Lately, INTERN's landlord has been approaching INTERN at funny times of day to talk about his elderly mother's collection of short stories, journal entries, and drawings, which he wants to get published so he can use the subsequent windfall to send his mother on a tropical vacation. "I figure maybe Hawai'i? Bermuda? Somewhere she can sit on the beach for a couple weeks? D'you think I'll get enough to send her on a cruise? I figure it's time to get them published now, so she can go this winter."
*Smile and nod, while heart breaks into neon tongues of compassion and sorrow*
If you really want to make money writing fiction—fast money, not long, drawn-out, hypothetical advance money or the lime green, money-esque "money" cash-strapped literary journals have taken to sending instead of cheques—there are two options INTERN can recommend. Option A is for the bold. Option B is for the polyglottal.
Here's how it goes:
Step 1: Get a paying job that involves lots of downtime, like night shift at a hotel switchboard or tropical fish-sitting. This is crucial, because you will obviously spend this time writing but you will already be getting paid $15/hour to do it, which will bump up your hourly "writing salary" to $45-60/hour.
Step 2: (Option A) Write erotica. Shazam! Erotica pays faster and better than any other fiction market INTERN has ever dabbled in, and it's great writing practice to boot. Erotica websites pay $30-50 for a 1,500-2,000 word story which, if you're good and caffeinated, you can bust out in a little over an hour. OK, maybe two hours. Websites pay within days, not six months later when you've changed addresses and have completely forgotten that the Bumbleprick Cove Extremely Selective Review of Linear-Only Literature even exists. Plus, they publish on a daily, not quarterly basis, so you can submit as many times as you want. INTERN hits up a certain for-women-only website whenever the electricity bill is due (under a hott pseudonym of course) and has never been let down yet.
This is not to say that writing erotica is easy or should be treated lightly—it's a very intelligent, respectable genre, and you can't get away with sloppy writing. The fact that it's a well-paying market indicates that it's also a competitive one, and like any other genre, you need to bring the goods. Erotica forces you to become a master of the "show, don't tell" rule, and a wizard of suspense. And if your writing has become at all cowardly or shallow, writing erotica forces you to take risks: if your heart isn't pounding as you write it, you haven't gone far enough. Plus, there's no feeling more bad-ass than getting $$ on paypal from an editor called "Tina McNaughty" and feeling like some kind of wicked star.
Check out the Erotica Readers and Writers Association for writing resources and calls for submissions. They're da bomb.
P.S. If anyone thinks the short story form is dead, go attend an erotica reading in New York or San Francisco. Standing. Room. Only.
Option B: Do literary translation.
Another great way to make $ writing while you're waiting for that book deal to come through involves foreign tongues (ha!) of another sort. If you're fluent in a second language, translation pays extremely well, is fun and interesting, and can be done from home (or preferably, work). Plus, if your brain is fried from writing your novel, it's a nice break to work with somebody else's words for a change while still using your creativity. Translation clients are always absurdly thankful for your work, as if deciphering their novel/poems/memoir/letters was a great miracle. And, like writing erotica, doing translation benefits you in more ways than $$. It makes you more attuned to the subtle beauties lurking in individual sentences, and more conscious of the hundreds of tiny choices writers make with every word. Then when you go back and work on your own novel or memoir, you'll be more conscious of those things in your writing. Ba-da-bing!
INTERN can hardly tell her bearded, U-S-American, Christian rock-loving landlord to go write a porno or translate a porno or whatever, if he really wants to make cruisin' $$ in time for x-mas. But there you go.