If We’re Serious about Writing, We’ll…

by Jami Gold on January 28, 2016

in Writing Stuff

Stack of paper with text: What Do

Well, today’s the day I’m going to make one reader happy and disappoint a bunch of others. Sorry! I really wish I could provide you all with a seat in James Patterson’s Writing Masterclass because I hate disappointing people. *sigh*

However, congratulations go to Kimberly S. Barton! Yay!

Like I mentioned last time, we shouldn’t think that not winning this giveaway will prevent us from being successful. There’s no secret to success lurking in any workshop or conference that we’re going to miss out on if we don’t pony up the money—no matter what the hard-sell tactics might say. *grin*

Slimy Sales Pitches, Part Two

After my last post about how I’m tired of sales pitches playing on our fears, Kerry Howard, one of my readers, reminded me of a similar tactic:

“The tactic I find particularly offensive goes along the lines of ‘if you are not serious about writing and not prepared to take action but want to leave choosing success until 2017 like a loser and miss out on lots of money then this course is not for you.’

Ok, so maybe I’ve elaborated a bit, but that is the implied message…”

Ugh. Yes, I’ve seen tons of sales messages along these lines.

The emotion triggered in these types of sales pitches isn’t quite the same as the fear-messages we discussed last time, which implied: There’s a secret to success, and I won’t learn what it is unless I buy this.”

Instead of exploiting our fears, however, these “If you’re a serious writer, you’ll…” pitches play on our self-doubt. Either way, they’re emotionally manipulative.

About “If We’re Serious about Writing, We’ll…”

Unfortunately, we see these “if you’re serious…” messages all the time in the writing world. I bet we’ve all seen at least one of these:

If we’re serious about writing, we’ll…

  • write every day
  • write 2000 words a day
  • plot our stories in advance
  • use character sheets/scene notecards/chapter outlines, etc.
  • focus only on the Big 5 publishers
  • focus only on self-publishing
  • make writing our top priority
  • be willing to sacrifice time and money
  • hire a cover artist/editor/publicist, etc.
  • Etc., etc.

Just two weeks ago, author Neil Gaiman tweeted a hyperbolic message:

“If you want to be a writer, you want to go to Clarion, NEED to go to Clarion.”

Of course, he didn’t attend this writing workshop, so he knew he wasn’t making a statement of fact. But I think the way his tweet blew up with writers taking him seriously (and being angry with his “directive”) speaks to how many of these “if you’re serious…” messages surround us every day.

He later made sure everyone knew his true thoughts with a follow-up tweet:

“All you need to do to be a writer is to write. Clarion & other such workshops will teach you skills, & help. Help some a little, some a lot.”

As I’ve said many times before, we each have our own goals, which means we each have our own path. In addition, there’s no “one right way” to write. So messages that imply there’s a “right” way—that there’s a serious and professional way and then there’s the loser way—can fill us with self-doubt no matter how good of a writer we are.

It’s really that emotion of self-doubt that the sales pitches are after. If we’re doubting ourselves, we’re more vulnerable to their messaging.

Learn to Identify a “Negging” Sales Pitch

In a way, these pitches are the marketing world’s equivalent of “negging” in the dating world. “Negging” comes from the pickup-artist community, where backhanded compliments (or just plain mini-insults) are meant to undermine a target’s confidence.

For example, a stranger might approach someone they’re interested in and point out a minor flaw (“You’ve got a spot on your shirt”) or slip “helpful” criticism into a compliment (“You’d be even prettier if…”).

As the Urban Dictionary says, negging is…:

“Low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances.”

Hmm, messages that increase self-doubt to make the target more vulnerable. Sound familiar?

Those are the same emotions affected by “If you’re serious about writing, you’ll…” sales pitches. They can make us…

  • doubt our ability to be successful on our own,
  • want to prove to…whomever…that “no, really, we are serious,”
  • forget that there’s more than one way to be successful,
  • accept their definition of success or professionalism (even in irrelevant aspects),
  • think we’ll miss our opportunity if we don’t act now,
  • fall for reverse psychology, etc., etc.

Serious, Schmerious—What Works for Us?

Whether the message is related to sales or not, we want to remember that just like how there’s no “one right writing process”—all that matters is whether we have a quality, finished book at the end—there’s no “one right way” to be a writer.

Even if we’re trying to be a “serious” writer, we get to decide what that means for us. Serious could refer to:

  • our content, such as our writing style or topics,
  • our dedication, as far as time invested or words on the page,
  • our obsession with quality writing craft or editing,
  • Etc., etc.

We don’t have to let others define what “serious” means to us. We have the right to ignore those messages that act like we should live up to their definition of the word. And that “right to ignore” goes double for sales pitches.

