A two-way interaction

This should really not need to be said.

Writing, publishing a magazine, blogging or providing a service is a two-way interaction. Whenever you go to a site, there are people squirrelling away behind the scenes to provide content, to make the site look pretty, to give feedback or all of those things. And although many places use volunteers, there is a point at which real money has to change hands to make things happen. Website designers need to be paid, server space needs to be hired, hosting fees need to be paid.

When you’re a private individual, you can get by with cheapskate plans, but as soon as people smell the word ‘business’, you have to fork out big time. Business is anything that makes money, including an author site, a magazine site or service for writers. Hosting plans are more expensive, design is more expensive, even bank accounts are more expensive. Everyone wants a piece of your business. And that’s before business has started to generate income.

So, the no-brainer is: someone has to pay to make it worth the ‘business’ owner’s while. In writing terms ‘make it worth their while’ means breaking even.

Another no-brainer is that if people enjoy whatever is on offer at a site, the best way to ensure the site’s existence in the future is to support them financially.

If you enjoy a magazine, donate a small amount every year or buy their products.

If you like an author site, for crying out loud, buy their books.

If you like a service, give them a small amount each year, as if it was a subscription.

I don’t particularly care who you support, as long as you support what you enjoy. Because if you don’t, and many other people don’t, they might well consider the venture not worth the effort.

The writers’ creed

The material from this post has been collated and expanded on in the title Stripped bare – a light-hearted guide to getting the most out of writers’ critique groups.

The Writers’ Creed

1. Write what you like to read. Never mind fashion

You can’t try to write for a market. Chances are if you do, the trend in publishing will have passed by the time you finish your work. Exceptions can probably be made for the anthology markets, where it’s sometimes hard not to write for a market.

2. Write what you like as best as you can and research it as best as you can

Get into your subject. Read about it. Find out about the background. Find out how people like your characters talk. For example, I find it extremely annoying when authors have chain-smoking and ostentatiously rich scientists. Scientists don’t smoke (very few at least), and they’re not rich. Even the ones who are well-off generally don’t display wealth. Do your research about how these people live, and what type of people do the jobs your characters have.

3. Always be open to improving your craft

If you look back on a work you’ve written some time ago, and you can’t see a way to improve it, you haven’t grown as a writer. You must never stop growing.

4. Back up your files at the end of every day

I could cry every time I see a writer post a desperate message about having lost everything. Just back up. Another computer, a USB drive. Is that so hard?

5. Don’t snipe at people giving you polite, considered opinions, even if you don’t agree with them

These people have taken the time to read your work and comment on it. Critical beta-readers are worth their weight in gold. The more inconsistencies, mistakes and illogical twists they unearth, the better. You don’t want to hear that particular comment for the first time when you send a manuscript out, do you?

6. Don’t worry about methods and/or daily wordcounts. All writers are different

Daily wordcounts may work for some, but in the end, it’s the quality of the words that matters, how they are achieved much less. Some writers write only few drafts, others think via the keyboard. OK, why do you think my 6yo computer has a hole worn in the space bar?

7. Submit your material and keep it in circulation for as long as you still believe in it (or until sold)

Simple. If you don’t submit, you won’t sell. Yes, it will be rejected. Get over it. Submit elsewhere.

8. Read.

There are those fabulous stories about writer so-and-so who never read a book in his entire career. Yeah – right. Notice how this sentence is in past tense. Not anymore, not in today’s market. If you don’t read, I can pick your submission. Your plotline will be cliche. It will involve an orphan of the same gender as the writer. It will involve a magical stone. It will involve a king who has lost a child who, surprise, surprise, will turn out to be the main character who, surprise, surprise, will have magical abilities. What’s published today has moved on from those tropes. Seriously. Grab a few books and get with it, or you’re wasting everyone’s time. And read the books while keeping an eye open for what’s good about them, and witout griping about how bad it is, and why did this rubbish get published, and certainly your book is much better. I think you’re missing the point, big-time. Read, and find the good in recent popular books in your genre. If you don’t enjoy this exercise, you are also wasting everybody’s time, since your taste is obviously too far out of line with that of the reading ‘masses’. And yeah, you need masses to get published.

9. Start again from 1

Now you’ve learned about writing, about the process, and about the market, write more material and do all the same things over again.