Wednesday, May 06, 2015

IWSG: I Like What You're Doing...How Do I Do That?"

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecurities. Add your name to the list to join in!



When people learn you're a writer, you tend to get a series of responses. They range from, "What do you write?" to, "I've always wanted to write a book." Most of the latter group wants to share their life stories with the world.



I'm guessing these are the same people who think we care every time they go to the gym or have a stomach virus.



Once you're published, you get those questions, plus a few new ones, including (but not limited to):

  • How did you get published?
  • How much did you have to pay your publisher?
  • Can you help me get published?

Yes, I've actually been asked that second question. When I informed the person that a legitimate publisher does not charge, she informed me that she Googled and yes, in fact, publishers are asking for $250 and up to just read your manuscript.



I first told her no legitimate publisher charges but then pointed her to a resource where she could get information about self-publishing. She said she didn't want to self-publish. I pointed her to this site and strongly suggested she get involved with a writer's group in her genre. Will she take my advice?



I get the same response when people ask me how I make a living writing all day. My answer, which is essentially, "Hard work," is generally met with this type of reaction:



You'll get a similar reaction if someone asks you how you lost so much weight or how you won the gold medal in the Olympics. Basically, if the answer is anything resembling this...



People don't really want to know. So make up an answer like, "I just woke up one morning, wrote a novel, and it sold. It must be magic." The person isn't going to actually try anyway. Do you know why?

People who actually want to get a novel published, lose weight, or win the gold medal have already researched it and know the work that goes into it. They don't see someone doing it and say, "What you're doing looks cool. I might give that a try."



Without realizing it, people who ask those questions actually insult a writer. They make it sound as if anyone can do it--as if all the hard work you did means nothing. They also make you wonder if maybe it was harder for you than most people. There are, after all, people who land publishing deals with the first book they write...

What are you insecure about this month?

71 comments:

  1. She Googled it. And the Internet it always accurate, right?
    You can't help people who really don't want to learn. Or do the hard work.
    If you really want to do something in life, you'll find a way. You'll do your research, set your path, and then just do it.

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    1. It was funny because when I Googled, "How do I get a book published?" I found all kinds of useful information. Unless you click on the sponsored posts at the top and who does that? Those just look like scams. "We Will Publish Your Book - From $399. Keep your rights‎" It says "Ad" right next to it. I'm guessing if you're the type of person who clicks on ads instead of skipping past them when you Google, you probably are going to fall for whatever comes next...

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  2. What surprises me are how many bad writers are out there. I've come across so many awful books lately . . . Who encourages these people and why did they get published?

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    1. I can't speak for everyone, but I know with my own publishing experience, there are SO many revisions and editors involved that by the time you reach the end, it's almost impossible for there to be errors. I think with self-publishing and small presses, some writers may not have that level of support so they have to rely on professional editors. And my guess is that if they DO pay a professional editor, it's a matter of whether they chose a good one or not. Beyond that, I guess it's a matter of taste. I have my own opinions about some very popular books...but there are people out there who love them, so I figure there has to be something in them that's resonating with people.

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  3. well, you're a writer, so you should come up with amusing (and not necessarily honest) answers to all these boring questions which you can keep ready in your pockets :) Something hilarious :)

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    1. I'm going to have to work on that!

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  4. You can ask me stupid questions all day long because you included a pic of Keanu Reeves. :-)

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    1. Even if it had a mean statement attached! I didn't write the mean statement, though, so it's all good.

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  5. I had a friend once who said he always wanted to write a book but got stuck coming up with names for characters.

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    1. Seriously? That's hilarious. Another comment writers get is, "Hey, you're a writer? I have a lot of great ideas. Why don't I give you my ideas, you write the book, and we'll split the profits?!"

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  6. I've had a lot of people ask me these same questions on Facebook or through email. I try to help them as best as I can, but it becomes annoying and soon I just want to pull out my hair and say,"Research it yourself! I did!" If they don't have the drive to put in the hours and the research then they aren't serious.

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    1. I always point them to a writer's group. Someone posted on a community Facebook page (about the CITY we live in, not writing) that she wanted to write a book and did anyone know of any good writing groups. Someone named the mystery writers and I pointed her to Music City Romance Writers. Someone else pointed her to a writer's meetup that isn't genre-specific. She said she didn't like the meetup group and she didn't write romance or mystery. Sometimes it doesn't pay to even try to help people.

