After an exhaustive 10-year study that has consumed most of my adult life, I have concluded that the world of writing may be the only industry where the bulk of its money is made in selling the dream of working in the industry rather than in the industry itself. According to this pie chart I just made, a staggering 9.8 percent of profits earned so far in 2009 came from sales and contract work, whereas the other 90.2 percent came as the result of magic genies and wish-granting fish conventions, how-to books, online classes, and other services created to set the writer free.
The key to this industry isn’t writing a screenplay or a novel, it’s writing a book about how to write a screenplay or a novel. Writing, much like cooking or drawing, is a craft in which the average Joe believes they already have a head start. At some point they have sent an email, told a story to a friend, or filled out a health questionnaire and so to take those skills and make money with them seems like a small stretch. And since your average writer is typically self-conscious and prone to wild cycles of manic-depression, your job as a how-to writer is to not only make all their dreams seem easy, but to massage their wildest fantasies about money, sex, and “the biz”. For some writers, the dream is about earning a paycheck through the craft. However for many it’s about finding a solution to all of life’s other problems: lack of girlfriend, lack of money, lack of self-esteem, boredom, lack of respect from co-workers, etc. The how-to market addresses those concerns.
There are a few types of books on the market that I would like to touch on. These are atypical both in the realm of how-to fiction as well as the how-to market as a whole.
1. The Obvious
The Obvious provides the kind of rudimentary knowledge that a person should already have prior to their decision to write, much in the same way a hopeful athlete should already know who the man on the field is that wears black and white stripes and blows a whistle. Topics typically include conflicts, characters, and story structure, though typically these are taught in the most basic methods possible. A line graph illustrating a slow but steady rising arc, followed by a steep drop-off and straight line will usually have been prefaced with the words “rising action”, “climax”, and “resolution”.
2. The Impossible
The Impossible isn’t going to lie to you; it’s tough getting in. But what The Impossible lacks in naivete it makes up for in optimism. You, The Impossible states, can do it. The Impossible sits you down like Wilford Brimley for a little straight-talk, drawing on its experiences and anecdotes to provide examples of how to overcome the various hurdles in writing. It cautions more than it advises, using the phrase “bottom of the pile” or “trash heap” as an ever-present danger in presenting work to a professional. Thinking about straying from the traditional 3-act structure? Think again. The Impossible knew a kid who tried that once and he couldn’t catch a cold in this town after that. Wise up.
3. The Insider
The Insider doesn’t bother with instructional how-to’s or advice on story structure because The Insider knows that it’s all about talking the talk. The Insider has a very unusual method of attracting its prey, as it attempts to lure the writer into its trap as a simple how-to but a few page turns at the book store reveal a world where agents buzz around in convertibles repeating “babe” into over sized cell phones and publishers are suckers who need only the right amount of finessing. The Insider gives the writer all the dream-fuel they desire, and it does it with such nonchalance so as to make the writer feel that they have only to jump in and they’ll be eating lobster salads with Spielberg and discussing foreign box office gross.
After considering each of the aforementioned how-to archetypes, I’ve decided to write a book which would serve as a rocket-fueled hybrid of all three. In How To Make Your First Ten Million In Writing, I’ve laid out very clear chapters which will serve to answer all of the aspiring writer’s questions about writing, the “biz”, and what comes after you’ve made all that money and are surrounded by strippers.
How To Make Your First Ten Million In Writing
by Kevin “The Hat” MadMan
Chapter 1: You’ll NEVER Make It
Chapter 2: That Was Just A Test, You Made It!
Chapter 3: Your Life and Why It’s Interesting to People
Exercise: Story structure connect-the-dots tear out
Chapter 4: Characters – They’re Just People
Exercise: Make a list of funny relatives
Chapter 5: Walk Right Up And Hand It To Them
Exercise: Stake-out at Mr. Chow
Chapter 6: BAM! You Just Made A Fucking Million!
Exercise: Sign on the dotted lines
Chapter 7: Navigating Your First Cocktail Party
Exercise: Compromising your middle-American values
Chapter 8: Turning Down Offers
Chapter 9: Writer’s Block and Cocaine
Exercise: Tricking God’s mercy with fake penance
Chapter 10: Malibu or the Hills? Getting Real about Real Estate
Chapter 11: So You Think You’re Ready?
Exercise: Can you help Yogi Bear find his way through the industry?