Fisking the HuffPo, because writers need to GET PAID

Oh my hell… You’ve got to be friggin’ kidding me. Here I am, with just a few days between cons trying to get the edits done on a book, and bestselling author Chris Nuttall had to go and post a link a HuffPo article on his Facebook page with the comment “This needs fisking.” That’s like Correia bait. How could I not look?

So I read it, and like most everything else writing related that comes out of HuffPo, Salon, Slate, the Guardian, or other pretentious, snooty, wannabe literati pages the advice is a great way to kill your writing career.

As somebody who makes a good living off of writing books, I’m going to be a little more pragmatic in my take. I don’t write to appease snoots or impress critics. I write to GET PAID. All authors who want to quit their day jobs and make a living as writers need to put GET PAID in their mission statements.

This one got long, but there was just a lot of really bad advice in there. Basically I had to write this because looking back on my career, the single best piece of advice I ever got was be prolific.

As usual, the original article is in italics and my comments are in bold.

Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year

By Lorraine Devon Wilke

No matter what experts tell you, no matter what trends, conventional wisdom, social media chatter or your friends in the Facebook writers group insist upon, do NOT write four books a year. I mean it. Don’t.

No. Seriously. She means it.


Unless they’re four gorgeously written, painstakingly molded, amazingly rendered and undeniably memorable books.


Remember that. I’ll be coming back to it. The literati have this odd belief that quantity can never equal quality.


If you can pull off four of those a year, more power to you.


I started in 2008. I’m working on novel 15 and 16 right now. I averaged 2 a year until I quit my day job. This year I’ll have finished 3. I’m considered fairly prolific and even I don’t write 4. I must need to write shorter books. However in my defense during that time I’ve published 29 (paying) pieces of short fiction (oh, and I had a stressful, demanding full time job for 5 of those years). 


But most can’t.


John Ringo wrote a book while you were typing this blog post. Kevin J. Anderson wrote two.


I’d go so far as to say no one can, the qualifier being good books.


The thing is “good” is a relatively meaningless measurement. Ringo’s fans think they’re good enough to give him mid six figure royalty checks twice a year. Kevin lives in a castle. I’m pretty sure the average HuffPo writer considers me a hack, but then again, I get paid, and HuffPo writers don’t (no, really, I was shocked to learn that HuffPo only pays in “exposure”).  


Good is subjective. What is good for my fans would probably be despised by the average HuffPo reader, and if I started pleasing the average HuffPo reader, my regular fans would hate it. JK Rowling and Stephen King are both “good” but write to entirely different audiences. There might be some overlap on a Venn diagram, but what’s good for some won’t be good for others. Ultimately good is whatever the fans say it is. You fail your audience, it isn’t good. You make your audience happy, congratulations. Cash your check.


Beyond the fact that the marketplace is glutted with an overwhelming number of books already (many of dubious quality),


Yep. That’s why you need to not suck. Markets mean competition. Competition is a good thing.


writing good books simply takes time, lots of it.


Not really. It depends entirely upon the author. Work habits matter a lot more than number of hours expended. My comfy pace is about 4 months to write a book, a month off to step away to work on other stuff, so I can come back with a fresh perspective to edit for a month. But I’m a grinder. 10k words a week, treat it like a real job. Butt in seat, hands on keyboard. Other writers work in creative bursts. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you produce and make your fans happy.


There’s no getting around that time.


Sure there is. It is called practice. How long does it take you to do your taxes? How long does it take a CPA to do your taxes?  See? The CPA did it faster and better than an amateur could. Why? Because the CPA does A LOT OF FRIGGIN’ TAXES. The CPA knows all the tricks and has developed a routine that helps them maximize their productivity.


It is the same with any career. How fast can you install a tile floor? My wife tiled our basement bathroom. She did a great job, but it took her several days. After that we paid a professional to tile our upstairs bathroom. He did it in one afternoon and it was perfect.


Writing is just another career. Writers like to put on these airs, like what we do is somehow magical, and mystical, and muses, and moved by art and blah blah blah, but at the end of the day it is a job, not that much different than any other job. Treat your job like a career, and you’ll get better at it. 


It involves learned skills,


Yep. You know how you learn those skills? Writing books.



unhurried imagination,


Imagine faster. Ideas are the easy part. The actual production is the hard part. Ideas are everywhere. I get crap from fans whenever I post about me painting, or shooting guns, or going on a trip, and they say I should be writing, but in truth all writers need to do something to uncork their brains. Do it. Then get your ass back to work.


My next novel, Son of the Black Sword, is coming out at the end of next month, October 2015. Mike Kupari reminded me that I first told him about the idea for it on a road trip back in 2010! I wrote like ten other books before I got around to it, still pondering on the idea that would eventually turn into SotBS the whole time. Authors have ideas constantly. We’re always imagining things. Great.


The part I take issue with is the “unhurried” part. You want to be a writer, then you can loaf and imagine all you want, as long as you still sit your happy ass down in front of the keyboard and produce the rest of the time. 


fastidious drafting,


Nope. That works for some people, doesn’t work for others, and I’m saying that as an outliner. I’m not a discovery writer at all. But an outline shouldn’t take you that long. If you are spending months on your outline, then you are procrastinating doing the hard part. When somebody tells me they’ve been working on world building, outlining, or research for years, it usually comes down to that’s the stuff they love, and they’re scared of the actual writing part.



diligent editing,


Editing is work. It’s just part of the gig. Suck it up.


even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again.


Yes, yes, but even when I step back between finishing a rough draft and doing the edits, I write a couple of short stories or start the next book. Because it is my job.



And, unless you’re a hack (and we know there are plenty of those out there),


I’ve been called a hack a lot. Usually by somebody who makes a lot less money off of royalties than I do. 🙂


isn’t the whole point of this exercise to write good books?


No. The point is to GET PAID. The thing is when you write good books, the fans like them more, and want to give you more money for your stuff. When you write crappy books, fans don’t want to give you money anymore.


Our most highly esteemed, widely applauded, prodigiously awarded, read and revered authors know this to be true.


I don’t see Well Paid in that list.


Donna Tartt, last year’ s Pulitzer Prize winner for The Goldfinch, took eleven years to deliver that masterpiece.


Eleven years? Well, it had better be friggin’ amazing. Hopefully it also sold millions of copies, because otherwise for all that writing time she made like $3 an hour.


This year’s winner, Anthony Doerr, had written only four books in his entire career before penning All The Light We Cannot See, wisely taking years to craft his stunning tale.


I’m sure it is fantastic. But for every Pulitzer Prize winner there are thousands of excellent books that don’t get that kind of attention.  


The cultishly-beloved Harper Lee had only To Kill A Mockingbird in her catalogue before this year’s controversial release of Go Set A Watchman (which some are convinced was not of her doing).


A sequel to a book that is mandatory reading in high school, which had a super famous classic movie made about it, is not average.


Okay, nuts and bolts, practical writing career advice time. All that above? Those examples are bullshit. Those are cherry picked items which ended up with unbelievable publicity. Your book isn’t going to get that.


The average midlist traditionally published book in America only sells like 15,000 copies. Some of those suck. Some of those are amazing. You don’t really rise out of that midlist mush pile unless that book gets some attention.


If it takes you ten years to write a book—which doesn’t win the biggest most famous award in all of literature—and you make $15,000 (I’m being generous), that means you made $1,500 for each YEAR of labor. Let’s say all that diligent proofing, unhurried imagining, and turd polishing only took up 500 hours a year. Congratulations. You would have made more money waiting tables at Applebees… before tips.


I don’t know about you guys, but A. I can’t bank on getting a major motion picture staring Gregory Peck and become mandatory reading for all high school students. B. I’m probably not ever going to win a Pulitzer Prize. And C. I like making a hundred bucks an hour a lot more than I like making $3 an hour.


Even others amongst our best, who do put out work on a more regular basis, do so with focus appropriately attuned to the quality of the book, not the depth of their catalogue or the flash-speed with which they crank out product.


Loaded language alert “Crank out product” my ass. For actual professional writers trying to make a living, the goal is to make the fans happy so they give you money for your stuff. Very few of us set out to write bad books on purpose. Sure, some authors get big and cash in on their names, and sometimes good writers just screw up and let out a dud book, but overall we’re trying to make each book as good as possible… And then get them out the door at a speed which enables us to do things like live in a house and purchase food.


But, you say, I’m not interested in writing Pulitzer Prize winners;


The last time I got interested in winning an award, hilarity ensued.


I don’t need to be on The New York Times bestseller list;


Been there, done that. It is pretty sweet.


I just wanna see my name up at Amazon and sell a few books to family and friends, and, hey, if I go viral, all the better!


That’s loser talk. Either that, or false humility. All writers want to be read and all writers want to get paid, and if they pretend that they don’t, they’re either lying or they’re dilettantes playing at writing.


They say write to the market, so I gotta write to the market. I mean, look at E.L. James…she’s hardly Chaucer and look what’s happened to her!!


Yes and no. That’s taking a fundamental truth of the writing business and restating it in a stupid manner. Write what you want. Write whatever makes you happy. But if you want to make money at it, you need to take that product (yes, it is a product, suck it up you delicate flowers) and find the market to sell it to.


I originally marketed my stuff to an audience of gun nuts. It did great, and later I went mainstream and now my audience is far bigger. But that’s still my favorite market. Not just because I write for that market, but because I am that market. I write what I enjoy reading, but I still needed to get it in front of the people who would give me money for my stuff. I know if I’m having fun writing it, my fans are going to have fun reading it.


Forget EL James. She’s an outlier as much as the Pulitzer Prize winners. She wrote a few books, they blew up huge and became one of those cultural phenomena things, but that probably isn’t going to happen for you. Don’t base your career on outliers. Look at professionals who consistently turn in work. Laurell K. Hamilton gets bagged on a lot by snooty critics because she writes erotic paranormal romance, but here’s the thing about Laurell. She knows her fans, she knows what they like, she writes what makes them happy, and in exchange they give her millions of dollars. Jim Butcher, same thing, wants to tell big, fun adventure stories, knows his fans, knows what they like, produces constantly, and GETS PAID.


Point taken. Which actually brings us to the point: what is your point?


I’m betting it is going to be a bunch of stuff about art for art’s sake. Which I suppose is fantastic if you want to make your living as a college guest lecturer who writes a book once in a great while so you can talk about it during cocktail parties.


What’s your point as a creative, an artist; an author?


A purveyor of the written word?


Why are you here, what is your purpose, your goal as a writer?


What do you hope to achieve?


Is it fame and fortune at any cost, quality be damned?

Objection! Stupid question your honor. Objection sustained.

Quality and success are not mutually exclusive. In fact, producing memorable quality works create fans, who preorder your next one, and tell their friends about you. And most importantly, a quality work will cause new readers to go back and purchase your existing back list so you GET PAID again. Oh, but you don’t have a backlist, because you only release a book every ten years? Sucks to be you.

Or is it about finely crafted work?

As finely crafted as can be in a time frame that keeps my fans happy. That way they keep giving me money so my children can wear shoes.

It’s important to know, to decide, because those principles will guide and mandate every decision you make from there on out.

It sure is.

I bring all this up because I experienced a snap the other day, one triggered by an article from Self Published Author by Bowker titled, Discovery: Another Buzzword We’re Wrestling to Understand. In it, the writer lists many of the familiar instructions toward procuring success as an indie writer — social media, book reviews, networking, etc. — but her very first suggestion to self-published authors looking to get “discovered” was this:

Publish. A Lot: For those of you who have spent 10 years writing your last book I have news for you. You have ten days to write your next one. Okay, I’m sort of kidding with the ten days but, candidly, the most successful authors are pushing out tons of content: meaning books, not blog posts.

In most categories, readers are hungry for new reads, new books, and willing to discover new authors. You’ll have a better time getting found if you continually push new books out there. How many should you do? At a recent writers conference some authors said they publish four books a year. Yes, that’s right, four. [Emphasis mine.]


Eh… Not really. Just mathematically, that’s not as crazy as it sounds. First question, how fast do they write? Second, how long are the books? I write about 10k words a week average. I travel too much to actually hit half a million words a year, but it is easily theoretically possible. My average book is 150k long. Once I factor in editing time, short fiction, and other related projects, I’m good for about 2 ½ books a year, and I still have time to paint minis, shoot guns, and be a complete badass at World of Tanks.


150k is longer than average. Depending on your genre, 100k is normal, and YA books are usually around 80k. So if you are writing 10k a week, and you’re super hard core about it, then you could do over half a million words a year. If your books are only 80-100k, you could easily hit that. Me personally, that’s not my style, but I know plenty of skilled, successful authors with turn in schedules like that.


So, her first piece of advice to self-publishing authors wasn’t to put more focus on fine-tuning one’s craft, it wasn’t about taking time to mull and ponder what stories, what narratives, most inspire you to put “pen to paper”; it wasn’t even a suggestion to be relentless about working with professional content/copy editors and cover designers to create the best possible version of your work. No, it was the insanely insane advice to pump out at least four books a year.


That’s all bullshit. She cherry picked one quote from one person from an unknown context and wrote an entire article condemning it. (That’s why I like Fisking. I like to condemn the whole thing in depth).  This is also one of the only people I’ve seen to suggest shooting for 4 books a year. Even in indy I’d say 2-3 is a lot more common advice, and I’m friends with a lot of successful indy authors.


And this HuffPo author got one thing incredibly wrong from that excerpt, but I know exactly what the original author was talking about. The bit about you had ten years to write the first, ten days to write the second? Yeah… We’ve all seen that. An author writes their first book. They spent years and years and years polishing it. It comes out, blows up huge. The publisher comes back and says the fans are going wild. There’s going to be a movie. We need book 2 in ten months. But since the author spent years writing the first book, they never learned how to reliably produce. They rush. They freak out. They’ve not trained themselves to be professionals. Book 2 comes out, it sucks. But it still sells. You’ve got six months to finish the trilogy. Book 3 comes out, it sucks worse. The one hit wonder author fades away, never to be heard from again.


And the funny thing is, as I told that story, each of you thought of a different trilogy, and you were all correct.  That happens so often it is a joke.


And people wonder why there are stigmas attached to self-publishing.

Well obviously. Lots of it sucks balls. I could say the same thing for traditional publishing, only tradpub does have a better ratio just because any piece of garbage can be self-published, and you’ve got to jump through more hoops in traditional. The problem there is that you can make a gatekeeper happy because you wrote a piece of crap that appealed to them, and then it can flop in the market, because gatekeepers can be just as biased and screwed up as the rest of us.