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  7. I LOVE this post!! Yes, oftentimes when I tell people I've written several novels and I'm trying to get an agent/get published, they usually say something to the likes of "I've always wanted to write a book." But yeah, do they really have ANY idea how much WORK went into writing them, let alone researching and querying? Of course not or they wouldn't say it! :)

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    1. If I had a dollar for every time someone has said, "I've always wanted to write a book..." I guess it's flattering that we've done what so many people have always wanted to do?

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  8. Really love the way you wrote this post and made me smile. After writing my first autobiography at the ripe age of 13, I totally gave up my career as a novelist. Great topic! Hugs...

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    1. You should go back to it. If you were writing at 13, you may have a natural talent for it!

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  9. I don't think most people understand how much work is really involved in writing, in learning and growing in the craft, in keeping up with the industry, etc. I swear there are people who think I sit around twiddling my thumbs all day. Flash fiction especially might look easy but believe me, it's not.

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    1. Even my husband doesn't really know what I do all day and he works from home, too. I told him the other day that I had to go home and write some story pitches for a client. He was shocked that I pitch ideas to some of my clients and they choose which ones I write. I do that almost every day and he had no idea!

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  10. I couldn't do it. I know I couldn't do it. It's way more work than I want to do. I'm retired now. Work is something I want to do very little of.

    I applaud you for doing what you love and knowing all the hard work you'll have to do to get where you want to go.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. My mom loves to write but she's retired like you and she wants to write/read for fun, not be pressured to write 2,000 words a day or more like I am!

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  11. "people who ask those questions actually insult a writer"

    While I haven't published a book, I have been writing all my life, I make a living as a writer and I take pride in doing it right and well. And, as you said, I at least KNOW what goes into getting (legitimately) published.

    That sentence right there sums it up. That sick feeling in my stomach every time I talk to people about it. I do some freelance work and my fiance makes me want to punch him every time he says he could do it because knows how to write with good grammar.

    Because of course all you need to be an above average writer is good grammar. That's like saying, "I know how to read music so even though I'm tone deaf, I can sing as well as Christina Aguilera."

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    1. A friend of ours was questioning me about it to see if she could do something like that. I think she thought it didn't matter if what I wrote was well written or not, just grammatically correct.

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  12. What a great post! I think a lot of times people think that writing is much easier and faster than it really is. I think a lot of new writers make some of these mistakes because they just don't know better. I am glad you were able to clarify that publishers don't take money! I know someone who paid an "agent" thousands of dollars and was scammed. So sad!
    ~Jess

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    1. Maybe if there were stiffer penalties for scamming people (jail time, big fines), we'd see less of it. Unfortunately, people have discovered you can make a good living capitalizing on people's dreams.

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  13. yeah, everyone wants a short-cut, a magic pill, to everything. *sigh*

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    1. So true...and they don't realize it means so much more when you work hard for it.

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  14. Those types are always looking for the easy way out. That magic diet pill that will let them lose weight, that magic ghostwriter who will write their story for free because it is soooo good, pffft I will magically fart on them and walk away. err umm, I mean the cat will.

    Some ask me how I got into it and when I say my cat, they give me a blank stare and scurry off lol

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    1. Wait...there isn't a magic diet pill that will let us lose weight?! :-)

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  15. So glad you set that woman straight. I'm appalled at how many vanity schemes there are out there.

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    1. It's really sad. It seems to be getting worse, too.

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  16. I had a guy contact me on Twitter (we had no previous relationship or connection) and ask me to read his book, which he was publishing on his blog AS HE WROTE IT. I was going to ignore him, but then he asked for feedback.

    So I looked. And it was awful. I gave him a few suggestions, and then got the questions: "Can you help me find an agent? How much do you have to pay an agent?" And so on. I kept urging him to workshop his writing and find critique groups, and not to worry about getting published just yet, but he wasn't deterred.

    "Can you help me edit my book so it gets published?" he asked.

    "Sure," I said, and I told him my rates.

    Needless to say, I haven't heard from him again.

