Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Etiquette for Writers

I've had this post brewing in my head for a while; it seems like a subject that needs to be explored but hasn't yet been.

Or maybe it has and I haven't seen it yet. Either way, I'm adding my two cents. Writers can get rather lax on the subject, especially considering that our business attire can include bunny slippers. But it will only ever help your writing career! And let's face it, writers can use all the help they can get.

In Critique Groups:

1. Be constructive. For some reason writers, who are some of the most articulate beings on earth, have a tendency to take a look at a piece of writing and say, "it's awful." Kind of a head scratcher, considering that we are unilaterally thin-skinned. If a piece of writing is truly bad, no amount of saying how bad it is will improve the writers' understanding of the craft. Do the verbs need to be more active? The writing more visual? The characters more concrete? Please try to say something nice about everyone's manuscript.

I was in a Fantasy Fiction class once at the U of O, and read some truly horrible short stories. I mean, so bad I saved them.

But in every case, I found something nice to say. When in doubt, "Vivid Characters" is a good standby.

2. Don't rewrite someone's work. You have a computer/typewriter/paper to write your own things. Give suggestions, give edits if invited, but imposing your voice over someone's work isn't helping anyone. Consider, selfishly, that your voice is your own. If you share your voice, you're competing with yourself.

In Written Communications with those in the Publishing Industry:

1. Be professional. Never use email abbreviations (ur instead of your, 4 instead of for, 2 instead of to/too. Frankly, I don't think they should be used ever, but that's just me.). Spell and punctuate things properly. Let the editor/agent initiate the use of smiley faces.

2. If you know the editor/agent personally, do use their first name as an address. If not, use Mr./Ms./Mrs.

3. Never, ever demand a response. Instead, write something along the lines of "many thanks for any assistance."

4. It should go without saying, but never tell an editor that God has said their publishing house will/should publish your book. If in fact God thinks such a thing, assume that God has not chosen you as the vessel of that message.

In Your Blogs

1. For pete's sake, spell check. Seriously. Nothing bothers me more than gross misspellings in a blog. Be aware that your blog is your internet face. Your internet face should be spelled and punctuated properly. If you can't manage to write a blog appropriately, why would anyone read your book? No one's expecting your posts to be professionally edited, but it's important to catch the basic stuff.

2. Be appropriate with content. Assume that the person you would like to rant against reads, or knows people who read your blog.

3. Be aware that prospective editors are likely to check out your blog. You've been warned.

At the Conference

1. Show up for Editor/Agent meetings clean and well-dressed. If you're meeting with Karen Ball, don't wear perfume or cologne OR scented hair product in your attempt to look groomed.

2. Have your proposal materials ready, with a cover letter addressed to the person whom you are meeting.

3. Make sure your materials are at their very best state - it's rude to show up with work that's riddled with stupid mistakes. Have a few people go through it first.

4. Be ready to talk articulately about the project (this is often the most difficult part). Practice in the mirror if you have to.

5. Be gracious and thank them for their time, no matter what.

6. Never write on someone's business card.

7. Try very hard not to lose the business card of editors/agents when they're given to you. The card is your golden ticket for further correspondence. Use it to follow-up with a short thank-you note after the conference.

8. Never approach an editor/agent/published writer for their assistance while they are in the restroom or in the middle of prayer. Back off FAST if they don't appear at all interested. Don't be that guy!
9. Don't pick your nose during a meeting. Just saying.

To come:

Etiquette notes for when you're publishing, and after you're published.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Join in on the discussion!