One surefire way to know who WON”T EVER get published…

…at least in any respectable paid format.

The other day a screenwriter, Josh Olsen, went to town about professional writers being asked by strangers to read and comment on their work. Today Scalzi weighs in on the same subject matter. The gist of both articles: professionals rarely have time to work for free, and when they do, they choose the people to do it for, like friends or family. They don’t do it for everyone who walks up and asks. They also listed a whole lot of other equally valid reasons for not touching a stranger’s MS – or even a friend of a friend’s MS – with as much as a glancing eye.

To me, the really jaw-dropping thing was the nature of some of the comments under Olsen’s article. There was a significant number of invective and hate-filled replies in the comment section, sort of: “Who do you think you are, you piece of crap, who won’t help us beginning writers?” – only the language was usually a great deal more vulgarly unoriginal. Whether John Scalzi gets similar replies, I don’t know; he certainly will deal with them promptly anyway by turfing them out of his blog’s comments section.

My statement – and I am 100% certain about this, (barring miraculous born-again conversions of these invective-laden and whining unpublished writers) – is that not one of them will ever be published in any respectable paid way.

Why not?

Two reasons.

Firstly, in order to be a publishable writer, you have to understand language and the way in which it works. You have, for a start, to be able to read. And none of these people can, or at least they can’t read well enough to comprehend what they read. They didn’t “get” what Josh said. And yet he said it clearly enough. He gave reasons enough. Even if you removed the swear words, there was nothing ambiguous about it. (I am always astonished – and it has happened several times – to discover a would-be published writer who doesn’t read, and still expects to be a competent writer. How do you understand how to use written language if you don’t read?)

Secondly, to be a publishable writer, you have to be able to learn. And to learn, you have to able to do two things: practice, and listen to advice/lessons. And those astonishingly obtuse commentators don’t want to. They were given good advice and they not only rejected it, but got angry and mind-bogglingly rude. They are the kind of people who won’t listen if someone does try to help them. Instead, they resorted to anger and invective. They don’t want commentary or criticism, they want praise. That’s not the way to learn, and without opening up their minds to learning, they will never improve, even if they do practice. (I suspect they might also be people who don’t think practice is involved either.)

Not one of them will ever be published, barring the miracle mentioned above. They’ll never be good enough.


One surefire way to know who WON”T EVER get published… — 6 Comments

  1. Most published authors go out of their way to help beginning writers by giving advice on their websites and blogs or offering workshops etc. To ask for more than that is ill-mannered, to say the least. Do you ask a doctor you meet socially to look at your bunions? Or invite a plumber to dinner and get him to fix the loo first?

    I guess there are some who would, but thankfully I am not acquainted with any of them!

  2. I always swore I'd have half a dozen kids who could supply free services to aging parents as a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer, a plumber, an IT specialist, an electrician…

    What do I end up with? A musician and a research scientist. Sigh.

  3. All too often the new breed of writer wants an easy ride, a fast way to the top. It ain't going to happen. But hey, what would I know – I have been called some remarkable things in the last few years because I refuse to edit someones book for free (yep I am often asked to edit books for free). My advice to new writers these days – there are people you can talk to about your career, I'm not one of them.

    Robert N Stephenson

  4. I want instant adoration and riches without any personal hard work and practice. If those selfish, published writers dont't give me the help I need I am going to throw a tantrum and spit invective until they submit!

  5. Actually, Peter, that is pretty much what they were saying! My eyes were popping out of my head…

    Rob, do you think this is really a new phenomenon, or it it just a matter of:

    a) there are proportionately more writers out there c/f published authors or editors(because in this day and age it is mechanically easier to write that it was in typewriter days)

    and b)it's easier for them to contact the people they target (and easier to abuse them too!)?

  6. Glenda, I don't know whether there are more unpublished writers out there because of the new cybertools. _Before_ the Internet revolution, I learnt that there were 900,000 people who scribbled with a publishing project in mind, just in France (out of 60 million people)!
    But the second point surely enters the equation: wannabe writers are more vocal because of the cybertools, and because they can contact published authors in cyberspace.

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