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    1. We were discussing it on a forum recently. While there's nothing wrong with helping fellow bloggers/writers out, if someone approaches out of the blue, the best thing to do is quote a rate...even for reading it. I know people who are paid for "developmental critiques." (No line edits.) I was advised to say, when someone asks if I'll read a novel and give feedback, I should say, "Sure. I'd be happy to. I charge $X for a developmental critique." Whatever you think it's worth--but professionals charge hundreds of dollars for it. Most people will vanish after that...if you make it clear that you do this for a living (as many published authors do), they tend to realize this isn't a service you're going to just give away.

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  17. Heh Stephanie, you can't blame a wanna-be writer to ask stupid questions can you?.. hehehe. I know you do your own homework and you're a hard worker and it shows with your results. Not only that but you care for your fellow writers as well.
    Keep on writing.
    Hugs,
    JB
    Hugs,
    JB

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    1. Of course not! I'm always happy to give advice, although I can't promise I know too much, though. I have much, much more to learn.

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  18. My eyes are certainly rolling...

    You hit it well, Stephanie... Those people just don't get it. I have lost a ton of weight and have kept it off for five years now... everyone asks... "How'd you do it?" in awe. "What diet?"

    My answer, "No diet really... a life change." I get the STARE. They have now idea what you need to give up to keep fit. Eating HEALTHY, exercising daily....

    Same with writing.

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    1. Yep, magic diet pill. That has been mentioned in the comments--I think people just want to believe there's some easy way. We all know if you want to lose weight, you cut calories and up your fitness but that's not easy. So we want the secret! I often point people to Weight Watchers because that's exactly what they emphasize. They say, "This is NOT a diet. This is something you're going to do the rest of your life."

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  19. I don't think many people realize how much work is involved. They have images of Hemingway writing for an hour and then drinking the rest of the day. Not that he actually did that...maybe...but most of us don't. I hate getting these questions. They are insulting and I feel like I have to defend why I write.

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    1. If only we could write just one hour and make things happen!

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  20. Wow people can be so rude... writing for a living sounds hard to me... you are the person who has to inspire yourself to write daily... oh and yes 'you' have to find inspiration...

    It's unbelievable that anyone would think it was easy... I have such respect for writers... xox

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    1. I hear professional photographers have it worse. Apparently anyone with a camera and a website thinks they can start photographing important events like weddings.

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  21. Anything worth achieving is hard work! You're absolutely right, people just want a magic\ cure -- or a magic wand.

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    1. If it were easy, everyone would do it! I tell myself when I'm having trouble writing. Or dealing with the seventh rewrite on an article I've written and I can't understand what the heck the client is trying to get me to do!

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  22. I think sometimes people don't realize just how rude they are being without meaning to. At least I hope they aren't meaning to be that rude.

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    1. I was watching a TV show where two women walked up to a comedian and asked how they could get discovered. They mentioned, among other things, that they could get an influencer to tweet their YouTube video. The comedians then sent the link to their video to them right then, then asked them to forward it for them. I figured that probably was inspired by a real event.

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  23. This reader is so very grateful for the hard work that writers do. Very, very grateful. Thank you.

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  24. I can't relate to it as a writer getting asked those questions, but I used to get asked those questions all the time about medical transcription when they found out I was a transcriptionist (and these were the good old days before it kind of dried up). I would tell them to research it, gave them some good links, but they always thought they could do it because they had a semester of medical terminology in college or were a nurse, etc. It does take work, like a writer takes work, people are looking for a quick fix and there isn't one if one wants to succeed in their field, whatever it might be.

    betty

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    1. I think I told you I tried transcription briefly (not medical transcription) and it was tough with a capital "T!" I don't know how people do it. I think people glamorize working from home. It is nice, but it's also WORK!

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  25. I've had people tell me, "If I had the time, I'd write a book." I typically smile and hold my tongue. In my head, I'm wondering if they think they do more in their day than I do. I'm not the most productive person in the world, but hey, wasted time isn't a regret of mine. :)

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  26. The one I hate when you reveal you're writing a novel, "Am I in it?"

    For real? You actually think I have something to say about you? BWAHAHAHAH...

    Wow...

