Monday, April 21, 2014

Interwebz outrage, writer DNA, and what does it matter?

Today's blog post is inspired by some responses I saw to a friend's helpful post on a private author email loop. The friend had run the post by me and others before posting, and I (and others) thought it was a very well-written, quick summation of things newbie authors should know.

Of course, the Internet being what it is, there was immediately a couple of asshats (despite most of the responses being positive) who had to piss all over the post, because, ya know--INTERWEBZ OUTRAGE.

Seems to be a disease with no vaccine or cure other than, oh, common sense.

From what I could tell, the disgruntled responses seemed to come in somewhere around the DON'T YOU PUT ME IN A BOX to the I'M ADULTISH YOU AIN'T THE BOSS OF ME range. But it once again hammered home the point in my mind that writers definitely have widely varying "lineages."

So this is me, boxing commonalities--roughly--into, you know, boxes of writer lineages. Most of them not bad or good, they just ARE. And yes, of course, there are hybrids and variations and mixes and matches and pick one from column A and one from column B and OH MY GOD now I want pork lo mein and eggrolls.

Ahem.

1) Jus sanguinis - You come from a "writerly" family, and it's just what you do. Maybe your parents are both writers, scholarly or otherwise. Or maybe they're academics who instilled a love of wordage into your genetic code, both nature and nurture. Or teachers or librarians or massive bookworms who are unfulfilled novelists who instill in you their hopes and dreams to become the next Pulitzer Prize winner. Do you enjoy it? Well, okay, sure, maybe, whatever *shrugs*. You didn't know you had a choice but to enjoy it, but it's fun enough. Or, maybe it's da bomb. Or, maybe you do it because you don't know anything else, or you feel it's expected of you. Or, whatever.

2) De novo - You just ARE a writer. If they looked at your DNA under a microscope, it would be Times New Roman 12-point. You might have been "that child" in the family, the one where both parents shrug and say, "I dunno,"(your father doesn't outright accuse your mother of an affair with his hunky English Lit professor cousin but it might have crossed his mind until it was discovered you possessed your father's allergy to cream of mushroom soup) but they go with it. (Or, if you're unlucky, they try to talk you into becoming an accountant.) You likely devoured books from a young age the way most kids would have devoured Cadbury Creme Eggs had they not been under adult supervision and lacking the finances to perpetually gorge themselves on same-said treats. You might have been writing stories even when you were in grade school. Your teachers learned NOT to give you creative writing assignments because you turned in 300-page manuscripts while the requirement was 100 words (and your classmates struggled and griped about that, much to your confusion and possibly derision). You are constantly trying to get better as a writer, devouring not just fiction, but books and articles on the art and craft of writing. Writing isn't what you do, it's who you ARE. You did it before you could make money at it, you'd keep doing it even if no one ever saw it, and if you can make money doing it? Then that's YOUR idea of Heaven, baby. They are the fucking Rambos of the publishing world. Publishing is the Zombie Apocalypse, and they are the survivalists who will RULE THE NEW WORLD.

3) Gilligan - You stumbled into it. Whether it was because you realized there were other people out there writing slash fiction pairing Spock and Kirk in hawwwwt monkey sex positions, or you read a book that you loved except for the ending and said, "Hey, I can do better than THAT," or you put enough blog posts together with enough people saying, "Hey, you should write a book." They are the common man pushed (or sometimes pulled kicking and screaming) into publishing, and are trying to find their way around this new dimension, like Arthur Dent being handed a towel by Ford Prefect and teleporting off Earth. (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

4) Thurston Howell, III - "You mean there are people writing shit, putting it up on Amazon, and inking movie deals? SIGN ME UP FOR THAT SHIT!" The ONLY reason they're writing is because they think they'll get rich doing it. It's only about the money, NOT about the writing, and they don't give a shit what you think.

