Friday, April 20, 2012

Five Reasons Why Other Writers Aren't Showing You The Love

by Jean Oram

Ever get the feeling that another writer isn't exactly loving you? Maybe it's just a slight niggling feeling that somehow, somewhere along the line you've annoyed them. Or maybe you haven't had that feeling, but you've been noticing that you're just not getting the responses and feedback from others that you've been hoping for.

Maybe it's not them. Maybe it's you.

But what did you do? And how do you fix it?

I've asked ten writers what their writer pet peeves are about other writers, plus added four of my own. Read on and see if any of them feel familiar or strike a chord.

Five FIFTEEN Things About Writers That Annoy Other Writers and What You Can Do About It:

1. It's All About YOU

Writers (and people in general) who make it all about themselves and their work are annoying. They leave the impression that they don't care about others.

Is it you?: If you notice that you're not replying to others because you aren't that interested in their problems and story, that you're not offering assistance when you could, you never have the time for others, don't bother to answer questions, and always seem to leave conversations feeling pleased that you got all your information on the table, but can't really recall what those other folks were about, then you might be focusing a bit too much on yourself. I understand that we can't all be perfect and our time is limited. But think about the impression you are leaving.

How to fix it: It is understandable that you want to get the word out about your book, contest, blog post, latest rejection, but others also want to feel heard. Bite your tongue and try to let others talk. Listen. Retweet or tweet their news. You will be amazed at what happens.

2. It Rocks to RECEIVE

Writers who take, take, and take from others whether it is getting others to do their promotion, editing, critiquing, or research, (the list goes on) without giving back are often dumped and eventually find themselves without many good writer friends.

Is it you?: If you find you are receiving more than you are giving back (really think about it here), you might be one of these dudes. When was the last time you helped someone directly? Either shared a link, retweeted their news, liked their page, provided feedback, sent them an agent's name who just happens to be looking for that person's genre, etc.

How to fix it: Look up "Giver's Gain" and the term "Karma." Apply it.

Give for the sake of giving. Offering help to others will improve you in more ways than I can ever explain. I'm not saying if someone gives you a query critique that you have to critique theirs back. However, if you find a great article you think they would like, send it to them. Or help one of their friends. Keep the generosity and helping spirit going. Get in the habit of helping.

3. I'm the BEST

Writers who feel that they are at the top of the game, the best (even if unrecognized), and are simply annoying beyond words.

Is it you?: Do you feel that you really (although maybe even secretly) are the best? Do you wonder why you haven't been noticed yet by all those stupid-heads who know nothing and you should be agented/published/a bestseller by now? Do you ask for critiques just to hear how great you are? Do often brush comments and reactions off as the other writer just being jealous?

How to fix it: Get over yourself. Nobody is hot stuff right off the mark. One of the most wonderful things about writing is that there is always something you can improve upon. Always. And that attitude is going to kill you. Agents REJECT writers that they feel are going to be big-headed and not open to improvement or suggestions. Which brings us to ...

4. I Don't Need to LISTEN

These writers can be a real time waster. They ask for advice, and you provide it only to have them turn around and say, "I know that." Or worse, say, "You don't know what you are talking about."

Is this you?: You find you disagree with critiques about 85% of the time (maybe more). You shut off if you don't hear praise. You interrupt or don't finish reading other people's comments before replying. You have caught yourself thinking something similar to: "I don't need to listen to you, you are just an unpublished writer."

How to fix it: If you ask for someone to take the time out of their day to provide feedback, damn well listen. Even if you don't agree with it. If your pride makes you snap back saying your work is perfect, resist. This kind critiquer probably hit a nerve which means you should probably take note because that insecure little writer dude hanging out in your gut knows they are on to something. Close your mouth, open your ears. Pause. Consider. Then maybe reply.


For the 5th pet peeve, I asked fellow writers on Twitter and in the shoutbox on AgentQuery Connect (an online writing community) what irks them about other writers. Here are 10 pet peeves from other writers. (A big thank you to those quoted below.)

Eric T. Benoit: My pet peeve: Writers who use "alot" instead of "a lot." I see writers use it all the time and it makes me want to poke my eyes out! :) I mean, we're supposed to be professionals, we should know our craft and that's grammar more than anything else.

Khaula Mazhar: When they start to sound stuck up when they get published and famous ;)

S.L. Jenan: Authors who don't trust their prose. They put me in a scene, build tension, then tell/explain: Protag was scared. DUH!

J Lea Lopez: I can't stand the "aspiring" writer with a million excuses who you know will never move out of "aspiring" mode.

Jemi Fraser: All promo!

