Straws, and Grasping of Them

What’s the difference between writing for fun and writing for profit?  Is there a difference?

This isn’t a rhetorical question, son.  I’m asking on the realz.

For the last 10 days, I spent my writing efforts on a submission to the Wisconsin Life Flash Fiction Ghost Story.  A six-hundred word story that might be read by Patrick Rothfuss?  Who could refuse such a chance for greatness!  Just think of the nerd clout!  The time from contest announcement to the closing of submissions was a scant 12 days (according to the announcement on Rothfuss’ blog), so I got to crackin’.

Here are the things I learned during this process:

  • Writing can have layered levels of difficulty placed on it.  ‘Write a good story’ is always the base-level challenge.  But are you writing a scary story?  That’s another level.  Is there a constricting word count?  There’s another level.  The more specific requirements a story has, the harder it gets to write.
  • Six hundred words is almost a cruel word count for a story.  A one hundred word drabble allows a writer an extremely small confine to work within, but the limitations are almost comforting.  You see where the lines are, and you know you’re not allowed to draw over them.  Six hundred words felt like I could get up to narrative speed only to immediately smash into the brick wall that was the word limit.  Six hundred words felt like sleeping on a love seat:  yeah, you can do it, but you’ll never get really comfortable.
  • I am really shit at writing scary stories.  Scary is a hard atmosphere to aim for!

Trials and tribulations aside, it was fun to try and shake out a very short ghost story and in the end I had a story to submit.  Ten days, six hundred words.

In that time I could have had the current short story I’m working on ready and sent out to my writing group.  This is a story that (hopefully!) will be published and earn me another paycheck.  The markets I intend to submit it to are pro-rate, and if I get accepted by the one I have my eye on it would count towards SFWA membership.  I’m counting my chickens before they hatch on a lot all of this, but I can shake the feeling that I decided to work on a project with less chance of returns and that bugs me.

Scott Kurtz (PvP) spoke about this subject in the Webcomics Weekly podcast.  He recognized that the time he spent as a guest at specific conventions could have made him more profit if he had simply stayed at home and worked.  I wonder if there is a way to tell which is the right brass ring to grab for.

This is something to ponder.  Avert your gaze whilst I’m pondering.  S’rude to stare.


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