But the fact there is so much crap out there in indy is exactly why you still have to write something good. That’s how you separate yourself from the herd. Note that advice she quoted above said write a lot, it didn’t say write a lot of crap. 

Thus we inevitably return to the snooty, quantity can never equal quality argument that the literati always make. Leonardo DaVinci and William Shakespeare could not be reached for comment.

In everything else in life, how do you get good at stuff? Practice. You want to shoot free throws better? You go shoot lots of free throws.  You want to learn to draw? You draw lots of pictures. You want to learn how to write books? OH NO! DON’T WRITE LOTS OF BOOKS. YOU MUST POLISH ONE BOOK UNTIL PERFECTION! 

Here is the problem. Oftentimes when somebody writes a book, and spends six years working on it, it isn’t because they’re trying to get the book perfect. It is because they wrote a shitty book, and they’re wasting their time trying to fix it. Hence my use of the term “turd polishing”.

For most authors our first book is crap that probably doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. I’ve seen them referred to as books with training wheels. Pragmatic professional types stick that piece of crap in a drawer, move on with life, and write more books. Maybe they’ll come back to it and pick out all the good bits to use in other projects later, or they’ll try to edit it again once they have more experience (or your heirs will wait until you are dead and then publish it to cash in on your name), but the important thing is they move on.

Idealistic, literati artistic types will waste six years polishing that turd. At the end of it, the turd might even be so shiny it no longer looks like a turd, and they’ll publish it to rave critical reviews, and rejoice in their whopping $1.75 an hour they made from writing before going to work their shift at Starbucks. Meanwhile, the “hack” will chuckle, cash their royalty check that pays all their bills, and get back to work on book #15.

Plus, let’s look at this another way. Say an author, even an established one, takes five years to write a book. Is that a guarantee that the book will be superior? No. Of course not. We can all name books that we waited a long time for that turned out to be utter crap. Five years is a significant time investment, but time alone does not ensure a quality product. “Taking your time” doesn’t necessarily mean quality. It can also be a euphemism for lost your way, ran out of enthusiasm, or wrote yourself into a corner.

First of all, in looking at her point of reference, I suppose it depends on what you define as a “successful author.”

I get six figure royalty checks twice a year and fans tattoo my logo on their body, yet I’m pretty sure the HuffPo wouldn’t describe me as a “successful author”.  🙂

I have a distinct feeling this may be where the disparities lie. Perhaps my own definition is a different one.

Oh, I’m certain of it.

When I self-published my first book, After The Sucker Punch, in April of 2014, I had, by then, put years into it, doing all those many things I itemized above. Because I not only wanted to publish a novel, I wanted that novel to be a work of art, a book of depth and merit, one that would not only tell a compelling story but would meet standards of publishing that authors of the highest regard are held to.


Somebody sold you a bill of goods. Do you know what the highest standard of publishing really is? It is if you sell lots of books. Everything else is just fluff and window dressing.


I was back in New York City a couple of weeks ago for a series of business meetings with publishers, editors, distributors, and sales reps. A few months before that I was in Manhattan for Book Expo, which is the publishing industry’s giant trade show. I had lots of business conversations about marketing, selling, placement, and various ways to make my fans happy.


You know what those people cared about?


Selling books.


That’s it. It is a volatile, dog eat dog, low margin, high competition, entertainment business. If you think big publishing is all about depth and merit, somebody is blowing smoke up your ass.


I wanted it to be a book that would favorably compare with anything put out by a traditional publisher.


That really isn’t that hard.


My choice to self-publish was a result of not having engaged a publisher by the time my book was done and I was ready to market it.


My choice to self-publish was because I had a business background, and though I’d been rejected by traditional publishing, I recognized that there was a market for my product.


It was not based on the notion of joining the “second tier club” where one is unbound from the stricter, more demanding standards of traditional publishing.

“Second tier club”? Yes. As insulting as that sounds, particularly in relation to self-publishing, there is no question that there are two tiers operating in the culture of the book industry.

Two? HA! Newb! There are TWENTY SIX LEVELS! I documented them here:


Take a moment to think about it: based on what advice is given to self-published writers, some of which I shared above; based on the”free/bargain” pricing paradigms of most book sellers hawking those writers; based on the corner (quality)-cutting measures required to pump out endless product to meet the purportedly endless demand of those sites and their bargain-hunting readers, “second tier club” is no misnomer.

That actually makes a lot less sense than my alphabetical list of success, and I wrote it as a joke.

Where the best of traditional publishers set their sights not only on commercial viability but award-quality work,


That’s not true at all. Commercial viability and award winning are rarely the same product. In reality publishers make money off of their cash cows and the new hotness, so they can afford to experiment on their pet projects. Each house is culturally different, but even the snootiest literati places usually make the vast majority of their money off of the commercial stuff, and throw “award worthy” stuff at the wall spaghetti style to see what sticks.


nurturing authors with enduring skills and profound stories to tell,


Nope. That’s not true either. It depends entirely upon the editor and house, and personal relationship between the author and editor is a lot more important than any sort of quantifiable skillset. It’s more like, hey, I really like Author X and want to push his stuff, but I think Author Y is an asshole, let’s throw some marketing money at X. There have been lots of really talented authors who’ve languished in obscurity at a publishing house while they tossed money and contracts at a talentless golden boy.


in a climate that is selective (perhaps too selective)


So you are all in favor of selectivity until—let me guess—you got rejected?


and based on the notion that that level of quality and commercial appeal is a rare and valued commodity, self-published authors are advised to, “Crank out loads of books. if you have to write little teeny short ones to get your catalogue pumped up, do that! Don’t worry about covers; your readers don’t give a hoot about artwork. It’s all about genre, easy reads, and low, low prices! And speaking of low prices, don’t even think about selling your books for more than a dollar or two, because readers who do bother with self-published books are too accustomed to bargain-basement prices to spend any more than that. This is the 99¢ Bargain Circus Book Store, where we push quantity over quality every day of the week!! CRANK OUT THAT PRODUCT!!”


I’m guessing nobody actually said that, and you’re using Guardian style “scare quotes”. But hey, pile that straw up and set it on fire!


I’ll bet good money Donna Tartt, Anthony Doerr, and other quality writers aren’t getting that same message from their publishers. First tier, baby.

Those Pulitzer prize winners aren’t in the same market position as the thousands of aspiring authors who are reading your asinine advice. You are correct. They are a different tier. And if your life plan is to emulate them, you’re about as naïve as the kid who drops out of school because his plan for the future is to become a rock star. It might happen, but it probably won’t.

But you want to talk first tier versus prolific, I’m sure George RR Martin’s publisher would love for him to hurry his ass up and not take six years to write a Game of Thrones novel. GRRM can get away with that because he’s got an HBO show and millions of people purchasing his backlist. The rest of us still have to write books.

Look, if your point and purpose as a writer is largely related to the numbers — of books sold, of Amazon ranking, of reviews garnered, of Twitter followers and Facebook “likes” — then, certainly; follow the advice of the article quoted about.

You mean all that evil capitalist stuff that lets professional authors make a living? How bourgeoisie.

Sadly, for those of us who aren’t trust fund babies couch surfing our way through life mooching off of our rich friends, we have to actually produce and sell books.  

I know many self-published writers who are, and though I have no idea how well that’s working for them, it’s certainly the prevailing trend.

Which brings up another issue… Why does this offend you? You are obviously aiming for that fancy, book of a lifetime, literati, idealized college English class, Oprah Book Club, Great American Novel, New Yorker book club market. Why does somebody turning out 4 indy books a year wound you so? Since you’re polishing your magnum opus so much, shouldn’t you be encouraging them to keep churning out crap, so that you look even better in comparison?

Or does it just really piss you off when some indy schlub wrote a book in three months and has more readers than you do?

But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea — whether fantasy, love story, science fiction, human interaction, tragedy, thriller, family saga, memoir, non-fiction — in a way that raises hairs or gets someone shouting “YES!”; if you’re compelled to tell that story so beautifully, so irreverently, with such power and prose as to make a reader stop to read a line over just to have the opportunity to roll those words around one more time, then don’t listen to that advice.


On the contrary, you want to do all that stuff? Write more. Because the more you create, the more opportunities you have to create something truly magnificent.

Instead, do the opposite: take your time, work your craft; look for the best possible ways to tell your story and allow yourself time to change your mind, sometimes often, until you know it’s right. Allow your editors time to help you mold your narrative into peak condition. Give your formatters and copy editors time to comb through your manuscript, again and again, to make sure everything is perfect. Work carefully with your cover artist to create the most gorgeous, most professional book cover you can. TAKE YOUR TIME.

That’s really naïve, and not how publishing works at all.

Write the book. Make it as good as you can. Get it out the door. Start the next one. Don’t agonize forever for perfection, because you aren’t perfect. You hone your craft by practicing it.

You don’t “allow” your editors enough time. That’s bullshit. In indy, you are paying for a freelance service. Quality professional editors aren’t going to agonize over your book forever either. They’re going to have a schedule, and they’re going to do their job, finish it, and move on to the next job so they can GET PAID. In traditional publishing, your editor is even busier, and again, they’re not going to spend forever on your book. You might wait a long time to hear back from them, but that’s because they are editing twenty other authors at the same time. Either way, if they’re professionals, they’ll tell you what sucks and make suggestions how to make it not suck. Boom. Done. Get your ass back to work.

Copy editing again and again? Same naïve thing. Indy, you pay, they work. Traditional, it goes on the schedule, they copy edit, then send you the proof to go over. There is no again and again because they are collecting an hourly wage. There is no primadonna bullshit. This is their job.

Your cover artist also wants to GET PAID, and most of them are making even less than the authors. They take a commission and they produce a piece of art. If you dick around with them for months and months making them tweak stuff, you are wasting their time. Hire a good artist, they work to spec. In traditional publishing, you have almost zero input on your cover, and by the time you are successful enough to have input on your cover, that means you’ve sold enough books that you trust your marketing staff. So shut up, and get back to writing.

Take your time? What manner of fuckery is that? Do you not understand how publishing works? You are taking this lackadaisical literati wankery method that works in one specific genre (litfic) and extrapolating out this bizarro version of the rest of the publishing industry. The rest of the publishing industry runs on deadlines. In tradepub your book is probably on the distributors calendar months before you’ve finished it, and if you can’t consistently turn in a quality product that hits those deadlines, you’re toast.  

Then take lots more to research marketing options; ask questions, weigh contradicting information, and come up with the best possible strategy for your book.


Contradicting information? I’m happy to oblige.


Do what you choose with professionalism and without the misguided push to the “top of the list,” that pervasive attitude so rife with desperation and panic. 


The funny thing is, when you are actually being a professional and making enough money off of writing that you aren’t scrambling to figure out how to pay every bill, and you’re not working two jobs anymore, or having to live off of your spouse’s real job, authors become way less desperate. You want to improve the quality of your writing? Not being stressed out helps immensely.


You’re not in a race, with anyone.


Sure you are. You are in a race against the fans’ impatience and boredom, and every other author and form of entertainment willing to step up to fill that void you left in their heart.


You are a professional author working your book your way. Be an artist, don’t be a carnival barker.


Well, that’s a really idealistic way to look at it. Publishers have marketing departments for a reason. I know you don’t want to sully your artistic sensibilities, but marketing is part of the job. You need to be smart about it, because nobody likes That Guy. Don’t be That Guy. But the vast majority of prolific authors aren’t That Guy. We’re too busy.


Be a wordsmith, not a bean-counter.


As a retired bean-counter, now I’m offended.


Be patient, not hysterical.


Who exactly is being hysterical here?


Transact wisely, but don’t lose your soul in the process.


At this rate, I’m expecting her to warn us against listening to Heavy Metal or playing D&D.


I know I’m bucking the trend, and certainly there are quality issues and dubious motivations floating around both tiers.


Oh, there’s lots of something floating around here.


It’s also certain that, if you follow my lead, you will not be able to write four books a year, at least not four full-length books. You will write, perhaps, one.


One! Oh, but my artistic delicate sensibilities demand that I cannot be rushed! One whole book a year! How uncouth! Barbaric! My poor muse! This Pulitzer prize winner took eleven years!


So why is her suggested number of one okay, but some random indy pub author’s suggestion of four is so offensive? Shit. Just go write, people. This isn’t rocket science.


But if you do it right, taking time and taking care, you will have written one excellent book. One you’ll be proud of years from now.


Yay! A participation trophy! And then it can languish in obscurity because you didn’t keep writing enough to get more fans’ attention.


One your friends and family will keep on their book shelves.


Irrelevant. I should hope your mom keeps a copy. You want to be a professional writer? Then you need thousands of complete strangers to keep your books on their shelves.  


 One readers across the globe will talk about on social media.


Weren’t you just complaining about carnival barkers? Lady, social media is marketing. I had this conversation with somebody who was Huge On Twitter. Again, irrelevant, unless they purchase copies of your books.


One that tells the world, I am a writer and this book is my legacy.


My legacy is four amazing, well adjusted, loving, intelligent, wonderful children to carry on my name. My books are just how I pay to feed them.


Then you’ll go write another of those…and so on.


Only you spent the entire article harping on somebody who does it faster than you.


The rest of it — sales, rankings, reviews, viralness, likes, tweets, awards, kudos, peer admiration… all that? If you do it right, if/when any of those things come, they will be warranted and well-deserved. You can celebrate them authentically, because you did not sell your creative soul to get them.

Oh fuck me. You’ve got to be kidding. She went full hipster. Those prolific authors are such sell outs, man!

You actually made the far, far better deal.

No. No, you didn’t. You come across as a nose in the air, beret wearing, snoot, telling other artists that they are making art wrong, because their artistic process doesn’t fit your arbitrary definition of art.

Okay, now that we’re past all that pretentious nonsense, you know how most of us working professional authors actually write? Like Wyatt Earp said, take your time fast.

That means write, write, write some more, get it as good as you can, quit freaking out about it, and get it out the door. You’re going to learn and get better with each book. Practice makes perfect. Books are an investment of your time. You want to make a return on your investment. So make the book as fast as you can without fucking it up. If that’s one book a year. Great. If it is four books a year. Fantastic. If it is one book every three or five years, quit screwing around. Unless you’re already really famous or you’ve got some other get out of jail free card, that isn’t going to fly.

All those stupid pretentious coffee shop questions above were a waste of time. The real question is do you want to be a pretentious hobbyist, or do you want to be a professional writer?


I'll be at Rose City ComicCon in Portland this weekend
Library Journal reviews Son of the Black Sword

359 thoughts on “Fisking the HuffPo, because writers need to GET PAID”

    1. If Larry kills off Grant by making him an organ bank for Franks, I’ll buy an extra copy of MHI and give it to a child. But the son of a bitch has to STAY dead.

