Most of this post is focused on how writers should behave but is only my opinion. If you think something different, completely disagree, or think it’s pretentious for me to spout guidelines about how people should act, that is perfectly fine and is one of my rules.
In other news, I noticed I am pretty close to 300 WordPress followers, so once you are done, I’d really appreciate it if you hit the little button at the bottom of this page. Be warned, you will likely get updates on rants, stuff I have seen in the slush pile, and my general thoughts on the publishing industry. I tend to heavily slant toward traditional publishing (since I am an Associate Editor at a PodCastle) but occasionally I’ll have guests representing self-publishing and small press.
10 Do Not’s of Writing Etiquette
1. People can have different opinions. This doesn’t make them stupid, evil, a nazi, ignorant, uneducated or any of the various words that are often thrown around on the internet. A writer can disagree with someone, but they should always make sure that their ideas are presented in a coherent, respectful manner that focuses on the issue.
2. If you ever feel the urge to call someone a bitch or an asshole and they have not said a cuss word, that word more accurately describes yourself. Again, this comes back to personal attacks and seems to be common in the online writing community. It usually stems from a writer being defensive about everyone who is “so jealous” that they have to try to bring others down.
3. Don’t accuse or imply that anyone is jealous of what you wrote. Even if it is true, it makes you look like a conceited douche. 9 out of 10 writers are not good enough to warrant jealousy, and the few writers that I am jealous of are so good that it inspires me to do better (Rachael K. Jones I’m looking at you.) If your response to criticism is “they’re jealous” I can guarantee that they you have an ego problem.
4. Don’t spread bad advice. This is tricky because it isn’t always easy to know what advice is good. There are a few pieces that are no-doubt bad because they represent a conflict of interest or are just so blatantly stupid it is easy to see.
An example of bad advice is that you need to get published without pay before you can hope to earn money for your writing. I wrote a massive rant about this a few months ago so I won’t get in detail with it here. If you perpetuate this idea or run a publishing company that does this, I hope you get hit by a train.
5. Writers are not qualified to say their own work is awesome. Again, even if it is true, it’s conceited. It’s fine to say that your readers think it’s awesome, or it’s won X award, but it’s like a used car salesman saying that the 160,000-mile chevy was only driven by Grandma for church. Of course a writer is going to say anything to get someone to read their work.
6. Don’t rewrite someone’s work unless you are an editor and they ask you to. Writers—even experienced ones—usually do not have the skills involved with handling multiple styles of writing unless they have experience as an editor.
If someone wants a beta reader or a critique that does not give you permission to rewrite the entire project line by line. Even if you think you are doing them a favor, you’re not. I don’t give a damn if you have a M.F.A. in English or are an undergrad student who thinks they know what’s up. Unless, you’ve been employed as an editor, you don’t have the experience to know what is broken and what is their style. You will end up changing their style to better match your own.
(For the first three months at PodCastle, I was only allowed to read and respond to stories in the slush pile. This gave me knowledge to know what are actual, story problems and what is style. Right now, I have over 100 stories in my inbox that I have to read. If you or a potential freelance editor hasn’t had some sort of training like this, then they are no different than any other writer.)
7. If you are giving feedback, read the damn story. This doesn’t mean read some parts and skim. Actually, read it. If you do skim, don’t act like you read the whole thing and then say some parts where confusing. How the hell would you know? For another post focused only on feedback etiquette, feel free to click here.
8. If someone gives you feedback, do not argue with them. If you don’t agree, fine, but remember just about anyone is going to be more objective than you when it comes to your story. Sometimes, gold is hidden underneath super harsh feedback.
9. Do not threaten anyone. I feel like this shouldn’t have to be said, but this last week I witnessed someone send death threats to other writers in an online writing group because they disagreed with his assertion that, “A writer shouldn’t read other books, because they can accidentally plagiarize it.” Just don’t threaten anyone, under any circumstances.
10. Don’t be a pretentious ass and tell others how to do something (or in my case, act). There are countless different ways to approach writing. There are several different paths to publishing. Since most of us are not Sith, advice should never be given as an absolute.
Just because some advice works (or doesn’t) for you doesn’t mean it applies to everyone. It is fine to give advice based off of what you do, but just because someone does it differently (or rejects the advice) doesn’t mean either of you are wrong. Even vanity publishing has it place (although, I can’t think of it). If you are going to disagree with someone, do it because they are misleading other writers and you can PROVE they are wrong. (i.e. Traditional publishing doesn’t pick up new writers, so you should just self-publish. This is a lie that is easily disproven through a google search for debut authors.)
Thanks for reading my 10 Don’ts of Writing Etiquette! If you enjoyed this post I’d really appreciate if you took the time to scroll down and hit the follow button. I am really trying to bridge the gap to 300 WordPress followers. If you are on twitter, feel free to follow me there (@stcappswrites). I hope you are having an awesome day, and good luck with your writing.