Monday, June 18, 2012

A Tribe Divided


Children's-book author Caroline Starr Rose has written resolutions to guide herself toward the life she hopes to lead. One of those resolutions is to speak well of fellow writers whether she knows them personally or not and whether she likes their writing or not. "These are my people," she reasons. (For more of Rose's resolutions, click here, here, and here. )

I'm with Rose. A mystery writer has more in common with the author of an angsty YA than she does with the police detective she interviewed for her story. The YA writer may not read historicals but understands the effort the historical writer puts into creating dialogue that's true to the characters and the time period. Writers know how hard it is to put words on a page and how agonizing it is to rearrange and/or cut them.

So why can't we all just get along?*

We suspect those who self-publish require instant gratification while those who contract with Big Six publishers need hand-holding.

We malign other writers' choice of genres and think nothing of telling a paranormal writer we hate vampires/ghosts/things that go bump in the night. We joke that a literary novelist wouldn't recognize a plot if it kidnapped them and held them for ransom. Deep down, we think YA writers never grew up.

Writers who are prolific are superficial. Writers who take three years to crank out 90,000 words lack discipline. The stereotypes go on and on, which is ironic in a tribe that prides itself on originality and avoidance of clichés.

Congress is divided, but writers shouldn't be.

I wouldn't talk up a book I didn't enjoy, but I don't have to talk down about it. I'm not required to praise another writer but can't bury him/her with passive-aggressive comments. When I'm rooting out clichés in the manuscript, I can toss those that have made themselves at home in my head.

Writers are my people and I owe them and myself respect.
*Rodney King, 1965-2012, RIP

25 comments:

Sarah Andre said...

WOW! Fabulous post today. I never believed I held snarky thoughts for another writer/genre but your sentences rang familiar. Boy, did I learn something today. Thank you.

Off to FB this!

William Simon said...

Pat, this is beyond brilliant and beautiful! We're all in this together, and need to always remember that. Storytellers/authors/writers are indeed a special breed!

Emma Burcart said...

Very true! It reminds me of the way I feel about us as women. We should be bringing each other up, not pulling each other down. And we should always remember to seperate people from their work. I may not like to read paranormal (because I'm the worlds biggest sissy) but I'm not going to disparage a writer who choses that genre. What would I gain from that? Nothing, that's what. Thanks for the reminder.

Colleen Thompson said...

Excellent post! I'm sharing this one!

Sheila Seabrook said...

So very true, Pat, and I'm thankful for writer friends like you because I know you will always be kind with your honesty. No matter which path we choose, we support each other. We rock, right?!

Coleen Patrick said...

Super post. I love this line: "I wouldn't talk up a book I didn't enjoy, but I don't have to talk down about it."
It reminds me of my mom saying, if you don't have something nice to say, then don't say anything.
:)

Lark Howard said...

Sorry I'm so late in getting here today. Great post! I'll admit I've said something nasty about a certain mega-bestseller and deserve to be chastised for it.

We all hang ourselves out there as soon as we start writing for publication. Or even for our own personal reasons. Thanks for reminding me how much alike we all really are.

Karen McFarland said...

Well Pat, I am impressed with your style of ranting! You go girl. Let it all out. We're listening! Don't you think that if people look for something wrong, their going to find it? The way we chose to look at things may have a positive or negative affect. And I wish they'd stop picking on me. I know a plot when I see it! LOL! Great post today Pat! That's telling it like it is girl! :)

Eden Mabee said...

While I agree in general, I do believe there's no shame in saying that you didn't like something. It's a fact that we aren't all going to like stories, foods, cars, houses...etc. that other people might. Chalk it up to personal preference and then try to find something that makes it stand out as special and unique--something that you know someone else might like.

Just my own personal rant...inspired by yours. =)

Reetta Raitanen said...

Well said, Pat. I read across many genres and even if something isn't my cup of tea, it isn't away from me in any way.

And it is great that we have more paths to get published these days. More and more traditionally published authors are moving to a hybrid model where they also publish some material solely as eBooks to keep up with reader demands.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Sarah, I caught myself saying something snarky about my work and realized I sabotage myself by making fun of my writing flaws-- when I should be fixing them.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

We're a special breed, indeed, Will. No group is more accepting of a person simply because he/she writes, but the group's a lot like a family, and somebody's always got an update on Aunt Maybelle's agent woes and Uncle Pete's refusal to change one word of the book of his heart.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Emma, you regularly remind me of attitudes I should uphold or update. I'm glad I was able to return the favor this time.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Thanks, Colleen! Share away.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Oh, yeah, we rock, Sheila--you, especially. Good going with the Bandit Creek gang.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

My mother said the same thing, Coleen. Most days, I keep that adage in mind, and the times I forget it are when my insecurities have me in their grip. That's a lesson for me: if I made a crack about another writer's work, it's my own I'm really attacking or defending.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

We've ALL said something nasty about a certain mega bestseller, Lark. When writers become "brands," we see them as institutions rather than persons sweating about characterization and run-on sentences. I have to remind myself bestselling authors are plagued with misplaced modifiers and plot holes--just like me.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I'm glad YOU know a plot when you see it, Karen. Apparently, I wouldn't recognize it if it tried to pick me up in a bar.

PS: I'm rooting for your Fast Draft success.

Marcy Kennedy said...

Well said. Too often we fall into the feeling that we need to compete with each other and run each other down when what's really needed is teamwork.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I like the way you think, Eden. I'm not saying we have to approve of everything, but we need to base our opinions--pro or con--on facts. I like the way you look for something worthwhile in a book you don't particularly like. I do that, too. If we understand what makes a book appeal to readers, we can replicate that connection, while eliminating the things we didn't like about the work.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Reeta, good on you for reading across genres. I'm reading a procedural set in Venice because a friend nagged my into it. She said I'd find it compelling, and I do. My comfort zone is women's fiction, but once in a while, I toss aside my familiar, character-driven blankie.

These are scary-in-a-good-way times for writers, and you're right about the many paths opening in front of us.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Teamwork, exactly. Thanks, Marcy!

Kay Hudson said...

Good thoughts, Pat. I have to confess to my share of snarky comments, and I will try to be a nicer person.

But I do hate the security test--I can never read those blurry words.

Louise Behiel said...

great post, Pat. It's like my mother said "If I don't have something nice to say, I can keep my opinions to myself." I don't read every genre of fiction nor of romance, but that is about me - not the books or their authors. I don't like every vice I encournter and I don't understand everyone's choices but that's okay - they don't have to make sense to me - just to the individual who made those choices. I am so glad to be an adult woman, writer, mother and grandmother. Life is so good - regardless of reviews, others' opinions and my own internal dialogue.

LynNerdKelley said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your post, Pat. I have friends who are going the self-pub route and some going the traditional route. It's wrong for us to be pitted against one another. Just does more harm than good and makes the divide even wider.

I read other genres frequently to support my writer friends. I never would have thought I'd enjoy romance novels, but I actually do! Actually, I kind of avoid horror, only because it gives me nightmares and scares the heck out of me! That's the exception. What I struggle with is writing a review on a book that's not one of my favorite genres. I don't really feel qualified to do a review on them, but I'll give them a rating on Goodreads.

Actually, writing a book review is challenging for me even for books I love. I applaud those who are able to whip up great reviews and share them with us.