--

I am of the de novo lineage. I'm lucky my parents humored me, my dad brought me home an electric typewriter from the flea market, and the county school system gave me a semester of typing in middle school when I'd wanted to be in band. I started reading in kindergarten, and was plopped into advanced reading classes--the next grade up and the only kid in my classes that did that--for the first several years of my grade school career. I knew from a VERY young age, once I was old enough to realize that the books I eagerly devoured were written by people who did this for a LIVING, that I wanted to do THAT. As a teenager, I would live for the Saturday nights when my parents would go out for the evening so I could set my typewriter up in the living room and beat it half to death without my parents finally cutting me off while I was still in the middle of a paragraph because the thing was too loud. As I got older, I also knew, realistically, that I'd need an EDJ (Evil Day Job) to support my writing addiction. I didn't care. I always "played" with my fiction, even as later on I ended up doing a lot of non-fiction writing, editing, and even self-publishing of computer software tutorials. My fiction was always THERE, in my head, the characters talking to me. It was a low-grade fever constantly burning inside me, with the only relief being to WRITE.

Still is, to this day. I'm lucky enough I now get paid to write, but this didn't happen overnight. It took me over twenty-five years to transition through stages of life to get to the point where I could finally call fiction writing my EDJ. Not saying it takes everyone that long to get to this place, but I'm saying that the writers who start out as de novo writers tend to have the most consistent success, long-term, of all the writing types.

Why do I say that?

I'm not saying the jus sanguinis writers don't or can't have success. Some do have great success. But they tend more toward the academic end of the spectrum, or literary fiction, not genre fiction. They might also be professors or teachers or other types of jobs where they're still surrounded by books and writing. Their internal fire is more like a pilot light.

The Thurston Howell, III types--well, fuck them. Most of these types are unrepentant spammers at worst, or lazy one-off plagiarists writers at best. Fortunately, most of the rest of these types tend to quickly flame out when they realize it's not as easy as it looks. I don't think I've ever seen one of these types transition into honest-to-Goddess de novo writers with a true love of the craft. I have seen several of them offer really bad advice to newbies who don't realize how spammy they are, and guilt-by-association sets in, and legitimate authors of the other types shun the clueless newbies for their ties to the spammers.

The Gilligans of the writing world usually never intended to start out "published." It might have been a passing thought or fantasy at some point, but they never dreamed they could or would make a living at it. It's very common to see these kinds of writers overwhelmed when they first get a publishing contract. They never realized that writing the book was the EASIEST part of the process, and when they realize their work has only started upon landing a publishing contract, their eyes frequently glaze over and they retreat to a metaphorical corner and wish they could take it all back. However, it's not uncommon for Gilligans to morph into de novo writers once the culture shock of the career-track of publishing wears off and they get their feet under them. Some Gilligans never try to make a living at it, they just want to write their books. (And there's nothing wrong with that, either.)

(Warning: I'm NOT saying ALL writers do this, hence why I capitalized SOME. If the shoe doesn't fit you, don't bitch at me that I'm trying to cram that fucker on your foot and lace it up, 'kay?)

SOME de novo writers are resentful of Gilligans, because the de novos often worked their asses off for years to get published, and know the back-end of the business, and are trying to balance the art and business of publishing so they don't have to ask, "Do you want fries with that?" a thousand times a day. They resent the Gilligans' frequent bumbling newbie questions that a simple perusal through most Writing/Publishing 101 websites/books/Writers Digest articles would answer. It's pretty much encoded in the de novos' DNA.

On the flip side of that, I've seen SOME Gilligans who view the de novos as bitchy or callous or uncaring or _____ because all the Gilligan wants to do is WRITE now that it's a THING they can do, and they can't understand why they HAVE to learn all this other SHIT about "publishing" when all they want to do is write their books. When a de novo honestly offers up helpful 101 advice, thinking they're helping, SOME Gilligans respond with, well, bitchiness or snark instead of a simple "thank you" because they think the de novo is trying to sound all high and mighty like.

And this very common conflict was the source of the kerfluffle I witnessed earlier on the email loop. My de novo friend offered up what I and others (de novos and Gilligans alike) thought was a very succinct, helpful roadmap of sorts. Then, of course, because the INTERWEBZ feeds on outrage (ha, and you thought it was electricity and black majick), some other Gilligan had to get their cunt twisted out of joint over it and reply with snark instead of either a) ignoring it, or b) the POLITE response of "thank you." (Fortunately, most of the people who responded took my friend's post in the helpful way it was intended. But as they say, there's at least one twatwaffle in every group.)

So why would my friend want to keep posting helpful advice if they're going to have an asshat or two slam them for it? Same-said asshats likely will come back later and accuse my friend of being a snooty, stand-offish "successful" author if my friend doesn't offer helpful advice later.

