Monday, 16 November 2009

Who'd be a writer right now?

Is there any future at all in being a professional writer? I've just been thinking about that. Let me explain ...

Like a lot of authors, most of the interview requests I get come from specialist blogs, fanzines, e-zines and so forth, and they usually take the form of emailed Q&As. I actually enjoy doing them because they make me feel like I'm writing without actually sweating on a novel, plus I get to say exactly what i want - for better or worse - and communicate directly with readers. Also, from time to time I get asked a question that really makes me stop, think and re-evaluate.

For example, I was recently sent an interview questionnaire by Joseph O'Donnell, who runs a magazine called The Eerie Digest and had very kindly asked me to appear in the January edition. One of his questions was ... "We have many young writers in a college program that we have created. What words of advice can you share with them?"

This is part of what I answered ...

"Find another way of making a living! No, really, I say the same thing to my daughter, who is an incredibly talented writer, nominated for a national student journalism award (which she may win: at the time of writing it’s yet to be determined) and just about to graduate from college. With the apparently unstoppable tyranny of the internet and free content, and the parallel decline in respect for intellectual copyright or the skills of professional writers, I really wonder how anyone is going to make a living from the professions that have sustained me for the past three decades. I mean, I truly believe that a properly-informed democratic society requires professional news-gathering organizations, trained specialist journalists and paid-for news media. I also note that the bloggers who most loudly proclaim the death of print would have nothing to blog about if old-fashioned journalists weren’t digging up the stories they then comment upon. But that seems to be an opinion which the market is rejecting, as the diminishing salaries, word-rates and job-opportunities for journalists clearly indicate. Likewise, I think it could be very difficult for conventional fiction writers to stay in business as the book trade, and indeed the whole pastime of reading, appear to be in meltdown. Clearly, humans need and want to be told stories. Equally clearly, some people have more of a gift for that than others. But I think it’s going to be harder and harder for authors who are not already celebrities or do not happen to luck into a market phenomenon like the Harry Potter, Twilight or Da Vinci Code franchises to make a decent living. So at the risk of seeming negative, my advice to all but the most talented, most determined and most obsessive young writers would be to get a job that allows you to make a decent income and have time to write on the side. Either that, or head for Hollywood in the last few moments before network TV and the movie studios crumble into dust! Oh … or go write the stories for video-games. That may just be where modern storytelling is actually being regenerated and redfined."

The rest of the answer (yes, there was more!) and the rest of the interview will be available at The Eerie Digest from 1 January 2010. Naturally, I urge everyone to read it! And I'll be making the invitation again - even more forcefully - nearer the time, as well!

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