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Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.

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All artistic endeavours are disrespected at times, but writers face a special challenge. Almost everyone believes they can write.

And they’re correct, up to a point.

Most literate homosapiens can, indeed, write. Does that mean they are gifted when it comes to the writing craft? Of course not. Writing is a talent like anything else. It has to be honed, nurtured, practiced, perfected.

Just as being able to bounce a basketball will not qualify you for the NBA, being able to compose an email does not mean you’re the best person to write web copy, journalism articles, or novels.

Very few people assume they could suddenly be cardiac surgeons, but many think they could write a best-selling novel if they only had the time. This can be a continual source of amazement, amusement and frustration for the writers who are slogging it out in the trenches.

So here’s the most important thing writers have to know.

Their worth.

Know your worth, even when it seems that everyone around you doesn’t.

Several things happened recently that really brought this home for me.

During a lull in my freelance work, I was offered the possibility of doing some writing for a new client. I was excited. It was a creative project and a chance to get involved in something where my talents could make a real difference.

And of course the money would come in handy.

The project was massive. If I decided to take it on, it would involve editing and rewriting the equivalent of a full-length novel, but I was game. Only one question–what was the budget?

There was no budget. The client hoped to trade services, which was a nice thought, and it may even work sometimes. I’m certainly not closed to the idea. But, at this particular time, I didn’t have need of her services. What I needed was income.

The expectation that I would do huge amounts of work and receive no money in return is not an unusual one, unfortunately. I’ve had several potential clients disappear once they realized I actually expected to get paid for my work.

I’ve also had to fight for my pay cheque when disreputable companies decided not to fulfill their end of the bargain.

And then there’s the people who want you to spend hours, weeks, and months of your own time helping them write their “sure-fire bestseller” for a cut of the potential profits.

Or the ones who assume that because you work from home, you’re not really working.

The list is endless, and I’m sure most writers can relate.

When it happens to you, take a deep breath.

Remember your worth.

Maybe everyone can write, but you do. And you do it well. You deserve to be paid for your work.

Don’t settle for less than you deserve.

And if all else fails, rant to another writer.

We’ve been there.

Anyone else care to share their experiences? Have you ever been undervalued? What did you do?

Thanks for reading!
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16 Comments

  1. G.R. LeBlanc

    I found myself nodding through most of your post. It is surprising isn’t it–how so many people expect that writers will work for nothing. Many just don’t get how difficult writing really is, or how time-consuming. I really don’t get it. Writers still need to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Most people would never dream of asking for free services from other professionals, it should be no different with writers. ~ Gisele

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks for your comment, Gisele. It is surprising, and frustrating as hell. I find the same is true of related services writers often do–editing, rewriting, marketing, and referrals.

      I’ve been asked to write people’s resumes, but I usually shy away from those jobs, because I know how time-consuming they are and that most people will never want to pay for my time. It’s been safer to stick with well-established publications, in my experience. Lay people usually don’t get it.

      Reply
  2. Rhonda Parrish

    Writer to writer rants keep me sane. Ish. 🙂

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      They are pretty wonderful. Thank god for writing peeps.

      Reply
  3. debi o'neille

    When someone with a day job asks me for a quote to edit his or her novel, and then shows signs of shock that I don’t charge a flat rate of $25 no matter how much time it takes, I smile and ask them, really, that seems high? How much do you get paid by the hour?
    If no high-paying day job is in the mix, I ask, well, how much per hour do you pay your plumber or gardener? Granted, your book may not be as important to you as your pipes or having weeds in your garden, but on a time commitment basis, I’ll probably be working just as hard as your plumber or gardener. 🙂
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      I would say so, Debi. I’ve had plumbers come in and literally say, “Nope, this is the city’s problem. I can’t help you. That’ll be 85 bucks.”

      A flat rate of $25 for editing a book is ridiculous! Maybe $25/hour I can see. I had no idea how bad it really was out there. That’s crazy!

      I love your analogies, because they’re so perfect. Being an editor is all about weeding out the unnecessary stuff and wading through sh*t.

      Thanks for commenting. Nice to see you back here!

      Reply
  4. Susan Scott

    Always remember your worth … wise indeed. My younger son is a musician and frequently gets asked to perform for free. Sometimes he does if eg for a worthy charity, but there are those who just expect to get services for free… crazy huh? Likewise older son who is an animator gets asked to do something for free ..people seem to think if you’re an artist of any kind, as in writers who create with the pen, that this is not really work.

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Sorry to hear it, Susan, for the sake of both your sons. Feel free to share this post with them, if it would help them realize this is pretty common, though no less frustrating.

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      Reply
  5. Frank Powers

    Pardon my insecurity but what would be your advice to people who want to write but aren’t sure of their worth as a writer?

    Reply
    • Frank Powers

      I guess I am simply too used to day job work where even when 2 people are doing the exact same job, the one who has been with the company longer will almost always be making more.

      In a field as subjective as writing, how do you judge your worth when you are the new guy? Is it fair to ask the same price as someone who has been doing it for a decade or do you look at what long time writers charge and reduce it by a percentage because of your inexperience.

      Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Welcome back, Frank. I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking–what you should charge for your work? Or how to determine whether or not you’re ready to publish or submit?

      As far as knowing what to charge, what I do if I’m stumped is contact writerly friends and ask how much they typically charge for similar work. Or I figure out how long, roughly, the job would take and times that estimate of hours by my rate. Alternatively, I consider how much I could take for the job and still be happy, motivated, and satisfied.

      Now, if it’s finding out whether you are ready to be published, read a lot, write a lot. Find critique partners. Send your work to anyone who will look at it and ask for feedback. Join a forum or a writing group where you can trade critiques. Enter contests. And finally, submit or publish. Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone will improve with each piece they write.

      Hope that helps! If I didn’t answer your question, please let me know.

      Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      It depends on the project, Frank. For instance, I was recently asked to provide a quote for promoting a musician’s album and resulting concert tour. I have done this once, with pretty good results, but my friend has made a business around this work. So I asked her what she would charge, and reduced my rate significantly in comparison (but not so much it wouldn’t be worth my time), and sent it to the guy. It was probably still too much for him, because he never responded, but that’s okay. You don’t want to work for people who don’t value your worth. I could have pushed it by following up with him, but I was actually relieved–it was a ton of work and I wasn’t overly passionate about it.

      However, most of the work I do is for magazines and newspapers. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, but I’m paid the same as a newbie writer. The difference is I’ll get more assignments because of my experience and contacts. But a lot of places pay a flat rate, no matter who the writer is.

      Reply
  6. Crystal Bourque

    My favourite is, “I have this AMAZING idea for a novel!…I’ll let you write it, but you’ll need to pay me for the idea.” As you can imagine, I’ve never taken anyone up on this offer. I’m not sure why people think I want their ideas. I’ve got plenty of my own, thanks! Great post, I think knowing your worth is so important for all writers.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Crystal. Yeah, there’s a lot of people out there who believe their ideas are too brilliant to go unshared, but little do they know, coming up with brilliant ideas is the easy part. It’s writing the damn book that is hard.

      Reply
  7. Kate Kading

    You seem to post these gems exactly when I need them. Excellent, so true, and most valuable advice. Thank you.

    Reply
    • JH

      Glad it spoke to you, Kate. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply

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