Monday, August 1, 2011

If It Doesn't Concern You...

Should writers pay attention to things going on around them in this business? You better believe it! Writers cannot simply sit behind their computers, writer beautiful stories and play ignorant. With that said, I think, in the era of social media and immediate communication, that we have to be careful in the long run of what we say. Yes, I have said this before about being careful what you put out there in the world for people to see, but I think there is a bigger element here.

I tell my kids this all of the time. They will come running in the house trying to make an issue about something. What is interesting, most of the time, is that the issue doesn't involve them, but involves the other siblings, or the friends down the street. They make a huge deal out of it and then get angry when, as parents, we don't dive in and deal with the issue. One one hand, I am very proud of my kids for having a social conscience and an awareness of what is going on around them. On the other hand, they have just shoved themselves into a mess that doesn't involve them.

As a writer, you will often find yourself on a team with either the other writers in your agency, the other writers at the publishing house, or even the other writers in your local writing group. While there is a commonality here, we have to also remember that each and every writer has a single unique connection with their editor or agent. Each of those connections is unique in that the variables and that relationship have been built around that author in a unique fashion. Therefore, what you see happening to that author may indeed be something that only is happening to that author.

I was talking to a writer last week about an issue some of her writing colleagues were facing. She was a bit concerned that many were looking at her and shocked that she wasn't taking their side. The simple reason was that the issue didn't affect her. In fact, it didn't even affect them. But they were up in arms and making a big deal out of it. I had to applaud this author. She was not going to dive onto a bandwagon of public comment about an issue that didn't deal with her.

Did she stop paying attention to the situation? Absolutely not. Would she turn a blind eye if the situation affected her? Absolutely not.

As an agent, I talk to a lot of people. I hear a lot of things. There are many things that I hear happening with publishers, or with other agencies. If this is something that personally affects my clients, I will work within the context of that unique connection I have with that author and the outside force to remedy the situation. If, however, the issue does not deal with my clients, I advise them to do the same thing as this other author did. They should just focus on their own writing, make sure they don't fall into the same situation and work to the best of their ability.

I know I have said this before, but we have to be careful what we put out there. While the points we post online may be very valid, we have to consider the long term implications of what we say and do. Did that last post, or that comment you made on Twitter of Facebook burn a bridge you might need later on down the line? I hope not.



  1. Hi Scott,

    Completely off topic here, but I wasn't sure if you see the comments on older blog posts. As a non-writer who mainly reads this blog because it is a) funny b) interesting and c) a great source of reading tips, I have to ask you about women's fiction. You often mention this genre when you talk about what you're looking for. Personally, I'm not very well-versed in women's fiction, however, and as I am on holiday with several weeks of potential reading time stretching out before me, I would love to learn more. Could you and/or your readers suggest some really good titles that epitomize that timeless, not-overly-dramatic, real life women's fiction that I so often read about here, but have never really been equipped to find at my local Barnes & Noble? Thank you in advance!!

  2. Whether writers should speak out on a certain topic depends on a variety of factors, though. If something truly unjust is being done, then it's your duty as a human being to speak out, if only to draw attention to it so it can be stopped. However, in the majority of the cases you're probably thinking of, it's people sticking their noses where they don't really need to be, and then tact and social convention need to be considered. It's good to keep an eye on things, but not raise a stink about all of them, both so you don't burn bridges and so that the important ones will stand out when the time comes you must speak.