As I mentioned last time, we have a hard enough journey in the writing world without thinking that we have to sell our first-born child to be able to afford this “essential” class or that “necessary” software. Yes, writing can require sacrifices, but there are options (often free), so we shouldn’t feel like we’ll never succeed unless we buy x, y, or z.

In one of my comments on that previous post, I shared:

“My main point with this post is just to make sure that no writer feels like they can’t become a writer because they can’t afford to attend this class or that conference. I also don’t want anyone to be taken in sales pitches that get them to spend more than they can afford…

Either of those situations is sad, and I hope this helps vulnerable writers be able to tell the difference.”

Hopefully by learning to identify these slimy sales tactics, we’ll be better prepared to avoid them. Or at the very least, we might be able to look past the hype and see if their claims even apply to us, our situation, and our goals. *smile*

And congratulations once again to Kimberly! (I’ll be in touch!)

Do you feel pressure to be a “serious” writer? What expectations have you seen attached to that word (word count output, participating in a writing program, etc.)? How do you define “serious writer”? Do you consider youself a serious writer? Have you seen “negging” sales pitches, or ones that focus on our self-doubt?

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43 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Julie January 28, 2016 at 8:08 am

To me, what a “serious” writer truly is, is a DEDICATED writer. Meaning, you are dedicated and committed to writing, whatever that means to you. For some reason, the phrase “serious writer” (or artist, or creative person) has a snooty connotation applied from the outside of the person who is writing, and not from the inside, which is more important.

A “serious writer” is one where others deem to validate what they do – which yeah, is where your articles on this topic originate. Outside validation is nice, as in, “Hey! I got published! By someone who bought my stories!” Of course it is. But to keep writing takes dedication from the inside, without that exterior validation.

Anyway, that’s my take on it.

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 8:17 am

Hi Julie,

Agreed and well-stated! It is more important to have the internal dedication–whatever that means for keeping us going–than to have the external validation. Some writers might burn out if they try to write every day, and that’s not going to help them keep going. 🙂

Unfortunately, as you said, too many of these “serious writer” messages apply to (and appeal to, or even exploit the desire for) external validation. Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Elizabeth Kral January 28, 2016 at 12:24 pm

The tortoise and the Hare
I have a friend who can turn out a chapter every time he writes, plus do marketing and work at a full-time job. I have to meditate for days about the actual words I want in every chapter. An outline tells who, what, where, why. But “telling” is not what I want to do.

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Hi Elizabeth,

Yeah, comparing ourselves to others is a bad bet. I get messages all the time about how I do so much, and I’m like, “If you knew how chaotic my life was behind the scenes, you wouldn’t think I was Wonder Woman anymore.” LOL!

Everyone has weaknesses–we might not see the weaknesses of others, but they’re there. 😉 Thanks for the comment!

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Davonne Burns January 28, 2016 at 10:13 am

I agree with Julie and this post. I’m a bit chagrined as I know I’ve been guilty of thinking this way in the past. There is a difference, I think, between a ‘serious writer’ and ‘writing seriously.’ Like Julie said the former feels more like a status symbol. I personally think that writing seriously means we take the craft seriously; that we work to better ourselves no matter what we write or our current skill level.

Like you stated, external validation is nice, but in the absence of it we still need to be able to write and push ourselves. ^^

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Hi Davonne,

“There is a difference, I think, between a ‘serious writer’ and ‘writing seriously.’”

Love that! Yes, I definitely take the craft seriously, but everything else? I’m not going to stress myself out over trying to follow someone else’s process or marketing goals or whatever. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Rebecca January 28, 2016 at 10:25 am

Congrats Kimberly!!!

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Christina Hawthorne January 28, 2016 at 11:39 am

One benefit to my business degree is how easily I recognize these pitches for the manipulation they are. In that sense they make me laugh. Their growing frequency, though, is annoying.

There cannot be a single right path because we’re all different with different strengths and weaknesses along with different pasts and presents. I pay attention to the paths others take because contained in each tale is often an applicable bit, but no one is a perfect match.

Then again, perhaps the perfect match is the person who followed their own path.

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Hi Christina,

Yes, I’m usually able to see through them as well (my background with psychology and communications probably helps with that 🙂 ), but as you said, the frequency seems to be increasing. Here’s to everyone finding their own path. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Renee Regent January 28, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Another evocative post, Jami! Unfortunately, not only is this a sales tactic, but there are writers out there who have the same attitude toward other writers. Some feel that if you are not focused on the business aspects (whatever that entails) of writing, then you are not a serious writer. Again, there is no right path and we all have to find our own way through the maze.

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Hi Renee,

Oh, very true! There are still some authors who respect only authors with the Big 5, or who think ebooks aren’t real books. *sigh*

That’s why external validation doesn’t work–for every one person validating us, we can probably find another cutting us down. Here’s to finding–and respecting–our internal motivation instead. 🙂 Thanks for sharing that insight!

