Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ass Angst

Okay...advice...paying it forward...

What can I, obvious disaster area, share with other writers? Aside from: don't fall asleep with a towel on your head, because it makes your hair explode? Or: a cheese toastie is not dinner, and nor is that half bag of Doritos you found behind a pile of DVDs? Or: when you feel yourself falling asleep, move the laptop off the bed or suffer the consequences?

How about:

1. If your instincts tell you not to make a certain mildly controversial comment - on Twitter or on a blog or on Goodreads - don't do it. Just don't. Even if nothing happens to you because of the comment, you'll always suspect it was because of the comment and destroy your own immortal soul over it.

2. Try to be upbeat, when social mediarising. Nobody likes a whiny crybaby, and I know this because I'm a whiny crybaby and everyone far prefers when I work my angst out in the form of weird comments about Armie Hammer's ass.

3. If your writing isn't going well, try one of the following: write something else that you don't care about for a while; switch to longhand; free write for half an hour and just let whatever comes, come.

4. Don't ever let yourself be so desperate that you just go with any old publisher or agent. You are worth more than that. Remember: a bad publisher/agent is worse than no publisher/agent at all.

5. Pay attention to the market. I know people say - no, you should only write what you love! Go with that 500 page opus about mountain goats. The readers will come, because you're being so groundbreaking! But those people are fools. Only a fool pays no attention whatsoever to the market. And there is always, always a way to write what you love, in a manner that other people might love, too. For example, I prefer to write about submissive men. They are not popular. But writing a menage story about a submissive man and a dominant man IS popular. Be smart, not pretentious and obscure just for the sake of being pretentious and obscure.

6. Listen to reviewers. Again, this is not advice you often hear. People will tell you - ignore reviewers! They're all idiots! But that's simply not true. Yes, there are reviews you should ignore. There will be comments about your work that make no sense whatsoever, that are clearly about reviewer preference and nothing more, that say more about the reviewer than they do about your work.

But there will also be reviews that raise completely valid points about your work that you would be a fool to ignore - as much as you'd be a fool to ignore the advice of your editor. Yes, reviews hurt. They sting. But the sting only lasts if there is nothing you can do about the words being spoken to you. If you can do something, then do it. If a hundred people keep saying that you overuse the word rectum, stop using it. Think carefully: is it really worth another bad review, over the word rectum? Don't be precious. Be smart.

7. Don't put all your hopes and dreams in one basket. If you pin everything on one single MS that you've spent eight hundred years working on, it's going to be an almighty blow when everyone says no. It's less of one, if you've got other things already in mind. If you're willing to put that book under the bed, and try with another one. And another one. And another one. Have those bullets ready, then fire that fooking gun.

Same goes for publishers, too. If you get comfy at one place and don't try for any others, what do you think happens when the comfy place closes? And don't ever say it can't happen to you. My publisher had been around for 15 years and was backed by Random House.

It's gone, now.

8. Never give up. No matter how much you want to, no matter how bad you feel or how awful it is that someone said this at someplace, don't give up. You can do it. I believe in you, even when you don't believe in yourself.


  1. Charlotte - all good advice. The point about paying attention to the markets is spot on, and about keeping your publishing options open. Just brilliant all the way around.

  2. Excellent commentary, Charlotte! Even if the post could have used a bit more ass...

    Just kidding!


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