Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Conduct becoming a writer

Once upon a time authors were mysterious beings, recognizable to their readers only by a black and white photograph on the inside flap of a hardback cover, or occasionally at book signings. The internet has changed all that. Most writers have websites, Facebook pages, blogs and twitter accounts; we are there to be found by anyone who is interested.

We also have the opportunity to disgrace ourselves like never before, achieving instant fame of a really, really undesirable kind (see this Guardian article on poor Jacqueline Howett).  Here are a few things I've learned about appearing on the internet...
  • It's not good to get into rows on forums. If things start to get heated I wander off and do some useful task like the washing up. I don't have to have the last word.
  • About reviews - even the wrongest person from Planet Wrong is entitled to his opinion.
  • Bear in mind that people you write about will come across your remarks.
  • No one needs to know what your politics are, or your religion come to that. It may put them off, even if you aren't National Front and Wicca (with apologies to all witches).
  • Being polite and helpful is a Good Thing. It's also good for your image.
  • Moaning and grumbling are to be avoided.
What would you add?


  1. Make sure you set up an email address just for 'being a writer'. Keep your private details private or face a deluge of spam.

  2. I dunno, Spin, my email address which I use for most things is all over the internet and I get very little spam in my Inbox. There's a lot in Junk, but that doesn't bother me.

  3. Even the wrongest person from Planet Wrong is entitled to his opinion.


    Ha! Love this.

  4. Writers should not shout: "Buy my book, buy my book" 20 times a day on every social media platform!

  5. Yeah - and it's not even as if it works - it's annoying everyone for no purpose at all.

  6. I agree with Mary about the over-zealous sales pitches but other than that you seem to have it covered.

    And you follow your own advice! Always a good thing to do. (You follow Mary's advice too, even if you didn't specify it.)

  7. I think the phrase "never wash your dirty linen in public" was coined for a reason. Aggressive or angry behaviour doesn't become anyone. Likewise, aggressive selling.



    PS, However, I have to confess that, as I type this comment for the third time I could be tempted to break my rule of aggression and say something pretty strong about Blogger. I'm guessing the rationale behind the commenting system on Blogger is to make sure as few people comment as possible with it's unreadable captcha lettering and its stubborn refusal to acknowledge the existence of my identity on either Wordpress or Google.

    I hate blogger, I hate it more than anyone could ever imagine. OK for the third time, let me try and post a comment.

  8. FH, my advice is so excellent I generally take it :o)

    MTM - you shouldn't be having to do word verification here, it's turned off - you aren't, are you? I used to let everyone comment, but Anonymous and his vast tribe were a nuisance. I hate Wordpress myself...

  9. Maintain your dignity - which is more or less what you're saying.

    And remember that anyone who you meet online knows you only by your words - they cannot see the tongue in your cheek nor twinkle in your eye.

    And if anyone is rude, or critical - they are responding only to the image of you they have created from your words and from their personal experience.They do not know you - not the real, wonderful you who does the washing up and loves nothing more than settling by the fire with a good book.

  10. Jo, one thing I learned rather late in life is that you are more likely to be disliked for your good qualities than your bad ones. The success of others brings out the worst in some people. I once read a comment about Nicole Kidman, along the lines of, "I can't stand her, she's so darned nice and perfect all the time!"

  11. Words of wisdom here. Much of this ought to be obvious, and yet experience shows that obvious points must be made from time to time.

    OTOH, the part about sharing opinions may be a little more complicated. What do you think? To the extent that they are irrelevant to one’s role as an author, and especially to the extent that they could needlessly alienate potential readers, yes, it would be wise to exercise restraint in airing them. Still, without going into specifics, some authors have written books about topics that have the potential to arouse controversy. Maybe we all have. And all authors want to remain free to write, for a world that is prosperous enough to buy books. I think there can be value in making a point in support of that, even with the knowledge that not everyone will agree. It may be an exercise in futility, but then again, sometimes writing itself can feel that way.

