Writing for money alone?

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    Hope Ann

    Not long ago, a number of friends and I were talking about the topic of writing solely for money. Then it came up as part of another discussion and I thought it was worth its own thread.

    So, as a Christian, what do you think about writing for money alone?

    Now, obviously, I don’t think a Christian should write something against what they believe. And I think, to some extent, all writing will show Christian values simply because of cause and effect as well as and poetic justice.

    I also believe a Christian author is called to be a witness to the culture in general through their writing. Some authors do this through stories angled toward more overt Christian themes while others write good themes yet for a general audience. Now that’s another topic altogether and I think there is room and need for both kinds of writing.

    Back to the topic at hand. What about when you have a chance to write something just for money or for exposure? It’s not anything bad, but it’s just something for ‘fun’ per say. It’s entertainment. Sure, you might be able to add in the cause and effect/Christian morality but that’s about it. Part of a series of stories or books, maybe. Comedy or a mystery series or based off a TV show or a game (the context of our earlier conversation, @the-inkspiller). Anyway, I do have thoughts on this, but I’d love to hear your thoughts first (also I’m too tired for logical thought and am trying to watch a movie besides… hopefully this all makes sense.

    Tagging a few others who might care. @kate, @karthmin, @Josiah, @daeus-lamb, @morreafirebird

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

    Josiah DeGraaf

    I personally don’t have any problem with this. Being able to put food on the table is a necessary part with life, and I don’t think I’d view writing just for money any worse than working fast food just for money or working as a teacher just for money or programming computers just for money, etc. I do think there’s value in finding purpose to what you do (so that money isn’t the only benefit from it), but that’s true across spheres.

    For myself personally, I wouldn’t be satisfied with this if this was all I did writing-wise (though I’d definitely considering doing this in order to support the writing I’m really passionate about). But I don’t immediately have theological/philosophical issues with this (though I could see a decent case being made for that).

    Great discussion question–interested in seeing how others respond to this!

    Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.com

    Buddy J.

    @josiah @hope-ann

    I think I would tend to agree with you, Josiah… But like you said, a case could be made otherwise.


    Published author, student in writing, works with HazelGracePress.com

    Parker Hankins

    I’m following this conversation.

    Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.

    Brianna Storm Hilvety

    I’m going to jump into this discussion even though I wasn’t invited, because I’ve wrestled with this question as an editor. 😉

    I don’t see anything morally wrong with doing a certain job for the sake of supporting yourself/your family or to supplement the income from endeavors you’re passionate about but aren’t as lucrative. My association with Gilead could almost be placed in this category. So far, none of the projects they’ve offered me have particularly excited me (though I’m hoping eventually a book from Enclave will be up for editing), but I haven’t turned any of them down even though I have the option to do so. Gilead is my highest-paying, most recurring client at the moment, and since my experience with editing for a publisher expands my résumé, I know it could lead to other opportunities. (Plus, I’m on a personal mission to rid the publishing industry of typos, so I suppose my reasons aren’t completely mercenary even if I’m not a fan of the material I’m combing through. 😜)

    Any kind of work that’s done well is honorable and worthy of pay. However, if a person’s only motive for entering a creative profession (like writing, editing, or art) is to earn money, then I think that would turn it into an empty pursuit. A person naturally puts more effort into her work and produces better results when her heart is tied to it in some way. As an INFJ, I must find purpose in whatever I do and feel that it’s valuable/impactful/helpful to others. Otherwise, I languish.

    K.M. Small

    @hope-ann I don’t think there’s a problem with it, but I think novels and stories tend to be more poorly written when the author is just doing it for money 😛

    I think of writing as a form of art and also as a ministry, something that’s tied deep to one’s purpose. At least, storytelling is. Non-fiction is a different topic. But I would feel stressed and purposeless if I were just writing for money. Stories are such powerful things that handing them out for money though you have no passion for them whatsoever seems pointless, and for someone like me would be nearly impossible to do.

