A Little Historical Perspective
Ten years and one week ago, I was mulling writing a second novel, the one which would eventually become Old Man’s War. I think it might be useful for folks to see now what I was thinking then, particularly in light of my recent entry on finding the time to write.
Oct 2, 2000
I think I want to write another novel. This is something I talk about a lot, or at the very least think about a lot, but it’s not something I’ve actually put high on the priority list. Why? Mostly because I’m in a pragmatic frame of mind recently — I’ve been doing well writing non-fiction, both in the form of my book and in the form of my consulting work, and it’s been reasonably intellectually fulfilling while also being reasonably easy to do. This is opposed to novel writing, which is a thankless freakin’ task, in that it requires a lot of brainpower to actually make something up, and also that the chances of one actually making any money off of it are damn close to nil.
I mean, hell. I wrote one novel, which I thought was pretty decent, and I ended up putting it up on my Web site. People have been nice enough to actually send me money after reading it, which was very kind of them, let me be clear. But the amount of money I got off writing that novel comes out to something like .2 cents a word.
But this is actually part of why I want to write another novel. First, among friends and the occasional person who shoots me off an e-mail looking for professional writing advice, I always say that the reason one often takes “non-creative” work is that it provides a little financial headroom so that one can work on stuff that is fun but might not make any money — novels, of course being a perfect example of this. However, although I say this, I’m not actually doing it recently — all my writing recently has been for cash on the barrelhead. Nothing wrong with this, of course (this is what I do for a living), but I ought to practice what I preach.
Second, I think it’ll be good for me to write something that doesn’t already have some sort of built-in economic benefit for me, since lately I’ve been thinking entirely too much about money. Not about spending money or even having money: I don’t live extravagantly by any means, and as far as physical possession of my cash goes, I don’t have any; I literally sign my checks over to Krissy and then she does whatever she does and I frankly don’t think about that money again (it’s better this way becaue when Krissy handles the money, bills actually get paid).
I mean just about money, and what sort of money writing will get me. A client calls for a project and little money signs ring up in my head; I look at potential things to write, and whether or not I’ll make a decent amount off of it is one of the first things I consider. Again, nothing wrong with this, since this is my line of work — but it’s also the thing I love to do. I need to write something simply for the exercise of writing, and I need to do it without the little money signs dancing in my brain. Sure, it’d be nice if I could sell whatever novel I write, once it’s written. But it’ll be even nicer not to have that be a primary consideration, and just to write something I enjoy for itself.
And there’s the other reason to try a novel again, of course: I’ve got a couple of stories that are just about to pop in my skull, so it’s the right time creatively as well. Now we’ll have to see if wanting write another novel actually translates into writing another novel. I think it will. I hope it will.
I will say that that I’m still mostly in agreement with myself a decade on, and I do find it’s especially important to make time to write stuff for the fun of it without worrying terribly much about whether it can sell. And lest anyone ask me when the last time I did that was, I’ll note that I wrote Fuzzy Nation last year specifically for fun and without regard to whether it would sell. Not to mention a little story about yogurt. I still do practice what I preach.