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Posts tagged ‘The Changing Face of Australia’

First Monday Mentoring October 2016 – Where does money fit into your writing life?

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I open this blog to discuss aspects of the writing life we don’t usually get to talk about.

Money is a big one, misunderstood by almost everyone. Either you’re seen as a millionaire or living in genteel poverty in your garret. The truth is usually somewhere in between, and the vast majority of writers have paid their dues  well before hitting the big time if, in fact, they ever do.


I was moved to discuss the money question after reading an interesting blog by Rita Award-winning writer, Barbara O’Neal at

O’Neal’s blog was, in turn, triggered when young writer, Merritt Tierce, penned an essay despairing of being able to make money as a writer. She’d had her first novel published to some acclaim and sold 12,000 hardcover copies, not enough to earn back her unspecified five-figure advance.

Tierce’s essay revealed a problem common among some writers – a sense that they are entitled to live what they see as an author’s life on the strength of one book, sometimes while writing that book. They feel that society owes them support to follow their writing dreams.

As a mentor to emerging writers who win the Valerie Parv Award set up by Romance Writers of Australia, I had one winner state that by the end of the mentorship she wanted to be living off her writing and keeping her family as well.

In her case it was innocence talking, and by the end of our year together, she’d become more realistic.


Not long ago I came across a crowd funding site set up by a writer whose publisher had abandoned her series mid-stream. Her goal was sound – finish the series to keep faith with her readers – but she went a step further, asking for money to allow her time to write.

Logically, to finish any book, you need time. Many people write around day jobs, or in whatever time they can scrounge from everyday life. Those same writers resented her sense of entitlement and were so viciously critical that she felt bound to take down the crowd funding site.

From a young age I knew writing was my vocation, but far from feeling entitled , I accepted that funding the dream was up to me. Early on I set up an office where I wrote press releases, a weekly newspaper column, contributions to a gardening encyclopaedia and some twenty non-fiction titles including my now-infamous book on how to do your own plumbing.

Plumbing was never my passion but I delivered the book I’d been contracted to write, because that’s what professionals do. Afterward,  I resolved to find a more fulfilling way to write and still make a living. That’s when I tried my hand at romance novels, eventually writing over fifty titles for Harlequin’s London editors, then for New York and Toronto.

Had I known then that they received some 10,000 submissions of which they accepted about ten, I might have been less eager.  Not that I rushed in, spending months researching their books and market. Only then, I wrote the book I couldn’t find on their lists, and Love’s Greatest Gamble was eventually accepted.

While waiting for Harlequin’s response I kept writing non-fiction including the one I’m most proud of: The Changing Face of Australia, a 200-year environmental study years ahead of its time.

I was doing what O’Neal said she wanted most to tell Tierce, “get back to work. Write another book. Write three. Write ten. Keep writing until you find the next thing.”

This is good advice for any writer. No-one knows which book might be the charm. Bestsellers are made by readers, movie moguls and plain random chance. All we can do is write the stories we feel compelled to share; the work being its own reward. If more comes, wonderful. If not, we’ve honoured our gift.

It’s great to be paid for writing and I know how lucky I am, as well as how hard I’ve worked. As agent and author Donald Maass commented on O’Neal’s blog, “Money? Yeah, well that’s nice to have. But it’s not everything. When people envy writers, it’s not their income that they envy. It’s their freedom.”

To me, that freedom is priceless.

How do you feel about money and writing? Share your questions and comments in the box below. This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.


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Does success make you feel like a fake?

At an early Romance Writers of Australia conference, I remember author Marion Lennox saying that despite having multiple books accepted, she felt as if her success was a fluke. She was waiting for her editors to tell her it was all a mistake and ask for their money back. This from a wonderful writer who was weighed down by her Romance Writers of America RITA winner jewellery and Australian awards when we met at at the Melbourne romance writers’ conference a week ago.

She’s far from alone. Many writers say that having huge international sales and dozens of books published doesn’t stop that niggling sense that it’s all a fluke, rather than an achievement born of hard, persistent work and talent. The feeling is so common it has a name – The Imposter Phenomenon, popularised by Dr. Pauline Rose Clance whose book first exposed the problem. Writing about the chronic self-doubt hidden behind a mask of success, Dr. Clance said a staggering 70 per cent of successful people in America find the condition stops them from enjoying what they’ve achieved. Inside they feel like a fake, attributing their success to every reason except ability and brains. Men are every bit as likely as women to feel this way. Clance’s book lists 20 questions to determine how affected you are by Impostor Phenomenon. She also says she’s talking about people who, by any objective measurements, are genuinely successful rather than people who shrug off compliments out of false modesty, or claim credit they haven’t earned.

The Impostor Phenomenon Dr. Pauline Rose Clance

Some of the problem starts with children encouraged to be smart and high achievers. If  the family brags about a child’s achievements to others, rather than to the child themselves, the child gets no idea of how well they’ve done. More may be made of one B grade than a string of As. Other families move the goal posts so each achievement is seen as a step toward a far-distant goal, rather than something to be celebrated in its own right. If we buy into this deal, as writers often do, we forget to celebrate requests for manuscripts; praise by editors; and even offers of publication, until the work can feel like an unrelenting grind instead of a passion.

My first books were non fiction titles like Growing and Using Herbs, Coping with Diabetes, and The Changing Face of Australia. Despite steady sales, my family barely acknowledged them as books. It took the Society of Women Writers making a fuss to convince me that I had written a “real” book. Even now, relatives ask when I’m going to write “my best seller” as if 26 million sales worldwide barely counts.

While Impostor Phenomenon may be hard to cure, my solution is to accept praise with a simple “thank you” rather than dissembling. I try to celebrate milestones and above all,  enjoy the process of writing which was why I became a writer in the first place. And I make sure others around me know when they’ve done well, even in small things. As a sign in a nursing home said so beautifully, “Don’t tell me what I’m doing wrong, tell me what I did right.” Does someone tell you what you’re doing right? Do you tell yourself? I hope so.


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