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Ann Stanley January 28, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Thank you so much for saying this. I am tired of the pitches, coming at me all of the time. I’ve fallen for a few of them, and I have to say that I’ve been pretty disappointed with the two most recent courses I’ve taken. I’ve learned a little from each, but not enough to justify their cost. I did meet a few helpful people each time (students, not so much the teachers). No more for me, unless they’re free, or in person. I did get a lot out of the two writing conferences I’ve attended, and would be more than happy to attend them again if I could afford them. Still, there’s so much hype out there. I’m glad you pointed it out. I’m back to reading books and blog posts, or perhaps taking a free writing course through one of the online universities. But, mostly, I am writing and getting and giving critiques.

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Hi Ann,

I’ve been taken in by a couple of pitches as well, and like you, I was disappointed in them. Yes, I learned, but as you said, not enough to justify the cost.

Your plan sounds perfect. 🙂 Good luck with it!

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Serena Yung January 28, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Oh one definition I hear, especially outside of the writing community, is that you have to make money to be a “real/serious writer”. Or you have to be a traditionally published author to be “serious”. Some other non-writers even think you need to have commercial success (earn big profits) from your books to be considered legit. 🙁

Haha I think that may be one reason why I tell people that yeah, I will be selling my books, that I can possibly make a side income from it, etc., so they can take me seriously. But in reality, I have a much more casual attitude towards it right now, which is basically: if I make any money from my books, that’s great, but if I don’t, that’s okay too.

Hmm my own definition of a serious writer for myself, is to be really dedicated (write or edit at least one hour per day, though this used to be 2000 words a day, PLUS read as many fiction books as you possibly can). Also to care tremendously about learning and improving my writing craft, and always be open to experimenting with new things in my stories. Somehow (and this may sound silly) my ability to and habit of talking with my story characters all the time, and that I dream about my characters so often (they seem to appear in more than half of my dreams XD) show how serious of a writer I am, Hahaha. I’m not saying that someone who doesn’t talk to their characters or doesn’t ever dream about them isn’t serious, just that since I do those things, it probably reflects that I am quite obsessed with my characters and therefore my writing. And yeah, an obsession is part of my “seriousness” definition, but again, I’m only using this definition for myself, not for others, as other people have different lives and priorities.

Hmmm I wonder if I’m wrong to say that writers who don’t care about learning and improving their skills (in writing and storytelling, at least one of these two) aren’t legitimate writers. Yet on the other hand, I still feel that always striving to learn and enhance our craft is an essential quality of being a writer… What do you think?

One more thing: I read on this writer’s blog that plot (I think he meant storytelling) is more important than writing quality, because his writing quality is criticized by readers, yet his books are still selling so well. Hmmm well yeah, storytelling abilities could be more important than writing when it comes to selling books, but that seems to imply an attitude that writing quality is actually NOT important at all! Now, I might have been reading into things and misinterpreting, but yikes if there really is that kind of attitude! I recall that you had a post asking: does anyone care about good writing anymore?

Anyhow, I think we should aim to be really great at BOTH storytelling and writing, haha. Plus, I can see that I keep improving, so I’m feeling encouraged. 😀 Btw I discovered that I have this strength in that I notice my improvements (in both writing and drawing) very easily. The improvement can be very minor, but no matter how minor, it’s still a happy blessing to me. 😀

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Hi Serena,

LOL! Yep, dreaming about characters would say that we’re thinking about our writing “enough” if you ask me. 😀

Whether a lack of interest in the craft indicates that someone isn’t serious, I don’t know. But I certainly would have more respect for someone willing/eager to learn. 🙂

As for the question about writing quality, I’m with you in that they’re both important. Poor writing could take a reader out of the story, which would ding the storytelling quality, IMHO. Thanks for the comment!

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Serena Yung January 28, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Yeah I would have more respect for someone eager to keep learning about writing too!

As for writing quality, hmmm, I think for some readers who aren’t that knowledgeable about grammar, something like dangling modifiers may not necessarily bug them as much as they bug us. I think what puts most people off would be lots of clear grammatical and spelling mistakes (like “definately” and “I wear a pair of sock”). Despite all the antagonism towards Twilight, lol, I don’t remember there being any obvious grammatical or spelling errors like “reely” or “he eated his breakfast” or not ending sentences with periods, exclamation marks, or question marks (I.e. ending a sentence with a space…) Okay maybe my examples of clearly bad grammar and spelling aren’t very good, but you get the picture, haha.