  1. As a reader I don’t want “finely crafted work” or “brilliant prose” or any of that. I want characters I can care about in a story I can get lost in for a time.

    As a writer, then, that’s what I try to produce.

    I’m not a particularly fast writer, partly because of this whole day job and family thing. Other people are and they produce the kind of books I want to read. Those, for me, are “good books”.

  2. “A. I can’t bank on getting a major motion picture staring Jimmy Stewart and become mandatory reading for all high school students.”

    How does one confuse with Gregory Peck for Jimmy Stewart?! 🙂

    1. Hey, now. He had to read through the HuffPo article, first. Attempting to decipher those (alleged) trains of thought could mess anybody up! 😀

        1. Nick Pollotta wrote a collection that had that title. I think it’s called Invasion from Uranus now. Unfortunately, Nick is no longer with us.

        2. Tequila Mockingbird was actually an episode of Get Smart. Season 4 Episode 17. According to Wikipedia, “The Tequila Mockingbird has been recovered by Esmerelda, a CONTROL operative posing as a cantina showgirl in a sleepy Mexican town called Mira Loma. KAOS kills Esmerelda during her performance but she has hidden the statue beforehand. Max (undercover as a down-and-out doctor) and 99 (undercover as a Spanish singer, who performs “Cielito Lindo” as part of her act) have to figure out the clue that was left behind to find where the statue is hidden, leading to a mexican standoff between Max and two rival KAOS agents. The episode is spoof of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The title is a play on Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird.”

        3. The Tequila Mockingbird was a personal MacGuffin for a Private Investigator character I played in a 1920s Call of Cthulhu campaign in my college years. Given that I was a college student, nobody should be surprised that my character’s name was Arthur “Art” Deco.

    2. Clearly by confusing “To Kill a Mockingbird” with “The Guns of Navarone”. Alistair MacLean didn’t write prize-winning literature (well, except for that first short story that got him started), but he wrote a lot, and entertained many.

  3. HuffPo only pays in “exposure”

    Oh, and stealing from a commenter on Amanda Green’s entry over at Mad Genius Club (she wrote on this same piece today): “Exposure is what you die of when you don’t get paid.”

    1. I wanted this on a shirt for my daughter who is in a film-crew certification course. Her instructor has been warning them about people who will try to take advantage of them. Can’t get just one so… if anyone is interested the links are on my facebook and G+. 🙂

    2. It’s also important to remember that Huffpo is owned by an extremely independently wealthy person and that a lot of Huffpo’s contributors- especially in the beginning, have been celebrities. Their average contributor isn’t in the same boat as the average struggling writer, of course they don’t expect to be paid.

  4. A fisking! It’s like my birthday!

    The whole “more time” = “better book” is one of my pet peeves, especially since my anecdotal observation has been that the more time that passes between installations in a series that I like, the greater chance that the next one is going to suck.

    I’m somewhat confused by Ms. Wilke’s invocation of Harper Lee here. It’s pretty clear that she has not spent the last 50-odd years polishing and perfecting her next book; it seems more like someone took her first draft of Mockingbird and published all the parts she cut out without even bothering to edit it for consistency with her first book. I don’t think she’s precisely an argument for taking your time in producing a book

  5. She’s published a “clarification” of what she meant and, in the process, wiped out 60 or more comments. It seems she really didn’t mean to insult any other author. She just doesn’t want authors to think they have to write fast. She is, in her words, “championing choice”. In other words, according to her, you can choose to write fast or you can choose not to devalue your craft. Sorry, I’ll write fast, practice and learn and listen to my readers. I like having money in my bank account.

      1. “Choice” translation from hipster pretentious SJW speak: “the only choices you’re allowed are the ones that we approve of.”

        IMHO, more like aborted babies and aborted books.

  6. I have a few possibly familiar names to run past this pretentious hipster: Charles Dickens, who wrote in installments for popular magazines, and who was considered a huge hack in his day. Mark Twain, whose yearly output was astounding (quoting Wikipedia: “A complete bibliography of his works is nearly impossible to compile because of the vast number of pieces written by Twain (often in obscure newspapers) and his use of several different pen names.”), and whose work has now achieved “Great American Novel” status and become required reading in American high schools. Even freaking Pearl S. Buck won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and she cranked out quite a few mass-market potboilers.

    I get the feeling that this woman and Lynn Shepherd (you know, the one who wrote an open letter to J.K. Rowling saying, in essence, “You made enough money, now stop writing and let some of the rest of us get a chance,”) would be best frenemies at the lunch table.

    1. Really?! Twain is required reading in high schools now?

      In the mid-1970s I worked as a library aide in high school. One day I was handed a list of books and told to poll them from the shelves. The Federalist Papers, Tom Paine, and everything by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain.

      When I brought my cart back up to the office, I was told to go to the card index and pull all the cards. When I asked why, I was told the books were being removed.

      When I asked why, they mumbled something about “racist.” Oh. I’d already read The Federalist Papers, so I knew a non-answer when I heard one…

      I wasn’t the only aide with a list and a cart. I have no idea what other books were pulled, and the school library was basically useless anyway, so I didn’t care.

      1. FWIW, I had to read Huck Finn in high school. But then, I went to private school.

        P.S. It totally turned me racist. [/sarc]

      2. I was assigned Tom Sawyer in middle school and Huckleberry Finn in high school. These were accelerated English classes, though, so I’m not sure if they trusted the median students to be able to detect ironic anti-racism-masked-as-racism too.

      3. When I went through high school, in the mid to late ’70’s, Tom Sawyer was required reading for 9th grade. I always felt this was fairly typical; kids too old to simply enjoy the thing, but too young to appreciate the craftsmanship.

  7. I checked. Her book is currently 348000 on Amazon. In contrast MHI Nemesis published within a month of her book is 14000.

    1. 348,000 is one sale today after a string of nothing. (BTDT)

      (And a side note for Larry’s web person: I set “notify of all new follow up comments” in manage subscriptions but only received one notification, to this one, in my email” Curious minds want to know what the problem might be.)

      1. Yeah, Amazon rank is not a stable figure. If you get one sale a month, your rank can go from 100K to 1 million and back. (That’s my world). Now if they kept a one or two month rolling average, that might be a little more useful for comparison.

  8. “It is called practice. How long does it take you to do your taxes? How long does it take a CPA to do your taxes? See? The CPA did it faster and better than an amateur could. ”

    That makes me think of this artist I support on Patreon. (Current count on her page says she makes about $65,000 per month–yes, month–through this. Why? Because she’s very good, very prolific, and she gives her patrons what they want for a price they’re happy to pay.) One of the things she does is provide videos of her making her various art pieces. They’re astonishing, because she can create a really, really impressive piece of art in, like two to five hours. I’m just talented enough at art to have a real appreciation for people who are extremely talented at it, and it’s just amazing to watch her work. She makes it look easy, which is pretty much what happens when someone has the talent and has put in the time to become very, very good at something.

    But as to the point of your post, you’re seriously one of my biggest writing inspirations because of your example and your reminders about all the stuff you say here. I’ve heard other writers say it, but you seem to be the loudest. You say you started in 2008. That’s about when I really got to work writing my first real novel. At this point, I’ve got that one done, another one done that I now think needs to be totally rewritten to be publishable, and nothing published. I need to sit down and get crap done, and I know my failure to do so is what’s holding me back. So seeing your occasional not-so-gentle reminders is good for me (and, I imagine, a lot of other unpublished writers). So thank you, sir, and please, feel free to browbeat us any time you want.

      1. Sakimichan. Most of her stuff actually qualifies as fan art, which is sort of funny. Fanfic authors can’t financially profit in any way from their fanfic, yet fan artists don’t seem to have this problem. It’s curious.

        1. It’s a weird thing. One of the key things that seems to be telling is the immediately different styles. That’s what most of the ‘policies’ I’ve seen allowing it seem to differentiate on (Note: this is mostly based on the convention and online scenes that I lurk quietly so there’s the salt). Basically the art world seems to have more lee way in making references as long as it’s not an obvious copy of extant work. (It’s fuzzy an imperfect, but it’s what I’ve seen.) On paper the issues would seem to be identical but the enforcement is very different.

          On a side note: Funnimation has explicitly allowed fan art as long as they’re not crossing the line into trademark (rather than copyright) violation. It might provide some insight into the mindset.

          1. I think some of it is that with fanart you are generally selling a piece of art. An original drawing or painting or what have you. With fan writing you’re not selling a single manuscript, but distribution of a story.

            At least, this is what I’ve seen browsing art shows and the like.

            If selling fanart were more “here’s a run of 1000 prints” and less “here’s my drawing” there’d probably be more backlash against it.

          2. Except much of the fan art stuff is prints not the original drawing. (More and more of it is going digitally produced as well.)

          3. actualy, there is a very clear distinction of what you can or cannot sell as far as fanart is concerned and the only reason fanartists are getting away with it, because they tend to sell one piece of art to one person at a time (so going after them is just not cost effective and way too much bother). the moment you turn it into prints, aka mass production? then they go after you in truth. and even then… depends on volume and how soon they find you.

            but as far as rules go. player characters/original characters set in existing copyrighted universe? are acceptable. so lets say you are playing an rpg that allows you to design your player character, like Fallout – your vault dweller is a faire game. same if you for example take Monster hunter universe and create a character that lives in it, but is not created by Larry himself? technically – again its derivative enough to slide into that gray area. but try selling Julie Shackleford portraits, and then you start having a problem

            Ironically. people HAVE sold fanfiction before. I mean… 50 shades of gray was originally twilight fanfic, published for free. James just changed some names and locations around, and sold it to a publisher. and she is just the most famous example, I can name multiples, everywhere from books that sold pretty well, to books that were self published on amazon and did okish to books that went nowhere, in part because they weren’t changed enough, got reported and had to remove their listings.

          4. Since I don’t frequent artists’ booths at cons, mostly when I talk about fanart I mean online. In some cases, artists sell digital high rez files of the fanart. In other cases, one can order a print of the fanart from the artist. In other words, most of what I’m seeing of people making money from fanart aren’t selling the original–and in fact, in the cases of those who paint in Photoshop, there is no real original.

            As for Fifty Shades, that wasn’t really fanart. I mean, it was, but the Twilight fandom has this whole huge subset of fanfic that’s not really Twilight fanfic; it’s original fic with Twilight names plastered on. They call it All Human Alternate Universe, and I’ve never understood the appeal of it. By its nature, it’s a simple thing to convert it to an original fic because it really takes little to nothing from the supposed source material. There’s a major Twilight fanfic archive that has a whole page devoted to a very long list of such fanfics which are now available as original novels. On the other hand, most fanfic is written with enough taken from the source material that it would be difficult if not impossible to make it non-fanfic without pretty much rewriting the whole thing. (In my opinion, a story should only be fanfic if it is so dependent on the characters/world/story of the original story that it can’t be told as an original story of its own.) AHAU Twilight fanfic is an outlier, a freak, and not representative of fanfic or the ability of fanfic to be easily turned into an original novel and sold to the public.

          5. online fanart is the kind of fanart I was thinking of as well.. its actualy far easier to get away with selling fanart, and in bulk, natch – at the conventions, particularly smaller ones, than it is online. online commissions, you have to be tricky to gt into that gray area.

            I disagree with you both on 50 shades not being enough of a fanfic of twilight – she became known in a fandom BECAUSE it was twilight. that and yes, its possible to change things around well enough that people know that you are selling fanfic, becasue they have actualy read it when it was still fanfic, and yet, becasue to change enough names, you manage to slide into that gray area. other’s, yes don’t do so well. better writers draw on characters they developed for their fanfics and put them into circumstances and worlds that are original enough.

            either way, I’m not saying that his is what people SHOULD be doing. I’m saying that this is what people sometimes do with varying degree of success. and IMO, 50 shades is a clear example of how good marketing can make your success even if you are nothing special.

          6. It all gets very murky at times, too.

            Compare Larry’s “MHI” and John Ringo’s “Wands” for instance. Organized group of professional monster hunters? Check. Rocky relationship with a “black” government agency that does the same thing? Check. Starts with a main character that stumbles into the whole thing by being in the wrong place at the right time? Check.

            Two totally different series, though. Same feel, but you know when you’re reading in one or the other.

            (Of course, those two now have to make it even murkier. If Barbara or the Asatru show up in MHI… Actually, that could be fun!)

          7. Interestingly, even in Japan the indie doujinshi (fan comic) market thrives – the comics themselves are limited runs (a thousand copies?), but I’ve seen entire telephone-book thickness fan-made manga omnibus volumes before – there was a Japanese bookstore in Paris that had the official stuff sold in the upper floor, while fan-related stuff was in the basement, along with related media. There was Rurouni Kenshin doujinshi that had volumes probably 3 inches thick, and they took up two whole meter-wide shelves. It was yaoi, but from what I gather there was lots of story as well (it was all in Japanese with tons of Kanji, which I can’t read.)

          8. Plenty of manga artist started out as doujinshi as well. What’s actually more amusing is that some manga artist does doujin of their own stuff. Stuff their editor probably wouldn’t publish.

    1. My daughter have the videos made by the artist who is (was?) on PBS teaching painting. Couple of hours and you see the entire painting done. Mind, it’s a landscape usually, and not one directly from life. But you can tell there are no edits where he worked several hours on some piece of it; he’s doing every last bit as you watch him.

      (Dang it, can’t recall his name right now.)

  9. I like the bit about practice. There’s been a couple of authors who cut their writing teeth on writing fanfiction. Naomi Novik, for example, started out writing Transformers slashfic, before doing story writing for the Neverwinter Nights expansion pack ‘Shadows of Undrentide’.

    Her Temeraire series is pretty neat, and I hear it got optioned for a possible movie or TV miniseries. Best of luck to her 🙂

    1. I’ve heard that too. (Not the part about Transformers slash. I stumbled across some of that once. It was… disturbing.)

      I used fanfic as writing practice, too. I always recommend doing so whenever possible. I think it’s also a great way to get feedback from readers on what it is about your particular style and stories that people like. If I’d paid more attention to that sooner, I might have written a more marketable book by now.

        1. That’s true, but only for a handful of specific fandoms (some of which I’d never heard of). If it ever expands to include fandoms that I actually have an interest in (or if I get any really good ideas for Vampire Diaries, which is the only current one I even sort of watch), I’d probably try it out. I wonder if regular fanfic for those fandoms took a hit when that option became available. I certainly know of one or two fanfic authors who I’d definitely pay money to read if necessary.

