17 May 2013

A Short Collection of my most Controversial and Opinionated Observations on Writers

by Carrie Bailey

If you suck as a person, you will suck as a writer and everyone who reads your work will be granted great insight into exactly how you draw into your mouth by contracting the muscles of the lip and mouth to make a partial vacuum

 I’m not saying great writers are great people. Some are the emotional equivalent of a tar pit or a new strain of bird flu. They are very much themselves when they write and happen to be jerks.

What I am saying is that if you have an obvious fault in your personality, it will come out in your writing. I say this thinking about an aspiring YA writer I read with teenage characters having dark jaded and sophisticated sexual relationships that screamed PEDOPHILE to me. I know teenagers can be complex emotional creatures, but this writer was clearly drawing from his own sophisticated sexual
"Hi, I've just finished reading your first draft. I realize
these are unusual circumstances, but I have just sent
a copy to a mental health professional and the authorities. Also,
there were numerous typos on page 6 and 27."
confusion. Most writers aren't as transparently cringeworthy as this man, although published fantasy author, Piers Anthony, certainly is.

How Not to Write a Novel is a book with a lot of examples where writers just get creepy. I recommend reading it.

Creepiness is only one obvious fault that a person can have. Some authors are shallow, overly idealistic, racist, timid, boring... and that's why they suck. Sure, they can still get published. People do, but a writer has to balance out their negative repulsive qualities with enough good ones to tip the scale in favor of attraction.

Bookishness does not make you a superior form of life anymore than wearing glasses makes you more intelligent.

A lot of farmers don’t have time to read, although many listen to a great number of audio books. A lot of poor single mothers don’t have time to read. Many worthwhile people have lives that don’t involve reading books. Time to read is a privilege. It irks me when writers pat themselves on the back for having a noble hobby as if we've all forgotten that there was an era when reading was considered an immoral distraction from responsibility. Humanity can survive without books, but we can’t live without food. Respect the hardworking people who don't read, they may just be catching your book when it gets released on film.

Shocking! It is possible for someone to follow an "author" on social media and not be their adoring fan. 

I bubble over with revulsion whenever an author I friend on Facebook, adds me, and then posts a “Thank-you for friending me” message on my wall. Why don't they thank me privately? Because, they want my friends to see that I made the choice to friend them. Bastards! My Facebook wall is not for you! People I know personally are more considerate about posting on my wall than these authors I've just met.

Real fans are not numbers on social media. Authors friend each other as colleagues not as fans. We inflate each others numbers to make each other look more popular. Sometimes we do read each others work. We share technique, stories and industry information, but we are rarely fans.

Fans are people who are in awe of a writer's work. It can be very uncomfortable to get your first real fans, because you may never have experienced that sort of un-tempered and unreciprocated adoration. While some people may be impressed that you wrote a book, they don’t necessarily plan to read what you wrote. Authors who treat every social media contact as a fan need to recognize the difference!

Being a successful writer is a group effort and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to be led into the forest and left there for 20 days with only saltine crackers.

People, who I know offline, come to me all the time and say that they would like to be a successful author. Can I make that happen? No. I cannot. I have only single digit book sales each week myself and that great trickle of dimes has taken me three years to unleash. People who believe that anyone wields the power to make them successful overnight are naïve. It is kind of cheek-pinching cute though.

However, there are arrogant pricks among writers who knowingly perpetuate this mythology of the author. One day, we click the last button and place the final period on the last paragraph of our great masterpiece. There it sits. Moments later, fans are pounding on our door. Why? Because, authors either have it or they don't; that elusive something that drives sales. It's magic!

Do you agree? Better not. I will come. I will find you and we are going out for a little walk in the woods. We'll have a nice chat. I will leave you there.

If I do take the time to give a writer advice, I expect them to either show me some support by reading one of my books, promoting me, or turn around and mentor someone else. A writer’s time isn’t free just because we aren’t paid hourly. But, we give a lot of it away, because a lot of people gave their time away to us. Now, there it is. The connection between writing and success is a lot of time invested and a lot of help from other people. We have to learn about the industry, make connections, and promote our work. No magic. Just time and the hard work and time of other people.

Giving blanket advice to writers is wrong and dumb and mean and thoughtless and a generally bad idea.

There is no advice that applies to every writer. We’re all at different points in our artistic development and career. But, sometimes people get stuck in a herd…of writers, which they find comforting and validating. And then. They get cultish. It happens.

These rabid and blind writers start to believe they have found absolute knowledge about being an author. They begin to form rules. And that isn't criminal. But, someone of these creatures with laptops and pens, go after the young and those new to writing. They attempt to validate their rules by forcing others to follow them. They oppress creativity. They crush the artistic spark. They douse the fires. They trap the muse in a small cage and poke her with a stick.

Having said that, I would like invite you to read a copy of The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society. It's free when you follow our site and connect with us. While there are no oppressive rules to follow, authors do benefit from the company and companionship of encouraging and unoppressive writers and we've captured that in book form. This handbook holds the epiphanies, experiences and humor of many new authors progressing in their careers within our changing industry.

There are only two types of writers.

Idiots and fools. No! Kidding! We are engaging in a difficult process with uncertain reward or benefit, but there is nothing foolish about it. The benefit of writing is unique to each person and infinitely meaningful to many.

However, I personally classify writers into two categories: the hopeful and hopeless. Some writers add hope to my life and some take it away. It's that simple. I try to avoid the later. I try to identify them early on during our association and keep my distance. It's my overly simplified opinion that this distinction exists and I am proud to say that it has helped keep me writing. But, more than that. It is my opinion and not one I adopted from someone else.

Having and knowing and articulating my opinions is grand. I'm not sure I do it often enough. This month at Peevish Penman, all the authors and I are being opinionated just to practice opening up and saying what we really think without worrying about offending or alienating people. If you have a very opinionated post on your blog about writers, please link to it in the comments. I'd love to read it.


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