RS Mellette: Resumé talkers—"Hey, how have you been?" "Good, I just finished a new manuscript that's out to agents..."

... I meant, how have YOU been, not how has your writing been going.

SC_Author: Those who want you to look at their queries/synopsis/MS only to hear how great their work is—it's not always great!

Caterina: When they assume being self-published equals terribly written work. (A lot of time and effort goes into self publishing)

Aprilmwall: "Writers" critiquing other writers who in fact have NEVER WRITTEN ANYTHING :) At least give it a go b4 you tell everybody else what's wrong with theirs.

Tom Bradley: Snobby writers who look down on "lesser" (non-literary) genres.

Carakasla: My pet peeve is not having consistency in critiques. I hate it when three people stop by and give three completely different critiques, it's kind of like 'can you check OTHER'S suggestions first? So not to confuse me?!' It's about the only time repetitiveness is a GOOD thing!

Note: These pet peeves probably apply to agents and editors as well—be aware!

Now that you've looked at yourself and other writers from the write angle, what do you think? Are there some areas where you could improve? Are there some writers who now 'make more sense' to you?

And don't worry, we'll share what we love about other writers in the future. :)

Let's learn from each other: What are your pet peeves when it comes to other writers? How do you handle them?

Jean Oram is a writer who tries to practice Giver's Gain in her daily interaction with others ... in fact that's today's blog topic on her blog. She likes to tweet helpful info, pin interesting things, and sometimes even hang out on Facebook and is trying out .


Gossip_Grl said...

Great Posting. I just started working on a story and am still in the research part of the story. Someone sent me a tag that asked for a certain page and lines from the MS I was working on. Well, since it isn't that far and is only hand written I added a little from the last lines I had in my hand written piece. Weeks later I find it being torn apart and commented on in another blog on everything wording, no comma's etc... I found that very uncouth in my opinion, mainly because I didn't ask for any opinions. I would have felt better if the comments were on my own blog, not on another.

khaulamazhar said...

"Maybe it's not them. Maybe it's you"
I never thought of that! Hope I didn't do any of those things. Good post. I like that practice, Giver's Gain :)

Jean Oram said...

Gossip Girl, that is horrible! What a tough situation to deal with. Did you know that your stuff was going to end up on another blog? Wow.

Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Khaula, I hope I haven't unintentionally done any of the things in this post, either. I like Giver's Gain too. My mom once did an experiment where she gave some of her products away for free, just here and there, randomly. Within weeks she'd begun to get things randomly here and there--not even from the people she'd sent things too. Some of it was chocolates and cookies. Boy did I love that!!

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your quote, Khaula.

Michael Horvath said...

As a counselor I always ask my clients to keep an open mind and consider feedback from their peers. I advise them to take "one or two days to think about what you heard before you agree or disagree with it". Same would apply here and to many other aspects of our lives.

RSMellette said...

I do find myself having to add to a post or a discussion, "Because, you know, it's all about me" when I'm having a selfish moment, or relating a story back to myself.

An artist and their work are so close to being the same thing that it is often hard to get perspective.

Jean Oram said...

Michael: That's fantastic advice. I think that's vital when receiving advice or criticism.

RS: Sometimes stories about ourselves are a way to show others what we mean, or that we understand and are empathetic to what they are going through. But yeah, sometimes I catch myself making it "all about me," too. Doh!

Thanks for your quote. (Must remember there is more to life than writing.)

Tameka said...

Jean, I really enjoyed this post! Not too many writers would admit to some of the character flaws mentioned here, but I think in order to be the best writer and artist it is imperative to do so. Cheers!

Jean Oram said...

Thanks, Tameka. It's true that it is very difficult to admit to our own flaws--and even to see them in the first place.

Thanks for popping by!

Lynn Proctor said...

good points, i am going to give it a lot of thought--thank you

Joey Francisco said...

One pet peeve of mine? There are a few but one is not offering help to other writers with a spirit of encouragement. Writing is solitary and many times we can feel isolated, and reaching out to others in a writing community is a way to end that feeling of "alone", so why not be tactful or kind when offering criticism? There's a way to do things, you know?

My other pet peeve is getting on twitter and having an author literally every ten minutes tweet links to their book or a "review" of it every ten seconds, or some "sale" price of their book. That drives me nuts. I can understand if it's a real contest, or there's a special event on your blog or something going on...but tweeting for book sales over and over is a bit much.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great list (and thanks for the mention :))! I know I've unfollowed a few writers on twitter because it makes me sigh every time they tweet. Nothing but ME!!! LOOK AT ME!!! Drives me nuts!

Jean Oram said...

Lynn: Thanks for commenting, Lynn. I'm glad I could provide some food for thought.