Actually, what was so bad about Twilight’s writing apart from the great number of adjectives for Edward’s beauty? I wasn’t paying attention to the writing when I was reading the books. And I don’t remember if I told you this before, but I really was not bothered at all by the constant praising of Edward’s looks, since it’s a tradition in Chinese literature to constantly praise girls’ looks, lol. I actually never even realized that these incessant compliments on the girls’ beauty could be ridiculous until people pointed it out in Edward’s case. Someone complained that Bella even loves Edward’s breath. Lol it’s much worse in Chinese lit, because not only do authors say that the girls have breaths that are as fragant as flowers, authors also say that the girls have beautiful and attractive panting, and even great smelling sweat (yes, for real!) They don’t bother me because these lavish praises of their breath, panting, and sweat are actually standard, even canned, expressions in Chinese, haha. When something is the norm, it tends not to disturb you too much!

Chinese lit authors like to keep reminding you of how “pretty” the girls are too, by continually saying things like her “jade arms”, “swallow/ bird-like pretty voice”, “snowy skin/ flesh”, “autumn water and bright eyes”, “onion-white and onion-slender fingers”, “silver bell voice”, ” super delicate skin that can easily be broken by merely blowing on it or tapping it”, “cold star eyes”, “willow brows”, “almond eyes”……My translations are not the best, but you get what I mean, haha. It seems like it’s a “rule” to keep reminding readers of how stunningly attractive every single visual, tactile, olfactory, and auditory feature of the girl is. :/ It sounds super absurd in English, but in Chinese, I think one might not realize how ludicrous it can be because it’s actually a convention to describe the “beautiful” girls like this, lol.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I love Chinese lit, but this exaggerated praise of beauty is quite hilarious to me, lol.

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Jami Gold January 30, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Hi Serena,

Yes, if I remember correctly, the writing issues of Twilight were more about repetition (like the endless descriptions of Edward) and word choice (like the word breathless(ly) repeated every chapter). But that’s not necessarily inappropriate for a first-person POV teen character either, so like you, the writing never bothered me as much.

Oh yes, I remember you mentioning how the Chinese language can develop special characters for canned phrases, so you tend to see the same descriptions frequently. That’s so interesting, and those are great examples. LOL! Thanks for sharing!

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Serena Yung January 31, 2016 at 8:48 pm

Haha yeah the people who complain about Twilight in this aspect would barf if they got to read a typical Chinese novel. XDD And they would realize that Twilight isn’t that bad after all, haha.

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Jami Gold February 1, 2016 at 6:18 am

Hi Serena,

LOL! Sounds like it. 😀

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Aura Eadon January 28, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Well said. There is a growing trend between all the “I will make you a writer” people where they will slowly brainwash through countless emails and “free” taster courses. They offer absolute wisdom, know-how even when they have not yet published a single book, “guaranteed” methods that will make one a published writer, all while milking out people. I had to learn the hard way that some things/methods/whatever just don’t work with the way my mind functions. And to me, the best advice is what you are saying here: find what works for you and be a committed writer. Writing advice is a lucrative business it seems. Selling hot air and guarantees over processes that need to be adapted by each writer. This is the reason I appreciate people like you and Chuck Wendig because you try to help instead of sell.

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Hi Aura,

I think you hit the core problem:

“Writing advice is a lucrative business”

Writers are naturally filled with self-doubt because this is such a subjective business, and one that requires us to become good at a lot of different skills. So we’re tempting targets among those who prey on people by exploiting emotions.

As you said, we have to figure out what works with how our brains function, and there’s no shortcut or secret for that. Thanks for sharing that great insight! 🙂

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Cynthia January 28, 2016 at 1:52 pm

This is the best posts I’ve ever read on this topic. I get emails all the time offering a “free webinar” that is going give me writing advice that will – make me, teach me, show me, fix me. I’ve watched a few of them and you get about 10 minutes of advice you already knew from highschool and 90 minutes of sales pitche. A well known author recently hosted a webinar that promised 7 things to help your writing. It was a sales pitch to a new mentor program for the same amount I pay for six months of car insurance. I missed it but a friend wrote me and I was glad I didn’t waste an hour of my life.

I’ve found your site offers a vast amount of practical advice for free and your workshops are priced so low that even I could afford them! It’s going to take me a while to read it all.

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Hi Cynthia,

Yep, that’s how these pitches are often structured. I sat through several of those before I figured out they weren’t worth the waste of my time. *sigh* Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your experience! 🙂

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Anne January 28, 2016 at 2:34 pm

Jami,

This was an excellent blog post!

I’ve been looking at classes, workshops, conferences — anything which might help me develop my own ‘process’ for successfully completing a properly structured story (which is also my current definition *for me* of ‘serious’) — so I’ve seen a lot of different ‘selling’ styles lately. I’ve actually unsubscribed from a couple different coaches’ blogs because of the high-pressure attitude in their posts, telling writers ‘when they’re ready to get serious’ to purchase their services. I was reading so many different blogs and books, my brain was a tangled mess. Once I ‘closed the door’ on some of the coaches, and set a couple of the writing books aside for later, I found it less confusing.