    A day-job of some sort would be a different story, because working a cash register isn’t an art (or maybe it is ;P ). You can bring your Christian values to it, but it’s basically just about making money. Writing stories is much more personal, in my opinion. There are a lot of things I would do simply for the sake of making money, but writing isn’t one of them.

    "Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky

    Daeus Lamb

    @hope-ann While I haven’t thought about this much:

    1. Writing just for money would kill my soul. You would have to come sweep up the dust and dispose of it far from human civilization. Then you would have to blow up the spot to erase all memory of it from the planet.
    2. Money is awesome. Pay me to write books!
    3. Writing just for money is probably morally okay…
    4. No story is truly amoral though. You’ll have to seriously consider the broad ramifications of the general populace consuming your story that’s “just for entertainment”. Stupid stories can be awesome but they can also be…stupid…
    5. Even if your writing itself can’t be a ministry, maybe it can be a doorway to other ministries. Maybe it can open up speaking opportunities, conversations with co-workers, etc.

    👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢

    Martin Detwiler

    While I agree with what @josiah said, I don’t know if I could personally do it.

    Also, I feel like there are potentially two things going on in our minds when we hear the phrase “writing for money”. On the one hand is writing for money, which @briannastorm mentioned. In this scenario, your entire approach to writing could be interpreted as carefully calculated in order to bring in revenue. To me, this messes with the writing process (which is an art, not a business) by introducing an economic consideration/motivation. This I could never do, and I would argue that any Christian writer who approaches things in this way is falling very far below their potential and lacks an integrated vision/understanding of their Christian identity. A little harsh, perhaps, but I apply the metric to myself.

    Then on the other hand, there is what @hope-ann seemed to be talking about. For me, that is a quite different scenario, although I would still find it difficult to wrestle through all of the ramifications. For example, say that an opportunity pops up where I can make some money and get some exposure by writing an entertaining story that just has to be a good story and is not required to be anything more. I think I could do it, but I would hesitate if that opportunity happened right now in my overall (nearly nonexistent) writing career.

    Here’s why.

    As a heretofore unpublished author, if my first bit of writing that got any kind of exposure were to be a story and nothing more, it would begin to create an ‘author profile’ in people’s minds. And to be frank, I don’t want people to think of me as someone who simply writes a good story. I want them to get a glimpse of my deeper passion and greater goals.

    In the later stages of a writing career, however, I don’t think it poses nearly as much of a difficulty to write a story that is simply fun and entertaining. Your previous stories have already put you squarely into the place that you want to be as an author, and a little thing on the side isn’t going to *hugely* effect that.

    [However, that would not hold true if you began to consistently write for money in the long term, thus betraying the reputation you had built with your previous writing.]

    For example, the short story that I wrote for Story Ember’s inaugural contest is a story that is heavily allegorical. It is not an allegory, but it is quite heavily allegorical (see the Allegory vs Symbolism thread for the distinction between the two). When it is published on the site in two weeks time, it will be the only story I have had published! As such, it will begin to craft a picture of what kind of author I am in the minds of those who read it. But the thing is… in general, my stories are not so heavily allegorical as “Endbringer”. So I need to be aware and mindful of my reader perception, so that I can begin to find a niche as time goes on and more of my work is published (hopefully!).

    In summary, I guess what I am trying to say is that the ramifications of writing for money are more important than the act or story itself may be.

    Even if you are writing for money, it is my belief that nearly all truly good stories are such because they tap into archetypes of divine Truth and History. Not all good writing is that way, but all good stories are. So, writing for money does not mean you necessarily have to sacrifice that, although it will effect the depth of the themes and truths wrestled with.

    As for me personally – although I could write for money, theoretically… I hope that I wouldn’t. It would be internally inconsistent, and if there’s one thing I want of my writing, it is consistency to my most deeply held beliefs. I want my writing to portray the most pure and consistent expressions of my own beliefs and values – beliefs and values that I live out in my daily life so imperfectly. For me, writing deeply and thoughtfully is a beautiful process of simultaneous self-exploration and self-expression… a moment of consistency unmarred by the distractions and failures of my daily life. In my writing I can bring to life the evil I hate and pit it against the truths I love… and watch the truth win out.