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  27. I'm insecure about "all" those writers who got their first book published! Seriously, great post because I think we can alllll relate to this very thing, these very questions, and, I never thought about the point of view of looking at what someone else does to see if it's doable or not, and then not doing it when it's discovered there really is work involved. That, in a strange way, makes me feel better about what I do! Thank you! Lisa @ http://www.lisabuiecollard.com

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  28. The only thing I'm feeling insecure about is whether or not plant a new rose in the back flowerbed. Then I might write a short story but I won't feel insecure about that until the day I put it on Blogger.

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  29. I'm insecure about this publisher I'm dealing with. It's a very small house, but it's the only one giving me the time of day.

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  30. Great post! I totally agree. I've had some interesting questions too--like would I write someone's idea for them? But I've learned to not to go into too much detail with people when they ask me about writing, because often, people don't want to hear it. Like you said, if they are really serious, they'll find the information themselves.

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  31. One of my former bosses said and I quote: 'I could write that sh_ _' Really?
    I love the Sam Elliott picture:)

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  32. PS That you can make a living from writing is HUGE. Kudos to you.

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  33. That's how they make conversation. At least that's what I chalk it up to.

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  34. Everything you said is so right.

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  35. Ha Stephanie. I think you'll enjoy my post for IWSG. On the same wavelength. :-)

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  36. I have this as a tagline on one of my writing forum profiles (ought to make that on all forum profiles): Work hard. Be kind. That's all.

    You are spot on about people who, if they truly want to write, would have done enough research to know how to go about or at least start writing and publishing. Sometimes someone asks me how to go about doing this, and I have nothing to offer but a blank look because I don't know where to begin to tell them!

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  37. I think a lot of people forget that many, many, many writers barely make any money at all. In the UK, the average writer earns less than the lowest average wage, below which you are considered to be living in poverty. They have to complement their income doing a whole variety of jobs. Yet, the pleasure of writing probably compensates for all the hardships. Great post.

    Greetings from London.

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  38. People are very, very clueless about the whole process. When I announced that I'd signed with my agent, most of the non-writer people in my life immediately squealed that I'd be rich and famous. It's nice to have that confidence, but...we who know the business, know the realities of it. I've had friends ask me to help them write their novels, too. Most just think it's a cool and want an easy way in, with easy rewards. Doesn't work that way, folks!!!

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  39. If we want to succeed at anything, it is hard work. I think people think that writing = no work. I have only recently got myself back into the habit of writing, and it takes a routine and time to do so.

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  40. That second question is sad because writers, especially new writers, are so gullible. I know non-writers are curious and think it is cool to be a writer, but they have no real clue about it all unless they're really serious about it and have taken the time to learn about writing and publishing.

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  41. oh Stephanie, how I love you! You ALWAYS NAIL IT. This is the story of my life, and it's why I don't bother discussing my writing with people. No matter what, the conversation always somehow ends in me being insulted, and them having an attitude of "well if you can do it, anyone can!" Drives me batty. I can't count how many times someone asked me if I pay for my agent. And just yesterday when I was explaining how CPing works someone asked me if I pay for my CP. argh lol

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  42. Anyone who wants to write and publish needs to get online and really learn how the business operates. That means do more than Google "publishing a book" since the first sites to show up will be vanity presses.

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  43. Neuro Linguistic Programming, Stephanie, I use Paul McKenna's tapes, listen on my ipod.

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  44. Sounds like a vanity press.

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  45. Hi Stephanie! Reading through this, I am reminded of what my mom once told me that I shouldn't allow anyone to put out that light, that spark in me. As for a writer who aspire to author a book, let no one ever tell you that you can't do it. A dream so ardent cannot just be put off. All the best to your endeavors!

    Thanks by the way for visiting my site!

    Tyne | Lovetakestyne


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  46. Oh my-It is so sadthat people have this preconceived notion that all you do is eat bon-bons since you work from home and have published works. It is insulting and I think you should make something up just to show off their stupidity and actual snobbishness. You work so hard, all authors/writers do. I have had people argue with me about my work because they saw something on the internet or their friend told them something different. In just look at them and think they fell off the stupid truck. You are right that these same people will never write anything but complain that they have a tough life blah blah. I loved that one"quote" with Sam Elliott in the background

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  47. Excellent post!
    I've read a few books that I can tell would have been better and sold more with just a bit more hard work in the editing stage.
    But I think people do forget that there's also a whole marketing stage. And it means knowing your audience, and then figuring out how to reach them.

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