Joey: I've lucked out and met some really encouraging writers. I think I've only come across one that wasn't--and it was a critique from a published author via a charity event. (Did not buy her book.)

I think some writing communities are better than others when it comes to encouragement. I've heard some horror stories, but have been very lucky so far.

Jemi: Yes, I've unfollowed some of those types too. And thank you for offering your pet peeve, I appreciate it. :)

Anita said...

I don't like people who sound snotty once they get a deal. It's like that phone commercial where the woman who mistakes a fancy car for her average car, just because she got a new phone. Hah!

Anyway, interesting subject. I have to say, I really find all people so amusing...we are so darn HUMAN, even the mean people entertain me (you know, except for the criminals).

Krysten Hill said...

I know sometimes people might think I don't take others advice (I do) but I have a severe, severe issue with looking at advice and criticism. It's because I have absolutely NO SELF CONFIDENCE. None. I'm so absolutely terrified of people being nice to my face and secretly thinking I suck (it's happened before) that my fear and anxiety sometimes overrides my judgement. I sometimes cry at the very idea of having to look at what other people think of my work.

So yeah, I don't have an over bloated ego, I have the complete opposite. My ego is so deflated its almost non existent. :-(

Thanks for the mention!

Jean Oram said...

Anita: Lol! Yes, we are all human--and I love that commercial. She's all highfalutin! I think that is what I like about 'real' celebrities. They don't let it go to their head. It must be difficult at times.

Krysten: I've met some pretty disingenuous people in my life--er, that would be almost all the girls in high school--and it isn't easy to deal with that. Sometimes it can be hard to even trust ourselves after that kind of hurricane.

If it helps, I didn't let anyone look at my writing for at least a year (I'd written three novels by then and learned a tremendous amount). It hasn't been until a month ago that I got up the courage to let someone I know in 'real' life to read a whole novel of mine. And she's liking it, but I still wonder if... you know... it's true or she's just being nice.

Thanks for sharing your pet peeve.

DeniseCovey_L_Aussie said...

This is a great post and very revealing, especially the tweets as they're more to the point. (As to the 'alot' vs 'a lot' as English teachers we always say never to use 'a lot' as there's always a better word!

Yep, promo is the pits but these days it's a necessary evil I guess.


Jean Oram said...

Denise: Yes, the tweets get right to the heart of the matter, don't they? I love all the different perspectives.

I learned the "a lot" lesson in an interesting way. I changed schools in final year and the teacher saw me using "alot" and mentioned it in class. Everyone yelled, "TWO WORDS!" He obviously had drilled it into the class for the past 2 years and so here I was... but I obviously never had to be told that again. Lesson learned.

Jessica L. Foster said...

Great post. Writing can be tough, but we must be considerate of others. Thanks for posting.

Wendy A.M. Prosser said...

Great list, though I would disagree that people who haven’t written anything shouldn’t critique another’s work. Where would that leave book reviewers, English literature courses and, indeed, Joe/Jane reader on the street? As far as writers (of any standard) are concerned, the reader must be king!

E.B. Black said...

Someone once hurt me by saying that I was a horrible writer that should never write again and gave me a few ridiculous reasons as to why this was the case. Their comments were way out of line and I wound up freaking out and getting angry over it directly. I thought everyone who saw it would back me up, but I got criticized quite a few times for it.

Now, if I ever get angry over a critique, which almost never happens, but none of us are perfect, I know those are moments when I need to back away from the computer, stay away from my writing for a day or two and just think over the words for awhile. At the end of that time, I'm usually calm enough now to respond in a non-angry fashion even if I still disagree with the person (which isn't always the case.) It really helps not to respond immediately to those things. Writers do a lot of their speaking and critiquing online and it gives us the ability to take our time before responding to something. We should take advantage of it. We're lucky that we get that space when other professions do not.

Jean Oram said...

Jessica: Thanks. Consideration of others will take a person a long way, I think.

Wendy: I think all readers have different interpretations of a story (just came back from book club where one member (laughing) asked if we'd all read the same book as our opinions varied so greatly). In my opinion, like any critique, ones from readers should be taken with a grain of salt.

E.B. Backing away from the computer is a fantastic idea. I've had to do that a few times as well. Do a little sound check on myself and then see how things look. Very good point on how we have the advantage of taking time to respond. I've never thought of it that way, but it is very true.

Debra McKellan said...

I'm half of #4. (blush) I'll moan and groan reading a critique, but if it's a valid comment, I moan and groan as I open my work to edit according to the comment. lol

I will say, though, my biggest pet peeve is the critiquer who doesn't read thoroughly enough before beginning to critique, so they comment on items they missed because they were skimming.