Thursday, December 29, 2011

Who Did You Learn That From? Knowing Your Sources

Too often, I find that I receive submissions that really makes me questions things. I sit amazed wondering why on earth someone would do something like that, or why they even thought it was a good idea. The answer is always one of two things. Either A) they are blindly writing on their own without anyone on the outside providing essential knowledge; or B) they are taking advice from people that simply should not be dispensing knowledge.

We have now moved into a publishing world that is proclaiming that everyone should get out there and write a book. I have no problem with that. I want people to write. But, with that said, it is important that a writer learns his or her craft before venturing forth in the world of publishing. Along the same lines, we need to make sure that when we take advice from someone about our craft (or for that matter anything we do in the world) we need to make sure that person really has a clue what they are doing.

I often ask writing groups for people to raise their hands if they struggle with grammar, punctuation and spelling. When those people raise their hands, I tell the group to not go to those people for help in that area. They may be eager to help, but they are struggling on their own. I follow that up with the idea that if your car is broken, do you take it to a plumber? Hopefully not. The same goes with your writing.

There are a ton of resources out there on the internet writers will be tempted to go to for information on how to do something with their writing. There are discussion boards where people will just spout of "knowledge" and "helpful advice." But again, do you really know who these people are.

We can extend this to conferences as well. People will offer sessions on craft, research and what not, but, regardless of how helpful they want to be, are they really the best person for the session. I have tried to push this idea numerous times with conference coordinators on this. Don't just invite someone to teach a session because they wrote a great proposal or they have a great session title. Do they know what they are doing?

Please writers, know who you are listening to before you take that advice.



  1. Yep. Doesn't hurt to also ask what the advisor gets out of giving the advice.

  2. I have a worry with critique partners, that it could be a case of the blind leading the blind, although I do have two myself. I think it's a good investment to have your manuscript professionally assessed, after all, you put hundreds of hours of work into it!