Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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February 27, 2017

7 Ways to Get Rich From Writing

Kathryn Craft
Turning Whine Into Gold 

It’s true: after years of growing to trust the blogging team here at WITS, someone is finally going to spill the bean-counter’s beans. Read on, because there’s more to getting rich than this sure-fire technique:

Write major selling points in their own paragraphs—in red!

Among the top ten reasons people seek publication for their work is the possibility of making some real money at this gig. After all, you have worked so hard. (And so have so many others, but it is not expedient to think about them just now.) Your friends think you can do it. (They also thought you could be a cowboy or a firefighter, two other high-income occupations, but it’s not expedient to think about that just now, either.) The riches will go to someone, so why not you?

Waiting for your bestseller royalty check to auto-deposit. This is the American Dream.

Or is it? If we’re being realistic, a “financial score” in today’s publishing world pales in comparison to pre-2008 values. Hey, I wish it were different. But the market has spoken, and when the budget is tight, most people value a double-shot soy mocha latte over a book purchase.

When such economic realities get you down, turn to these standards of wealth that the bean counters forget to measure. I want you to rest assured:

You’ve already been getting richer from your writing.

Let us count the ways:

  1. You’ll meet people who excite you.

This isn’t the first consideration for many introverted writers, but it is one of my favorites. My writing friends think about life deeply, they feel deeply. They are my kin—and yet each of us notices different aspects of the human condition and filters it through different predispositions. Color me jazzed.

  1. You will go to new (tax deductible) places

I feel certain Dr. Suess was speaking of writers when he titled his children’s book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! There are any number of exotic places I may not have visited if it weren’t for my writing. Lest you think Maui and Hudson, Ohio are not equally exotic, I beg to differ. A curious mind will find fascinating, quaint, rich detail wherever it goes.

  1. You will enrich your thought life

Reading, films, concerts, lectures, theater, museums—these are all ways to escape the keyboard, to learn and refresh. Yet once my mind is deep into a new project, the culture with which I interact makes a personal and necessary contribution. As the scrawled notes on my collection of church bulletins and programs would attest, these experiences become a way to enrich and stimulate the creative mind.

  1. You will enhance family relationships

Tme spent alone can improve relationships by forcing you to set boundaries. Writing time is you time—and especially for married women with children, this is an important precedent to set. Your writing puts needed reserves into your patience account, and much-needed interest into your personality account that you can withdraw to engage loved ones who may have previously assumed that you fold laundry and clean all day. I’ll never forget those years, drafting my practice novel, when my teen would come home from the bus stop, perch on one of the deep windowsills in my office, and ask, “So Mom, what is happening with Autumn today?”

  1. You will stimulate your mood

In her book Wired for Story, Lisa Cron says scientists have shown our brains light up as if the events in our novels are happening to us. Frugality alert: this is cheaper than a cocaine habit, and ends better. Plus, in our fraught political climate, any investment that adds to our emotional assets is a bonus.

  1. You will gain wise inner advisors

Most storytellers write to discover what we do not yet know, and we do that through our characters. Mine live within me beyond the end of the novel. More than once I’ve thought, “What would Marty Kandelbaum do in this situation?” On one hand these are friends of convenience—they were born of thoughts and needs and quandaries specific to a certain time in your life—but they also taught you lessons that you will never forget.

  1. You will improve your citizenship

If a writing life is the American Dream, how does it benefit us as Americans? We writers are the Good Samaritans or problem solving. When we hear of others who are butting up against conundrums that stop them in their tracks, we writers say, “Cool!”—then steal their shoes and walk around in them until we’ve replotted the story and shared a lesson in doing so.

By these seven measures, your life is already so much richer because of writing. So here’s my advice:

To get even richer, go do more of that.

Please share in the comments: Besides money (because bragging will just make the rest of us feel bad), how has writing made you rich?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Kathryn

Kathryn CraftKathryn Craft  is the award-winning author of two novels from Sourcebooks, The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy, and a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft. Her chapter “A Drop of Imitation: Learn from the Masters” was included in the writing guide Author in Progress, from Writers Digest Books. Janice Gable Bashman’s interview with her, “How Structure Supports Meaning,” originally published in the 2017 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, has been reprinted in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, both from Writer’s Digest Books.

43 comments on “7 Ways to Get Rich From Writing”

  1. This post is "rich" with advice, Kathryn! I especially love #1 and #5. I have found too that I am richer as I feel I finally have a "richer" purpose in life - another layer to all the other reasons why I get up each morning. It's like destiny called and I picked up the phone and never hung up! 🙂

    1. As one who has survived a family member's suicide, I will never give short shrift to something that excites you to get up each morning! That is the very best kind of wealth. Bonus: the rich thought life. Writers are never bored, right Donna?

      1. The greatest riches indeed! I don't even remember EVER being bored in my writing life. Truth! It's a stimulating journey that feeds us ongoing in a myriad of ways as we travel down it.