        2. If you want to write Valiant comic characters, Konrath/Crouch stuff, CW TV shows, or GI Joe. Otherwise… not so much.

  10. I saw this over on the Mad Genius Club this morning and had to shake my head and laugh. Good to see you fisked this one, even if it did take some time away from writing.

  11. I love this to the very core of my being. This works for art as well. I’m neither writer nor artist, but I know what I like and I will pay for enjoying it.

    Thank you for sharing this fisking of Her Snootiness.

  12. OT: Any way to get the new format blog to spread out and use my whole browser window and not the middle third only? I feel like I’ve gone back to 1999 monitors

    1. Not without losing the sidebars. One is the easiest way to keep up with recent comments and the other helps Larry GET PAID. I’m not risking the wrath of the Monster Hunter Nation OR Wendell!!

  13. Besides confusing classic Hollywood actors, this was an excellent piece, Larry, ridiculing an imbecilic HuffPo article.

    However, there is definitely an upper limit on how many books a writer can produce in a year without descending into full-on hackdom.

    Now part of is dependent on genre, sure. Larry writing 2-3 action books a year is one thing.

    However, writing one full book a month is overkill and no author can do that without producing utter garbage. One can’t even make a financial argument for it; RL Stine released one Goosebumps book a month and ended up murdering his franchise and sales because of it.

          1. Looking at 1966,

            9 of those books are non-fiction works popularizing science, 1 is an essay collection (“From Earth to Heaven”) of which Asimov is merely editor
            1 is a short story anthology (“Tomorrow’s Children…”) of which Asimov is editor and had written his short story (“The Ugly Little Boy”) in 1958, 8 years prior
            1 is a fiction book (“Fantastic Voyage”)

            Lists for 1972 and 1973 are very similar in distribution.

            So uh, you’re not exactly disproving my argument that writing one new work of fiction a month is overkill. Quite the opposite, in fact.

          2. “Merely editor”, of a collection of essays of which he was the sole author?

            You’re right that Asimov is a point of evidence on the novels-vs-nonfiction argument, though. IIRC in his memoirs he treated writing nonfiction like breathing, something he couldn’t imagine living without doing even after having written hundreds of books; whereas there was a period (1958 to 1982) where his fiction output averaged a bit more than a short story per year and a novel per decade.

      1. Asimov is who I kept thinking of reading this. Incredibly prolific, and as far as polish goes… he claimed to submit his first draft much of the time.

        1. My first drafts tend to be about 80% of whatever the final result will be. Not saying I’m all that great, but rather that for wherever I am at any given time once I finish that first draft there’s not going to be a whole lot more improvement no matter how much I fiddle with it. So I usually do an editing pass after letting it sit for a bit, run it out to beta readers. Edit based on beta response. Final proofing, and out the door.

          Then on to the next one. Well, actually I usually have two or three projects running in parallel, but that’s the basic concept.

          “There are nine and sixty ways, of constructing tribal lays, and every single one of them is right.” Rudyard Kipling “In the Neolithic Age”.

    1. The Doc Savage books came out 1 a month from Mar 1933 to Feb 1947 and were mostly written by one person. They were good enough to spawn movies and a 1980’s reprint. Dean Wesley Smith has been writing a magazine a month for almost 2 years now. Right now he has a challenge going of 10 novels in 4 months.

      1. I will have to check them out. The “Doc Savage” stories were a favorite of one of my all-time favorite science fiction writers, Philip Jose Farmer (in fact, he wrote several of his own versions and pastiches of the character), but I don’t know whether the originals were any good.

  14. Is it me or did the author of that tripe sound like a very condescending adult talking down to a 4 year old? You know when you have an overly intelligent 4 year old that asks how something really complex works and the adult doesn’t have a freaking clue but tries to make crap up.

  15. Thank you for yet another awesome fisking article. Out of curiosity, what are some good markets for short fiction these days? I have been considering a couple of short fiction ideas but I am just starting out looking into publishing while I work on the stories. I have been leaning heavily toward self publishing through Amazon since I probably don’t mesh with the average gatekeepers political or philosophical leanings.

    1. Edward. I’m trying to find this out right now. I’m a pseudo-pulp writer who is trying to learn my craft through shorts, but I’ve struggled to find any magazines (so far) that aren’t putting out literary stuff. It looks like someone (cross fingers) has just taken a short story from me (and it will be paid. Yay!) but I’m now looking for new markets. I don’t mesh with the average gatekeeper’s philosophical leanings either – I write sympathetic violent characters.

      I’m going to do a bit of research and blog the results.

  16. That was the biggest load of horse hockey that I’ve read in quite a while. The original article, I mean, not your fisking. That was pure gold, as usual.

    And I agree wholeheartedly: time spent polishing does not equal quality. Hell, I spent probably 6 or 7 years writing, editing, scrapping, re-writing, re-editing, scrapping again, lather-rinse-repeat my masterpiece that turned out to be an unpublishable pile of crap. Polishing a turd indeed.

    On the other hand, my first self-published work went from idea in my head to uploaded to Kindle Direct in a little over a month. Granted, it’s a mid-length novelette rather than a full-on novel, but regardless it is still selling (very slowly, but it is still selling), and the feedback and criticism I’ve received for it thus far has been almost universally positive. And most of my readers are anxious for a sequel, which I’m writing as fast as I can. Hopefully I’ll have it up on Amazon by the end of next month. And if Miss Uptight Literati Snob Lady thinks that makes me a hack, whatever. I don’t care. I’m doing what I love, I’m making people happy in the process, and I’m getting paid to do it. I’m not getting paid all that much, mind, but it’s something. And more importantly, it’s a start. If Miss Pretentious HuffPo Hipster has a problem with that, then she can go boil her bottom. Her mother was a hamster, and her father smelt of elderberries. I fart in her general direc… Oops, wrong franchise. Sorry!

  17. Also, and apologies for being a pain in the ass, but just a heads-up: I tried to Connect With WordPress for my initial comment, but the blog still says that “Social Login” is not configured properly.

        1. I know how to fix it, but it involves the ILoH doing a bunch of stuff that takes away from his writing time. It WILL get fixed at some point, but it probably won’t exactly be “soon”- (at best “soon-ish”)

  18. If the quality of a work is inversely proportional to the time taken to produce it, logic dictates that the perfect book is the one that is never published.

    Which, in the case of Lorraine Devon Wilke (and so, so many others), is true.

    1. “If the quality of a work is inversely proportional to the time taken to produce it, logic dictates that the perfect book is the one that is never published.”


    2. As I said over on MGC, it’s the old Socialist/Communist “Labor theory of Value”. The value of a good is purely based on the amount of labor put into it.

      It’s BS, of course. The value is what someone is willing to pay for it.

      1. That is a misunderstanding and misapplication of the principle. The COST of the good inherently includes the value of all the labor participating in the production OF the good.

        Those numbers are important when considering whether or not the end-price truly reflects the entire costs of production, or if one or more of the producers are being forced to subsidize the consumer by accepting less than the cost of the good.

        The famous example from the 90s was the study that showed that paying migrant farmworkers picking lettuce a livable wage would raise the cost of an average head of lettuce less than 5 cents. Consumers were screaming about the “rising cost of lettuce” while the farmworkers were living 6-10 people to one tiny shack or “roach motel” apartment and eating the proverbial Ramen diet, which reflected an imbalanced exchange of value (with the workers subsidizing the consumers).

          1. Incorrect. The cost of something is the expense in time and materials that go into producing it.

            It takes X amount of material object and Y amount of labor to make a car, for example. If you don’t have X amount of material objects and Y amount of labor, you have no car.

            There is no escaping this simple fact.

          2. I think you guys are mixing up the definitions of cost, expense, and price and arguing about it.

            Your “simple fact” makes accountants laugh. 🙂

          3. Guys, this is why balance sheets have two sides. You’re talking past each other. What one person sells, another buys. A cost to one is income to the other. Direct and indirect costs to produce a good are an expense to the creator.

        1. Labor exploitation in the US is mostly based on the laborers not speaking English. Legal or illegal, Mexican or some other nationality. It’s about being trapped in a job because you don’t have the language. It might be Vietnamese in Silicon Valley or grad students from Japan or unskilled labor the common factor is that someone who DOES speak your language can exploit your lack of ability to communicate. To say “screw you” and walk.

          1. BS! Wal Mart workers are exploited left right and sideways, so are fast food workers. Most of them speak English just fine.

          2. Wal Mart workers are exploited left right and sideways

            “You keep using that word…”

            You understand, don’t you, that Wal Mart’s net margin is only about 3.4%. Run that past the 1.4 million workers in the US and see that it gets you? (Hint: it’s not much.) I ran the numbers on “executive compensation” and if Wal Mart’s executives entire combined compensation packages–salaries, bonuses, options, profit sharing, etc. were waived and instead shared among the workers that would be about $10 per year per worker. So even if Wal Mart were to forego all profit (which would prevent any growth and why would anyone invest then?) and completely eliminated (and why, then would anyone want the job?) the workers would still be “exploited” in terms of salary and benefits. The money just isn’t there to increase the compensation much for 1.4 million US workers (never mind those employed by Wal Mart in other countries).

            I’m not an accountant, nor an economist. Larry can destroy the claims about how easy it would be to not “exploit” workers far better than I can. But I can do math. You can’t do physics without it. And the math says if you want to increase worker compensation so as to not “exploit” them, the money has to come from somewhere. It can’t come from reduced profit. There isn’t enough, not when spread among 1.4 million employees. It can’t come from executive compensation–same thing. To do the doubling of compensation that’s being bandied about (raise in minimum wage plus other mandated benefits that are on the table) would require increasing revenue per worker at least half again–more because the folk providing the goods and services that aren’t part of direct labor costs are being required to do the same thing so those non-labor costs will also go up.

            Some combination of increasing sales volume, increasing prices, and reducing labor force (so as to pay fewer people) are required to do that.

            How do you propose to manage that? Remember basic economics (literally first day of the Intro to Microeconomics course I took) is that if you raise prices, sales volume goes down in most cases. And that reducing labor force? What do you plan to do with the now unemployed people that were “reduced”?

            So, if they’re being “exploited” as opposed to being paid what their work is worth in the only meaningful measure of same–what people will pay for the product of that work–what exactly needs to be done differently?

          3. Having grown up in a farm town that was mostly illegal immigrants, I always have a good laugh when somebody talks about Walmart or fast food employees being exploited. That’s kind of like holding up a flag that says I DON’T KNOW SHIT ABOUT THIS TOPIC.

            I’ve had one close relative go from junior burger flipper to fast food restaurant manager, and another close relative go from night shift stock boy to Walmart manager, and I’m guessing I got “exploited” more as a junior financial analyst for a Fortune 100 company because I was on salary and couldn’t collect overtime. 🙂

            As a retired accountant, when I hear people pontificating about the greed and evils of the corporate world, they’re usually completely ignorant of how business, reality, and fundamental economics work, it drives me nuts. They’re primarily educated by Occupy Democrats memes on Facebook, usually mathematically illiterate, and comparing apples to cinder blocks, but by golly, they FEEL SO HARD.

          4. Hell, just working in a retail-parallel industry (i.e. DSD vendor), I can tell you that those workers aren’t being exploited… on the whole they’re simply completely inexperienced, incompetent, or lazy. If anything it’s the lower level management (Wal-Mart Assistant, Fast Food Shift) that gets exploited or underpaid.

            But that just doesn’t fit the narrative.

          5. “BS! Wal Mart workers are exploited left right and sideways, so are fast food workers. Most of them speak English just fine.”

            Evidence that you really can’t imagine, in your world view, what actual labor exploitation looks like. It’s not unheard of for someone to get arrested for slavery in the US… doesn’t happen often but the last case I recall was the exploitation of a Chinese grad student. The posters asking people to report human trafficking in Albuquerque? Those victims don’t work at Wal-Mart. I’ve tutored Vietnamese speakers in California who were desperate to get enough English so that they could quit their jobs making computer chips and get ones that didn’t violate labor laws. I’ve worked in a work place where more than half the employees spoke no English. Wal-Mart is NICE compared to that place. I quit. The non-English speakers could not quit because where would they go? Fast food places actually follow the law. It’s possible to quit those jobs.

            Your life is apparently so privileged you can’t actually imagine hardship.

          6. So, Greg… I’m sure you pay all your Employees a full $15 + dollars per hour, and full benefits beside?
            Or are you one of those people long on talk, short on actual experience?

        2. The misunderstood/misapplied principle is the one that everyone in society uses.

          Hence the students who turn in a crap model for critique and whine”but I spent so much time on this model!”

          As if the amount of time they spent makes the model less crap.

  19. I wrote 6 books last year. They all made me enough money that we bought a house. Screw you, Hoity Toity Literati Person.

      1. No pen name. The three Kaiju Apocalypse books, Murder World: Kaiju Dawn, The Hand of God… huh. I was counting The Dead of Babylon as a book in my head but it’s only a short story. Okay, I miscounted. Only 5 books. My mistake.

  20. I watched a couple of interviews that Andy Weir did about his writing of “The Martian” and he’d definitely be what you describe as a dilettante. He hasn’t quit his day job, and introduces himself as a programmer. Basically he did a thought experiment about what it would take to rescue someone stranded on Mars, wrote a simulation program for the orbital mechanics of it, and then put up serialized chapters on his website that anyone could read for free. People liked them, so he compiled them into a mobi file, but people couldn’t figure out how to download that into their Kindles and asked him to just put it up on Amazon. Amazon forced him to charge a minimum of $0.99 and then in the next week he sold 3x as many copies on Amazon as downloaded it for free, and it went viral.

    While he certainly seems happy about how that turned out, it doesn’t sound like he really plans to try making it as an author, but wants to keep on being a programmer. So pure outlier dilettante. But all the same, I’m glad he wrote it. It was an excellent book, and if the trailers are any indication should also be a fun movie.

    1. So if it wasn’t for people who are incapable of performing simple tasks, he wouldn’t have had a huge bestseller that was adapted into a movie?

      1. That’s pretty much a programmer’s career, except for the “huge bestseller” and “adapted into a movie” parts.

        When I worked in telecom my boss had a favorite saying, “Talking was free until the phone was invented.”

    2. His audio book was also very good. Made the long commutes tolerable. In a related note: a friend of mine who works at NASA said Weir came by not long ago for book signings. A lot of people brought potatoes for him to autograph.

  21. I freaking hate people like this.

    “A book should be lovingly crafted, agonized over for ages before finally being permitted to see the light of day.” And, if you’re someone special, you can make a living like that. Most of us can’t. At all.

