Some Short Advice

Dame Lili
Dame Lili
Since I’m currently moving like a little old lady (I’m in the body-aches section of the Cold From Hell) this Friday’s writing post is going to be shorter. I poked through the Ask A Dame questions and none of them really set me on fire, though a few of them did give me springboards into other things to think about. But I’m probably going to blaze my own path today.

Like that surprises you, right?

So, here’s three things I’ve found out about this career. Your mileage may vary, of course. Ready? Okay.

Getting published might cost you a “friend”. The instant I got published, some people decided they didn’t want to be around me anymore. I agonized over it and tried to make it better until the Muffin told me flat-out it wasn’t me. Success (of any stripe) is threatening to the people who don’t want to work for it–people who expect it to be handed to them. (I still thought it was me for a long time, though. Before I got a little wiser.)

It was with great surprise and a sneaking sense of relief that I read about someone else’s exact same experience on an author loop the other day. The recollection involved a “friend” getting nasty and knocking someone who had just joyfully made it into print as a result of years of backbreaking work. The writer who had gotten published beat herself up over it and felt terrible for months until she realized it wasn’t her. This is, by the way, part of why I feel the way I do about “writing” groups.

I’m not saying that every friend who falls away is jealous of one’s success. I’m just saying, it happens. It’s happened to a lot of writers. Some people think that success for one person means nothing for everyone else–a zero-sum game. I don’t happen to think it is. My friends getting published means more connections for me (and publishing is such an incestuous little business, those connections are GOLD) and a reason to break out the chianti and celebrate. It’s awesome, and if I’m a little envious, well, then it’s a reason for me to find the discipline and means to work harder. And feel grateful that my friends are so awesome they provide me with motivation. Nuff said.

An agent is not a panacea. Getting an agent is a big step, but it’s not ALL you need to do. In fact, getting an agent means the stakes are higher–one needs to produce and act like an adult, or one won’t get invited back. The agent is there to handle business so you can concentrate on writing.

An agent is not a foolproof path to the NYT Bestseller List. An agent is a help and a refuge in times of contract negotiation (God bless my agent, who puts up with my frantic calls during That Time) but s/he cannot write the damn books for you, and cannot make you look like less of an ass if you do your editor wrong. It’s all up to you.

Just like it always was.

Do not get involved in Internet imbroglios. Don’t pile on during huge Internet arguments even if you have an opinion. (The last big SF/F fandom blowup was a perfect example of something that could have been a great discussion destroyed by high emotion, nasty behavior, and different brands of entitlement on both sides.) If you feel the urge to respond to a negative review, DON’T. Just don’t. Get used to letting things go on the Internet.

A lot of people behave badly on the Internet because of perceived anonymity. Still others (and part of the first group) behave badly because the distance between their physical body and what they’re typing feels so large. It feels like there’s no consequences. But there are. There are consequences to Internet imbroglios. Think very hard about what you want out in the open.

The Internet is not ubiquitous. It just feels like it is to people on it. On the other hand, it’s becoming a useful tool for people to dig up dirt with. Don’t make it easy for the dirt to be dug, don’t give people ammunition. You don’t need the aggravation; it takes time away from writing. The Internet is already a big timesuck for a lot of writers. It’s a tool, and a wonderful one–but like any power tool, it needs to be used with caution. It can give you a wonderful time if used wisely, and it can give you a huge effing pain if it’s not.

All right, chickadees. That’s it from me today. I’ve got to get back to revisions on the YA. I have this scene with a girl crawling on a slate roof and a boathouse meeting interrupted (I think) be werewolves to get down. No rest for the wicked, eh?

Keep writing.

ETA: OK, so I lied, I do have more to say! Great news! The Demon’s Librarian is now listed on Amazon and on! Huzzah!

I am ultra-excited. Can you tell?