I’ve never been particularly lucky when it comes to writing groups that work for me. It seems that I always end up finding groups that focus on how to write and get published, instead of getting something written. I know those are very important steps, but there comes a time in every writer’s life (can you hear the coming of age music?), when ideas and how-to stuff must take the shape of written words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters… stories.
I enjoy talking about the writing process as much as the next storyteller. Words are our thing. I love group camaraderie, too. But when every group meeting turns into a coffee and tea drinking symposium, I get pissed. I have better things to do with my time—writing comes to mind.
If you are anything like me, you are probably already saying, “Well, if you hate the meetings so much, then why are attending, whiner Witch?”
I usually don’t. But after Book Expo America 2013, a writer friend told me that his group was getting together to discuss how self-publishing short stories might improve a writer’s chance of getting traditionally published. “You’ve already taken the first step with AlmaMia,” he said, “let’s talk about what comes next.”
I found the topic rather interesting, so agreed to attend.
We met his group at a coffee shop…
I walked to the counter, bought a pastry, and asked the barista if it was okay to drink my own coffee (nothing but Folgers French Vanilla goodness for my sophisticated palate, you know?). I sat down at one of three tables that had been pulled together, and read the title of a pamphlet that had been placed in front of each person. “The Writing Programme,” it announced. I opened, and read, “The aspiring writer’s PAID website: How to turn yourself into your own product!”
“I am going to eye-gouge you, then jam this paper into your eye sockets,” I told my friend.
“It must be some kind of segue,” he said. “Give it a minute.”
“Fine,” I said, and gave it twenty minutes of my time.
After I had ran out of gory ways in which to make my friend pay, I decided to join the general conversation. I signaled the person who had asked the latest question, and answered her inquiry with a few questions of my own: “What do you have to say about yourself that is so amazing that it will make me want to read your fiction?” Okay, so maybe I was still a tad pissed. “Making yourself into a product might work if you’re planning to write memoirs, but what about your personal life will make me want to read vampire and zombie novels?”
The heat of my friend’s dismay was leaking out of his eyeballs, and burning my neck. “Magaly…?” he said.
“Wait,” I told him, “let her answer.”
The girl said a lot of things: “I’ve read all kinds of vampire fiction… I follow publishing trends… I’m a member of… Twilightand Amanda Hopkins—”
I cut her off. “Before Twilight, no one knew Stephanie Meyer,” I said. “And Amanda Hopkins wasn’t interesting to anyone until after she sold millions of books. The stories they wrote made their names important, not the other around. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a website—I have two! But I think that to go around telling people, especially really young and really broke writers, that their sites must be on a ‘paid’ platform is kind of a bit too much.”
Some people nodded in agreement. Others glared. My friend told me he wanted to leave.
I grabbed my bag, my thermos, my perfect coffee mug and began to walk away.
Then I stopped, sighed, and walked back to the table. “Look,” I said, “that was mean of me. I was mad at him,” I pointed at my friend, “and took it out on you. That was wrong. Sorry.”
After the mood went from vastly livid to barely apprehensive, I suggested that if they had money to spend they should probably use it to enter paid writing contests. “I refuse to enter anything that requires money to read my words,” I said, “but if you have the cash, by all means go for it. Once you have something to say about yourself as a writer—I won a Glimmer Train contest, for instance—then you can spend all your loot in a gorgeous professional website that describes every minute detail of your writing wilds.” That evoked some laughs that inspired me to say, “Or you can use your online presence to get support from other struggling writers, and from amazing readers, until you can write the entry you’ve always wanted to write: I’m a published writer.”
Why did you start your blog, website, forum, internet empire…, my Wicked Luvs?
This image has absolutely nothing to do with this post…but I’ve been reading Holly Black’s Doll Bones and I wanted this little face to creep you out, too.