    Since last April, I’ve published two novels (short by today’s standards, admittedly), a novelette, and three short stories. The novelette, which came first, is something I’m proud of. Not because of the writing. I cringe over that crap. No, I’m proud of it because that bitch SOLD! I put it up on Amazon, and people freaking bought it. A lot of them.

    My novels? I’m proud of them too. Why? Because people LIKED THEM. They bought them, read them, and liked them. None of them are burning up the the bestseller lists, unfortunately, but people bought them. I’ve learned from them for my next book.

    The truth is, if you only put out a book per year, at 100,000, that’s less than 2,000 words PER FREAKING WEEK. Unless you’re just working like a dog at your day job, that’s not writing, that’s literary masturbation. That’s pretending you’re a writer so you can be cool at parties.

    Screw that shit. I want a career. I want to GET PAID. I want to put my kids through college and pay my bills and be able to buy guns, ammo, and other cool shit. I’m not going to get there by cranking out a book a decade. Never. Going. To. Happen.

    1. So far today I wrote for about 3 hours. I was writing pretty slowly and kept looking stuff up because I was writing a scene where I wanted to get the technical details right. I think I wrote about 1700 words. I’m a night owl, so I’ll spend another 4-5 hours writing before I go to bed. I should easily hit 4000, maybe 5000 words today, and I’m not rushing. The story is just coming freely and I am enthusiastic about the idea so I want to see where it goes. I just started this story a few days ago, so if I keep this pace and I don’t get stuck I’ll be done by early October.

      2000 words a week? Bloody hell. I could do better on my lunch breaks if I had a 9-5 job.

      1. In all fairness, I remember reading something that had all these “pro” writers average daily word counts. Quite a few seemed rather happy with their 250 words per day average.

        I sat here and realized that I can fart out 250 words. :/

        1. If someone only writes 250 words a day, I have to assume they are either trauma surgeons on call 24/7 who only find time to write while taking a dump, or they like being labeled a writer a lot more than actually writing.

          Ended up at ~6200 words yesterday, by the way, and that was with taking a 4 hour break to eat dinner with the family and watch the Yankees game, and generally letting myself get distracted left and right. *Shrug* Apply ass to seat and fingers to keys and it’s amazing how much work happens.

          1. Glen Cook used to work in a GM plant operating a machine that requires his attention for brief period of time every once in a while. He wrote the first 3-4 Black Company and a couple of other novels in between the time that requires his actual attention.

        2. The only times I ever averaged 250 words a day when actively writing was writing 2000 or so words a day for 2-3 days for an RPG project, sending out the results by email, and then waiting 10 days to get reports from my local players and internet playtesters on how the game mechanics of the items worked, or didn’t work. Ironically, by the time I’d finished the article a couple months later after several playtest passthroughs, the publisher was no longer accepting articles for their licensed products, only the ones they fully owned. It ended up as a well-tested homebrew addition to my game.

          Even my fanfic writing averaged more than 250 words an HOUR (closer to 2x-4x that), and that sort of writing rarely happened in bursts under 4 hours. I wrote 60 pages of a fanfic, handwritten in an 8″ paper note pad, during 3 weeks in pre-Basic processing after the Army nearly killed me with a vaccine, and we were either exercising or policing the barracks most of the time I wasn’t hospitalized.

    2. On the strength of this post, I’ve just grabbed the Kindle version of _After the Blast_

      OK, it was only $0.99 — but if I like it (which I suspect I will) I’ll buy all the other stuff that follows. Which is my usual modus operandi. It costs me a fortune with prolific authors, but it’s worth it. A good book beats a good TV show. Hell, a mediocre book beats a good TV show in terms of nutritional content for the brain. A good idea, poorly presented in a book leaves room for the reader to improve on it.

      1. I appreciate that. I will maintain that it is FAR from my best work. I was serious when I said I cringe at some of my writing in that one.

        But I’m appreciative of the support. 😀

  22. Actually, the Huffpo person has a point. If you look at the article as advice for the hobbyist writer with literati pretensions, then it is right spot on perfect.
    This is a masterclass on how one can put on the artistic airs of being a writer without having actually published anything (coughdamiaencough). This allows the lazy writer to quell the voice of conscience with “I don’t want to write too much, I don’t want to be a hack”.
    It’s a bit like small business advice from the owner of one of those “Wealthy Wife” boutiques in a fashionable shopping district. You know, those little stores run by the wealthy wife of a successful businessman more for the purpose of giving her something to do with her time, one of those stores that doesn’t actually turn a profit.

    1. Pretty much my impression as well … a dabbler and dilettante, wanting to put on the airs of being a writer, without a solid schedule of work and a visible track record.

  23. Speaking of “Get Paid”, have yu considered pulling a Madmike and putting together an ebook of your blog posts, maybe arranged by topic (and maybe by hilarity level)?

    1. Seriously, she must not run in the same indie circles I do. I’ve had a LOT of discussions with folks about cover designs. It’s actually kind of a big thing for a lot of us, because we know that covers are marketing.

        1. I had someone hook me up with new covers for 1&2. The third one will be getting a new cover as soon as I get paid enough to afford it. 😀

          1. I’m going to get your first book when I come across some money. I like that it says the setting is in North Ga.

          2. I appreciate that. Book One goes through Georgia and ends up in North Georgia. Books Two and Three are in Southeastern Tennessee.

            They say write what you know, and I know the Southeast. Especially GA. 😀

      1. How many Conan stories do you think those Frazetta covers sold? A good cover is great marketing. Unless the cover has nothing to do with whats inside.

    2. I thought the funniest part was how her “from the author” section is in interview form. Since there’s no actual attribution for who the questions came from, I’m forced to assume that she made them up herself. In other words, she put to paper one of those fantasy interviews that authors daydream about before they get published–all the questions they hope someone will ask them–and then put that right out there on the internet instead of keeping it in her head where it belongs.

  24. There’s a book by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman, HOW -NOT- TO WRITE A NOVEL.

    It’s eerie how many things they say in the book with tongue planted firmly in cheek this HuffPo writer says dead set seriously, without a hint of awareness. <_<

  25. Have you ever noticed how much of the stuff that people say on the Net is bitching about stuff other people said on the Net?

    And before you folks start pummeling me, think:
    1) I’m not just talking about Larry. Wilke shot first.
    2) I’m doing it too.
    3) And you’re about to.

    1. As opposed to how lots of what people say in the real world isn’t about what other people are saying or doing? It’s not just the internet, Dave. It’s humanity.

      1. You’re right, I know. But when it’s a neighbor ranting about the guy across the street the noise goes away after a while. On the Internet, it never goes away.

        1. Um? It’s called closing the browser window.

          Note that the whole “Hugo” thing has died down to a low mutter for now. Yes, it will rev up again, inevitably – just like your neighbor.

    1. I forgot which one of the classic Warner Bros. cartoon director went the extra mile of cutting the frame while audience testing his cartoon. He keep on cutting the unnecessary frames until it stop being funny.

  26. Oh my God……

    No wonder she’s not getting read….if that turgid piece of crap is an example of her prose.

    I can see the wrist on the brow, fainting couch near….. “I’m an artist!”

  27. One critique: You shouldn’t be aiming to entertain just Oprah, but on the off chance that she picks your book for her book club, your book will probably get you six to seven figures. You can like or dislike the books she picks, but they all become instant best sellers. If you have to choose between Oprah or any sort of award, pick Oprah. Like her or not, you can’t deny that she gets books to sell.

    1. Sigh. Unfortunately, my books are going to be ones she might actually pay attention to. So she can tell her faithful serfs what not to buy.

      Ah, well, there are many heathens out there that are not members of the Oprah cult.

    1. Damien would be Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, and any number of a thousand other well known authors based on how long it’s going to take for that book to get written.

        1. I’m referring to quality. Damien started writing his book–with the UK’s tax dollars in his pocket– before my daughter was born. She’ll probably graduate medical school before it’s done.

          1. I figured. I just thought it was funny that a guy who’s been dead for 42 years has published a half-dozen new books (not even counting translations, new editions, etc.) in the time that the Mighty Damien has been working on one.

  28. Seriously though, apply what she wrote to any craft profession rather than what she seems to be defining as an art. A cabinet maker, stone worker (not sculptor), heck a wood worker that produces musical instruments, approach the job the way she suggests means starvation and from her article it seems like she’d enjoy that ride because it was in pursuit of art. Idiot.

    As someone pointed out already, Dickens, Twain, Agatha Christie (short books yes, but a lot of them) all defined being prolific before being prolific was looked down upon. Is writing art? I don’t know if it’s art, but I know that it’s a craft and the only way to improve one’s craftsmanship is practice. I think Finding Forrestor talked about it that way.

  29. I haven’t read any of his novels, but I admire Edgar Wallace. Dude wrote 170 novels and 900 short stories.

  30. The weirdest part:

    “I know many self-published writers who are, and though I have no idea how well that’s working for them,”

    Then, uh, why don’t you ask them? Wasn’t this the entire point of the article to answer this very conflict, or am I missing something?

      1. Some web sites only post content to get clicks. It doesn’t have to be good content, just something with a catchy title to draw people in. And let’s face it, wannabe writers are some of the neediest people you’ll ever meet. (As opposed to real writers who are just getting started. They may not have many skills, but at least they know they have to do the work.)

        I’ve been approached to write content for web sites like that a couple of times, and even offered money. (Something like 50 cents per one page article and a whisker of a percentage of the advertising income.) At that rate you’d have pound out a lot more than four novels’ worth of words per year just to make enough to pay for your Internet service. You don’t have time to even check your spelling, let alone research a topic.

    1. Wow. By that standard, I believe that I’m really an electrician. I appreciate my electrical system when it works well, and when I run across something that’s wired in a stupid way (i.e. putting the light switch for the bathroom light outside the bathroom), I think, “Who was the idiot who got paid to do this? I could do better.”

      The fact that I know almost nothing about practical electricity and have never wired up a circuit more complicated than attaching a battery to a light bulb would, by these standards, be entirely irrelevant.

      1. Yep. BTW, there are extremely good reasons for putting the light switch outside of the bathroom. Two are that actually most bathrooms are some of the worst trip/slip hazard areas in a typical household (thus it is good to have the light on before you even set one foot inside), and that having it outside means condensing water cannot seep into the wiring (which is considered to be a badness kind of thing).

        1. Interesting, though I don’t think that either of those reasons I have apply to the bathroom I’m thinking of (there’s no bath or shower, so there isn’t much condensing water, and the floor is carpeted, so no real slip hazard). Still good to know that there might actually be a reason for the arrangement that I just didn’t understand.

          Still, I don’t think that either of those affect my status as a “real electrician.” I don’t have to actually be able to do better (much less make a real circuit that’s better), I simply have to believe that I can, no matter how little basis there is for that belief.

    2. oy. I can pretty much answer yes to every one of those questions and i KNOW I’m not a writer. I especially love the “you love beautiful writing” and “you have celebrity crushes on writers”. yeah, I also love beautiful dancing, doesn’t make me a ballerina. and I have crushes on writers, becasue I admire their work, same way I admire the work of artists, actors, musicians etc. doesn’t make ME one. good lord.

      now. I WOULD argue that even if you haven’t sold a book yet, you could still be a writer. provided you have actualy written something, hopefully enjoyable. (that’s from enjoying lots and lots of fabulously written fanfiction. of course… pretty much every fanfic writer I enjoyed ended up writing their own original stuff and publishing it/selling it one way or another, but point is – they were writers even before they sold something. IMO)

      1. Thank you for recognizing that fanfic writers are writers. (Naturally, there’s a lot of crap, but there’s also some very professional-quality fanfic.) One of the best compliments I ever got on my fan fiction was a rec of my (300k-word) story that said, “This author deserves a publishing contract.” And as a reader, there’s a certain fanfic writer who I’d probably count among my top 10, maybe top 5 favorite living writers.

        1. … there’s a certain fanfic writer who I’d probably count among my top 10, maybe top 5 favorite living writers.

          If that writer is Vathara (who would my personal pick for favorite fanfic writer and would probably land in my top 10), have you heard yet that she has a book out? Under the name “C. Chancy”:

          I haven’t bought it yet because I’m too busy right now and can’t afford to lose a whole day while I devour a book, but I’m DEFINITELY going to be buying it soon.

          1. No, I hadn’t heard of Vathara. The one I was thinking of goes by the pen name Fernwithy. She’s got a marvelous feel for writing characters and relationships. Oddly, it seems her occasional attempts to write original fiction never goes very well. She can’t seem to get “inspired” to write anything unless it’s fanfic. Which is a pity, because she’s very good. (I read her during her Harry Potter phase, but she’s been on a Hunger Games kick for a good long while now.)

        2. I figure practice is practice. My daughter is posting stories at and getting great reviews (under a fake name). That’s how she’s learning to write. Hell, check out the Writer Nerd Game Night serials on this blog. That was a bunch of professional novelists basically writing fan fiction from our RPG campaign.

          Whatever helps you learn to create better is a good thing.

  31. I originally marketed my stuff to an audience of gun nuts. It did great, and later I went mainstream and now my audience is far bigger. But that’s still my favorite market. Not just because I write for that market, but because I am that market.

    How do you strike a balance, though ? I mean, obviously you can make more money by writing for a more mainstream market, so why wouldn’t you just completely abandon your favorite niche (“gun nuts”, in this case) ?

    On a separate note, don’t knock pretentious hobbyists, some of the stuff they produce is actually pretty great (though of course most of it is crap, because most of everything is crap). At least, it is in the video game market; maybe it’s different for writers, I don’t know. My favorite game at PAX this year was Zarvot, made by one guy in his spare time, who is basically the chillest developer I’ve ever met. I’m very much looking forward to No Man’s Sky this year. The team behind that game wants to “GET PAID”, obviously, but they’re still taking time to do something unlike anything else on the market. They’re taking a huge risk, which may not pay off, but I’m really glad that there’s someone out there doing that stuff. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have people like John Carmack, and then where would we be ?

    But as I said, writing may be different, I don’t know…

    1. If you have a fully functional game, you’re not pretentious. You’re actually a game writer/designer/programmer. Same for writing.

      As for why not abandon the niche, I think that, in LC’s case, he’d have a hard time doing that. His perspective and story style is one that the gun culture likes, because he is that market. He’d have to write as a different person in order to depart from that. He’s writing from the place where the ven of “mainstream” and “gun culture” overlap, and the audience is everyone who’s tastes find that spot appealing.

