Fame, Fortune &Failure: How to be a Writer


By Andrew Prenger

Chapter 2: Money

Time to be brutally honest:

You are not going to make any money being a writer.

It doesn’t matter how much time you waste pounding away at your keyboard; it is all for nothing. You may as well take all those dreams of making money and being interviewed on television about your novels, write them down on a piece of toilet paper and flush them. In one of the many, many, many books on writing I’ve read there was a statistic, or I just made this up, either way it sounds believable. It went something like “One in one-hundred people who start a novel will finish it. Of those that finish, one in one-hundred will be published.” That’s just getting published. There’s no guarantee your book will make enough money to cover your advance.

Just let that wave of depression settle over you. Let it sink in. Embrace it. It’s only going to get worse from here.

This is the catch-22 of being a writer. You will not make any money being a writer, but you will need to make money to continue the writer lifestyle (see Chapter 1.) This means that you will have to procure money some other way that is not writer based. From this you have a multitude of options.

One of the simpler methods is to never leave college. Ever. Being a perpetual student is not unheard of. Ideally for this to work it would be best if you came from a rich family who will just keep writing checks to keep you at state university. There are hundreds of classes you can take that will keep you studying forever. Even if you accidentally graduate you aren’t without options. There is graduate school to look forward to and exploit as your desperately try to stave off adulthood and responsibility.

Even without rich parents funding your schooling you can always get student loans. You don’t have to start paying those off until you finish school. If you never finish, then you never pay. Simple as that. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of actually graduating college and facing a mountain of debt just be calm and resign yourself to the fact that you chose to be a writer. You always were going to have the burden of paying off loans for the rest of your life. A good way to circumvent having to pay off this debt is to kill yourself.

Okay, so you fucked up and actually graduated. What do you do now?  Don’t panic. Relax. Have a drink. Then another. Repeat until calm. When you come out of your stupor you’ll need a game plan. Are you one of the people who has rich parents? This is what you’re going to do: give up on writing. Seriously, what the hell? Don’t even fool yourself that you’re an artist. You don’t need to do this. You won’t enrich anyone’s lives with your pathetic scribbling. You are wasting my God damned time. Just go…be rich or something. If you need to kill your time this bad  then go work at your dad’s office. Simple as that. Done. Your problems are solved. For the rest of us, what are some of the options open to us if we need money while trying to be a writer?

There is always the option to marry rich.

You go out there and find a spouse who is loaded. This is different from being born into wealth. You know why you can’t get a job at your spouse’s office? Because it’d be weird. People can handle their boss’ dumbass son ruining everything, but the same won’t be said about the C.E.O.’s inept husband. It harms her reputation. But you still have to prove that you have some worth. So write.

I’ll admit that the odds of you actually marrying rich are very small. I still recommend giving  it a shot. I mean, what the hell, right? The odds are slim, but maybe you’ll luck out. If you’re very lucky then you actually love the girl for real instead of just for her money. For the rest of us there are still normal spouses who make a decent amount of money to keep you from working. You won’t be living the high life like that bastard who married the heiress. He gets to hang out by the pool on her yacht while you get to lounge on the couch watching Saturday morning cartoons.

Marrying “okay” is trickier than marrying rich. Writing while rich is a frivolous hobby. Your wife doesn’t care then, she just wants sex. Your “okay” wife (or husband) will actually expect you to pretend to be working on a novel. If you do that then you at least have an excuse for not searching out a job. So a portion of your day will be spent scribbling something down and then showing it to him/her. Try to figure out which genre they like the least and write that. This way they will be less inclined to actually read and critique what you wrote. If they don’t like the genre then how the hell do they know a good manuscript compared to a bad one? Beyond this all you’ll have to do is sex up your spouse every so often and probably some light housework. All-in-all, not a terrible life.

There is the worst option: unloved, unmarried, forced to fend for yourself with no applicable skills to bettering society in any possible way. Congratulations, you have become me. Welcome to a dark and dreary world of wondering where the next meal will come from. Who’s that knocking at the door? Is it my landlord evicting me? Maybe it’s the utilities guy here to shut off the power. It’s as exciting as it is depressing.

If this is the route you chose (or were forced into) no one is going to help you. You’ll have to fend for yourself by getting a job. Try not to get a job that is too intensive. You want to pick something where you’ll mostly be left alone. This is your writing time. It’s a boost of self-esteem. You can fool yourself into thinking that “Hey, finally someone is paying me for writing.” Your boss won’t know that, but you will. Take for example writer Jason Aaron. He writes Wolverine for  Marvel comics now, but in a recent article he reveals that he once worked in a porn warehouse. Not glamorous, but filled with free time.

I myself work in a failing knife store in a failing mall. The work computer has internet, but the machine is practically as old as I am, so modern websites are out of the question. This leaves me free of distraction. I have nothing to do all day but write…and stare at the walls of knives and figure out which one would end the pain quickest.

I know all this sounds counter to the advice in Chapter 1. It’s not. In all these scenarios you can still go to the bar or at least still be drinking. Your spouse leaves you alone all day, does she really think you’re going to stay inside all day? I work the weekday shift at the knife store, does it really matter if I’m sober or not? I mean, okay, somewhat. It’s not advisable to be drunk around a lot of cutlery. But still, who the hell do I have to impress? You know who buys knives on a Monday morning? Weirdoes and Canadians and I don’t got shit to prove to them. Once you knock off work for the day go down to the bar and relax.

Sometimes the 9-to-5 grind is not for everyone.  If you need money and employment seems distant you can always sell your body. Not in a prostitution sense, obviously, since that is illegal and the last thing you need is legal bills. Right now you are flowing with liquid money just waiting to be pumped out. I bet you that no matter where you are there is a plasma center within twenty minutes of you. You can sell plasma about once every two days and get on average $20 each time. I will warn you that the plasma center is kind of like hanging out at the bus stop all day. Then you get to go in a back room where someone sticks you with a needle and slowly drains you of your precious bodily fluid. If you’re unlucky you’ll be stuck by a crazy who wants to talk to you. Unlike the lobby you cannot simply switch seats since you are tethered to a big machine. Just smile, nod, perhaps try to figure out how to work his rant about Obama being a terrorist alien into your novel. Don’t ignore him. Keep a watch on him in case he pulls his needle out and tries to stab you with it.

If you are afraid of needles or don’t like the sight of blood, you are not without options. For women there is always the option to sell your eggs. You can make a pretty penny for those worthless things. At least a couple of grand a pop. Granted it is a bit intensive, but worth it for doing nothing but producing something that was going to go to waste anyway. You’re a penniless writer; It is almost cruel to even entertain the idea that you can afford to support yourself plus a child. Unless this is another angle. I don’t have the data for it, but it seems likely that you could make some major bank by selling a healthy child. Just don’t say you got the idea from me. I don’t need that heat.

For the guys there is semen donation. Creepily near my apartment is a billboard promising up to $1000 a month just for cranking it. I’m not going to lie, as with everything there are drawbacks. A friend of mine tried it only to be rejected. Turns out he had inferior sperm that were unable to survive the freezing process. Beyond not being able to make any bank on his natural talent it has often become a way that I can win arguments with him. For example:

“I don’t believe there should be a state income tax.”

“Well, you have inferior sperm, so shut up.”

These are just some of the ways you can make money being a writer while not actually being paid for writing. There probably at least…half a dozen more. I will leave it to you to figure them out. You’re supposed to be the creative writer so get creative.

Please don’t hold anyone for ransom.

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