Why Write Fiction? The Money Sucks Unless …

Why write fiction? It’s unrewarding. Not an item you would often find in a bucket list (things you hope to do in your life). Unless… You live with words inside your head. Or have a need, an urge to spill your guts onto pieces of real or virtual paper.

Writing is not exactly a drive you’re born with, but it becomes as natural as speech. Language is wired into us.

Calvin and Writing by Bill Watterson

Writing is so natural that, for some, it is a necessity. I know at least one person who writes volumes of journals that no one except for her or people close to her would ever read. Some people are just driven by a need to see those words on a page. I know I am.

Writing is not exactly what you do if you want an adrenaline rush. It is an adventure, yes, but a rather solitary one. One project can stretch from hours into days. Into years. For some, it’s best done when everything is still and the only company you have may be nocturnal crickets sometimes chirping outside your window.

Writing is punishing if you want to push it further than your hard drive—from nights glued to your computer creating your life’s work; to months of plodding toil, editing, revising, and proofing; to the ego-busting rejection letters if you want to go traditional—and, finally, to reviews by people who can hardly care about what and how you write. The product of your heart and mind, your sweat and tears, your id and your ego—like any other piece of art—is subject to taste, fads, and personal whims of a nameless, faceless audience.

You may actually wonder why anyone would go through all that misery, particularly because most writers (indie or traditional) can’t live on book earnings. Oh, yes, writing can sell well. But only if:

  • You’re some kind of celebrity or someone who’s gotten media attention for doing something notorious or crazy and you write about yourself or your experience. Sometimes I wonder if man is a born voyeur or, maybe, we just like to be entertained or reassured by such stories.
  • You already have a big following.

Or, if none of the above:

Sex seems never out of fashion although few people will publicly admit to having any interest in erotica. I once read about a writer who lamented the zero interest in her novels … until she wrote erotica. Then, she made some money,

One of my novels has a couple of steamy bedroom scenes. I convinced myself it was necessary to the story, Still, this novel, like many others, that incorporate such scenes, would never count as erotica. Bedroom scenes are standard in many romance novels. (Those that have none are ennobled by the labels “sweet” or “clean.” Huh? Sex is sour and dirty?). The line between erotica and steamy novels may be a matter of numbers (of sex scenes, that is,) and word usage.

But for some of us:

Writing is most satisfying when it is somehow tied into a quest. A quest so personal it wouldn’t have wide appeal.

Writing, like all other arts, has been freed up by the Internet. Digital readers have increased the number who read, and altered reading habits.

So a writer can choose not to rely on a publisher and more people have been drawn into dusting pages they’ve stashed in locked drawers or password-protected files or putting into words, for the first time, stories they’ve been itching to unleash on the world.

Just as many more people have forayed into the visual arts, more have plunged into writing and self-publishing. The arena is crowded. But some dreams die hard.

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