      1. If you have a fully functional game, you’re not pretentious. You’re actually a game writer/designer/programmer.

        What does “fully functional” mean, though ? As I said above, I’m very much looking forward to trying out No Man’s Sky, but IMO there’s a pretty good chance that the game will be boring to play — despite being fully functional from a technical point of view. I hope that’s not the case, but the dev team’s goals are really ambitious, so it’s possible. I’m not sure if that makes them “pretentious” or not.

        FWIW, I’ve played Gone Home without being aware of all the controversy surrounding it, and I kinda liked it; I just thought the way they handled audio logs was way too clumsy. That game gets called “pretentious” a lot, too, but I’m glad someone made it (I just wish they would’ve fixed the flaws).

        Regarding niches, this is where my problem with the “GET PAID” mentality comes in. If everyone takes LC’s advice and just focuses on “GETTING PAID”, then we wouldn’t have any of this niche writing. Now, non-stop exciting gunplay action is not really my thing, so maybe I shouldn’t care if it went away; but I’ve got my own niche things that I’m interested in, and I’d be sad to see them go…

        1. If a particular niche goes away, it means that with the entire internet available to see, download, praise and pay for it, it might just not be interesting enough to sustain a following.

          LC appears to be targeting his advice to people who want to be professional writers. That means “GET PAID” enough that you can primarily write. If a particular niche/writer combination doesn’t produce enough pay to sustain the combination, at least one part will have to change. If the niche doesn’t produce enough pay, it remains in the amateur domain, where work is done as a sideline at best. If the writer doesn’t produce enough pay, they can keep working, but probably as a sideline.

          If you want professional, full time, work in a domain, the people doing that work must “GET PAID”.

          As for pretensions, if someone spends a year on a project and has no tangible work…they’re not a game designer or a writer. No one cares about a game that isn’t shippable code. It’s just vaporware. Same for spending years on a book. It may be satisfying to contemplate one’s own genius, but no one is made wiser or is any pleasure added to their life if the book isn’t something that people are reading.

        2. That’s nonsense.

          Yes, creators need to focus on GET PAID, because if they didn’t, then the only people who could actually be creators would be the idle rich, trust fund babies, and hobbyists. Or you’ve got the pathetic situation of artists begging for people with disposable income to be their patrons.

          So you can have a problem with it all you want, but at the end of the day creators like to live in houses and eat food. Sorry if that offends your artistic sensibilities.

          Plus, with the market the way it is now, niche writing is economically viable. I started my career by self publishing fiction for a group of people that was mostly ignored (if not actively despised) in traditional publishing.

          1. I guess that depends on what you mean by “GET PAID”. If that means, “make as much money as possible”, then — as you said — one has no choice but to write for the widest possible audience. This is similar to Michael Bay’s approach to movies (e.g. Transformers): figure out what most people want (explosions !), then give them that. His movies make a ton of money, so he’s GETTING PAID all right.

            On the other hand, if you mean something like “Make a decent amount of money while still writing the kind of stories you personally enjoy”, then it’s more similar to your own approach (I think); maybe comparable to someone like Darren Aronofksy, movie-wise. He’ll never make as much money as Michael Bay, but he does ship his product (again, not nearly as often as Bay, but he does ship); and meanwhile, it’s pretty obvious that he’s telling stories that he personally wants to tell (as opposed to just doing whatever the focus groups say is popular). I don’t know if that counts as “GETTING PAID”, though; he’s getting paid all right, but he probably doesn’t have his own helicopter fleet or anything…

            Also, FWIW, some of the best media I’ve enjoyed (games, books, movies, etc.) was created by hobbysists. Maybe that’s just me, though.

          2. You’re making the assumption that Michael Bay isn’t telling the stories he wants to tell.

          3. Back with the either or thing… Dude, I don’t give a shit how you define it. How much money are you content to make in your normal career? Some people are happy to make minimum wage. Other people aren’t content unless they are the CEO. How they expend their efforts will match.

            There isn’t one monolithic market. There are a multitude of diverse markets. Pick the one you like.

            Not only that, but you assume that Michael Bay isn’t making the movies he wants to make. I’m pretty sure he is.

            So is Aronofsky. I think he’s the most overrated movie maker there is, who turns out incomprehensible (but pretty) films that don’t make a lick of sense. Oh, now Hugh Jackman is a conquistador. Now the conquistador is growing flowers from his chest. Now he is a tree. A rainbow. Lingering shot of a pair of rainbow. The end. WTF did I just watch?

            But there’s a market for that, and I bet Aronofsky is having fun, and making enough money his children get to wear shoes.

            As for the original topic of being prolific, even the artsiest director you cite still releases a movie every 2-3 years, which actually isn’t bad for Hollywood. And Bay had done three times as much, which would make him like the author writing 4 books a year.

            So you love a game by a hobbyist? AWESOME. That’s great. And totally irrelevant to the subject. I write these blog posts for people who want to be professionals, not hobbyists. That hobbyist probably has a day job that pays all his bills. So unless you want all your books written by the idle rich, tough.

          4. OTOH, Bay’s work with Transformers convinced me to AVOID AVOID AVOID both the fourth movie and his take on TMNT.

          5. He didn’t direct TMNT. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck (I haven’t seen it yet), but Bay was just a producer.

          6. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck (I haven’t seen it yet), but Bay was just a producer.

            Don’t care. He’s involved, I don’t want to see it.

            He made big explosions and giant robot fights boring. That takes talent, but not a kind that I want to support.

        1. And she writes “Get back to work and GET PAID you pathetic hipster-douche wanna-be” in lipstick on your bathroom mirror.

    2. How do you strike a balance?

      Easy. Put story and reader enjoyment first, then stick in as much of your pet topic as you want. But their entertainment must come first. Then write what makes you happy. If you are enthusiastic about it, that’s contagious, and the reader will feel it. Put it out there, and then pay attention to the reaction. If you turn more people on than you turn people off, congratulations. Cash checks.

      1. How do you know what your readers really enjoy ? I’m not being snarky, I’m genuinely interested. Because it seems kind of like a Catch-22 to me: you won’t know what they enjoy until you have sales numbers, you don’t have sales numbers until you write some books, and you don’t know what to write until you know what they enjoy…

        1. I start by writing what I enjoy. Reader feedback (sales, reviews, comments made to me personally) gives me an idea whether I’m heading in the right direction or not.

        2. Marketing is part of the writing business these days. Blogging is a solution for that which works for some writers. One can post a serial or shorts, and pay close attention to the comments.

    3. one of my favorite video game developers (Naughty Dog) said something that resonated (and I think Larry might agree with that as well, since that’s basically how he writers) .

      make something YOU would enjoy playing/reading/etc wanting to get paid is not mutually exclusive with wanting to make something awesome. and honestly? everything is a risk. even when you have an audience in mind, when you take that first step? submit that first book, or that indy video game for greenlight? there’s a chance people will love it. and there’s a chance people will not. but you have to take that chance.

      as for No man’s sky? if they manage to evoke the same sort of wonder as Journey did (a game that had no combat, no dialogue and whose game-play essentially consists of traveling through beautiful landscapes towards a shining mountain)? I think they are going to be just fine (and from everything I’ve seen about that game? they may even manage it)

      but anyways. another thing I have been told is that there is an audience for pretty much everything. even boring message fic. you just need to 1. actualy write/make the thing, preferably at a decent pace. 2. find and reach out to your intended audience.

  32. This woman is assuming a thing not in evidence: that time equals art. One could equally make an argument a lack of time equals art. If you look at the famous men’s magazine artist Mort Kuntler, there is no doubt in my mind the art he did under tight deadlines is superior to his later Civil War art he did at his leisure. Frank Frazetta was famous for putting off his deadlines til the last minute and then cranking out masterpieces. Look at film noir from the ’50s made in a matter of weeks on tight budgets compared to later films with expansive budgets and time to make them. Look at the artistry of Star Wars – made on a tight budget and time constraints. Look at Scorcese’s over-produced, over-designed film about 19th century New York. Look at the SFF authors of the magazine era who had to crank out work to live. I’ve always felt there is something about pressure that brings out artistic instincts which directly connect to something no one else has: that artist’s unique personality, if that unique personality does indeed exist. If it doesn’t not all the time in the world will change that. If it does, overthinking could damage that process.

    1. Look at Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”- cranked out as kind of a break from writing his article “Strange Rumblings in Aztlan”. Hell, most of Hunter’s best was stuffed into the Mojowire at the last possible second.

    2. I’ve found most writers or artists who finally get the time and financial security to produce their personal artsy-fartsy cherished magus opus usually turn out to be duds compared to their earlier works done quick and dirty on the cheap.

      James Cameron’s Avatar is one example. Pretty eye candy, but all the energy is diluted with too much over the top preaching of the evils of capitalism gone amok–Which is ironic for a guy who made millions off the economic system he decries.

    3. I’ve never found anything quite so inspiring, creatively, as a tight deadline. As does my brother, the professional graphic artist.

      1. I always have enough going on that I have to have some minimal level of schedule. When something drops in with a tight deadline, everything else in that schedule then becomes late. And I *hate* being late.

  33. If I understand correctly, Wilke’s Highest Good Of Writing is to write a book that high schoolers will be forced to read. Way to aim high.

  34. “The last time I got interested in winning an award, hilarity ensued. ”

    For that I spent twenty minutes cleaning my screen and keyboard.

  35. I read an interview with Neal Stephenson some time ago in which he talks about being invited to some “literary” event. After one of the panels, one of the other writers asked him what he did. Puzzled look. “Uh…I’m a writer. We were just on that panel together, remember?” “Yes, I know, but what do you do?” It turns out that the other writer just assumed that he was a literary writer (which, of course, he is… and a good one), and obviously that meant that he didn’t sell enough books to make a living.

    I have to admit, though, that the idea of Stephenson turning out four books a year is kinda scary. On the other hand, one Stephenson book is equivalent to about 10 normal books in terms of size. 🙂

    1. Stephenson is so friggin’ talented that he wrote a whole chapter about the science of eating Captain Crunch in Cryptonomicon and made it fascinating. 😀

        1. The story about the dude with the thing for black stockings and the woman with the fetish for expensive furniture? Yeah, I’d like to read the rest of that one myself.

      1. Stephenson does strike me as one successful writer who does bring out his books more than a year apart, though they do tend to be very long. I suppose he must spend some of the time learning all the stuff that only Neal Stephenson knows about.

  36. Hope everyone can forgive a few customer’s views.

    “take your time, the readers will wait.”

    Got a response for that.

    A Method for Madness.

    Chtorr book five. Book four came out in 1993. Twenty-two years ago. People can now legally drink in this country who weren’t born, hell, who weren’t CONCEIVED when A Season for Slaughter was published.

    Gerrold said in Spokane that MfM was passed the real soon now stage and a draft was with the editors.

    Will it be good? Iunno.

    Will it be worth two decades plus on the rsn list? I doubt it. I’m not even sure I’ll check it out of the library, much less read it.

    Four books a year? Hell, the pulpers did that in their sleep. Fifty to seventy-five thousand word paperbacks on a bi-monthly schedule.

    Want a more recent example? R. L. Stine.

    Kid level horror novellas published through Scholastic. One a month during the school year.

    A million copies each for the initial print runs. Sell through of 95 percent or better. When the backlist built up, he was pushing FOUR MILLION paperbacks into hands every month.

    Rowling took longer between books, but did the same thing.

    Oh, and these populist “product” writers? They got millions of people interested in reading. That right there puts them on the Saint list in my opinion.

    And finally:

    “But, you say, I’m not interested in writing Pulitzer Prize winners;”

    *The last time I got interested in winning an award, hilarity ensued.*

    Hand to God, all I could think of was an Oscar bait style ad in the NYT Review of Books with a Dead Six or SotBS cover and the over-words:

    Pulitzer Committee, for your consideration.

    And for the puppies.

    1. Chttor is great if you like giant furry purring alien penises.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      According to Wiki there is pedophilia – because science fiction. Natch, the hero is bi and has an on-again, off-again affair with a guy in a woman’s body or something because that’s very science fictiony. It’s never stated the aliens are from the Crab Nebula but given Gerrold’s dottering mentality I assume that’s part of the big reveal, plus the “Big Black Hole.”

      Don’t ask about the Bunny Men. Gerrold should co-author the finale with Ann Leckie because rather than not being able to see gender they can’t see art.

    2. And of course, since publishers never keep backlist available any more thanks to changes to the tax law, putting out a new book in a long extinct series will crash and burn. “You mean I have to read four other books that I can’t get anywhere before I can read this?”

    3. Yep. I read all the original four, and I’ll say pointblank that even if Gerrold hadn’t shamed himself over SP, I’m just no longer interested enough to pay for the next book.

  37. I get what you’re saying about writers needing to be productive, but there is something to be said for taking the time to make the book the best book you can write.

    Unless your goal is to be one of those anonymous shlubs ghost-writing the next “Don Pendleton” men’s action-er or Harlequin romance. Ok, they get paid, but you can hardly call it great art. They damn near write themselves. You’re just making up new character names to paste into the same-old cliché trope.

    Is it wrong to want to have something to say? To take the time to craft something that is art as well as money-making?

    1. “Quality and success are not mutually exclusive. In fact, producing memorable quality works create fans, who preorder your next one, and tell their friends about you. And most importantly, a quality work will cause new readers to go back and purchase your existing back list so you GET PAID again.”

      Direct quote from the post.
      The fact is, anyone who reads Larry Correia’s books and thinks that it’s a soulless money-making endeavor hasn’t actually read the works. For that matter, that should be obvious to anyone who reads this blog.
      His contention here is that if you plan on making a living at writing, quantity has a quality all its own. There’s a reason why, if I ever talk about my writing, I say I have pretensions in that line, because I’ve never had the self-discipline to crank out 10,000 words in a week.

    2. Having read a great many harlequins in my time I assure you that keeping the same book interesting iteration after iteration is a formidable and rare skill.

      1. I’m not a Harlequin romance fan, but I was thinking something similar: unless Greg actually is a successful romance writer, I would be careful about assuming that churning one out takes no skill and can be done in a couple of days by any idiot with a typewriter.

        1. Haven’t written any, but read a few when I was younger. (Hey, when you can read a book in a few days sometimes you run out of anything else to read.)

          They’re formulaic drek, just like Mack Bolan, et al.

          That’s what the “Get Paid” attitude leads you to if that’s all that motivates you to write.

