What if I Wrote & Nobody Bought?

Is this the right forum for this post?

As I have indicated in another post, I am giving myself a retirement/Christmas/birthday gift tomorrow by buying myself a Macbook Pro w/ Retina display (rMBP)and the Scrivener Mac package. I fancy myself enjoying retirement by pecking away at the keyboard and churning tons of manuscripts, in the hope of finding a market to supplement my meagre social security and government pension. I have always fantasized about being a novelist/memoir/fiction/non-fiction writer, although I have never done this before.

I made my living as an attorney-turned-federal govenment policy analyst, writing reams of government policies and regulations, akin to Obamacare (the law, not the god-forsaken website) so I know I can write dry prose. Whether I can turn that into a literary skill is still an open question, although I had a Jesuit education, am conversant in the humanities, arts and sciences, and not exactly a Phillistine when it comes to literature. In effect, the product of a liberal education.

But, worst case scenario, what if I write stuff and nobody came to buy them. Have I just blown a grand on computer hardware and software with nothing to show for it? Other than being a boat anchor for my failed writing career, what other utilitarian functions can I turn Scrivener and Macbook to other than watch movies and play games? I may practice immigration law on the side but I will have a secretary do the writing and the legal stuff involves almost exclusively filling up forms and not long manuscript writing.

I’m just wondering loudly what other folks did after they embarked on a writing career only to find out that it was not for them. Parenthetically, I just joined the NRA, spent a fortune on guns and reloading equipment, only to learn that I don’t really find the hobby of shooting paper targets at the range enjoyable.

'Nuff said - what do you guys think? What other fun things can your do with a Macbook Pro?


If it comes down to that, you could always recoup part of your investment in both hobbies by shooting the laptop out of your backyard! :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

I’ll be the bad guy here.

Fantasies are … fantasies. Do not embark on fulfilling one expecting it to be profitable (otherwise there would be a lot fewer lonely men who embarked on affairs with younger women). I would LOVE to make a living by my - crap it isn’t really a pen - keyboard writing something other than meaningless drivel. But I am destined to be a nobody in the literary sense for one very simple reason: I love the idea not the craft. Let me explain.

I like to wax poetic but I do not like to edit.
I like to string thoughts together but I do not like to take the time to spell correctly (that is my real name up there).
I like to collect research but I do not like to wade through the notes.

The craft of writing has very little to do with typing. It is editing, brutal editing. It is rejection followed by brutal rejection. It is hard work with no anticipation of reward. If you want to make money writing look for small freelance jobs and save the novel for your fun work.

As to the mac… it is no different from any other computer. Sure it looks a bit different at first, but in the end, it is just like any other device. Storage, ram, processor, input devices, output devices. How would you use a windows system that you didn’t need? That’s what you’d do with a Mac.

BTW, as a smart person, don’t buy a system just yet. Go do a TCO comparing mac and wintel. You might be surprised what you discover.

Another way of looking at it:
What if you didn’t buy a computer? What if you saved your grand and just dreamed of writing stories? What if you lived with the regret of never giving it a go, never reaching out beyond the known, never trying to fulfil the dream?

Which “what if” would you rather live with: blowing the grand or living with the regret of never trying? Note: This is not some emotional pitch to write, it is the opposite. Avoid being starry-eyed as there is no implicit right answer. If the loss of a thousand dollars means more to you than lack of sales, don’t spend the dough. If, on the other hand, $1000 spent on 5+ years of writing seems like good value, then you have your answer.

For me, I’m not sure I could justify the expense of a computer just for writing (pens and paper cost so much less). But I’m really pleased I need my computer for other reasons so I can use it for writing as well.

This. Well said.

Basically writing is like woodworking: the best craftsman create masterpieces with simple tools while the best tools can not make a bad craftsman good.

Divorce the idea of writing from the need for a computer. I am most fulfilled by my writing done on a trail using paper and stylus (not always pen or pencil, but at least half a dozen times a sharpened then burnt stick (that stuff doesn’t last long though)). Sure that stuff eventually made it into a computer, but the computer was not needed.

That said, go spend the $1k and have fun. Just don’t let lack of sales be a factor.

Yes, don’t make the same mistake again.
Use your existing Windows machine and download the free trial of the excellent Windows version of Scrivener.

Play for 30 days.

If you like it, you can buy the Win version.

Then go spend some time playing with a Mac in a shop. If you’re convinced about both the writing thing and the Mac OS thing, then you can drop the cash.

Alternatively, buy a MacBook Pro 13" with Retina screen. USe the options online to up the specs to the best of everything (which will cost you about GBP 2,300) and then buy Scrivener for Mac.
If you end up not liking it, you can always just package it up and send it in the post to me.

