts on writing that have become quite popular, at least compared with my usual numbers.

Thanks to all of you who found some of the posts interesting and shared them. I may despise Twitter, but I can’t deny a good chunk of this month’s visitors came from there.

And what’s in store for December? Well, I’ll continue writing small chapters for Project Contact, but perhaps at a slower pace because, honestly, I don’t even have the general layout of the story — I was pretty much improvising as I wrote them. I have a few ideas for other posts about writing too, and I’m going to start a gaming project but that’s something I’m not going to publish here though (not in its entirety anyway.)

I’ll keep myself busy. And if you want to do the same, remember that you don’t have to wait for any magical month, ruleset, or gamified online community to start pounding that keyboard. You can start tomorrow, or right now, if you want.

 

 

Project Contact, chapter 5

Temporarily halting the assailant’s first attack brought a double-edged respite to the men and women inside the compound, one Howard knew could be their doom if they just hunkered down there. The quick reaction and bravery of that local cop had given them a few extra minutes, and he wasn’t going to squander them. He shouted to remind everybody of his previous order and herded the frightened workers and the beleaguered policemen toward the main elevator.

Howard knew they were outnumbered and most likely outgunned too. On his side, he had Oliver, the desk guard, who carried a gun he probably had never used before, and a few cops (those carried rifles, so at least he had that.) Monica, the underground lab guard, was down below and he needed her there to make sure the scientists were all right —and, for more personal reasons, out of harm’s way. On the enemy side, they were facing against a military-grade truck and a convoy of men armed with semiautomatic weapons. He was sure he had seen three pick-up trucks, but there could have been more. He assumed that, at the very least, they would have to stand against a dozen men, perhaps even twenty.

Continue reading “Project Contact, chapter 5”

Project Contact, chapter 4

Constantin Howard began to holler orders as he flipped through the menus and sub-menus of his tablet. He was activating his audio broadcasting privileges, but nobody else had seen the visual feed of the incoming attackers, so the people around looked at him as if he were a hobo who had suddenly started yelling about the end of the world.

“There’s a terrorist convoy coming this way!” He shouted. “Everybody to the lab elevator now!”

He didn’t know what they were. Terrorist or something else, but the word worked and their previous passive confusion gave way to a hurried but well-drilled flight towards the bowels of the building. Both  Wickerman and Svoboda signaled to him but he waved them off, telling them to go with everybody else. He switched on the compound-wide broadcast system and began talking in the most relaxed tone of voice he managed to muster. As he talked, he ran to the policemen posted outside, who were even more oblivious of the approaching threat.

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Project Contact, Chapter 3

Hysterical complains and calls for extra protection coming from any other person would have been ignored, but if Jonah Wickerman asked for something, the local government obliged. WYPL, his laboratory twenty kilometers south of Paramaribo, had cost close to 30% of the small South-American nation’s GDP, and most of its 138 highly-paid scientists, contractors, and workers lived on the capital. So if the old man didn’t like how the streets were arranged, what timezone the country was in, or felt that he was being shadowed by Chinese clone secret agents, the government would nod and provide whatever he needed.

Wickerman’s occasional lording over Suriname and his own lab also meant that he had grown used to an autocratic style of leadership. He rarely consulted anything with anybody, even when the things being decided clearly fell outside the scope of his expertise.

Continue reading “Project Contact, Chapter 3”