Saturday, February 28, 2009

Do Some Writers Deserve to Starve - Finale


While I have found contrary stories to this truth, I have - unfortunately - seen this to be true at times. There are writers who are not open to sharing information, to providing advice, to helping other writers up the rings to PublishDom. Niles talks about how interesting it is that as a writer moves up the ranks to having an established name, in gaining professional credits, and on earning money for his/her creative endeavors, the lack of help diminishes. She finds two reasons behind this:

1) The established writer fears losing his/her reputation. Example: established writer helps a newbie and recommends her to an agent or editor. The agent/editor thinks the work isn’t that great (which is subjective thinking anyway), and now the established writer fears his/her taste will be questioned and his/her reputation may be sullied.

2) The established writer fears losing his/her attention. Example: established writer helps a newbie get connected with his/her agent or editor. Agent/editor loves the newbie’s work and the newbie is lauded. Now, the established writer finds him/herself receiving less attention.

The two reasons above are not necessarily TRUTHS but perceptions that writers can take on. It’s HARD to get published. It’s even harder to STAY published. Because of this, there is always the fear that you may lose your spot in the publishing world to another. Do you want to be the reason behind losing your spot? Of course not. So instead of helping, some writers will hoard what they know.

Any form of negativity can interfere with a writer doing what he/she needs to do: WRITE. To be so protective of your coveted spot in the publishing world that you would not help others is a negative. To combat these feelings, Niles suggests that writers do three things: adjust their actions, defeat their ingratitude (learn to say thank you), and monitor their egos.

In adjusting actions, don’t think of just yourself. Doing things for others often bears positive fruit down the road. Learn to give…and receive. Don’t be underhanded. If you need help, ask, don’t try to find sneaky ways to get help, and don’t try to undermine someone else’s success.

In defeating ingratitude, learn to say thank, learn to send letters and cards to those who have helped you, learn to keep those who helped you in the loop on your progress, share your contacts and information, let those who helped you know that you were inspired by them.

In adjusting egos, give credit to those who have helped you, help those who are below you on the publishing chain, help SOMEONE (no one’s asking you to be the mentor for a million writers), forget about how no one helped you (this isn’t a pity party).

Check out Elaura Niles' book today!


Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.

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  1. This is a two-pointed pencil, because there IS that friendly competition factor some fear, but also the benefit of being of service.

    I personally prefer to put positive energy out in helping, in part because others were willing to do so for me, and part because positive breeds positive. If someone ends up with better sales, so what? I can then turn around and try to learn from THEM.

  2. When I first looked at your heading, I got my "hackles up" - however after reading this blog through (as well as parts 1 & 2), I really think you've made some really good points.

    While I am published (4 books so far), I am certainly not self-sufficient. But at the level of publication that I am at, I find other writers very willing to share and help with both encouragement and tips.

    I try to pass along the good karma by helping others who both aspire to publish and those who have already published (creative writing classes, a blog featuring other writers, communication, etc). So far I am finding the openess and help returned many times over.

    We are involved in competition, not everyone can attain that top spot in sales or readers' polls. But being gracious to both those who "do better: and those who "do less" goes a long way in positive energy.

    Thanks for a very insightful take on this.

  3. Hey there, Chelle and Lisa; thanks for responding.

    The heading could rankle some people, and believe me, I would never say all writers are this way. I've been blessed to meet more writers willing to share than those who refuse.

    Success in writing, like most entertainment fields, can come from the connections you make with others in the field (the whole "It's not what you know, but who you know"), so it's important to have that give and take.

  4. People can get jealous, which is only human. Most writers I know are only too willing to share their knowledge with others if asked, but only so far. It depends how close you are. The problem is time. Who has enough of it?

    Morgan Mandel

  5. That's very true about time, Morgan. You can give to the point of not having anything left to be the writer you're supposed to be.

  6. Shon,

    I, too, heard many rumors about negative behavoir in the industry. I'm happy to report that I've found none of it from fellow writers. Every single writer I've talked to has been supportive in some way.

    Most also expect me to do what I can for myself before seeking assistance. That's the other side of the coin. It is certainly easier to turn to an expert for a quick answer than to spend hours wading through reference material. But how would you feel if you were viewed as the expert, had met fifty peers over the course of the last year, and everyone of them felt you owed them the courtesy of personal mentoring? When would you have time for your own work?

    So, while I've been quite pleased to find those nasty rumors to be false, or at least highly exagerated, I have also found that established folks expect me to monitor myself and not take advantage. This is a good thing.

  7. It's a definite good thing, Charlotte. Every writer should be trying to the best of his/her ability to learn as much as possible about writing and the industry and not expect to be given everything.

  8. I've not had that experience at all. I'm well published in newspapers, magazines, journals etc...and have found book authors to be very "giving" as I go forward in that realm as well. Of course some are more helpful than others, that's the nature of human beings. I think if that's the stereotype of writers, someone is not meeting the right writers!

  9. Great article, Shon, and I enjoyed all the comments. I have seen some of the extreme negative behavior by some writers, and, thankfully, it was only by a small fraction of the writers I've met in my career. I chose to not associate with them and focus on the writers who are willing to get on the "positive" track. Life is too short to waste time with those that create trouble.

  10. Maryann, your "life is too short" comment is dead on, especially when we consider how difficult it is to even get into the publishing industry; dealing with trouble should be avoided at all costs.

    Amy, I think most writers run into other writers who are very giving and should actually consider it a blessing that they do.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.