Thursday, July 25, 2013

Writing for Money -- Not!

Good Morning, Readers & Writers.  Greetings from my vacation.  And because it's my vacation, I asked one of the most talented writers I know, novelist and screenwriter Bob Bernstein, to write something unforgettable in my stead.

For those who aren't familiar with Bob's work, he's the author of the Captain Grande Angil mystery series, among other works.  A sea captain himself, Bob knows his way around a salty yarn.  You can learn a lot by visiting his Amazon Author page.

I'll let Bob take it from here.

I started my writing career back in the early 90s when wholesale fish prices fell and the recession turned the charter boat business into a virtual treasure hunt for tourists. Visiting sport divers and fishermen became an endangered species here on the Maine coast, as would the cod in the decade to come. With boat and mortgage payments due, I had to try something else. I bought an old Dell computer and started punching out stories. My first was the retelling of an experience swimming with a pair of humpback whales in Massachusetts's Bay -- shh, don’t tell anyone, the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits fraternization with whales. Anyway, the story ended-up in the pages of a regional boating magazine, which eventually led to a column and a monthly gig writing features for the same magazine, which, in turn, opened the door for gigs with other commercial and recreational boating and fishing magazines.

There’s no question the daily grind of writing for a periodical helps a writer’s productivity. Nothing motivates like a deadline, an in-your-face editor or publisher, and the threat of not getting a paycheck. Conversely, being on your own and writing on spec, particularly a novel, requires a different mind-set, one that must avoid distractions and focus clearly on an end result. For example, right now, I’m alternately thinking of: (1) heading to the marina and opening the hatches in the boat to get some fresh air into the bilge; (2) taking a shower; (3) getting a carrot cupcake with cream cheese icing from the cafe down the street; (4) edging the magnolia in the front yard; (5) bringing my 400 Sky Vodka bottles to the redemption center; (6) calling a therapist to find out if I have ADD or maybe just a drinking problem; (6) emailing M. Night Shyamalan and asking him what was going through his mind while filming After Earth; (7) figuring out how I can scan multiple pages and turn them into a single PDF without simultaneously tearing the remaining hair out of my follicle-challenged head. I could go on, but you get the point.

As Jack Parr once said: “I see my life as an obstacle, with me as the chief obstacle.”

I should be writing the second novel in my Grande Angil Mystery series. It’s there, in it’s own little Scrivener project file, just waiting for me. I feel it beckoning like the call of a Siren, a Siren because while it lies there innocuous and patient on my hard drive, it has the power to consume me thoroughly, heart and soul, holding me hostage for twelve or more hours a day, numbing my legs and turning my arm muscles to pudding. Instead of yanking out roots in the yard, chopping up stumps with a pick axe, diving on moorings, or heading to the north woods to hike a mountain, I’m living out a fantasy in my head and putting it to page and paper. For what?

Sometimes I question what it is that compels me to write. Is it my ego? Do I need some third party to validate me as a person of value? Is it the prospect of hitting the big time and making a ton of money? (HA! That last one always makes me laugh, especially on the day I get my royalty payment.)

Nope, it’s none of the above, because when all is said and done, and I take an honest look at myself in the mirror, I always see the same thing: a storyteller in desperate need of a shave, a good night’s sleep, and a new bathrobe.

Seriously, writers don’t get a lot of sleep, and a lot of them do their best work in their pajamas.


Charles Gramlich said...

Pajamas? I didn't think most writers bothered to put on clothes at all for work. :)

Dave Thome said...

Bob, I think you do have a drinking problem: Too much Sky. Have you ever thought of switching to Belvedere?

Liane Spicer said...

Hi Bob! Welcome to Novel Spaces! Lots of salty people in my family so I get that 'run down to the marina and open the hatches' thing. :D To be honest, I think high-speed Internet has turned me ADD as well. I'm my own chief obstacle.

Re the PDF, I copy and paste the scans onto a document then convert to PDF. I tend to do them one at a time because when I copy the whole bunch of scans and paste them the sequence sometimes gets messed up. There's probably a much easier way to do this... haven't had to scan and convert say, 100 pages of anything yet.

As for the rest, yes, yes and a resounding yes. And as Charles said, pyjamas? What pyjamas? And what money? I write because I'm crazy that way.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Bob, Nice post, and I wish you luck with the new novel...and new bathrobe!

Julie Luek said...

Bob, glad to meet you and know about your books. I love that you found a second calling in life. And maybe that's why we write-- it calls to us and won't leave us alone!

Jewel Amethyst said...

I am laughing my butt off as I read this post. If this is your voice in your novels I definitely have to read them.

Writing for money? Yeah right! Writing is a calling... a calling to get stories out of your head and unto paper before the voices drive you crazy. Of course then there's that passion that compels you to get the stories published.

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

Nice post, Bob. Get you behind back in the writer's chair. xo

ADMIN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Btw, thanks for the comments gang, and ignore the ADMIN thingy. I don't know where that came from.

Bob said...

Charles, Being new to Novel Spaces, I didn't think it was appropriate for me to be completely honest. Let's just say that if an idea comes to you at 3:00 AM, pants are clearly optional. This is why I will never sit in another writer's chair.

Dave, Ahhh, Belvedere... I know it well. When last we met I was a man of many hopes and dreams. That was many, many martinis ago. Btw, I've been going the gin martini route lately and I have to say, with Blue Safire and a pickled pearl onion, it's hard to beat.

Hurrah, Liane, thanks for the pdf tip. Why the hell didn't I think of that? Oh, right, the vodka...

Thanks, Sean, but let's not get ahead of ourselves on the bathrobe. I'm working out a trade with a homeless guy who lives in a culvert down the road. Wish me luck.

Julie, it's true. I guess it was a second calling. And whether it pays big or not, I can honestly say it's enormously satisfying when it clicks.

Thanks, Jewel. And what is amazingly coincidental, I definitely want you to read them. In fact, I'm thinking about running a free Kindle promo next week, so if you really are interested, hold off and you can save a buck, literally.

Pamorama, fancy meeting you here. How for the CS problem?

Bob said...

FYI: I'll be running a free promo for my books CALAMITY and "What They Don't Tell You About Alzheimer's" for 5-days starting Tuesday, July 30th. Promo will end at midnight on August 3rd.