    The stated and intended purposes of my writing is (or ought to be) for myself, as a form of self-expression; for God, as worship, exaltation of his Truth, and humble sub-creation; for others, as a ministry and a rewarding experience to them; and for money last, as a potential way to make my living.

    Thinking through and coming to realize that money and career are last place in my personal approach to writing convinced me that I probably shouldn’t go into editing as a career. I tinkered with that plan for the first few years of my college education, but in order to get to a place where I could consistently choose to work with authors and stories that I was personally invested in and passionate about, I would (potentially/likely) have to spend years accumulating experience editing stories that I had no personal vision for, and in many cases would flatly disagree with… which would completely sucker punch my entire desire to involve myself in the Christian writing scene in the first place.

    Because I’m edging away from becoming an editor (which is {fixing} writing for money), I think it wouldn’t be very consistent for me to turn around and start writing for money. Writing is about passion, truth, change, and beautifully-crafted, deeply-effecting stories. It’s not about money.

    And I hope it never gets to be that way for me, too.

    myths don't die

    Brianna Storm Hilvety


    I don’t think you caught the distinction I was drawing in my post. There’s a difference between entering a creativity-oriented profession solely for the money vs. accepting a single, short-term job because you need the income. Freelance writers and editors aren’t tied to one employer. Over the course of a year, a freelancer will (typically) complete multiple projects—some of which may be less ideal than others, but they’re the stepping stones toward a broader goal. We often can’t have the pick of the lot, because that’s not how life works. If we want to write or edit within a certain sphere, we have to start small and be willing to make a few sacrifices along the way.

    Any job (in any field) is a two-sided coin. One side is purpose (the spiritual) and the other is compensation (the earthly). A police officer may be passionate about protecting people, but he also has bills to pay and a family to support (similar to the brief thoughts @josiah had). Realistically, he can’t give away his time on a regular basis. He may choose to do so occasionally, but receiving payment for his work (and being partly motivated by that for practical reasons) won’t somehow undermine his Christian identity. Actually, if he weren’t earning money, he wouldn’t have the means to help other believers in need (as described in Acts 4:32-35). If raking in cash was his only motivation for entering law enforcement, then he’d be guilty of greed, but otherwise he’s living by the truths that a “laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18) and “in all labor there is profit” (Proverbs 14:23). This applies to artistic endeavors too. Writing as a ministry is great, but hoping to make some income through it (since it’s a form of work) won’t negate or tarnish its eternal worth. Neither will it decrease its effectiveness as a way to point people toward Christ.

    Likewise, editing is not just “fixing writing for money.” Editing is helping writers improve their stories so that they can reach and impact readers more powerfully. If (hypothetically) editing has no value besides being a source of revenue and little to no possibility of being a ministry in of itself, then the conclusion is that writing need not be high quality. But, if writing is poor quality, how can it honor the Lord?

    Even when I’m editing a book that’s in a genre I’m not particularly fond of, I’m still succeeding at the mission of refining writing so that it better serves its intent, and being paid well for a less interesting project may enable me to take on another that inspires me but won’t pay much. Whatever the case, God is the one who leads authors to me, and as long as I’m diligently and excellently performing my work (as Colossians 3:23 says), that brings glory to Him.

    Hope Ann

    *settles down on heap of treasure* *moves because it’s terribly uncomfortable to rest on*

    So, I do think there is a difference between something like the editing @briannastorm does and writing. At least how I view it, editing is more of something anyone would sit down and do the same way. Well, I say anyone. I couldn’t do it, and people who can edit have my greatest respect. Still, it’s more technical skill than anything else, such as when I formatted books for people–some of them works I’d never read, let alone write.

