Sunday, December 14, 2008

On Jealousy and Other Dirty Things

Cate Gardner inspired another post.

Actually, I’d been thinking about this one for some time.

In my travels around the interweb as a fledgling writer, I’ve stumbled into some nastiness. Snarkiness, some call it. Bad vibes. Writing is a personal endeavor, and all too often emotions muddle reality.

Writers attack writers. Writers attack editors. Editors attack writers.

Let me tackle the last two together:

Most writers follow guidelines. They read what a magazine/anthology is interested in publishing, read how that publication wants to see their work, and follow those guidelines. Um…this is why they are called guidelines, right?

A writer should never attack an editor. I think that would be somewhat akin to being in the middle of the ocean and shooting the only person who knows how to drive the boat. Receive a rejection? Good for you; you're playing the game.

Editors, on the other hand, sometimes have legitimate gripes. Why post guidelines if you want writers to just send their stuff however they please? Most editors are quite professional about airing their frustrations. Read their rants; learn what not to do.

The burden is on the writer to make the editor happy, not the other way around. Don’t like an editor/editorial policy? Don’t submit to that publication.

This brings us to the dirty little topic of writers preying on each other.

A little confession: I’m a human being—a real, live, thinking and feeling person. I try to be as honest as possible, even in the semi-anonymous world of the interweb. Do I want to land a story with Cemetery Dance, Chizine, Fantasy & Science Fiction...etc. Heck yeah.

Do I feel a twinge of envy when someone else lands a sweet acceptance? Of course I do. I’m human, remember? If I didn’t care about publishing my stuff, I wouldn’t work as hard as I do at writing it. And like J.C. Tabler said on Cate’s recent post, there are limited slots out there, folks.

But I have a choice when it comes to dealing with that little tweak of jealousy.

Writing is a personal endeavor, but acceptance/rejection of a particular story is not personal. Someone else’s acceptance, whether it is in a contest, publication, etc., has nothing to do with me, you, or my Uncle Gary. (he's a salesman, but not that good)

For me, that twinge of envy lasts as long as I let it. Here’s a good jealousy killer: send someone a “congrats” when they announce an acceptance. “Whoot” jealousy to death. Crush all the juice out of the little green monster, get back to work, and write.

Some choose the other path…anonymous attacks, snarkiness, stupidity...general bad vibes. I’m always a little bummed when I see how far this can go, whether on a message board, a blog, a forum…there are entire websites dedicated to nastiness.

What I enjoy is the writing…and I want to write as well as I can. At the end of the day, the negative crap just gets in the way.


Fox Lee said...

I'm with you. There are time when you write a good story but get edged out by another writer, such is life. If the story is good, it will find a fantastic home.

Rob Brooks said...

I agree. The way I look at it, if someone got an acceptance to a market I would like to be accepted at, that just means my story wasn't good enough, or right for that market. I can't blame someone else for succeeding where I didn't.

Robert said...

I wouldn't say most writers follow guidelines. I'd say maybe half of them do. At least that's the way it always seemed to me when I wore my editor's cap.

You're going to have snarkiness everywhere. It's unfortunate. And yes, it seems like most times writers spend all their energy starting flame wars and bashing other people on other blogs than they do their own writing ... which is why I've always thought the Internet is a blackhole that sucks writers' souls away. We as writers should worry about writing, not about what so-and-so said about so-and-so on so-and-so's blog.

Anyway, in my opinion it all comes down to professionalism. You don't have to write for a living to consider yourself a professional writer.

Now what I could never stand -- CAN never stand, as it happens all the time, and sorry if this comes out sounding snarky -- is the whole "I'll publish you if you publish me" mentality. It doesn't happen ALL the time, but it happens, and it makes it even harder for struggling writers to get published.

One example comes to mind is back when I helped edit Flesh & Blood (does anyone even remember that mag?), I sent a story to an editor and noted my position at F&B. Next day, he sends a story addressed to me. It wasn't right for the magazine and I should have rejected it immediately, but I sat on it a few days, debating whether to pass it off to the publisher to reject. The publisher even offered to do it. But no, I decided, I'd be professional and do it myself. And so I sent the rejection. And the next day I got a rejection for the story I'd sent to that guy. Kind of a creep, you ask me.

Aaron Polson said...

Half? Ouch. I can't understand why you wouldn't follow guidelines.

Robert - I've always been weary of the you publish me...I'll publish you bit. Sorry to hear about your experience. Definately creepy.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I hate having to almost completely rework some stories just to get them to fit in the guideline parameters but I do it. They alwasy start off with the accepted norm and we go from there. As far as other writers getting accepted into pubs around me while leaving me in the dark. Heck that is part of the whole writing gig. I am with you Aaron. I would love to get into C.D. or F&SF but i am not there yet. Someday, after another million words or so, I hope to be.

Cate Gardner said...

Well said, Sir.

Robert said...

Actually let me amend what I said before -- it seems a majority of writers never actually read the markets to which they submit. I know I'm guilty of this; I have a story and I send it to such-and-such a place without really knowing what their tastes are besides which "genres" they publish ... I think if writers spent more time studying the market they want to get published in, they would have a much better chance getting published there. Which is kind of a duh thing, but it happens all the time.

Aaron Polson said...

"Studying the market(s)" is where I find myself now. Weird Tales...not the Weird Tales of yesteryear, folks.

There's really no excuse not to read a little of something if you sub to an online 'zine.

Very good point, Robert.

Bobbie Metevier said...

A lot of editors have pages on Amazon and you can sometimes tell what they like to read by reading their wishlist.

Aaron Polson said...

Thanks Bobbie--that's a nice bit o' knowledge.