To some degree I suppose it is what you are writing about, but even the dry text of legalese, which may not permit too much creativity regarding content, lends itself to gaining experience in writing clearly and simply so others will understand. I find that my writing, which is rarely for sale as such, but sometimes gets published, forces me to think clearly, to express myself so that others will understand a difficult concept, or to understand my point of view. In other words, it is an exercise, an exercise which is transferable to other venues, such as formal talks, just talking with friends, or in thinking about problems. So, while this is a bit tangential to your initial question, don’t worry so much about getting ‘sold’; do it for the fun of it. If it does get sold, so much the better.

As regards Mac or Windows: with respect to Scrivener, the Mac version is head and shoulders better than the Windows one. I have both and only use the Windows when I have to.


Let Nike be your guide: Just Do It.

Fret about it, and the quality of the work will fall. Wake up and apply yourself with a song in your heart, and the quality will rise. Be Confident.

And Enjoy It. Your enjoyment will shine through.

Oh, and Read - which you can of course now do on your MBP. Good writers read tons.

Moved to the “And Now For That Latte” forum, as the “Feedback” forum is for feedback specific to Scrivener. Feel free to post about anything you like in the “And Now…” forum, though!

I too am retired. Before that, I was fortunate to have spent a considerable amount of time involved in aviation in some of the seedier parts of the world. That left me with an abundance of encounters, lies and whispers that might have led to treachery at the time, but have subsequently enabled me to “write what I know.” Yes, it’s a cliché.

From those humbling experiences, I began to write short novels and short stories. The more I write about what I know, the more I find myself able to make stuff up outside of the things I know. Nobody buys them, but that hasn’t stopped me from using Smashwords to distribute to a wide variety of ebook sites. Only recently, I began uploading to Amazon as well. (Well, all right, truth be told, I’ve earned about a hundred bucks, but who’s counting?)

Was it easy to get started? No. Did I know what I was doing? No. Did taking a creative writing class help with that? Absolutely not - at least, not for me. What did put some semblance of order into my otherwise confused writing life was learning about outlining and planning. I know too that I’ll be continuing to learn and practice the craft until the day I finally expire.

Doing such may not be for everyone, but it allowed me to get pointed in the right direction. Now, I can sit and come up with all kinds of shi-, err, ideas. I use a notebook to keep from forgetting them. I “type them down” when the story lines begin to come together.

Is it easy? No. Is it work? No, not for me. It’s only fun. Do I care if anyone buys the cheap trash that I write? Of course not, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it.

I don’t anticipate becoming a best-seller by any stretch of the imagination. I do anticipate whiling away my years sitting in a room lit by sunlight whilst churning out lies, tall tales and miscellaneous banter based on smidgens of truth, encounters and geography I’ve experienced over the years.

Come summer, to add to the experiences because I can, I throw a leg over my motorcycle and find new material as an independent in the world of bikers.

JFDI - Just Freaking Do It.

Yeah, this. My experience is more in music, but if you don’t handle rejection well, the creative fields aren’t for you. (I’m talking in general, not just anyone in this post.) Mel Powell, the composer, once said he could easily wallpaper his house with all the rejections he had received. Morton Feldman (another composer) said that he never read reviews, but if it was good, he got 3 copies. For every piece I’ve had on a concert, I’ve had at least 3-4 rejections.

And those rejections come early. The very first piece I wrote was called “crude and unsophisticated” by my high school orchestra teacher. Dude said I’d never make it to grad school in composition, and I proved him wrong. (Charles Wuorinen–American composer–once said that composers need to write about 35 years’ worth of shit before they write something good.) I can’t remember all the people who said I was wasting my time learning to compose.

And, believe me, it does sting. The people on the committee for calls for scores only probably listened to the first four seconds of a piece you slaved over. A lot of the time with competitions, they know who the people are (even with anonymous submissions) and are gunning for their friends/colleagues. You don’t really stand much of a chance in that environment.

But somehow you find a reason to fire up the computer one more time for one more piece, and out it comes. You write (music/words) because you NEED to write. You produce stuff because you know you’ve got what it takes, you love doing it, and you can’t possibly imagine yourself doing anything else. The thought of packing it in and quitting is more painful than the newest form letter you received from Yet Another New Music Group.

And I’d throw a caution into the suggestion of freelancing. Granted, I was just doing copy work for SEO types of things, but it can be every bit as soul-sucking as any 9-5 job. While I’m grateful for it keeping the wolves from our door, the loss of something I do for fun (prose writing) put me into a patch of burnout I’m still recovering from. (I write prose to keep me creatively limber, as it were, since I don’t have a head trip about it being my chosen field.) I also have a chaotic neutral streak, and being told what and how to write a passage isn’t something I handle very well. (Which is also why I wouldn’t last doing film scoring.)

Nobody will buy it. Almost nobody. Stephen King probably gets about 0.05% of the literate English-speaking population.

Nobody reading your stuff is passive rejection. People reading your stuff and saying it’s no damn good is active rejection.

It’s a question of how you respond. I had a stinker of a rejection from some chap this afternoon. Until then, like the rest of the world, I really respected him. Now, I realise he’s an arsehole with the taste of a Pleistocene football hooligan. “Screw YOU, pal,” I hissed as I fired up Scrivener to blow the sucker to smithereens. Oh, he’ll end up in the gutter, a broken man scrabbling for leavings outside the Groucho Club where once he held court. The phony. Etc etc etc.