I frequently see SOME newbies make comments about SOME experienced authors who've had success, that they're stuck-up or inaccessible or ______ (bitchy, snooty, a royal cunt, etc.). Okay, yes, sometimes that shoe DOES fit. But frequently, and I've seen this in action more times than I can count, there's a case of mentor burn-out. Where experienced authors get to the point when they've answered the SAME question 1,000+ times, they finally snap and say, "Go fucking Google-Fu that, goddammit!" (Or at least they're thinking it while hitting DELETE on an unanswered email.) I'm not saying that's right or wrong, I'm just saying it IS. I've seen it happen. A few authors who mentored me early on have pretty much "gone dark"across the board in terms of writing 101 kinds of advice. And I can see why, because they got tired of answering the same questions--or getting metaphorically slapped in the face when they tried to be helpful. I've even had authors ADMIT this to me.

Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

I have to admit there are times I will roll my eyes at a question asked by someone, because I knew the answer to it in HIGH SCHOOL *mumble* decades ago because I had a subscription to Writers Digest even back then. It's not that people don't want to answer the newbies' questions, it's just that it honestly feels SOMEtimes like they want someone to hold their hand the whole way (that whole de novo versus Gilligan dynamic again) and not take a little initiative and just do a little fracking research on their own. (Google-Fu, padawan.) I do my best to mentor and help newbies when I can. Unfortunately, I can't sit down and walk every newbie that approaches me through the publishing gauntlet. I just can't. I'm too busy working and doing my own shit. Which is why I write tutorials (yes, I'm still revising the Pimp Yourself tutorial) to answer the common questions I get. Which is also why I refer people to the same websites and books I use/have used for answers. Which is also why I write blog posts about stuff that comes up again and again (and AGAIN) in forums, groups, and email loops.

I know that in blanting (blog+rant, yes I'm coining that if it's not coined already) my thoughts, I'm going to twist a few dicks into knots. I'm going to piss a few people off. (The INTERWEBZ demands OUTRAGE...)

I also realize that most people are either going to nod their heads in agreement with me, or they're going to read this and say, "Yeah, okay, I see where she's coming from."

And again, I'm not saying this shit's etched in concrete. There are writers who straddle the types, or who started out as one type and transitioned into another. I'm sure others will sit down and say there are more than the types I've described. (Knock yourself out, bunky.)

The bottom line and extremely circuitous point I'm trying to get to is, as I've always said, there's no finite pie with publishing. There's room for all types (the spammers tend to fizzle and die off on their own). It used to be that writers danced around inflammatory topics like earnings and sales and promo and stuff like that. Now anyone can start a blog or publish a book.

This is NOT a bad thing, folks.

Still, the INTERWEBZ demands OUTRAGE. Here's the thing--we're WRITERS. We WRITE. But sometimes we're the crappiest group at USING our WORDS effectively when it comes to dealing with each other. People want to sometimes assume the worst instead of assuming the best. And our outrage can bleed from our brain to the WHOLE GODDAMNED WORLD in 2.5 seconds or less (depending on your ISP and bandwidth speed).

And once it's on the Internet, baby, it's THERE. FOREVER. You think you can take it back a few hours later once you've calmed down and realized, "Hey, maybe I  misread that the first time around because I wasn't sufficiently caffeinated at the time." But you can't. You might think you can, but it's already hit inboxes, or it's cached somewhere, or someone screen-capped it, or whatever.

In this digital age, it's better NOT to jump into the fray right away unless you have a damn good reason to. Because there is a WHOLE world of outrage out there waiting to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting. No two writers come at their experience from the same angle or with the same background.

So, if someone offers up some advice, take it or don't. Don't snark at them because they gave it in the first place, solicited or not. You might easily find yourself on the wrong end of the stick and wishing you could take your words back.

8 comments:

  1. Always appreciate your commentary from both a humorous and between the eyes perspective. Love this.

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  2. thank you for writing this, Tymber. :)

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  3. Ah, Tymber, I now have a headache from nodding along so enthusiastically! ;-)

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  4. WOW, I am not a writer (could not write to save my life) but knew there was a lot involved. Just did not know how much. I always love your open candor, and your use of twatwaffle! :) Thanks to all of you writers who feed my addiction to read.

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