I have spent the last year learning the craft, trying to improve my own grasp of story structure. It’s been frustrating, because I’m not focusing on strictly tangible or visible goal-posts. When I have a good day with my writing, it hasn’t meant that I’ve actually *written* something, but that I’m a little closer to understanding structure. I’m one of the lucky few who has the support of spouses to make this my ‘day job’. I want to thank them for their support, with something they can read, but I’m still working on the major plot points and how they operate and connect to each other.

I don’t know how you write and still have time to blog with such skill. I thank you for the time you spend on these missives which arrive in my inbox and give me hope and support.

Anne.

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 5:45 pm

Hi Anne,

Yes, the pressure alone from all those competing “strategies” can be confusing. I have a ton of story structure posts here for free though, so have at it! 😀 (And if you still have questions after reading those, let me know. 🙂 ) Thanks for chiming in!

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Tamara LeBlanc January 28, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Hi Jami.
I actually feel HUGE pressure to be a serious writer. I love writing, and making up stories and bringing characters together, but I also love art. I paint and do crafty stuff and just recently I launched my second brand, Lola Divine (of Lola Divine Under Cover Design – the artist in me needs to branch out and now I’m doing cover design)
I tend to be an all or nothing gal. When I’m a writer, I live, eat and breathe it…when I’m an artist or a crafter or a children’s book author, you guessed it, eat, breathe, live. The unfortunate thing is I can wear all hats at once. So when I’m on artist duty I feel guilty for not writing. When I’m writing I feel guilty for not drawing.
Uggg.
I want to be successful, but I feel like I’m not quite strong enough to be a bad ass at everything 🙁
Great post!
Hugs, Tamara

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Jami Gold January 28, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Hi Tamara,

Oh! Do I ever know about that “when I’m doing X, I feel guilty about Y” problem. Story of my life. LOL!

I have faith that you’ll get there, if only because you deserve to have people telling you how awesome you are. 😀 Believing that will come later. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

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Robert Doucette January 28, 2016 at 9:40 pm

When I hear the term serious writer, it makes me think of the trope of a lonely crank scribbling words in an unheated garret. The crank despises anyone who writes an enjoyable book. “Trivial and derivative,” they say. I have no desire to write a serious book. I have few serious thoughts and certainly not enough to fill even a small book.

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Jami Gold January 30, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Hi Robert,

Ha! Yep, I can see that image too. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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Maurine January 28, 2016 at 9:43 pm

I think seriousness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If someone only wants to write in a journal every day (or so), and does it, then they take their writing seriously. It’s not up to me to say someone else is not a serious writer because he or she does not uphold to my standards. Likewise, no one can say I’m not serious about writing.

When I first began to write with the intention of learning the craft well enough to publish, I didn’t have the funds to purchase a computer. I didn’t even have a typewriter, so I wrote with the supplies I had–notebook paper and pencil. I wrote three complete novels–and finished them!–though they were certainly not publishable. But I was closer than I had been before I started. Then I read an article in a writer magazine where the author said unless you wrote with a computer or a typewriter at the very least, you were not a serious writer. Well, even though I had not used either of those, I was very serious about my writing. My point is, only YOU know if you are serious or not. Don’t let anyone else tell you different. Don’t let them dissuade you. Maybe THEY aren’t serious unless they met certain criteria. They can’t speak for you.

Good, thought-provoking post.

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Jami Gold January 30, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Hi Maurine,

I agree! As I said in the post, each of us might have different ideas about what it means to be serious, and that’s okay. 🙂

Love your example too! I wouldn’t be surprised if–when computers first became popular–there were writers who thought only those who wrote by typewriter were serious. 😉 Thanks so much for sharing your insights!

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) January 29, 2016 at 9:37 am

First, I’m thinking you might want to consider a post about how to be a persuasive marketer of our work without these dangerously manipulative sleazy tactics, and relate that to why writers of all stripes who are turned off by marketing in general because they don’t want to employ the examples you cite above.

Anyway, as much as I agree with you that there’s no secret or any one thing that gets us to our goals, things aren’t always simple as some writer I know make it sound, you aside.

But even with all the free resources available to writers now, there are some things that do cost money, and I’m not talking about classes, software or craft books.

I’m talking about the team of editors you outline (yes, there are beta readers, but there are limits there, but we’ve talked that do death so I’ll not wax poetic here)

Professional Covers That Attract Readers: You’ve written entire blog posts about why covers matter. If you want to pro level book, there’s no getting around that.

This is part of why I have to shelve “Gabriel” because I couldn’t get over this hurdle on my own or hire an illustrator that would conceptualize the characters and the world I could afford.

To give the impression that quality illustrators can be got for free or super cheap is just as dangerous to my mind.

Yes, I know we’ve discussed the whole “Fast, Cheap and Good, pick two” thing before, but this isn’t about that.

We also have to put “Fast” in perspective.