    Perhaps I'm reading more into this than you intended. But your post started a train of thought and this is where it led.

  12. I often think that a good internet row is an excellent way to boost sales. People will buy just to see what all the fuss is about.

    Never the less, my number one rule for internet discussion is:
    If you can't say something nice about a person best to say nothing at all.

    This doesn't exclude being rude in the abstract of course.
    For example I HATE VAMPIRE STORIES. Nasty horrible blood sucking monstrosities.

    Don't ever venture into vampire territory Lexi, or I might become quite critical! LOL

  13. fp, I guess it depends what sort of novel you are writing. Orwell's are all political, though I find that rather off-putting. Any author's views on life tend to come across without trying. I'd prefer to leave it at that - my feeling is I'm writing to entertain, not to tell readers what to think.

    Q, I don't see the appeal of vampires either. How about zombies?

    I'm sure you're right about an internet row boosting sales. Terribly embarrassing, though, and impossible to stop if you don't like it.

  14. I thought Big Al's review was pretty mild myself. In fact, it's mostly very positive. Howett came across as hypersensitive. Especially with all the 5 and 4 star reviews she's gotten.

    Thing is, we writers are a hypersensitive bunch as a whole, aren't we? I know I am. In fact, it turns out I'm a lot more sensitive to criticism than I thought I was. The interesting part, though, is that the criticism that stings the most (for me, anyway) turns out, upon later reflection, to be the most warranted. A clear case, I think, of responding negatively to those faults we already suspect (or know) we have.

    That seems to be the case here. If the few examples given are representative (and they might not be), Howett's writing comes across as somewhat stilted/clunky/awkward. Which got in the way of Big Al's enjoyment of what he seemed to think was a good story. Seems legit to me. Could be something she needs to pay attention to.

  15. Here's Dorothy Parker on the subject:

    Superfluous Advice

    Should they whisper false of you,
    Never trouble to deny;
    Should the words they say be true,
    Weep and storm and swear they lie.

  16. Q, I don't see the appeal of vampires either. How about zombies?

    Lexi, I liked Aragorn treading the paths of the dead to raise an army to fight Sauron in 'The Lord of the Rings' and I am partial to a good ghost story but in general I much prefer paranormal with some plausibility.

    So a heroine with exceptional mental powers, e.g. for healing or telepathy, would fit nicely. Vampires, shape shifters etc. are not my cup of tea at all.

    Basically I like paranormal stories for which there is some supporting evidence from human experience. There are many claims for ghosts, medical intuitives exhibit exceptional healing powers, there is evidence for telepathy (see Rupert Sheldrake’s books) , non-locality in quantum theory is now accepted and theory indicates that time travel may be possible with the help of wormholes.

    If the time traveller alters the sequence of historical events he is effectively realising a parallel universe where events unfold differently so no paradox from altering history.

    Hey I’m getting on my soap box again! LOL

    If however you should create some Vampires Lexi, I will make an exception to my rule .... as long as they don't take too much blood from beautiful maidens. *smile

  17. I quite fancy writing a novel involving time travel or parallel universes. Must do some research. (Right now a rush at work plus builders at home are getting in the way of fiction, darn it.)

  18. Oh I remember the Jacqueline Howett one! What a palaver! I remember the blog review site too - and just wanting to scream at her to just stop - stop stop stop responding to the comments! Calm down! LOL!

    And another too - a writer who published in full - names and addresses etc - her rejection letters from publishers/agents (and we are talking big name publishers and agents!!) and then dissing each one, not even very cleverly but full of spite and venom. Hilarious but rather sad too.

    Take care

  19. Kitty, I guess the odd writer going ballistic is why most agents stick to form rejections these days. One has to admit the process of submitting to agents is maddening, and I'm pleased not to be doing it any more.

    The money I spent on ink cartridges, paper and postage...