Writers Complain About 3 Things: Money, Writing, & Money

Writers complain about three things: Money, writing, and money. It’s a tough way to make a living. There are the Jennifer Weiner’s of writing, and there are a bunch of others of us. Unless you are a former U.S. President, or well-known comedian with a hit movie and TV show, it’s not a particularly lucrative job. It takes a long time to write a book most of it spent alone pacing back and forth from the refrigerator to the couch. Then most publications, as a rule I’ve learned, aren’t so quick to pay money for words. Words should be free we all use them. Oh before I get started, bloggers are not writers, they are bloggers. But except if they are on paper, attached to music, or spoken in front of a large groups of people. Then it's a job and just like an accountant gets paid to do your taxes, writers should get paid to write shit down.

We live and die by word count. Everything comes down to words. Newspapers, magazines, and paying websites all pay (if they pay – some very graciously offer “exposure” instead) by the word. This fascinates me. An e-magazine, for instance, might pay you .25 for the exact same word, like, say “almond” – that Cosmo will cough up three bucks for. And, in turn, each word gets the same amount. An “and” will make you the exact same money as “egregious” or “tracheotomy”. Even books, which don’t specifically pay by the word, still expect a ballpark word count. It’s around 80,000. And there are a lot of words to pick from to tell your story. It’s complicated.

For the most part writers get inspiration from their own lives. There are some advantages. You can edit out the boring parts. You get to say all the things you’d wish you had said but weren’t smart enough to come up with on the fly and you can write a perfect ending. In life if you, say, catch your boyfriend banging your best friend on the bathroom floor recast it for the book! Instead of banging they are planning a surprise party for you. Turn the bathroom into her living room. Give him erectile dysfunction and her, a fat ass.

Some get inspiration from artist, songs, or from other writers. People are inspired to become writers by reading Jane Austen or Mark Twain. They carry around well-thumbed copies of Moby Dick and recite lines from Salinger. When I was still a producer at ABCNews and only thinking of writing a book, I read all three of Mary Cantwell’s memoirs. Cantwell is a great writer. She inspired me to quit my job and write my memoir. But even then I wasn’t thinking about getting paid. Not until 50,000 words in and a friend sent the manuscript to a book agent. Her entire career spent selling the words.

But once you are a working writer and it's your job to come up with things to write about it’s important to only read shitty writers. You don’t want to risk picking up a book so well written that anything you may write seems trite, unoriginal or redundant. I only learned this later when was working on my second book, a funny novel about sex and death. My sister-in-law, Teresa is also a writer and she sent me a book by Miranda July. It’s a fun read!, her note read. Teresa had different rules than me. I would have loved Miranda July except for her talent which is beyond what I could write. So obviously I had to hate her now because she was writing sexy funny prose and gets to use cock in a sentence as casual as if she's writing cook. She gets published by Zoetrope and I can't even pronounce Zoetrope. (But in my novel the main character gets published in Zoetrope. I told you!)

The cover of M’s book was shiny and I said from the beginning that I have Magpie Syndrome and wanted a shiny book. But my first publisher made my memoir in a matt "special never done before" finish that just got smudgy and dirty fast, and it had to be shipped with white paper between every copy which cost my publisher a lot more money.

Nearly all M’s reviewers use words like piercing, brilliant, hilarious. And here I am tracking down stupid invoices for expenses on a shitty article I wrote three months ago which sucks because I'd probably like M if we ever met. Though we never will. She is very busy being a filmmaker, writer, and artist. I can only do one thing at a time well and right now this is it.

Joe Laresca