          1. Depends. We got roughly two kinds of books when I was in Iraq: The cookie cutter Thriller/Romance and ‘literary fiction’ (please add mental nose lift) from writers that put out one or two things in a career. Sick as I got of the former category (I can read a decent length novel in a single day). The latter was far harder to get through (Repeat after me: Eschew Sesquepedalian Obfuscation) and much more drek than the former. Can I remember the books or the authors of either type 7ish years later? Nope. But if I’m in a situation with those book choices again? I’ll take the cookie cutter books every single time as would a huge chunk of the people I deployed with, which favors “Get Paid” as a useful guide for writers over ‘Polish your aaaaaaaaaaht’.

          2. Oh bullshit. My Get Paid attitude is what most actual professional authors anyone has ever heard of has. You can take any philosophy to absurd absolutist extremes to argue against… Oh wait. They’ve got a word for that.

          3. And you wonder why people down vote you?

            No one is going to pretend that “category” romances are the highest form of literature. But drek? That would imply they’ve no value. They’ve got an audience. Often women who need a pleasant escape from rather dreary lives, lives that wring them out daily and don’t leave a whole lot left to “now I’m going to work my brain really really hard” if they get to sit down for a moment. A thin category romance is predictable. It has a happy ending. People love each other in them. Babies are happy things. The book and the story does it’s job brightening the corner of someone’s life. One woman I talked to when I bought a bunch of her used “drek” at a yard sale was a bit embarrassed and explained that after her husband died she couldn’t sleep without a little bit of light reading before bed. What could there be on this *planet* that has more value than a little mindless book that lets a grieving widow get to sleep at night? Nothing I can think of.

            Don’t disrespect the people who like and maybe *need* those simple books. And don’t disrespect the authors who write them because it *does* take skill and it’s not easy. It’s not easy to stay on your game delivering what the particular audience expects. It might be more workmanlike than artsy-fartsy, but the craft deserves respect.

          4. You know what? I don’t like romance. But I have nothing but respect for an author that can mesh with that author’s audience well enough that they can make a bunch of money from writing what that audience wants. It would be amazingly hypocritical of me to disrespect romance writers when I suspect that one of my own preferred genres, military SF, is almost as cliched and formulaic as romance. And, having spent the last two years working on a novel, I don’t really care if something is formulaic, writing is hard work. There may be a set format for the work and you might be able to completely tell from the first page where it will end on the last page, but you have to get the reader to make that journey without dropping them out of the story, and that is difficult. Not “fly men to the moon” difficult, but difficult.

      2. some of my fave (and very successful currently) writers, not all of whom even continued to write romances? started out writing those little monthly Harlequins. they pay the bills are are pretty great practice. of course, their quality very much is illustrative of Sturgeon’s law, but.. its a law for a reason 🙂

      3. I cheerfully follow Lynne Graham’s stories. She subverted some of the usual formula romance novel progressions in her latest duology and I like her books as mental comfort snacks – the mental equivalent of potato chips or a cheap but delicious doughnut.

    3. The more you write the better you get does hold true for most people. Mark Twain has been mentioned. Now only a few things of his vast output became classics most people have at least heard of, if not read personally, but would he have been able to write those things if he hadn’t been writing as much as he did? And would the exceptional have been even noticed if he hadn’t written so much? I’d presume at least some of his output was also completely forgettable drivel, lots okay, but with his volume he was out there, repeatedly, and his name one of those people started to remember so when the exceptional happened more people found it.

      1. He was a newspaper man. He made up a fake story about a murder victim that he subtly described as making a rude gesture. Folks thought it was real, so he probably had done enough serious work that people hadn’t yet realized what a fabulist he was.

    4. That’s a really stupid way to restate what I just wrote. Your questions miss the mark entirely.

      Art? See my comments above about the nature of “good”.

      Like every other work endeavor in life there is a sliding scale between productivity and quality. A Rolls and a Hyundai are both cars, and in between them are Hondas and Fords. A High Point and an STI are both guns, and in between them are Rugers, Glocks, HKs, and Smiths.

      It isn’t 11 year Pulitzer OR rushed out the door crap novels. There’s a sliding scale between the two. Your either or argument is facetious. The author is going to decide what their sweet spot is for them and go from there. I can “have something to say” in a book I wrote in 3 months just fine.

    5. I don’t understand this. If you have something to say words will flow faster than you can type them. You’ll notice one thing about SJW SFF: few of them are prolific.

    6. Unless your goal is to be one of those anonymous shlubs ghost-writing the next “Don Pendleton” men’s action-er or Harlequin romance.

      If you really think that’s so simple, might I suggest you try it?

      1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Robert Jordan, one of the most successful epic fantasy authors of all time, start out by writing men’s action Conan novels?

        1. Larry Block, mystery writer, used to have the “Fiction” column in Writer’s Digest magazine, talks about developing his craft writing softcore porn novels, the kind where half of each chapter was story and the other half was sex scene.

          And he’s managed to accumulate a string of awards as long as my arm as well as sell a bunchaton of books and have some movies made:

          1. d’oh, helps if I scroll down. 2 years earlier than his Conan novels, a historical saga, The Fallon Blood, was his first book.

        2. I don’t know if he started out doing that, but I have a couple of them. Never read because it’s almost impossible for me to stomach Conan pastiches.

  38. Preach, Sir. Preach. Makes me want to become an author. Not sure where is start though, so I’ll keep doing my current job until then. At which I get paid.

    1. I suggest that you treat writing like a second job. Figure out your new part time job’s hours and stick to them. (That’s what Larry did, and it worked.)

  39. This post is everything. Why do I like accountants so much? It’s all about the numbers,. Cash in> cash out. Otherwise, it’s just a hobby.

  40. Okay, well, we know a discussion of output can’t go too long without mentioning Isaac Asimov. Here’s his bibliography, in chronological order:

    Scroll down the list of “Original book-length works” to 1989 and you’ll see 34 titles. There’s a lot of non-fiction in there, but there’s at least one new novel, and even if there’s some recycled material here and there, 34 book length projects would be a lot to even supervise. There’s no two ways around it, the man just loved to write and did it as much as he possibly could.

  41. As you say, the way to get good at writing is to write more. My dad would say “The first pancake is to clean the griddle.” First books usually suck, for reasons that all the turd polishing in the world won’t fix.

    I have a book in work that I want to be good, so I’m actually putting it off and writing other things first.

    Well, either that or I’m just procrastinating. 🙂 But then, I also have a day job that pays more than enough that I don’t have to write.

    1. Otherwise knows as trunk books. You spend years writing many many books, finally one got published. If your publisher wants more, do you turn in the rest of the stuff that didn’ make the grade?

      I remember reading the story about the writer of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” who took all of his trunk books out to a landfill and personally throwing them away (this is in the ’70s). Now, he has a day job (Assistant US Attorney, Boston)so he can afford not getting paid while polishing his book. And he was genuinely ashamed of the quality of his earlier output.

      1. Oh, neither of these are in my trunk. One was written on 3.5 inch discs back in the ’90s when I was in high school. The other was a few years later. Neither would see the light of day even if I still had the discs. But I wouldn’t mind seeing how I’ve grown as an author.

  42. This post reminded me of an Author Earnings report from last year that gave the average number of books written during the last 12 months, broken down by income.

    A few relevant findings:

    -Tradpub authors actually release more books per year than indie authors in all income brackets except for the highest.

    -Indie authors only had to write 2 or 3 books a year to earn six figures.

    -In the highest income category ($1,000,000 +), indie authors averaged 5 books per year, while tradpub authors averaged fewer than 2.

    So right there we’ve got confirmation of Larry’s assertion that Big Five publishers do in fact like selling lots of books and want their authors to produce. The OP author’s pretentious dream world where publishers will wait around twiddling their thumbs while she perfects her masterpiece is also demolished.

    Oh, and Larry’s observation that only authors who are already rich and famous can afford to release less than one book a year is totally confirmed.

  43. Wilke’s drivel seemed familiar and then it hit me. It’s the same nonsense that gets thrown at guys like Mickey Spillane and Louis L’amour. Each man wrote what he knew and loved; that enabled them to be prolific and GET PAID (Larry hasn’t trademarked that yet has he?). Lesser talents called Spillane a pornographer and L’amour’s books “cute little westerns”. Screw ’em all; read and write what you love.

    1. Some of L’Amour’s books are better than others but they’re all pretty good and some are outstanding. And apart from the writing was the west he created. Any writer could only *dream* to create the Sackett family, for example.

      Imagine if he spent a year polishing? He could sit down (according to himself, in the middle of a busy street) and write a book because he’d developed a process that worked and worked well. Plus, he knew what he was talking about.

    2. L’Amour wrote to match his markets, which varied from “trashy pulp western shorts” to “thoughtful novels.”

      Spillane wrote basically one thing in various different packages. His fans loved them. You can hardly read anything about 1950s or early 1960s literature without having someone trying to piss on Spillane. Even S.I. Hayakawa took time to insert an anti-Spillane screed into one of his linguistics books.

      The academics wrote Meaningful Novels and reviewed each others’ works in “literary journals” that were basically fanzines. Spillane slept on piles of money.

      Well, they’d make sure he never got into *their* treehouse. Let him stand outside begging for the recognition of his betters, who write for Art, not filthy money!

      1. Spillane bang out “I, The Jury” in less than 2 weeks because he wanted to buy a house. People will still be reading that novel in the decades to come.

  44. I read this out loud to my husband when he got home from work (I was home sick, actually, bleh). He caught me trying to skip ahead in a fat paragraph and made me back up and read it all. 😉

          1. Ha! The sad thing is that I can look at the chart and guess I’m “unicum” in a Luchs (I think I’m at 1,200 games in it) and just “above average” overall. That’s what I get for grinding through the Lorr. 😀

          2. PC. Consoles play a slightly different version, but I’m not sure if they are on the same server, or not.

      1. Eh, win rate, who cares. When your team falls apart before you’ve even fired a shot, there just isn’t much you can do. I’ve had 6, 7, or 8 kills in games and still lost — which is galling but all you can do is push “X” for “next game”.

        1. No kidding. That drives me nuts. I’ve put up pictures on FB of games like that, where I did more damage than the rest of my stupid team put together. Or really, a Tier 4 scout tank shouldn’t be MVP and Top Gun in a Tier 7 game, you useless bastards.

        2. Win rate is the only stat that matters. I have seen competent players throw games because they are frothing at the mouth screaming at their teammates. You can also have the greedy as shit player who takes the kill when it was already covered and they needed to start covering something else ASAP…but it helps their WN8. That being said playing with competent friends can massively inflate your win rate, while playing solo in WoWs you peaked at around upper 60s win rate unless you were one of those bastards playing the sky cancer that is T10 IJN carriers.

          *Not WoT player (but many of my friends are and one is quite good), but competitively play and for money lots of other competitive games.

  45. Maybe we shouldn’t be in such a rush to fisk her. The more wannabes she can discourage, distract and delay, the more $$$ around for us to shovel up.

  46. Your comments were worth reading, even though the original article was basically silly. As an aside, I believe, based on things he has said and written, that Jim Butcher is _not_ writing what he really wants to write the most when he writes the Dresden books and gets paid. I’m sure he enjoys writing those but I am pretty sure that he would rather be writing swords and sorcery fantasy and he would be if the Furies series had sold better.

    1. Very interesting.
      I would not have put any blame on the setting/atmosphere/genre so much as the -characters-.

      A Jim Butcher high fantasy with a ‘simple’ clone of Harry Dresden would get my money.

  47. As much as it pains me to link Black Gate after John O’Neill’s anti-Puppy temper tantrums, they have posted some great articles. This one on Max Brand is relevant to this discussion:

    “I’ve read some of Faust’s actual poems over which he agonized; they are among the few pieces published in his lifetime that he allowed to appear under his true name. And they aren’t that good. They feel . . . well, labored. Yet the Western novels he threw out onto the market with hardly so much as a second draft (his wife did proofread them) are at best astonishing and at worst fairly good. The same for the other genres he wrote in, like mysteries and historicals.”

  48. Larry, how dare you sully your pure artistic soul with greed and avarice? Don’t you know the best art in the history of the world was produced in communist Russia, when people were free from base material concerns?

    1. To be fair, there were some pretty awesome books (early Nabokov, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn, “12 Chairs”, etc.) written during communist times, and even some excellent movies. (Even for Western audiences, Eisenstein and Tarkovsky) There were definitely “material concerns” in Soviet Russia, too.

      Although yes, state-sponsored poets and writers also meant a lot of horrible, unreadable shit.

      1. there was a lot of entertaining stuff written as well, not just the more literary stuff .though I’d say Strugatski brothers are somewhere in between high concept and pure fun. I grew up on their books and they are big part of why I read sci-fi and fantasy to this day, but there was also Belaev, Vladimir Mihailov whose Uldemir books I still I reread every once in a while. and a crapton of others.

        and there were so many movies that were just fantastic! you don’t have to stick to the more literally highbrow stuff that is now admired here, often without fully understanding its meaning (becasue a lot of it is cultural) to prove your point, quite the opposite, given Larry’s post, point, and writing.

        but… that wasn’t due to lack of material concerns, but rather becasue being a writer, an actor, a film maker? it was a job like any other. so you had to, well… do the job in order to get paid, and people who didn’t work, were… frowned upon 😛

        so this whole concept of “starving for your art and damn the deadlines” didn’t work at all in Soviet union. ironically.

  49. Isaac Asimov wrote more than 300 books in his lifetime not all were gems but he wrote every day. and he wrote thousands of short works as well. Frederick Faust AKA Max Brand wrote over 300 books in many genres. they are still digging out books he wrote. Ray Bradbury wrote hundreds of short stories as well as screenplays and books. Asimov And all of the above wrote every day. Robert Heinlein said much the same thing that you did as did Bradbury and Asimov. the first step in writing is apply butt to chair and write. nothing else works if you want to be published.

  50. Heh. By the end of this year, I will have written two young adult fantasy novels for Coteau Books, an adult SF novel for DAW, an adult SF novel for Bundoran Press, a history of the Saskatchewan Mining Association, a short illustrated children’s book about farming, and a non-fiction book for an educational publisher on becoming a mason (of the bricklaying type, not the fraternal order type). Also updated two older educational books of mine for re-release, edited a literary magazine, wrote a short story for an anthology, and did other stuff I’ve probably forgotten. As a full-time writer since 1993, there’s no question in MY mind why I write. In fact, when people ask me WHAT I write, if I don’t want to get into the whole long list of fiction/nonfiction, I just say, “Anything for a buck.” 🙂

  51. Is that calendar year or twelve-month span? ’cause I’ve only published four books in 2015, but five in the last twelve months.

