Writing for Love, Writing for Money, and What Superman IV Has To Do With Being a Professional Writer

David Morrell, the thriller writer, once told me that only about 250 people in the country make their living soling writing novels. All the other writers must do other writerly tasks to bring in money. They teach; they write press releases; they write radio copy; they pen articles.
Author:
Publish date:

You ever see Superman IV? It was the one where Lex Luthor creates a "Nuclear Man" who fights with Superman. Mariel Hemingway is in it and she's awful. The plot is awful. The whole thing is just a terrible drive down Awful Street.

But as awful as it is, I think it has a connection to the world of writing. Let me explain. Perhaps you remember Superman III with Richard Pryor? That one was awful, too. Richard Pryor had no business being in that movie, yet there he was—squeezed into the plot in an attempt to attract box office dollars. Anyway, after the disappointment of Superman III, actor Christopher Reeve wasn't interested in another Superman film. Producers came to him and talked about a fourth installment, but he wasn't biting. Why? Because he knew it would suck (and suck it did). So if he knew Superman IV would suck, and he didn't want to do it in the first place, how on Earth did that movie ever get made?

Two words: Street Smart.

Image placeholder title


Street Smart was a nice little drama script that Reeve had been trying to get off the ground for years. He loved the project but nobody would finance the picture. The producers who owned the Superman movie rights told Reeve they would bankroll any picture of his choosing in exchange for doing Superman IV. He couldn't resist, and he signed the papers. Street Smart was released in 1987 and kinda came and went without much hurrah. Morgan Freeman played a nasty pimp in it and got his first Oscar nomination. You can see clips of him online, being the man. He totally stole that whole movie. But the point here is not to praise Morgan Freeman and his soothing voice. The point is to show that, like Christopher Reeve in the mid-80s, we writers sometimes do things for love and sometimes we do things for money. And that's normal; that's perfectly fine.

David Morrell, the thriller writer, once told me that only about 250 people in the country make their living soling writing novels. All the other writers must do other writerly tasks to bring in money. They teach; they write press releases; they write radio copy; they pen articles. Think about the movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (playing themselves) talk to one another about alternating with "a safe movie" and then "an arthouse movie."

And they're pretty much right (in my mind, at least). You have to take on some projects for love—projects that might fail. This usually refers to fiction. And you will need to take on writing that doesn't inspire you but pays the bills. Perhaps that's travel articles for the local paper or running a newsletter of some kind. Just know that it's normal, and we're all doing the same thing.

Image placeholder title

The quickest way to get an agent's attention
is a professional submission. That's why you need
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd. Ed.

It has dozens of query letter examples (novels,
nonfiction, short stories, kids books and more).


Pair vs. Pare vs. Pear (Grammar Rules)

Pair vs. Pare vs. Pear (Grammar Rules)

Prepare yourself for comparing the differences of pair, pare, and pear on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

6 Lessons of Writing for Novelists

6 Lessons of Writing for Novelists

As the author of 16 novels, Wendy Wax shares her top 6 tips for novelists to help their writing journey go as smoothly as possible.

Elyssa Friedland: On Letting Setting Guide You

Elyssa Friedland: On Letting Setting Guide You

When author Elyssa Friedland settled on the setting for her latest novel, Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, the characters and plot came to her. Here, she discusses the importance of setting.

Alyson Gerber: On Writing Difficult Topics for Young Readers

Alyson Gerber: On Writing Difficult Topics for Young Readers

Critically acclaimed author Alyson Gerber discusses how she tackled the topic of disordered eating in her latest middle-grade novel, Taking Up Space.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Annual Writing Competition, Submission Guidelines, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce the extended Annual Writing Competition deadline for 2021, details on how to submit your writing to Writer’s Digest, and more!

Amorak Huey: On Stalling Out After Publication

Amorak Huey: On Stalling Out After Publication

Poet Amorak Huey hit a creative roadblock after publishing his latest poetry collection Dad Jokes From Late in the Patriarchy. He shares his cure (and more!) in this article.

From Script

New Original Podcasts, Videos, and Understanding Data as a Screenwriter (From Script)

In this week’s round-up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, Script releases brand new audible and visual content!

Summer Writing Activities for Writers

8 Summer Writing Activities for Writers

Summer is upon us, so here are 8 summer writing activities for writers to consider as the temperature rises.

Books and Authors to Check Out in 2021

71 Books and Authors to Check Out in 2021!

Need a book to read in 2021? Want to find a new author to check out? Then, explore this list of 71 books and authors featured in our author spotlight series in a variety of genres.