No further comment.
“Girls just don’t write science fiction.”
Yeah I guess I’d better go double-check my gender and get it validated, ’cause I write science fiction/fantasy.
And lots of my other female friends write SFF.
Many of us write such things without a focus on romance. Try not to sound so disbelieving as you take this in. But if you’re going to make these kinds of assumptions, at least leave the condescending smirk off your face. Someone might get the idea that you believe romance is an inferior genre, and/or that you believe the female writers who dominate it are beneath you.
I promise I have NEVER in my life preemptively assigned a man a probable writing genre before he speaks, and would never utter a phrase like “so you probably write shoot-em-ups and police procedurals, yes?” Nor have I assumed a man’s romantic stories are probably framed in a battle setting.
You really don’t need to sound so surprised when a woman writes science fiction. Get over it.
What to even say about this one, besides that it’s happened to me TWICE?
Random person that I don’t know from Adam suddenly wants me to spend time and energy editing their work (even though I try to make it clear online that I can’t critique for people I have no relationship with). I am polite to random person and give them an idea of where they can get the help they need. Random person insults me using LOTS of swear words, displaying entitlement and claiming I’M rude for not dropping everything to edit for them just because they asked. And then . . . random person . . . tries to friend me on social media.
The more egregious of the two was someone who sent me a really awful query letter to critique, grudgingly thanked me when I gave him feedback, and then at a much later date spammed me with vulgar messages about how I’m stuck up and think I’m better than other people but am probably lying about my accomplishments, also with bizarre follow-up requests that I find the ~intentional~ errors in his e-mail. And then he tried to add me as a contact on LinkedIn (where I don’t have an account), and sent me kiss-up friendly mails many months later. I never talked to him again, so I have no idea why I’ve received over a dozen communications from this guy, with no acknowledgment that he treated me appallingly after I tried to help him.
(The other one was just some dude who hit me up for beta reading in his first message, then cussed me out because I said I wasn’t up for it, and told me how my writing was probably terrible. Then he added me to his favorite profiles list.)
So, not that any of my readers probably need this, but here’s a numbered list on how not to be that guy:
It’s a multiple of ten–number sixty–so you get a longer-than-usual comic this time. Also, enjoy the sappiness.
I write for so many reasons. Sometimes it’s about the writing itself. Sometimes it’s about what the writing accomplishes. Sometimes it’s both. It’s a tool and a pastime, a hobby and a passion. And it’s what I love.
Why do you write?
Well, this was a hard one for me. I’ve helped plenty of people with their novels over the years, and while some of them were pretty close to the level required to get serious consideration in the publishing world . . . most were not.
And to be honest, for most of the time I was providing beta reading for others . . . I probably wasn’t ready either.
You don’t really know sometimes. (And sometimes even when you’ve had a success or two, you might secretly think you’re a hack and you’ll never get anywhere with anything else you write.) But the truth is? Nobody’s going to respond well to being told “you are very, very, very far from ready.” It’s just not a constructive thing to say.
And believe me, the publishing world will be happy to say that to these folks without your help.
If you’re helping someone who just isn’t ready for publishing and you know it for sure, probably the best thing you can do is make global suggestions and some light copyediting. Don’t tell them they write like a beginner or don’t have a chance. Not only will they not believe you; they’ll think everything else you said is misguided too, and may refuse to consider your suggestions. (That said, there ARE writers who can handle having you tear into their manuscript and spit it back out again. It takes time before you know who these types are.)
And if you’re the writer getting some not-so-glowing commentary from someone whose opinion you’ve solicited, please don’t be insulted if they tell you you need more time with it, more practice, more editing . . . but at the same time, I beg of you. Please. Please. Do not try to jump into publishing with a first draft, and do not believe for a second that “editing” is just a matter of running your spell-checker.
(I’m sad to say I recently had someone hit me up for editing whose work was bafflingly awful but he thought he just needed a last glance on his query, and when I told him he needed far more than minor tweaks, he sent me seven vile e-mails about how actually I am the one who’s a sucky writer, full of curse words and incomplete sentences, with follow-ups claiming he’d put the misspellings into his curse-out e-mails on purpose and expected me to find them. This tirade was followed by him trying to add me on LinkedIn. Some people.)
After all the frustration and sweat of drafting, the slog of editing, the toiling in the query trenches, and the flailing in the sea of submission, getting a book deal is not “easy” even if everything goes relatively smoothly. And even when we have fun with some aspects of our craft, WRITING IS WORK.
So please, please, if you know a writer who is fortunate enough to get paid for what they probably spent years of their life on, do not imply that their paycheck is undeserved. Especially since many of us don’t ever get paid decently for what we’ve put in, and almost all of us have a stack of books that led up to this point–books that were our labor of love; books that we were never paid for. That’s not “unfair” either, but to say we’re “lucky” to be paid when our work sells is a massive misunderstanding of what we undertake for a chance to get it out there, and it certainly isn’t a shame for us to be treated like we’ve made something worth paying for.
I’m a pretty harsh critic when I beta-read my writer friends’ manuscripts, so sometimes they’re surprised when I tell them there’s not much to fix! Sometimes they even think I’m just telling them what they want to hear, but the truth is, I usually have to be honest either way. And if someone isn’t ready to pitch agents, I don’t tell them they are.
If I do tell them they’re ready, I mean every word of it.
But, having been on the other side of this situation too, I know it’s sometimes baffling to get compliments you don’t expect, and it can be hard to figure out how to swallow them. Funny how sometimes praise is harder to process than criticism. . . .
I CANNOT BELIEVE I HAVE ACTUALLY HEARD PEOPLE SAY “NOBODY READS ANYMORE.”
And they meant it in a condescending way, too, as if I’m the one who’s out of touch.
Let’s get one thing straight: YOU and PEOPLE YOU ASSOCIATE WITH may not be readers, but I’m not gonna judge you on that. We all have our favorite ways of enjoying fictional universes. If you prefer yours in a movie, that’s great for you. But it certainly doesn’t mean the HUGE WORLD OF LITERATURE is obsolete just because YOU don’t participate in it. It’s a thriving industry and the culture surrounding it is vibrant.
Do not ever ever EVER say this to a reader or a writer. If you feel compelled to belittle their interests because you don’t share them, you belong in the trash can.
You “won” NaNoWriMo. Congrats and awesome job. Now take a deep breath.
And DON’T send newly finished novels to agents. Ever.
If you’re high on the thrill of finishing a novel and you’re just utterly tickled with your project, you will need a little bit of time to come down from that cloud and read your own book with a critical eye. This is definitely something you should do repeatedly before it gets submitted anywhere. You may be surprised by how many mistakes you made, how many thoughts you forgot to tie up, how many sentences you can improve, and how much better you can make it with some polish. This step cannot be skipped by running spellcheck.
It is also highly recommended that you get a test audience to read your book after you’ve gotten it as good as it can get on your own. Test readers will be able to give you perspective you may not realize you need.
You need time to develop your pitch materials as well. If you already had them done before writing the book, that’s great, but constructing a synopsis and a query letter also requires time and thought.
But finally, agents are not going to be impressed that you wrote a book quickly and “won” NaNoWriMo. Objectively, it’s quite a feat to write a book in 30 days, yes, but agents become interested in you only if that book is a GOOD book. You owe yourself some incubation time to make it better, and submission is not a race. You don’t want to be one of the people in the crowd waving a manuscript and drooling, charmingly enraptured with your story but woefully unprepared to go professional.
With very few exceptions, the only NaNo novels you should be submitting directly to agents on December 1st are NaNo novels you wrote a year ago.