Recently, I’ve led a spate of workshops to do with the business of getting published. One question that’s cropped up a lot is whether it’s worth paying for editorial, mentoring or publishing support. My answer, in essence, is yes. But, it does come with a question – what is more precious to the writer, time or money? It’s a pertinent question, and one that can be applied to many choices that have to be made in life. For instance, right now, we very badly need a new bathroom, but there’s not a lot of money in the pot. Do we get in the cheapest plumber or spend the time doing it ourselves…? Questions, questions…
But back to the writing.
Time is scant, money is not
For some writers, money might not be an issue, but time is. They want to see their poetry pamphlet in print sooner rather than later. Or they want to bag that dream agent this year rather than next. Or they want to rapidly progress in the craft of short stories. If money isn’t an issue then paying for a complete package professional self-publishing service provider, or hiring an experienced editor to get your manuscript into shape, will ensure that you more speedily attain your goals. Also, money can buy you time. If the pot is big enough you can pay for that cleaner/gardener/decorator to take away some of your chores so that you can write instead, or go on that much-needed (though perhaps pricey) weekend writing retreat so that you can get more words down on the page.
Time is plentiful, money is not
For some, time isn’t an issue. Maybe they’re retired, or they work part-time. Perhaps they’re currently in between jobs, or not in paid employment for whatever reason. The upshot of this is that they know that a goodly number of hours per day or week can be assigned to their writing. This means that they, too, can more rapidly attain their goals through the sheer dint of writing, editing, reading, and yet more writing, editing, reading…
Time and money are both plentiful
A writer’s dream! With enough hours to devote to the craft of writing, as well as enough money to hire a good editor or mentor (or both), and to attend literary festivals/courses that many writers would consider too pricey, then the writer in this situation *should* be able to zoom along to their goal unimpeded. But all the money and time in the world can’t buy you the determination to succeed and progress in your craft, refine your professionalism, and build your following. No matter what your financial or time situation is, that kind of steely determination has to be prised out of your psyche (which may stubbornly resist all your best efforts).
Low on time and money
This, unfortunately, is probably the reality for most writers. For some people, work, caring or other responsibilities or issues (such as ill-health) will make regular, long stretches of time for writing an impossibility. If money is tight too, it may well be that the kind of courses/editorial support that would help those writers rapidly improve in their writing are simply unaffordable. This last situation may seem crushingly disheartening, and it’s certainly true that under these circumstances it will take longer for a writer to achieve their goals, but there are some key things to remember:
a) you still have control of what little stretches of time are afforded to you. Make the best use of them you can in whatever way will best move your writing forward, be that drafting a poem, writing 200 words of your novel, or editing a flash fiction piece. Don’t waste it on social media or YouTube or whatever…
b) some of the most successful and bestselling writers have never taken a single creative writing course, ever. For some writers, the money spent on these kinds of helpful (though not completely necessary) extras has been zero or, at least, minimal. Self-taught writers have just as much chance as succeeding as the ones who pay for editorial or mentoring support. (Check out my post on low-cost ways to improve your editing skills.) But, successful self-taught writers understand that effective self-management, hard work and determination are vital in effective progression. However…
c) not everyone has the kind of personality/natural skill set that makes them an effective self-teacher. In which case, courses, mentoring and/or editorial support can be incredibly useful. Thankfully there are many excellent organizations that provide this kind of support for free, such as The Literary Consultancy (check out their Free Reads scheme), The Society of Authors, Arvon (the latter is currently open for grant applications – the deadline is 28th June). Lots more exciting (and free) opportunities exist – simply asking on Twitter will bring information to you. (Also, if you’re looking for free-to-submit competitions or magazines do visit Cathy Bryant’s excellent site.)
Striking a balance
Like most things in life, there are grey areas. There may be times when you find yourself time-rich but cash-poor, or suddenly time-poor but cash-rich. Or maybe you’re going through what feels like an interminably long stretch of having only moderate amounts of both time and money. In each new given life situation you’ll have to decide what is most important to you – time or money – and plan how you’re best going to utilise them so that you can most effectively reach your writing goals. Whatever your ratio of time:money, though, make sure to also stock up on determination, perseverance and patience.