Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Never hesitate to ride past the last street light at the edge of town. ...

There's something about riding a motorcycle--especially at night--that urges the rider to ride a bit further into the unknown, to leave the security of a town's streetlights behind and press into darker, less civilized places. With that urge however, comes some fear.

What does this have to do with the previous posts on writing for free? There is a connection.

Most of us would write even if we weren't paid for it--the passion to exercise our creativity is just that strong. At the same time, even writers have to eat; and moreover our work has value as entertainment, education, or both. So a writer needs compensation.

For better or worse, the publishing landscape has changed irrevocably. Many would say this landscape has darkened. There are far fewer markets for the many of the genres and forms of fiction that Robert Heinlein or Lawrence Block or a long list of well recognized authors produced in their early years. The days of a multitude of well-paying magazine print markets for fiction are gone. These markets have not been replaced by E-zines, because E-zines simply don't pay as well, often pay little, and sometimes pay nothing at all.

So what compensation is there for writers in these electronic micro-markets, and should a writer accept it?

When there is monetary compensation for writing for an E-zine, take it, just be careful of what rights you sign away.

When the money is small, compensate yourself in another way. Use the venue to go beyond your own streetlamps. Explore the unknown--in voice, subject matter, genre, or technique. Ride into the darkness of tough or off-limits subjects. Twist the throttle of your imagination, break a few speed limits, and leave just a bit of your "civilized" writing behind. You may get a few bucks, but the real compensation is that you'll feed the passion to create and go beyond what you thought you could do.

And whether you're riding or writing, there is great value in that.


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