The Struggling Writer

The chronicles of a freelance writer as he tries to make a living.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Personal projects

I've often heard the same lament from writers: we have to spend so much time doing projects that pay the bills that we don't have time to work on projects that are important to us.

A while back, a group of people from a neurology support forum I used to frequent decided to try writing a book on hydrocephalus. As those who follow this blog know, that's a subject with a lot of personal relevance. There is only one hydrocephalus book out there aimed at adult laymen and the market could use another.

Recently the woman overseeing this emailed me to ask if I was still on board. I had to say that I wasn't.

Part of it is that I can't devote the time it would take considering the small payout that would likely be waiting at the end. When I'm a little more secure in my career I can take a few more chances, but not right now.

Another problem is that it's a group effort by a bunch of people who as near as I can tell have no professional writing experience among them. They are doling out chapters willy-nilly among people of wildly disparate backgrounds and writing ability. The project will require extensive editing to turn it into something publishable and with a common voice. The whole "hey, kids, let's put on a show" attitude doesn't work in publishing. If they want to produce a professional piece, they will need a ghost writer and will need to come up with a hefty chunk of money for that up front.

I suspect it will end up at a vanity publisher and circulated only among the members of this support group. That's not a bad thing, mind you, but that's not the same as a commercially viable work.

I hope that a couple of years from now I will be kicking myself for bailing out. I hope they put together a good book that contributes good information to people with hydrocephalus and their families and friends. I hope the book is a huge success, widely circulated, critically acclaimed, and makes tons of money.

I also would be thrilled to hear they all won the lottery.


  • At 12:01 AM, Blogger Jennifer said…

    I agree. Taking chance projects that 'may' pan out successfully is all fine and good but sadly my landlord and other bill collectors don't currently take IOUs or 'good ideas' as payment. Alas, I only take paying now gigs. Although once in a while (if I have the time) I'll donate writing to a non-profit I adore.


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