    And most technical skill, unless it’s applied to one’s own work, is used to earn money. Now as Christians, there are some standards that could be set even with technical skill. One wouldn’t want to edit a book filled with sensuality and swearing. Or create a cover for something like that. Formatting is a little looser perhaps since a formatter’s name isn’t really coupled with a book and since one isn’t really reading or representing a book with their work. I never did enough of that to figure out where I stood on the topic. *coughs* I’m rambling. But that aspect of writing I wouldn’t consider so much a conflict between mission and money simply because it’s something people need help with and pay to get that help. It would be more of a ‘job’, like graphic design or creating websites (though those who do editing might feel completely different about it so let me know if I’m horribly wrong about this).

    As to writing in general… Writing solely for money would, I think, undercut the good a Christian author could do.

    And that’s a good point, @Karthmin, about not having a first work be something written just for money/entertainment. Obviously, that’s not the first kind of exposure one wants to have. Not to mention, once authors tend to get into ‘grooves’ and connect with readers, they tend to write in a similar strain because that is what’s expected and what sells for them. So building a brand is definitely something to take into consideration as well (speaking of branding, I did love Endbringer. I… may have seen it on our trello boards and accidentally read the whole thing).

    Moving on. I agree that in theory, writing for money isn’t morally wrong. But it’s also not as satisfying as writing for one’s self. I’m not sure the actual idea of writing for money would go against why I write–I’d not reject it out of hand because of that, at least. I would, however, consider the whole opportunity in light of my vision of writing as a whole, both short-term and long-term plans.

    My main end and passion in writing is to show there is so much more than what we can see. Hope in darkness. Victory in sorrow. It’s a theme that weaves through my mind as I write all my stories. Even if it’s not brought out in an overt manner it’s still part of the subtext.

    So if I got an opportunity to write for money, I would consider it in terms of my overall vision and purpose of writing. Is there a way the theme of hope would run through the story and maybe reach people I couldn’t reach before? Would the exposure help people see other works of mine, which could then inspire them? Would the money or exposure help me forward greater projects than I could do with my current audience/budget? And, most importantly, what is the cost in time? Is it something that would push aside works I might deem as more important and keep me from what I really felt called to do, or would it be a quicker project that would fit alongside the rest?

    Basically, to sum up, I think writing for money can be valid. But I think the fact that one is getting paid is only one of a number of factors that would need to be considered before plunging into it. It might make something worthwhile that wasn’t considered before, but it would need to be weighed and thought about first. And when it comes to making money and earning a living, I think the role of writing needs to be taken into consideration way at the beginning (like you mentioned, Karthmin). Because what importance one places on making money when it comes to writing will also greatly impact how they treat the idea of writing just to earn it.

    Which also brings up another topic. Least, it’s kinda related. But what about stories that are just for fun? Maybe scenes or snippets of legends that will never make it into a book. Basically the things one writes for fun, for themselves, and maybe for a few friends. Things that don’t have set themes, though your values and themes tend to be part of them to some degree. What place do these have in ‘taking up’ a writer’s time and/or sharing them with readers in general?

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

    Martin Detwiler

    I don’t know if this would change your last reply, but when I mentioned your name, @briannastorm, I was referring to this part of what you wrote:

    Any kind of work that’s done well is honorable and worthy of pay. However, if a person’s only motive for entering a creative profession (like writing, editing, or art) is to earn money, then I think that would turn it into an empty pursuit.

    It was in reference to those statements that I said what I did about one’s Christian identity (and then, I was specifically thinking of writing and art, not editing). I was quite unclear, though, because you mentioned two kinds of writing for money and I didn’t clarify which one I was referring to!

    Additionally, I was unclear in another area as well. I don’t believe that any economic consideration at all that enters into either writing or editing is a bad thing. It is just really important in my own approach where that consideration falls in the broader scope of things. I don’t want it to ever move out of last place (out of the four that I mentioned: self, God, others, money). I would feel that I’m being inconsistent to myself if that were to change. But that’s me. If others feel differently, I am perfectly fine with that. At long as we’re not talking about the greedy kind of writing for money, which we both dislike and think is ultimately pointless.