  2. This post was the balm I needed. Yesterday I was struggling at the keyboard. I had nothing to say - I had too much to say but couldn't untangle it - I finally untangled it, and it was not worthy of the page - I told myself I was a fraud. I was stuck in a constant eddy of torture. And then I asked myself, "will I ever make any money doing this? Probably not. So, why the heck AM I doing this? And now, I get it. You are so right. I love them all but especially appreciate #1. The people I have met, including those in our "craft" writing sessions, are muses of a special ilk. They are the breath of my writing life. Thanks for sharing these moments, Kathryn.

  3. Kathryn, this is such a lovely reminder to think about the real reasons we find joy in writing. I would expand on #4: because I've dared to take risks and follow my passion no matter what the financial outcome, I see my kids doing the same thing, each of them bravely pursuing their dreams now that they're in their twenties. Each of them has said to me at some point that watching me struggle to write and publish let them see firsthand that there is great joy in doing what you love, that determination matters even more than talent in going after your dreams, and that no amount of financial compensation can compare to that joy in the process of creating something that makes you proud.

    1. Oh Holly that is such a beautiful amplification of the metaphor here, because what enriches us becomes the inheritance we leave for our children. Of course they draw their own conclusions. My older son, the opera singer, is exactly as you describe, and has always known he'd need a job to support his career. My other son has taken a good hard look, said no thanks, and gone in the direction of economic security. We each have our own tolerances for the unknown, to be sure! But he too pursues his passions for mountain hiking, rock climbing, and hardcore music with verve. So I think he gets it, too. 😉

  4. Boy, thanks for this. Having just set aside a first draft of one novel , and just stating a first draft on a second (yes those pesky deadlines for which I'm forever thankful) I opened your post. In the middle of reading, I was served with papers from the ex person trying to get out of alimony again. Usually my stomach would be churning by now on all points. But today I'll be churning all this into compost for more story lines, deeper feelings and connections. The beauty of, as you say, "Turning whine into wine." That idea keeps me going. Makes me a better person and writer, hopefully. And maybe in the process helps my story connect with readers on a more personal level. Pretty cool way to spend my days . . .and sometimes nights.

    1. If I might quote one of my own characters, Bebe Browning from THE ART OF FALLING: "Of course it hurts darling. Use it! Life has wisdom of its own. It dumps shit on you and stirs you up until your soil is fertile. Accept the challenge and plant some seeds. This is how artists grow."

      Shelley I'm glad you share this perspective and won't let the negative (although understandable) emotions get the better of you this time. Yes—use it!

  5. Why do we write? I have given it a lot of thought. In my case, I am compelled to express myself, and the more creatively, the better. I have no ability at music or dance or the plastic arts, but man, can I sling words! So aesthetic fulfillment is a big part of it for me. Coming to fiction writing late in life, my efforts to master clarity and the craft of story have been manna to my insatiable obsessiveness; but writing is so much more than a late-in-life interesting hobby --- words and the ideas they represent are the very essence of who I am. Finally, if I do it right, the world can see me in my very best light, and what can be more gratifying than to believe your soul is glowing?

  6. Kathryn-Love this post! I've had a few extremely challenging years as you know, and my passion for writing is one of the aspects of my life that has never waivered. My WIP waited for me, it didn't judge me for being away, and the characters continued to nudge me in my dreams. Newspaper articles and other such resources kept miraculously "popping up" too so that my interest in my story continued.During this incredibly difficult time my family has had the support of our friends, family and spiritual and school communities. Meanwhile my crit partners and dearest writing friends have kept my dreams of writing alive. Knowing that no one could take writing away from me was one of the biggest contributing factors to my making it past the hardest times and having hope for the future. Right now I still have a long road ahead of me to getting our family bakc on track but just like your novel about your family member's suicide, maybe someday I'll be able to use this experience in my fiction to help others who have gone through similar experiences. Writing does save us and those who read our work.

    1. Your comment is so beautifully written, Cerrissa, that it makes me look forward to reading your novel one day. "My WIP waited for me, it didn’t judge me for being away, and the characters continued to nudge me in my dreams." This is everything for a writer! And I'm so glad that you've kept enough equilibrium to recognize it. Even as other events rock our world and drain our energy, our writing life is always ready to revitalize us. Big hugs, my friend.

  7. What a lovely way to think about the writing life. Like your teen, my children are always curious about the people I'm writing about. It's wonderful.

  8. Posting online at 4 and 5 in the morning is proof that some writers just can't wait to get up and get at it! Hats off to you, and totally agree with Holly. My son said recently, after listening to me whine, "You don't need the money, do you? Just write what you want." It would be nice someday if creative arts paid as well as some other gigs, though. 😉

    1. Tell me about it, Linda! My musician son simply won't take a gig unless he is paid. Never has. (Even a quick solo for his mom's church, for the glory of God, but I digress.) Reason being, he doesn't need to. Musicians have this earning money thing down, it would seem, whereas I do free appearances time and again for the hope of gaining the opportunity to sell books, earn readers, and connect with someone who might offer a paying speaking or teaching gig. And yet my son is far from rolling in the dough. When we artists ask why the heck we continue to do all of this, it really helps to scrounge up meaningful answers. Perseverance requires that we end up in the black in some measure of enrichment.