I didn’t expect to publish “Gabriel” at the pro-level instantly, really, and I hope I didn’t give the impression otherwise. But I also can’t spend a decade on every book, either.

While you make the valid point that we shouldn’t get stuck on one book, which honestly I did, writing book after book by itself isn’t the sole solution.

Even if I had dozens of books written, the issues of what pro level books costs wouldn’t go away, and just one book is pushing my limited finances to the limit.

Yes, we need a backlist so we’re not dependant on one book, and obviously being a career writer for most of us means we want more than one book in our oeuvre, but sometimes I feel we can forget the effort and money just ONE book needs to be professional.

You have to remember that in the indie world, shopping for editors, cover designers and illustrators is not like shopping on QVC or the Home Shopping Network, there isn’t often an easy pay/flex pay option, they require payment upfront, and they work countless hours, days and months (Sometimes even YEARS) to create the visuals we as readers gawk over-and when you (writers, in general, not you specifically, Jami) truly deserves respect and to be paid fairly for that work.

People disregard how hard writers work as you well know, Jami, so I don’t dare Just because coughing up a few hundred or thousands of dollars, doesn’t mean I think cover designers, and illustrators in particular should cheapen their work for the same reason.

While you make the arguement quality artists can be found if you look hard enough, sometimes it’s not a matter of looking hard enough, it’s facing the fact that your budget doesn’t allow any pro options, and I had to finally face that in regards to my own work.

I don’t think you’re misleading people AT ALL, Jami, but I’m just pointing out what many writers like me have to deal with for our writing/publishing goals.

While I take nearly anything I write for public consumption (I often delete and retweet things for typos or improve grammar, remember?) but I’ll let things slide in casual contexts I wouldn’t dare do in something I want people to pay good money for, and I don’t think that makes me

Yes, I dream big, but some of my high expectations are fueled by what the industry I’m trying to be in requires of me if I want to be at the pro level, that’s different than publishing solely for me, and even then, I work too hard to take shortcuts, which you’ve made clear in the last few posts, but some of this pressure simply isn’t about “Shiny Object Syndrome” and sleazy sales tactics.

This is why I’m not able to be my own publisher in the foreseeable future because until my financial situation improves, it would be a shoddy mess, and I’m beating myself up, I’m being realistic. It’s also probably why I get prickly with writer friends say “I should have fun” like fun will magically overcome everything I’m concerned about.

I know that’s not what they mean, they say it from a place of caring and remind me why I do what I do as a writer, and I’m quick to say I miss writing being more fun (part of why you helped convinced me I had to walk away from publishing right now), but I can’t escape the things I need to do as much as I may not enjoy them, and I feel sometimes a world apart from writers I know who tell me this, and they take their writing and publishing seriously and see themselves no less professional as me, but they also don’t have the limitations I do.

I think perhaps the reason some of my writer friends are more chill about much of this is because they have other things filling their life. Writing’s one of the few things I have. I don’t have a strong close knit family network, I don’t have a spouse or kids to consider, so even though writers from all walks of life can learn from each other, I do sometimes feel apart from writers I know, most of whom have any of the above.

That’s my issue not theirs. I’m just musing on what I’m struggling with is all.

A note on conferences: For those seeking trad. publishing, some agents and editors at publishers often are only open to submissions from unagented authors at writers conferences, and as you point out, that’s not in everyone’s budget, on top of life stuff getting in the way even if money’s not the sole proverbial roadblock.

As far you point on thinking writers can’t be successful unless they buy X thing, again I agree with you, but we also can’t mislead people to thinking

While I get Neil’s main point that “Writers just have to write” to me isn’t always as simple as made out to be.

This is why I sometimes get frustrated with veteran writers because I feel they at least project this is all writers have to do.

Sadly, it’s not, and I’m probably misreading what he’s saying, but that’s the impression I get when I hear a variant of what he’s saying.

Yes, writers write, but that’s different than wanting to be career writer, and like you say everyone’s goal is different-but there is a baseline you need to meet IMOH.

Cooks cook, but that’s different to my mind than cooking in a restaurant. That’s my only point.

I know writers who are more relaxed with certain things than me. That’s their prerogative. I just feel differently because of the author I want to be.

From my POV, I’m already fighting an uphill battle to be noticed as a writer in the first place, I don’t want to turn people off before they even read me, and so I might place a higher threshold on covers and illustrations (When applicable) than you or other writers who go the indie. Plus, I can’t make stock photos work for my books, that changes my path from you and others where that can work.

But also to be totally honest, I want my books to be distinct from one another and while I utilize stock photos and images in my videos or on my site, I believe my books deserve a style all their on the outside as well as in. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

Sorry I’m treading on familiar ground again. I think it just shows how burned out I am. I’m trying so hard to not be negative. This just might be my burnt out disappointment talking than my default outlook. I hope.

