Writer Etiquette

Posted on August 28, 2012. Filed under: writing | Tags: , , |

Writing is not a very thank filled job. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely without it’s perks. When you churn out some amazing piece of literary genius, it can be fairly gratifying, even if no one reads it, but, for the most part, writers aren’t going around getting loads of praise, or loads of money, or loads fans everywhere they turn.  So it is really nice to have a support group to turn to for the occasional pat on the back or just a smiley face scribbled on a returned critique. I am very appreciative of my writing family.

However, sometimes a person comes along who does not understand the ironically unwritten rules of a writing circle.  Occasionally someone does not respect the way it is and always should be, and they take advantage of the one measly little buoy that us drowning writers have to hold onto. I am speaking, of course, about the users and flatleavers of the creative writing circle.

Here is the deal, if we insecure and artistic souls open our arms and welcome you into our worlds, real and fictional, then there are a few things we expect in return. Rather than blather on about the oh so many ways I have seen the literary pond scum abuse the system, I will just spell out, in much too obvious detail, writer etiquette.

1. Upon joining a writing circle, plan on staying for some time. Now, if you instantly hate everyone in the group, or find it is just not your thing, get out fast. Don’t dawdle for a few meetings and then leave us all wondering what we did to make you abandon us.  Get out fast or commit to the long haul.

2. This is minor, but don’t submit your work for the very first meeting – unless it is the very first meeting of the group in general. If it is a pre-existing group and they have asked you to visit – to assess if you do in fact want to marry your writing career to theirs – then don’t make your first meeting with them all about you. Take the time to get to know them a little before making them read through your masterpiece.

3. To follow up on that, attend meetings even if you didn’t submit your own work. This is my biggest pet peeve. I have seen it time and again. A member will submit their chapter or story or what have you, show up for the critique, praise, etc., and then skip the next meeting or two, before returning when they again have something to submit. There is nothing worse than someone who expects you to help them when they are unwilling to help you.

4. Last but not least, put some effort into your critique. I can’t say write a good critique, because everyone’s editorial skills are different, but at least try to do right by the work. I can’t say be nice in your criticism, because everyone’s personality is different, but don’t just point out all the bad parts.  Try to explain to the writer what you liked, what you didn’t like, and why. Just do your best to help them create their best.

I am so grateful for all the wonderful advice, suggestions, and comments I have received over the years from some very smart and talented writer friends. I just wish all the writers in all the circles of support out there could follow a few basic rules.

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