Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sometimes People Suck

Writing is hard. Very, very hard. Anyone who has ever written more than a school paper can attest to that. We spend hours toiling over plots--is it interesting, pertinent, or full of holes? Then there's character development--are the characters believable, can you relate, and are they interesting? Add sub-plots, pacing, content, and the rest, and you have a recipe for the yummiest literary cupcake in the world... or perhaps a toxic combination of disaster and failure that will sicken anyone who comes in contact with it. Either way, you've given birth, and like most book-parents, you love it even if it's ugly or not all there.

You finally work with your baby enough to get her where you think she might have potential. You take the harrowing step of sharing her with someone you trust and you know loves you in spite of your over-achieving ways. They glow with pride at the result of your countless hours chained to a desk that bears the imprint of your forehead. Their gushing incites a new wave of security for your little creation. In a moment of euphoric, endorphin-tainted excitement, you throw it out to a few beta readers. The betas, while very nice and understanding, see more problems with your baby than your loved one. Huh. Stings a little even though they're super nice and supportive. Go figure that. Your betas are awesome, but maybe the haven't honed the finer skills of punctuation and grammar. Someone suggests you hire a freelance editor to help you with the technical side of things. Oh! What a brilliant idea!

...or is it?

After wasting precious time you could've spent writing, you find a name amidst the posers. Scrolling the through their qualifications, a delighted smile crosses your face. Look how awesome they are! And YOU have an opportunity to enlist their services! Wow, aren't you fortunate? The smile wavers a bit as you eye the rates. Sheesh. They're getting to read your world-changing story. Shouldn't they pay you? After some deep breathing, you deduce that by hiring this "professional" you'll have a much stronger story. The end results justify the means.

A couple months go by--no, really--and you finally see the New Mail alert you've been waiting so long to receive. You suck in that breath of anticipation. "They're going to love me!" you tell yourself, and even sadder, really believe. You click the attachment, expectation strong and promising, and open the comments. There's a lot of red and things crossed out. Is that right? In a desperate attempt at warding off crushing depression, you think maybe those are all compliments...until you read the words beside your text. You see things like: unbelievable, omit, irrelevant...or worse. Now the joy of the past year you've spent on this incredible story--the hours you sacrificed with your friends and family, the lack of sleep, and the pure elation of finishing it--are all washed down the drain. This one person, whom you paid to top it off, has stolen your joy.

"Yes, but that's the price you pay for writing," some might state. "You have to develop thick skin to be in this business!"

To that I say, "This is true." Writers are under constant criticism. We are blessed to have a wonderful support team in each other. When I beta or critique someone's MS, I'm honest as I can possibly be. No one gets any better by another sugar-coating their crap. We all understand this, and it's something we struggle with daily.

"So why are you complaining?" that voice argues.

Why? Because the literary world has the most bloated and pretentious people I have ever seen. You hire someone to "help" you grow. You love writing and want to be successful by your own standards. Because you've paid this someone to help you, they suddenly feel entitled to turn into an utter d-bag. They label their noxious, self-importance as "honest criticism." Your work is not critiqued; it's run into the ground. Instead of hearing, "This doesn't fit with the story," you get, "This is utter BS. Do you even know what you're doing?"

Do you see the difference there? One says, "Hey, I'm a professional and I encourage you to do better." The other cries, "Hey moron, I have an overinflated sense of worth. Since you're stupid enough to pay me, I'm going to shoot down your dream."

I understand that some MSs need work. That's a given. None of us, despite out initial reactions, are writing wonders. It's a learning process. When I see ANYONE talking down to a writer, though, it makes me sick. People act like they're superior because they have a background in industry or are fortunate enough to be published. You are no better than anyone else. Stop raining on everyone's parade.

Say what you will about the writing industry, but there is never a reason to be malicious! Even the kindest of corrections is hard on someone who has poured their heart and soul into a project. Being a d-bag about it is never okay.

So that's MY rant. Don't let anyone tell you your work isn't worth it. Never feel less or like you've wasted your time. Writing is something we do because we love it. Never allow someone to steal your joy--especially when that someone doesn't have an opinion worth acknowledging.

PS--This hasn't happened to me personally, but I've seen it more times than I care to admit. You shouldn't call yourself a professional and use your paid services as a platform. If you can't be unbiased in your critique, maybe you're in the wrong line of work. Your uncouth attitude and lack of social etiquette should serve as further confirmation.

**I highly respect the individuals who know how to behave professionally. This post isn't directed at a group in the lit world. Writer, author, agent, editor...we all have a responsibility to be civil, even amidst correction.