    1. Hah! Calendars are repressive tools of the patriarchy. You define your own year your way. Throw off the chains of cis-normative calendarism. 😀

  52. Over at 770, Glyer the Grey Matter feels LC writing “… I get paid, and HuffPo writers don’t” to be a “knockout line” due – I presume – to unawareness on LC’s part that what LC wrote was free. It may be free but Larry’s not acting the part of a stable of writers making millions for HuffPo. LC is promoting himself and his work. Furthermore, the TV and movie actors who write for free at HuffPo routinely violate union principles with their free writing and take money from the hands of actual writers. Those same people would never allow writers to act for free.

    Glyer’s own lack of awareness of how he provided covering fire this summer for a hate movement dedicated to destroying the very too-white, too-male and too-heterosexual genre he claims to love is its own knockout movement. To this day he rides herd on a dozen arrogant shits who range from outright liars to dizzy privilege-patriarchy feminists. No human being alive could possible fisk all the bullshit his commenters produce. Reading them recently talk about how noble the vicious anti-white racist Rochita Loenen-Ruiz was in not going after other “people of color” because Requires Hate wanted her to is its own “knockout line.” Somehow no one noticed a thing when RH compared white men to the stupidity of buffaloes but the words “half-savage” are quoted endlessly. If Glyer wants an epiphany, let him do round-ups of only the sick rhetoric of the 30 morons edged off the Hugo nominations produce on a daily basis. His noble band of social justice warriors will find all the genderphobia, racism and sex-hatred they could wish for, none of it in Damien Walter/Kameron Hurley-type scare quotes. I’d be stunned if Glyer ever used the term “principle.”

      1. We don’t know if his website is a profit center or not. (Probably not, capitalism being evil and all that…)
        Still, who paid him to write his comment? Did he get another gold star for his next Hogu nom? Inquiring minds want to know!

      1. For me the point is that if you want to celebrate SFF, do it the way Forry Ackerman did with Famous Monsters of Filmland. It was all about the fun. I’m trying to imagine Forry fronting for some mad Lesbian Liberation Ideology and I can’t imagine him being that stupid.

  53. “John Ringo wrote a book while you were typing this blog post. Kevin J. Anderson wrote two.”

    Dr. Asimov wrote one book, a couple of shorts, an article for Scientific American, and a half-dozen dirty limericks. Being dead has slowed him down a bit.

  54. Dear Larry, you said you’re worth ‘2.5 a year’ or so.

    Well, agglomerate each year’s fisks into a pile and they’ll (A) sell for more than the website is making in advertising, (B) bring your total to 3.5 per year or more, and (C) be more Hugo-worthy that plenty of nominated works. 😀

    1. “Fisking with Larry” – Sounds like a book that gets sold with a plain, brown wrapper. It’ll sell like hotcakes!

  55. This gave me a good laugh during the long working hours of my day job (which isn’t writing… yet…)
    Just the kick in the arse I need to get myself back to the keyboard and review what I’ve written so far, and to write new stuff! (Trying to get this done before year’s end.)

  56. I know more than a couple romance writers who write 2 books a month and can’t keep up with the demands to write faster. They make enough money that they could walk away tomorrow and not need to actually work another day in their lives.

    1. What? Drive traffic to her blog? So she’ll have to slow down & publish less per year, because comments?!
      Cunning plan, there, Baldric. 😛

    2. If she has that much trouble getting her point across, she should write more just for the practice.

      After reading how many authors can turn out so many good works, my own 95K in the last year looks pretty weak. Anyone got a cone of shame I can borrow?

  57. Neither the Nebula-nominated The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin nor the Hugo and Nebula-nominated Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed rise to the level of the 1939 fantasy B-novel Flame Winds by Norvell Page, either in terms of experienced craftsmanship or as innovative re-expressions of Sword and Sorcery. If you can’t match what your own genre produced 73 years ago, what’s going on here? And Page was younger than either Jemisin or Ahmed when he wrote Flame Winds but with around 50 short novels already under his belt. Ahmed’s nominated novel was his first and Jemisin’s her fourth, although her debut novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was also nominated for a Nebula. If Jemisin and Ahmed spent as much time writing novels as thumbtacking their woes about racist America on Twitter, they might find work equals privilege.

  58. Regarding the term “turd polishing,” I once worked with an Army chief warrant officer who pointed out that, no matter how much care and effort you go into polishing a turd, you’re unlikely to produce the mythical Brown Ruby.

  59. “Ringo’s fans think they’re good enough to give him mid six figure royalty checks twice a year. ”

    I take this to mean $150,000 not $500,000. Right?

    1. I don’t know what Ringo actually makes. I’m just guessing based upon the fact he sells more books than I do and has 3x the backlist. Mine are closer to your lower number.

  60. Hmmm… I’ve just binge-read 5 Monster Hunter novels in about 2 weeks. And I’m looking for more!

    I’ve never read anything of this other person’s writing, apart from what Larry quoted, and I doubt I’ll bother.

    I case.

    1. I’ve only managed to roll out a little less than two a year plus blog entries and articles since I got started again (All nonfiction until this year–can I use that as an excuse? Takes more time when you have to do photo work for a book. [Reply: NO] Okay, I guess not. Maybe that I’m working a day job? Okay, okay, I’ll stop whining now.)

      I have GOT to crank this up.

  61. So, pretentious hobbyist here, I’ve got a question for Mr. Correia or anyone else who’d like to chime in regarding editing. ’cause that’s what this fisking is really about. When should you edit? How much should you edit?

    Let’s say I’m writing a book and I say “no one really understands X about Y” then later on I say “no one really understands X about Y but technobable partial explanation”. That might or might not be an inconsistency I want to iron out in editing. How do I catch that sort of thing while writing quickly and editing minimally?

    My current technique involves giving the book away for free in serial format as I write it. So I’m writing on the book in one place, at the same time I’m in another place breaking it up into chunks, and at the same time I’m in a third place editing it just before it goes live on the web. That works great for all manner of things, setting up plot twists, catching inconsistency, etc. However, I’d like to work in isolation (or at least simi-isolation I know lots of authors recruit a few pre-readers) write whole books and then sell them. I already use an outline, but that’s a sort of living document and it’s pretty course grained.

    So is there anything similar that anyone else does? How do you make it work?

    Also, I apologize for asking here. I know Correia does panels and such. I’d love to attend one, and that would be a better forum. I’m just so busy now… 🙁 Plus I know lots of commentators here write, and I think this comment is on topic.

    1. There’s not really a correct answer for that because it depends. Some of us don’t need to edit much because the first draft is really solid. Others of us write crappy first drafts just to get it all down, and then edit the hell out of it.

      You’re just going to have to figure out what works for you. Me personally, I don’t like editing. It feels like work. I love writing. Writing is fun and doesn’t feel like work. So I try to get my first pass fairly solid.

      Alpha readers are a must though, because no matter how good you are, you’re too close to it, so you will miss stuff, and you will screw up. Some of us get by without alpha readers and don’t make mistakes but those authors are rare.

      1. Thanks for answering! 🙂

        > There’s not really a correct answer for that because it depends.

        I was kind of afraid of that. I guess maybe I’ll have to try to adapt my current system for offline use. So to speak. Or perhaps send a wip to Alpha readers in a serialized format. Hmmm… The people I’d recruit would probably be cool with that given that I’d talk to the guys who have given me feedback on the above described serial.

        > I don’t like editing. It feels like work.

        Boy that’s the truth. Any amount of editing sucks and it feels like too much. Profitable or not, I’d *rather* write 15 novels than edit one for 11 years. I mean, can you imagine?

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        1. >> I don’t like editing. It feels like work.
          >Boy that’s the truth.

          Though this is another thing where it all depends. I’ve also heard from writers who hate writing an initial draft but love editing and rewriting. Those people compare the first draft to trying to put together a skeleton without knowing what the creature is supposed to look like, while the editing and revising parts are like creating the creature’s soul.

          In my scientific writing, at least, I find creating the first draft to be a task of agony, while the umpteen revisions that follow are much easier.

          1. I suppose that must be true or no one would spend so long editing. I’ll acknowledge that writing new stuff can feel pretty clunky. I’ve got a good trick with outlining to get around that.

            I write a broad outline for the entire plot then, when I’m starting a new scene, I block it out like a movie or someone relating events they saw. The trick is to be quick and sloppy, but still tell yourself know what you want to tell everyone else. That gets me past the “I don’t know what I’m putting together” part and the actual scene writes out pretty quickly.

            I don’t know about long form scientific writing, but something similar works for constructing technical presentations. Just blast all the headings and major bullets out there without any concern for phrasing and then loop back to get the words right.

  62. Question for the Mountain That Writes:

    For those of us who look at writing SF just as a avocation, who have no desire to write full time but would like to write novels (and have people read them; a little money nice, too!), just how long should it take to write a standard length SF novel, part time?

    And at what point should you realize you’re just futzing along and go on to something else?

    Thank you!

    1. That depends entirely upon you and your comfy writing speed.

      As for futzing along, if you are doing it for fun, who cares? If you’re trying to make a living at it, that’s going to require a lot more focus and commitment. If you just like writing, then write and be happy. But don’t be under any delusions you’re going to get rich off your hobby.

    2. I read a half dozen novels being serialized on the web. Most people who write them are employed in other fields. The slowest updating, but still entirely regular, serial produces 100K words in just under a year. That might not work for you but it’s a benchmark of sorts.

      1. Thanks for the advice, Larry!

        No, not trying to make a living off it, money not that important, it’s the feedback I’d like. The idea of serializing appeals to me; even if you didn’t make any money you might get some idea how the work is going over and that could tell you whether you are really “futzing” off.

  63. Had we wanted to know what kind of article this person would write, we should first have visited her Amazon page, where she describes herself as a ‘creative hyphenate’. That tells you all you need to know about what will be in the article.

    And for one who champions the moral high ground, she didn’t take long to arrange the censorship of all 90 comments (most of them well argued rejections of her recommendations).

    1. I’m going to have to re-read the fisk to see if it’s actually supportable if the guy who said I’m a Nazi agrees with it.

  64. If her point is too subjective to be useful to anyone who doesnt already share her motivations, which it is, then doesn’t your point share the same limitation just in another direction?

    1. No.

      Internet arguing is a spectator sport. You don’t argue to sway the already decided. You argue to convince the undecided, and give ammo to those on your side.

  65. Just curious, who here knows why The Lord of the Rings was published as a trilogy rather than one big novel? Correia’s comments at one point made me think of this.

    1. Size limitation. Also the way Tolkien organized the sections made it easy for the publisher to split the novel into three.

      1. Possibly partly that, but also because they were worried they were going to lose money, and were trying to minimize that loss. They considered it worth publishing because it was a work of genius, but they were afraid they would lose money on it. . . . They were half right.

  66. Whenever you write things in this vein it help me get over some of my anxiety about trying to write, so I always appreciate it 🙂

  67. One thing I often wonder is how long professional novelists spend planning/outlining. (I mean the ones who really do plan, not the pantsers.) And is this counted in the measure of how long it takes you to write a book?

    1. From what I’ve seen, it varies. Ranges from some people who have only the very briefest of outlines to folk who spend more time on a detailed outline/plot than they do for the book itself. In the end, it’s all a matter of what works for you.

  68. #242,033 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

    #1471 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Literary Fiction > Women’s Fiction
    #5281 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Literary
    #9448 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Women’s Fiction

    Wow, so much is explained by those numbers

  69. I checked out her author’s page at Amazon. Lot of experience with screenplays. According to a friend of mine that used to do rewrites, that’s an experience that will sour you so much on deadlines that you’ll never want to deal with one ever again. I’m not excusing her of course, but it may give a peak into her thought process.

    1. I was working in publishing/authoring during a WGA strike. All the TV writers and filmwriters decided to tide themselves over by writing the serious novel of their dreams…

      …a dream to some, a nightmare to others. Screenwriting is NOT a good teacher of prose fiction.

  70. Thanks for sharing Larry, of course you’re right it requires practice to get good at anything.

    I do think that once you’ve become that “master craftsman” you can take your time on your masterpiece, but it is extremely arrogant to set out to do that the first time out.

  71. Kind of reminds me of something I heard about dating. All the ladies say they want the guy who takes his time and treats them right, but the studies show that the guy who goes into the club and gets shot down 20 times for every yes, are the most successful. I imagine its because they have a mission statement like you but slightly different: GET LAID! Also have you thought about getting a GET PAID tattoo? Maybe on your knuckles so you can see it when your typing.

  72. Wow. This Lorraine author has the one of the most horrible, amateurish covers in the indie world. she is obviously (based on ranking alone) not making much, if any, money with her books. However, she has the ovaries to ‘lecture’ others on how to be a ‘successful, fulfilled, creative artist and author’ by arrogantly lashing out at other authors’ creative and business processes? What a joke, indeed.
    When she can show me visually and in writing that she is not a second class author, as she calls others, then I can pay attention to her. Until then Lorraine, good bye.

  73. Thank you for this. Wilke’s article really raised my hackles, and I’m glad other people felt the same way. I started my first novel when I was 12 and finished it when I was 17. Like most first books it was utter crap. Quantity most definitely did not equal quality.

    Last year I wrote five full-length novels, and you know what? I’m proud of all of them. The way Wilke has written her article implies that, because I write between 3,000 – 10,000 words a day, I must be turning out rubbish.

    I’m a fast worker. I can happily and comfortably produce multiple books a year, and it sickens me that stuck-up literary snobs like Lorraine Devon Wilke make absurd claims that people who CAN work fast must automatically be sacrificing quality.

  74. I realise I’m late to this, but your fisking of that appalling article is one of the best things I’ve read!

    I treat writing like a job, something that has to be done every day rather than something I can only do when the mystical muse descends. As a result, I can usually average a solid 5,000 – 6,000 words a day. On a good day, I can go as high as 9,000 words. That means I can produce multiple books a year. That doesn’t mean that I am sacrificing quality or any other crap about my creative soul.

    And I can celebrate each book authentically because I worked hard on all of them. When a reader contacts me to say that my book was the first to ever make them cry, or that my books have actually got them to start reading more, I celebrate that. Maybe my books won’t be remembered years from now because they aren’t Pulitzer-worthy, but they make a lot of people happy and that is what matters.

  75. “But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea — whether fantasy, love story, science fiction, human interaction, tragedy, thriller, family saga, memoir, non-fiction — in a way that raises hairs or gets someone shouting “YES!”; if you’re compelled to tell that story so beautifully, so irreverently, with such power and prose as to make a reader stop to read a line over just to have the opportunity to roll those words around one more time, ”
    Well, it lacks the simplicity of GET PAID in terms of a mission statement, but let’s see…

    “On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.”

    Mission accomplished!

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