It seems like every few days there’s a new story about a writer behaving badly. Fighting with reviewers, dissing their agent or publisher online, or being exposed as a plagiarist. Reading all that might make you think writers are over-sensitive, short-tempered, morally deficient divas. Well, maybe some are. But most aren’t. Most writers manage to conduct themselves graciously, professionally and just all around splendidly.
Take the recent story about Harry Turtledove. Turtledove was contacted by the friend of a young man called Nachu, who has terminal cancer. He’s a fan of Turtledove’s The War That Came Early series and knows he won’t live long enough to read the rest of the books. Turtledove sent Nachu an advance copy of the 4th book, which won’t be out until July 2012, and has been in touch with him, talking about his plans for the rest of the series.
That’s a pretty extreme example. Most writers won’t be called on to make such a dramatic gesture. But they can still behave well in small ways every day. Here are three things I love to see writers do. I don’t say a writer should do any of them, but I always like and respect them for it when they do.
1) I like it when published writers don’t pull the ladder up after them. Instead they share their experiences of getting published and being a published writer. How they did it. How the publishing industry works for a writer once they get inside. It demystifies the process, exploding the myth of the magical door into publishing that I’ve talked about before. I like it when they talk about what they are doing, what they are trying, What worked for them and what didn’t. It’s good to show the whole business is not a smooth glide from A to Z, but that there were bumps to navigate on the way. So those coming after them are forewarned and forearmed.
2) I like it when writers use social media to be sociable, and not just to promote. I soon get bored with following someone on Twitter or Facebook if all they ever post about is their new release, or yet another link to their book. But if they post about their writing in progress, their life in general, comments about things going on in the news, in writing, in their genre, if they link to interesting blog posts, or other good stuff, I’ll follow them forever. And I’m more likely to buy their book, or at least go check it out, just because I like them.
3) I like to see writers help other writers out, with encouragement, advice, even critique. Of course, writers can’t just be a critique service to anyone who randomly comes along and asks. But if they do find the opportunity to help someone that way I have a lot of respect for that. Many writers who are published have had help and advice from other writers to help them get where they are. Maybe it was from a critique group or online forum. Maybe they joined a scheme for new writers. Maybe they won a story critique in a contest. However they were helped out, once they have made it, then it’s time to put something back, to give a new writer the benefit of their experience.
Now I’d better get out there and make sure I’m doing all of these myself.