Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Is Writing Advice All About the "Don'ts"? By Lisa Adams

Okay, I was perusing a series of blogs about the craft of writing the other day and something really started to stand out: so much of the advice given was focused on a negative premise: "Don't do....." Wow, why would you want to approach the front door of the house of writing, let alone knock on it?

Don't get me wrong, there are some obvious things you would not want to do as a professional in any field. Paramount among these things is approaching any project without being prepared. I would no sooner go to court without knowing the case than you would send an agent a manuscript excerpt without editing it first, right?

But it seems one would want to be careful about taking a lot of the "don't" advice to heart. Some of the don't-fest folks seem to be adept at trying to get published, but have never actually been published. With a negative and adversarial attitude, it's really no wonder.

And there is such a wide variety of inaccurate "don't" advice out there:
"Don't ever sign on with new publishing companies because they're out to rip you off."
"Don't self publish or you will spontaneously combust."
"Don't ever believe a publishing company that says they are doing something new - old wheels that aren't broke don't need fixing; and publishing will never change - there are no new ideas out there."
"Don't ever send an agent something they don't represent."

As in the law, there are exceptions to every sweeping general statement about publishing.

I have a wonderful new concept: be yourself always and from the beginning. Submit manuscripts in the form requested by the agent and/or publisher. Then be patient and see what happens. If you want to self publish, do so. Because everyone can tell you "don't," but why not give it a shot if that's what you want to do and it makes you feel good?   

And if you are serious about writing for an extended period of time and further, writing more than one book, you will naturally make the effort to portray yourself as a professional. I think you would be far better served by actually speaking to editors and authors at writers' conferences to get a feel for the business, yes, business, of publishing. And once you know something about that the "don't" factor actually should become self evident. In other words, nobody needs to tell you, you can figure it out yourself.

I still find the best resource for information about publishers, agents, and editors to be Jeff Herman's "Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers & Literary Agents." This is what you would call a primary research source, and a good one.

Does all of this naysaying the naysayers mean you shouldn't pay attention to some of what they say? No. All I am saying is invest a little of yourself in the process of decision making about your own future and you should do just fine regardless of the outcome.


  1. Thank you for such an honest and refreshing post. :) You sound like a seasoned professional and a real person, which is a pleasure to read. I am really enjoying your blog so far, and I appreciate the positive approach!

  2. I appreciate your feedback and am honored you enjoy the blog.