I’ve been having a conversation with myself about writing for the past couple days. I’ve been looking at some options I have for what to do over the next two years. Why two years? That’s when my family and I are leaving Thailand. That’s my goal. So I have to look at the options to see what I’d best be doing for the next 24 months.

Option 1 – Write fast and furious, churning out new fiction books at the rate of one every two months. Giving myself some leeway, I think it’s very possible to write 10 of these junk fiction books in two years. Let’s say best case scenario I could write 15 books this way. When I write about what I know, that is, being in Thailand or Hawaii, or Florida and just expounding on plots that are not too unlike things I’ve already done in life, then I can write 5,000 words per day and usually much more, every day consistently. These sorts of books I call junk fiction. They are humorous, adventurous, and it is like writing stream of consciousness when I get in the right mode. I enjoy writing these stories, but, there isn’t a snowball’s chance any of them will sell more than about 50 books per month at Amazon. Let’s say that’s best case scenario for Option 1. I write 15 books and they sell 50 books per month. I make $2 on each book sale. That’s $1,500 per month income on top of what I’m making through e-book sales now. I’d have some themes, maybe the entire 15 books can all be called part of the series, so I’d be able to make 3 book sets, 5 book sets, and even 15 book sets for die-hard readers. I’d make another few hundred per month from those sales.

Altogether, it would be just enough that we could move, but I’d have to get a job once we arrived. Not ideal, but, if that’s the way it goes, then we’ll do it that way.

Option 2 – Write a few Big Books in two years. The difference between writing a Big Book and writing a junk fiction book is the time and thought involved. The thought required of me in Option 1 is almost negligible. I won’t be getting stressed out about anything. I won’t be researching much – it’s all in my head. For a Big Book, I’ll be stressing out about researching all the things that I am not an expert on. I’ll be fact-checking, Googling my ass off to create a book that has some substance to it. The difference between a Big Book and junk fiction is the stress, but mostly it is the time needed.

I can write a junk fiction book in 30 days. A Big Book, I can’t imagine writing in less than 9 months. I’d say 12 months, but I think I couldn’t let it go on for a full year without running screaming straight through my 2nd story bedroom french doors. At that rate, I’d have 2.5 Big Books written. Now, how much money would that bring in per month?

Minimally it is the same as any book that doesn’t make it. If nobody likes the book, nobody knows about the book, you’re looking at 5-10 sales per month. At the other extreme, sales can go off the chart. Choosing to write Big Books instead of junk fiction, is a total crapshoot. It’s luck. It’s talent. It’s belief in yourself. It’s a lot of things, but one thing it is not is predictable or sure.

I could spend the next two years writing just one book. When published, that book could do gangbusters and sell a few hundred or thousand copies per day, or, it could sell 10 copies in a month. There is no way to guess. Even if I put my heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, and mucus into it – there is no telling what that book will amount to. It could bring in $40,000 per month, or $20.

This is why there are so few good fiction books being written at this time. It’s why there were so few written ever. Big Books are too much effort and take too much luck to hit big with. There are very few writers out there that care about their own writing so much that they’ll starve and live in a shoebox for years just to keep writing stories that are important to them, even when they’re only making pizza dinner money to survive on.

There are many more writers that want to crank out junk fiction because they know they’ll at least sell 20-40 copies per month and make $40-80 per book per month. Over a lifetime of writing, that can bring in a sizeable amount of income, and it’s more fun to write that way, and it brings a consistent payoff for the thirty days it took to write it.

Writing junk is a more likely pay off. It’s fast. It’s fun. It does not have much potential on the upside unless you write a series and it hits a large group of people right between the eyes like a shot of ecstasy,  and they buy every book in the ridiculous series. But, the downside isn’t too bad considering you only took a month to crank it out. No harm done, right?

So the question before me today, and for the past half-dozen months, has been…

Write junk books at the rate of one per month, or write Big Books at the rate of one every nine months?

[Photo by gabesk at flickr.com]