Remembering to be aware of traps and leeches is something that I have to remind myself of every so often, especially after going through last years’ receipts. Every writer should beware of the traps set for the unwary. Unfortunately, every trap is different, too, depending on the person and where they are in their career. So I decided to share with you the stuff that’s tripped me up over the past few years.
In no particular order, here are the things I have learned to be wary of as I go about building my career.
1. People Who Make Money Off of Writers. Every art form has them, the people who are like leeches, bleeding those who can least afford to spend the money because we’re desperate for guidance. (These are the people who get actors and dancers to perform for free, because every actor and dancer isn’t quite who they think they are when they aren’t performing. I’ve been both, and I get it.) Who are these people making money off you? They are those who profess to know what you need to learn because they have done it, and now are willing to teach you. I’m not saying all teachers are in it just for the money; in many instances, you can find good teachers at reasonable rates (especially online) who will teach you what you need to know/want to learn.
Plus many teachers are very good at it, and they do it because they see a need and they know they can fulfill that need. But when those rates go sky-high? (Tip: Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s a good class.) When the class is less than satisfactory? Yeah, then you have a problem. YOU ARE BETTER OFF WRITING YOUR NEXT BOOK than take a class you really can’t afford and might not get much out of. That said, classes can be vital to our growth. Budget your class money, and be very careful how you spend it or you’ll be like me. I’ve got several classes that I’ve spent over a hundred dollars each on last year, and you know what? Few of those classes were memorable and made a difference in my work. And now money is tight. If I’d saved that money, I could have gone to National Conference this year. Lesson learned.
2. Beware Of Other Writers’ “How To Do (whatever)”. This one is similar, and yet a little different from the one above. If you are like me, and you go to conferences and writer’s meetings, you have all these people sharing their way (or “a” way) to do things. Like, plot. How many different plotting structures are there? Without thinking too hard about it, I can think of 4. The problem for me is, none of these work AS I’M WRITING. Now, that may just be me, but still – I’ve had workshops totally mess me up and paralyze my writing. Not pretty.
I came to this epiphany at the SoCal RWA Conference last month. I was lucky enough to continue a dialog I had started with the fantastic Brenda Chin back at Desert Dreams last year. (My other posts about Brenda are here and here.) So, we’d talked about a book I’d sent to her and she said the plot needed work. We talked, I revised the plot and sent in the synopsis to her, and we met up at the SoCal RWA Conference where she said, yeah – there’s too much plot.
But but but – I had used the Latest and Greatest Plotting Device in my Toolbox – The Blake Snyder Save The Cat way to plot! (Blinks eyelashes, widens eyes innocently.) How can it possibly be too much? (Trust me, it was. Too much. Way. WAY. Too much. Maybe not for a single title, but DEFINITELY too much for a category romance.) Just another instance of how a great new “tool” can totally derail you. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Yes, be a sponge. Absorb all you can. Then let it all go, and just write.
(BTW – Brenda sat with me and explained the nuances of a catagory romance plot. Book is in progress. I’m a happy girl!) (Also BTW – you’d think, after reading the books for so many years, it would be ingrained. It wasn’t. Sigh.)
3. Jealousy This one hurts. Mainly because it hurts all ways around. There are some people I know who have marvelous careers that started writing at about the same time I did. I’ve learned to be happy for them and only mildly envious, instead of wildly jealous. Jealousy does no one any good. I have come to learn that, had I had early success with my writing, I most likely would have burned out because I wasn’t that good. No, seriously. I had a lot to learn. I STILL have a lot to learn, and I’m looking forward to that journey. I am content with my path because, frankly, everyone’s path to success will look different. Kick jealousy to the curb, you won’t regret it.
4. Anyone Who Promises You A Fast Solution is lying. There are none. There is no magical way to lose weight except through hard work. There is no magical way to become a brilliant writer except through hard work. There is no magical way to become a better person/good mother/loving spouse/best friend/critique partner except through hard work. No one will hand you a career. You have to work hard for it. Anyone who promises a fast solution is talking about moving money from your pocket to theirs. They win, you lose.
5. Anyone Who Says “You Must” or “Must Not” With Regards To Your Career. Be REALLY wary about these people, because often (but not always – see #1) they are people in power. At my very first conference (2002), I had an editor tell me that paranormal was dead on arrival, and try something else. Three years later, Ms. Meyer set the ball rolling with Twilight. Do take whatever your agent/editor says seriously, take it and live with it and make it your own – but if your gut rebels, then look at the relationship. Open that dialog again, and work it out with the person who gave it to you. Don’t take their position on an issue at face value. If after discussion it still doesn’t sit right, then their advice isn’t for you. This may change your career, but hell – IT’S YOUR CAREER. Not theirs.
6. Be Careful on Social Media. This should also be called the “don’t bash anyone” point. You may have been dismissed by every publisher in the business; but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to Indie pub your book and then trash talk about all publishing houses everywhere on social media. All that does is make you look childish and, perhaps, a wee bit unstable. Instead, use the trite but true “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all” when it comes to social media. Because honey, what goes on the internet never dies.
I am a soft touch. I’m easily convinced the next wonderpill will make me look like a 20 y/o Victoria’s Secret model (after airbrushing) in real life. That the next skin cream will have people looking at me with delight and wonder at my glowing vitality. That a stranger will come up to me on the street and tell me I’m beautiful. (Oh, wait – that really did happen. Twenty years ago.) I’ve learned the hard way, and I no longer have the money to toss away on a class that won’t get me anything but a handful of followers (or whatever).
So I’m passing on my hard-won knowledge (for free, lol!). Please, all you wonderful writers and actors and dancers and photographers and artists and game designers out there just trying out your wings – please be careful. Search out the traps. Spend your money wisely. Keep working at your craft and keep your eyes open for new opportunities, and beware of those selling promise-covered snake oil. There are no short cuts.
We Need More Writers and Poets, Dreamers and Lovers in the World.
Without them, the world is a poorer place. Do you have a lesson to share? Please do!
~ Until the next time…Cheers! ~