I’m probably just jealous of authors who are so chill about this. Maybe I just have hard time compromising because books I’ve seen the compromise aspects of their book, it hurts their work being taken seriously, and while I admire their courage (not counting the scammers who don’t care at all and just want to make money) I just can’t compromise that far.

Maybe that’s part of my problem.

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Jami Gold February 2, 2016 at 6:43 am

Hi Taurean,

LOL! I think you’re right about that being an idea for a post topic, but I’m not sure I’m the right person to write it, as I generally err toward not doing marketing at all. *sigh*

Oh, absolutely! Many things in our publishing path will cost money–at least if we want quality–and that’s why it’s so important to save our money from spending it in other aspects of our writing life unless we know it will be worth it. 🙂

I was careful to not imply that I was including professional services, like the editing or cover design, in my post here, but thank you for pointing that fact out. And you’re right about how some agents closed to queries might only be available at conferences, so there are varied reasons why we might decide something is “worth it.”

As for Neil’s quote, you’re right that the idea can often be misinterpreted, but in this case (and in the context of this post), it’s simply referring to the idea: “What do you have to do to be considered or able to call yourself a writer? Write.”

While there are many other things we might need to do to be successful, we can still call ourselves writers if we haven’t been able to check off those other boxes yet. 🙂 So I don’t know if it’s an issue of being more “chill” or of being able to look at things in context and not feel the urge to generalize beyond that point (which can get overwhelming in a hurry). Thanks for the comment!

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) February 27, 2016 at 10:56 am

I also wanted to make this point: Even if YOU don’t feel qualified to-

“Write a blog post about how to be a persuasive marketer of our work without these dangerously manipulative sleazy tactics, and relate that to why writers of all stripes who are turned off by marketing in general because they don’t want to employ the examples you cite above.”

Why not put out feelers for authors who could guest blog about it? That’s part of why you have guest posters on your blog. To offer expertise beyond your own personal experience.

Just a suggestion on my part, since I do think it’s a topic worth exploring, even if neither you nor I can speak to it ourselves, I’ll let you know if I hear of anyone. Thanks as always for hearing me out.

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Jami Gold March 5, 2016 at 10:14 am

Hi Taurean,

Yes, I’ve definitely added that topic to my “keep a look out for potential guest posters” list. 🙂 Thanks for the idea!

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Michael De Groote January 29, 2016 at 5:35 pm

As a consolation prize, Brandon Sanderson’s writing classes are online for free: http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/brandon_w2012/

Thanks again, Jami, for having the giveaway. Congratulations to Kimberly Barton.

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Jami Gold February 2, 2016 at 6:44 am

Hi Michael,

Awesome! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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Serena Yung February 2, 2016 at 11:51 am

Jami, you might find this funny.

Yesterday, I wanted to clarify the apostrophe rules for words ending in s, and went to this webpage:

http://m.grammarbook.com/punctuation-rules/apostrophes.aspx

And look what I found!


Rule 2d. Things can get really confusing with the possessive plurals of proper names ending in s, such as Hastings and Jones.

If you’re the guest of the Ford family—the Fords—you’re the Fords’ guest (Ford + s + apostrophe). But what if it’s the Hastings family?

Most would call them the “Hastings.” But that would refer to a family named “Hasting.” If someone’s name ends in s, we must add -es for the plural. The plural of Hastings is Hastingses. The members of the Jones family are the Joneses.

To show possession, add an apostrophe.

Incorrect: the Hastings’ dog

Correct: the Hastingses’ dog (Hastings + es + apostrophe)

Incorrect: the Jones’ car

Correct: the Joneses’ car

In serious writing, this rule must be followed no matter how strange or awkward the results.

LOLLLL at that last sentence! XD For me personally, I think I would still write it the “wrong” way rather than in the awkward way. As a reader, I would prefer to read “the Jones’ car” than to see “the Joneses car”–ew, “Joneses” is almost an eye sore! I would rather my writing be “less serious” than to make it sound so clunky and bizarre!

But that sentence “In serious writing, this rule must be followed no matter how strange or awkward the results” might be sarcastic or tongue in cheek…lol. What do you think of this?

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:25 am

Hi Serena,

LOL! Yep, we can’t always rely on “what sounds right” for grammar. 🙂

I’d probably reword the sentence to avoid that. 😉 Thanks for sharing!

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Serena Yung February 4, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Haha yeah rewording it to avoid this situation altogether sounds like a better solution.

Oh related to this, yesterday someone on a Facebook writing group claimed that J.K. Rowling was a terrible writer (!!!) The OP gave a link to an article that “explained” the reason for this judgment.

