Monday, January 30, 2012

Pre-Professional Fiction Writers Workshop -- Week 1 Readings

Hello, again.

As I said in the "Overview" email, this week's topics are:

1. Every writer is different.
2. You can make a living writing fiction.
3. This is a business; we need to adjust our attitudes.

We're going to dive right in, then. Below I present the topics again, with relevant links below. You'll find there are Primary readings, and Secondary readings.

Primary readings are those that I think do the best job of communicating the information we need to start having a conversation on the topic. It might not be the most balanced or accurate in terms of the picture it paints, but it'll definitely be the ones we try to talk about at our meetings.

Secondary readings are the "if you want more information" links. These are likely to come up in our discussions (I'm sure I'll reference them without realizing they're secondary), but are by no means required to understand the core of the topic. Sometimes, they present the same information from a different angle or in a different manner, so if you have trouble grasping the ideas or believing what the primary author is saying, then maybe looking at the secondary material will help you.

Again, as I mentioned in the Overview email, the schedule is fluid. If we want to expand our discussions of these initial readings into two or three weeks, that's fine. We'll just see how things go on Monday.

Okay, that's all I'm going to say. Here we go.

A prelude...

"25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing"
This is the kind of wake-up call posts we can be expecting. Some of us know some of these things, some of us may have never thought about these things before. It's time to do so.

1. Every writer is different.

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: There's Only One Way
Dean Wesley Smith's series on the myths that new writers have about the traditional writing career comes from his experience as an author, an editor, and a publisher. His frank, sometimes abrasive attitude about the business comes from 30 years of experience on all sides of the industry.

The Business Rusch: Writers - The Overview (Changing Times Part Seven)
This is more of a transitionary piece into the money section, but it helps to highlight how the different types of writers make their money. So it mostly fits.

2. You can make a living writing fiction.

(Note, while our group will be focusing our discussion exclusively on fiction, it will mention that there are dozens of ways to make money by writing. As a sample, I've included the PDF "83 Ways to Make Money Writing" as an example of some of those other ways, just in case you need to buoy the fiction career at some point.)

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: You Can't Make Money Writing Fiction
Again, Dean Wesley Smith. This post is truly foundational in explaining how writers make their money. The Magic Bakery Metaphor is a particularly important eye-opener for those of you who might not have thought about copyright at all (like me when I read this post).

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Only 300 Writers Make a Living
This is another way of examining the same discussion as above, often with more humorous results. Note, there's quite a bit of math in this post, but it's fairly basic and worth your time.

Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money
John Scalzi doesn't quite fit our "long-term, thirty-plus years" writer archetype. But he has been making significant money for ten years, and I'm willing to bet most of you haven't heard of him. Thus, he reinforces Dean's point above, while also offering up some advice and observations of his own. (Be sure to click through and read his follow-up post if you take issue with points 3 or 8.)

David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants -- The Long Road
Another author you've probably never heard of, yet has been making a living at this for several decades. David Farland also mentions a handful of other authors you've probably never heard of (and at least one that you have) who are making a full-time living at this.

EUOLogy: My History as a Writer
For more information about Brandon Sanderson's journey (whom Dave mentions above), read this blog post.

Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 11 -- Talking Publishing and Writing with Dave Wolverton
To hear more from Dave (about both craft and business), listen to this podcast hosted by Brandon and two of his friends.

The New World of Publishing: The Big Hurry
From Dean Wesley Smith's other series -- where he examines the current trends in the ebook revolution -- this post lays out a timetable for how long it can/should take to earn a living from your writing. Again, as is usual with Dean, he uses some math, but he always tries to make it easy on the reader.

The Business Rusch: Writers -- Will Work for Cheap
Kris examines the long history of publishing from a monetary standpoint and shows that writers make less money now than they did in the depression (and it's mostly our own fault).

How much is your fiction worth?
Deanna Knippling challenges us to expect more for our writing by comparing the money writers earn to what they'd be making at minimum wage. (NOTE: Quite a bit of math in here, but it's a short piece, so it should be easy to digest.)

Konrath's Resolutions for Writers 2012
This marks a shift in our focus from "Yes, you can make money," to "Hey, you need to treat this like a professional." Read it if you want, skip it if you don't. In this blog post, J.A. Konrath (who you've probably never heard of and has only been in this business for around ten years) presents his resolutions for both aspiring and professional writers for the last six years. Lots of good advice, and an interesting timeline to watch his attitudes change with his experience.

3. This is a business; we need to adjust our attitudes.

NOTE: You'll notice many of these sources come from Kris's blog, particularly the Freelancer's Survival Guide. This is deliberate. I have never found a more effective means to change my mindset and attitude toward my work (although Stephen Pressfield's "The War of Art" comes close if you want someone a bit more succinct). She is brutally effective, well-researched, and holds considerable experience in all sides of our discussion. I have a few others sprinkled in here, and will look for more to add in the future, but for now she's the best I've got to shake things up and start a discussion. So please excuse the deluge of Rusch.

Writing Excuses Season 1 Episode 11: The Business of Writing
Brandon and the gang again covering the basics of what attitudes you'll need to discuss to go pro. Note that each of these men, at this point in their podcast, are at dramatically different points in their careers (Brandon is a recent bestseller, Dan is just making his first sale, and Howard has been at the self-pubbing gig for ten years with his webcomic), so they're each able to offer insights from different angles.

The Business Rusch: Playing to Win
Much like our "Prelude" piece above, Kris identifies several self-destructive attitudes that many writers have toward their work.

Freelancer's Survival Guide: Priorities
Freelancer's Survival Guide: Discipline
Freelancer's Survival Guide: Failure
BE AWARE: The above three posts could be grouped under the subcategory "Surviving the Long-Haul" because of their absolute necessity to getting the work done day in and day out (in my opinion). You may disagree, and that's fine, but I think it's important to consider what Kris has to say here. We likely won't get around to talking about all of them this week, but I'm listing them as PRIMARY reading because of their importance.

Uncle Orson's Writing Class: Does a Writing Career Always Mean Novels?
Orson Scott Card, who some of you may know, gives a rather lengthy and roundabout response to the simple question above. However, in doing so, he identifies some differences in attitude that he sees between full-time writers and aspiring writers.


*Whew!* That's quite a bit up there. Hopefully I haven't worn you out with reading yet. As I said, I've gathered quite a bit of material over the past year or so.

Read what you want/have time for. Try to focus on/power through the PRIMARY stuff, but don't feel obligated if it just doesn't work out for you. It's challenging stuff (at least it was for me), and we'll try to talk about as much of it as we can on Monday.

If you have any questions or comments (or additional resources), let me know. Otherwise, have a good weekend and I'll see you all at our first meeting.

-joshua kehe

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