Doing this for money is a scramble and it’s getting tougher by the week. Nobody – publishers, authors, agents, even readers – knows quite what to do. OP: you have a pension; the wolf is kept from the door; if you’ve got the thousand in your hand, buy your dream rig and enjoy yourself. You’ll be doing what writers have done for the last 2,500 years: writing to amuse yourself and put on the dog in front of your pals. The last 150 years of the commercialisation of literature – in the broadest sense – will, I think, be seen by our posterity as a bit of a blip. Write like Hesiod, Aeschylus, Juvenal, Pliny, Donne, Herbert and all the rest: for the hell of it.

When it’s you and your keyboard, no man’s your master. Enjoy it.

Tablet time Master Michael

Or you can refuse to be a part of this tragic downturn. Be truculent way beyond the point of what is reasonable, and demand fair pair for a day’s work.

F$@#^ Pliny, be Patterson*!

    • hell, the man isn’t an author anymore, he’s a genre.

One other piece of advice. If a creative-writing expert should visit a city near you to speak, sign up and go along. Writing for the screen or for the page - it won’t matter - so long as he or she promises to deal with structure, plot and characters - with stories, in other words - and is reputable, that will be all you’ll need.

You may or may not actually learn much (or at least much more than you’d learn from the books the guru may have written), but you’ll come out feeling a lot better about writing, and even about yourself, and, after all, in learning writing as in learning many activities, gaining confidence is 90 per cent of the struggle.

Of those I’ve attended, I recommend Robert McKee, not because he’s the most celebrated, or because he tells you much more than he does in his book Story, or even because over the course of the seminar you’ll meet quite a few people like you just starting out, and one or two experienced and back for a refresher, but because the whole experience is pretty interesting. And if you’re like attendees I’ve met, you’ll come out feeling as if you’re a Master of the Writing Universe.

Bit like refusing to be part of this mortality lark, eh, Fender, old Pig?

Demand the fair day’s pay from whom? Who decides what’s fair? And what if they say “Sod off”? Withdraw labour? WGA did that. Really changed the game in Hollywood. Screenwriters’ usual contract used to be two drafts and a polish, but now… NOW… (cue throbbing MUSIC… it’s one draft and be off with you, churl. (Throws tattered bone) And that’s only because I like you, schmuck!

There is bound to be an economic shift in any business where more people will produce the stuff for free than for the “fair day’s pay”. What’s changed is the methods of distribution and exchange, and if that sounds a bit familiarly Marxian, so be it.

@Fluff: The Domperidone gag (ha) is fine but I wasn’t feeling sick; merely realistic. To talk about writing without noticing that the entire financial basis of it as a profession is radically changing seems irresponsible. My point, to the OP, was that people have always written hoping to be read; but the period in which they’ve written hoping - perfectly reasonably - to be paid is, I suspect, a blip. If I had to put money on it, I’d say that in 30 years there’ll be Pattersons and there’ll be amateurs. Probably the amateurs will be doing the good stuff and the Pattersons will be very rich, but that’s not without precedent…

You mean like the music, film, and software industries?

Young Master Michael, I was only pulling your…oops! :blush: nearly said a rude word, not unlike the kind of foul language my human uses. Sorry. :blush:

As Doctor Johnson said, “no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” A bit glib and gruff and Dr.J-curmudgeonly, but then that was his schtick.

But now it’s getting ever harder to write for money, or at least enough money to justify the effort needed to actually write. The magazine I edit pays the same for a feature now as it did when it started in 1975. Adjusted for inflation, we pay a quarter what we paid in 1975. Which is better than some of our competitors, which pay two-thirds of what they paid in 1975 before inflation.

Why can’t we pay more? I keep asking the beancounters. Because, they patiently explain, there’s only so much you can charge for a subscription before existing subscribers stop re-upping and new subscribers never materialize. Because postage is a dozen times more expensive than it was in 1975. Because salaries and compensation and insurance and taxes and corporate overhead and big rolls of glossy paper are more expensive. Because the advertising dollars that once subsidized those subscription prices have dwindled by two-thirds under pressure from Internet outlets and corporate bottom lines.

Are you having trouble filling pages, they ask? Well, uh, um, No, I say. We get roughly a thousand submissions a year and buy roughly 40 of them. True, we no longer see a few of the big names, but there are endless hungry and talented replacements. And those big names? All were once hungry and talented replacements.

Are we done here? they say. Yes, I say. Thank God I’m 64 and not 24. And as I turn to leave, in a gesture of solidarity with the downtrodden literati, I invite them all to stuff their beans and attempt an anatomical improbability with themselves.

Not, of course, where they can actually hear me. They’re merciless, those beancounters and their stupid math.

It’s getting harder to do anything for money.

Did you find your food writer in the end?