Here’s the article:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2007/jul/17/harrypottersbigconisthep

The author of this article said:


Here, from page 324 of The Order of the Phoenix, to give you a typical example, are six consecutive descriptions of the way people speak. “…said Snape maliciously,” “… said Harry furiously”, ” … he said glumly”, “… said Hermione severely”, “… said Ron indignantly”, ” … said Hermione loftily”. Do I need to explain why that is such second-rate writing?

If I do, then that means you’re one of the many adults who don’t have a problem with the retreat into infantilism that your willing immersion in the Potter books represents. It doesn’t make you a bad or silly person. But if you have the patience to read it without noticing how plodding it is, then you are self-evidently someone on whom the possibilities of the English language are largely lost.

Wow I completely disagree with the author of this article. Actually, this animosity towards adverbs after “said” is just a writing style (or writing movement), albeit a currently very popular one. I’m someone who grew up with children’s books and teen novels that used these “said + adverb” constructions all the time, i.e. these constructions were the norm! So I think that this is just a different writing style, not a distortion of the English language or “terrible writing”. 🙁

The article’s author also says:


She has, in her grasp, the power to galvanise minds instead of reeling out cliché after cliché.

Ha I don’t really see things like “she said severely” as clichés. I actually see them as standard expressions that are so much a part of convention, that readers easily understand what they mean and thus pay no attention to them (unless they are an adverb-hater like thus author too.) In fact, when one TRIES to use an original expression that was never seen before in books (at least not in that culture or time period of books), a lot of readers dislike it because it’s new and thus wonky or hard to understand, lol. You know how some people just hate new things.

It’s okay if one doesn’t like this adverbial style, but they don’t need to impose their preferences on others and say that authors (like J.K. Rowling) write “the most pedestrian descriptive prose”, or that “their style is toxic” to young minds!

Oh my gosh. Thanks for listening to my rant, haha.

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) February 6, 2016 at 6:46 am

I haven’t read HP in a LONG time, Serena, and I hadn’t picked up on that, esp. regarding “Order of The Phoenix” because so much happens in that book, and it made me cry because I was so moved by the end.

It was one of the few times a book made my cry, because I was moved, not because it was so bad I couldn’t stand it, I’ve yet to have that reaction, knock on wood.

Lots of books move me, mind you, but it takes a lot (in a good way) to move me to tears reading versus a film or television show.

The “adverbial style” as you put it is a pet peeve of mine in the “Geronimo Stilton” series I LOVE, and it’s really the only thing that bugs me, so I’m stumped as to why it doesn’t bother me in HP.

Maybe it bothers me because I’ve long been conditioned to avoid it at all costs, and I do feel overuse of adverbs can make the reading clunky, plus it can hamper the “Show, don’t tell” thing we pretty much need to have seared into our brains the moment we become writers who want to publish in any pro-level manner. Figuratively speaking, of course! (LOL)

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Serena Yung February 6, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for your reply! Omg I loved the Order of the Phoenix so much too!!

Interesting that it didn’t bother you in HP but it did in another series!

Oh I’m a super (excessively) sentimental person, so I cry really easily at both books and movies, haha. It can be quite annoying to cry so often, though. 🙁

Oh yeah the “show, not tell” and “obliterate all adverbs” rules seem to be indoctrinated into our minds. But I have fought back in that I don’t believe in these rules anymore. I talked to some people in writers’ groups, and I’m happy there are many others like me who think these “rules” have been taken to the extreme. Also, the modern (not literary classic) books I read, i.e. Chinese martial arts stories and Middle Grade/YA books use a lot of telling, so I’m less bothered by telling than many others are. Well, actually, not bothered at all, lol. It’s also because it’s a personal thing. For me, I can empathize with”he was happy” more intensely than “he laughed”. I asked some friends about this too and I found that some of them agree with me in that they personally find it easier to connect with emotion words than with gestures. Not sure about the actual statistics, but some say that most people empathize with action descriptions more than with emotion words. I don’t know if that’s true (I’ve never tried doing a proper survey before, lol), but even if so, I don’t want to neglect the needs of readers like me for the sake of following current writing trends.

Telling is also not quite an issue with me because I’m writing either in Chinese or in English focusing on child or teen /young adult protagonists. (Very few of my main characters are aged 20+, lol.) So it would probably not jar people much in those genres. I’m not sure how adult novels with young protagonists are like in terms of showing and telling, but even if the norm is to “kill all adverbs”, etc., I wouldn’t be too worried either because people who detest adverbs are simply non-target readers.

Sorry, I must sound so embittered, eh? Haha. I am kind of pissed, though, that there is an assumption in the writer community that ALL readers empathize with actions more than with words, ugh. It makes me feel like a marginalized part of society. 🙁

But regardless, I hope I didn’t sound too unfeeling! I know it’s easier for me too because I don’t plan to make a living with my writing. My attitude is like: if I make some money out of my books, great. If not, that’s okay too, because I’ll be relying on my day job to support myself, lol.

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