Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Simon says

From Marray Services
Writers need to do a lot of strange things to draw attention to themselves and their work. One of these favourite activities is to write blogs and comments on Being a Writer, or The Writer's World, or The Life of the Writer.

Writers read the blogs of other writers, looking for advice on how to write, how to live the writer's life, and how to sell more books. Or perhaps How to Write a Better Novel. I have read so much guidance from other novelists I sometimes wonder which way is up. A lot of it is conflicting, and some of it makes little practical sense.

I find advice on branding, plotting, selling, promoting, characterization, drafting, genres, editing and a whole lot more. There is advice to be had on every single aspect of writing and being an author. Often, it is written and offered by people who have done little writing, except in the way of advice. Some have written so much help, advice, information and guidance it's not immediately obvious that it's all they have written. Doesn't one have to have written one novel - at least - to be able to guide another prospective author through the traps?

Doesn't one need the experience of dealing with an agent or publisher before jumping into the fray and telling others how to do it? Apparently, it's 'no experience required' when it comes to this kind of advice-mongering. Hop on any discussion group, thread or forum about writing, and you will find 'advice' of all kinds, some forthcoming from individuals whose credentials to offer it are often minimal or non-existent.

It is not unusual to find whole companies popping up offering to 'help ' a new writer through the process, when they have not published as much as a short story themselves. Perhaps this realisation might prompt new writers to be very wary about the sources of advice, and look upon it as a Simon Says exercise. Find out what the writer offering counsel or assistance has actually done. Make it your business to discover what that writer's real experience has been. Do what a writer does, if you like the outcome, not merely what they say you should do.

Finding out what experiences a writer has been through is sometimes only evident from what they have published. This is not a bad indicator at all. An author with a string of titles out, with a good history of sales, probably has the benefit and weight of consequence behind their information and guidance. Someone whose only testimonial is more dubious advice must be treated with the same suspicion as a door-to-door salesman peddling a product with no reputation.

When an author has the weight of experience and the output to prove it, it's usually visible, and easy to find. Either their own website, or a quick visit to your favourite online bookstore, will confirm backing for that guidance. Even a rapid search will disclose whether the advice is worth following.

It is extremely easy to read up and regurgitate so-called information and advice - let's not be taken in by the ones who have honed this to a fine art: giving advice to follow a career path, a plan of action or a series of steps they have never taken themselves.

What do you think of information and guidance for writers you have found on the web or elsewhere? Was it backed by real experience?
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. As usual, you talk a lot of sense, Rosanne. I'm frequently amazed at people going to workshops run by writers who have failed to get any novels published. Surely these people can only teach others how to fail too?

    Trouble is, with 54 novels published and more contracted, I don't have time to run workshops - or not very often. I enjoy them, though, because you always learn from the people attending. Adults have such varied and fascinating lives.

  2. Ah, Anna - T-I-M-E !! If only authors had a special extra four hours at the end of each day. It's true - when one's writing life gathers momentum, there's less time for teaching or anything.

  3. I'm not altogether in agreement with you, Rosanne, as I had a very good experience of a writing course, where the tutor was very reticent about her own publishing experience. Nevertheless, she brought out a whole new side of writing in me. I had previously concentrated on narrative, and in setting various writing tasks, she made me realise that I was actually good with dialogue, which probably brought my writing to life. My (now published) novel and novella were both started off at her group. Besides that I've written two non-fiction books - but I've never run a writing course.

  4. Rather than writing teachers, I was talking about people in the publishing industry who hang out a shingle declaring they 'help' writers get published, Jackie. I am so pleased to hear of your success - your teacher must have been an experienced one who knew how to find the best in her students.

  5. Hi Rosanne. Really good points there. In my blog, I make it clear what my experiences have been. It is also our journey from where we were to where we are now. Of course, I also promote our book from time to time.

    I do also include links from fellow authors with 'how to' information...but they base it on their experiences.