  9. Wonderful post. I especially love #4. My husband and 2 grown sons have seen me pursue my dream and succeed. I'm not simply 'Mom' but now I'm 'Mom, the Harlequin author'. I really think they see me differently now and I know how excited and proud they are. It's a good feeling!

    1. Carrie that's wonderful! I'm well aware that writing has also busted up relationships, especially when a woman blooms in this direction later in her marriage, after certain patterns and expectations are already set. But with good communication and full awareness of the way writing enriches both your life and by extension your spouse's, we all have reason to hope for an outcome like yours.

    1. Normandie, you don't know how relevant your parenthetical question is: I'm not going to be able to swing Albuquerque this year due to a lack of ben-type riches. You will have to have the fun for both of us and report back. Good news is that I am waist deep in a new manuscript, and reaping all of the riches of #s 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7. With any luck, an advance will follow and I'll be back in the #2 game!

  10. Kathryn...Loved this post. At times, we all need a reminder that riches aren't always found in our bank accounts.

    And I have experienced the connection with another because the characters seem like real people. My crit partner, who slogged through the draft with me, has asked for a copy of my WIP when I send a copy out to my beta readers. When I asked why she would want to read it all again, she said the characters were real to her and she wanted to be able to read it straight through as a reader this time. It's fun to have someone to talk to about the characters as if they are real people...cause in my head, they are.

      1. I've often said I wish the tv remote worked on actual people! I'd carry one around with me all the time. LOL

  11. It's true life's riches can't be measured in dollars, but I often find myself frustrated by how little value is placed on art. Wouldn't it be lovely if a writer could support a family without being John Franzen? (Not that I plan on putting down my pen, just wishing...)

    1. I hear you. Lovely fantasy. Current reality: NEA and NEH first in line, as usual, to be de-funded. So even grants will be gone. Public has spoken, government has spoken--even history has spoken, even though history has also shown that a nation's culture is its saving grace. If art is of high value, but does not equal money, then we must deduce that money is not the point. Either that or ream ourselves a new circle if hell. ?

  12. It's the old hierarchy of needs problem - when things get tough people focus on the basics of survival. I would probably forgo a meal to buy a book, but I would never ever deprive my children of a meal to buy a book. Luckily everything is cyclical so I assume our time will come as authors and artists.

    In terms of riches, writing has allowed me to reconnect with the self I put away at 18 (or even younger). The self I thought had no value because 'author' wasn't a real career with a stable income.

    I hope that one day I can make money to contribute to my family budget but if I don't, then I'm still a more fulfilled person for having writing in my life.

    1. Cash is necessary to live, of course, and to us writing feels necessary as well. The pursuit of both can be exhausting and time consuming, yet already suggests our lives are richer for it!

  13. I appreciate all those kinds of wealth, but when it comes right down to it a person has to make a living. As I contemplate a return to full-time work in order to have health insurance, I'm having a hard time feeling cheerful about any of this. It seems that only those with some kind of financial support (or incredible energy or connections) can afford to write and publish. I'm not whining so much for myself, since I've enjoyed that situation for a time and can at least look forward to retirement in the not-too-distant future giving it to me again. But whole classes of people are being largely excluded from writing as a serious undertaking, and that can only impoverish our literature.

    1. I hear you, Sandra, and we could drown ourselves in the overwhelming truth of this whine. But reality is, the #1 reason authors give up is that they quit their jobs too soon and can't afford to carry on. Another reality is that many authors are able to break into serious sales while holding down full-time jobs. How, when writing novels is such an extreme commitment of time? They find that time in early morning darkness, on lunch hours, and after their kids go to bed. This post is an attempt to find a way to carry on with joy. Allowing disappointment to accumulate will only cause us to hate what was once our beloved avocation—and that has never helped produce a more salable product.

  14. By far, I think this is the set article I think I've read in WITS, because it resonates with how I feel about my writing, and the new reality it takes me to. Going to critique groups has not only improved my work, but it has enriched my life with dozens of interesting, thoughtful, and dedicated people

    I had given up writing before I'd even gotten started, and only began indulging myself again in its joys in recent years.It puts a new spring in my step, and a new optimism. I will never stop again.

  15. Mine is a fairly new writing journey, but I often think how writing has enriched my life, partly through having found my "peeps" in online writer's groups.

  16. Writing has enriched my life in ways I haven't anticipated. All of the above are true for me - especially the people I've met part (love connecting on a deeper wavelength, because we 'get' each other). But I'm one of those, 'I don't know what I think until I write it', kind of writers, so writing has been an amazing self-exploration for me.

    A true gift I couldn't have paid for.

  17. Kathryn, you sucked me in. Thinking you were going to give me the formula for fabulous success, instead you turned my thinking to what is really important. #1 and #2 resonate with me as an historian. Sometimes, I am so excited about some new discovery in my Medieval studies, I can't go sleep at night. And via my associations in England, I have met so many like-minded people who enrich my days. There is more than one kind of "rich".

    1. There are no easy answers about how to earn dollars, yet what work we do can still enrich our lives. Glad you rolled with it and that the post resonated with you, Sue!

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