    At this point in my life, because I am not actively pursuing either authorship or becoming an editor, writing doesn’t have anything to do with economics. I am pursuing a non-writing career that will provide financially and allow me the room to pursue writing on the side. In the future, however, I hope to make the transition to becoming a full-time author (that’s the dream, anyway); at that point I would have to give far more consideration to economic concerns and think of myself as an entrepreneurial business entity. Even then, however, I hope money would not move any higher up the list and begin to effect how I approach the craft.

    Oh, and I take back what I said about editing being just fixing writing for money. That’s not an accurate reflection of what I think about editing, and I am really encouraged by your approach to editing and think it’s awesome.

    I think, all in all, I just shouldn’t write late-night posts. 😛

    myths don't die

    Brianna Storm Hilvety

    @hope-ann I would classify proofreading as a technical skill since it only involves correcting errors, but other levels of editing are not. No two editors will revise a book exactly the same way. They may flag several of the same issues, but they may not suggest the same solutions. Editing is a creative endeavor, and editors have unique areas of strength, voices, and styles—just like writers. In order for an editor to do a good job, she has to be invested in the project and know the story inside and out.

    Hope Ann

    @briannastorm makes sense. I guess the main experience I have with editors is generally the proofreading/smoothing of line edits aspect of it, not the creative aspect of.

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

    Brianna Storm Hilvety

    @karthmin Thank you for the clarification. 🙂 And no worries—I’m a night owl myself, so I’ve written some things in the wee hours of the morning that I’ve had to disentangle the next day because my point got misplaced. 😉

    Martin Detwiler

    @hope-ann I really appreciated your balanced comment. Also, I just have to say it, your goal/approach to writing – bringing to light the unseen hope, and showcasing that there is victory even in the midst of sorrow – it’s a beautiful, transcendent goal. I sincerely wish you success.

    Thank you for your comment about Endbringer. It has had a soft spot in my heart for a while – even though it is more allegorical than most of my other writing – so I’m glad that it has (so far) fared well under the eyes of those who are not me. 😛

    Thank you for understanding!


    Now… writing for fun is, well, quite fun. I love sitting down with a blank piece of paper, having literally no idea what is going to happen, and then writing a scene, a bit of dialogue, a character sketch – whatever. There’s something uniquely powerful about the sense of creation that can be achieved when you do this. That feeling isn’t there in the same way when you are carefully crafting the next scene or chapter in your story. It’s there, sure, but not in the same way.

    When you write something small for fun, it’s like you finish and just sit back with that funny half-proud, half-shy smile, thinking, “I just made something.”

    And then you look over it and it’s probably not more than half-good, but you still kinda like it so you show it to your writing friends and see what they think about it…

    Ahem. I ramble.

    As you can tell, I love writing for fun. I think it is a great exercise of a writer’s ability to create in the moment. Writing on the fly like that might be a nightmare for  all you plotters out there, but it’s a joy-ride for a pantser like me, and can even be the trigger that gets me in the mood to write more seriously in my current WIP.

    The only downside I can see with writing for fun is that it may detract from your other writing projects. Other than that, I think it is a fun way to exercise and improve your technical skills on things that don’t carry the emotional and personal weight that a more serious-minded piece of writing brings with it. When we get caught up in making our ‘real’ story as good as it can be (which is an admirable goal, and should not be lost sight of!), we may yet be subconsciously stifling our own creative juices.

    Despite that, I do sometimes get the feeling that writing for fun isn’t ‘enough’ – that all of my writing should be more carefully and intentionally written to showcase Truth. And while this is definitely an issue of conscience that each author should work through on their own, I try to ensure that I’m still being purposeful by seeing it as a challenge to weave truth into my ‘joy-writing’ even though it is entirely spontaneous. By doing this, as I learn to think on my feet pencil keyboard(?) better, my hope is that the principles and themes of God’s truth will come with greater ease and readiness to be woven into any piece of writing that I make.

    How do some of you guys approach writing for fun?

    myths don't die

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