Writers are like grass. They are the soft, nutritious layer of plant material layered over the floor of the entertainment industry forest. Writers support and nourish thousands of media species from books to movies to pop music while, at the same time, they’re stepped on and taken for granted. Then, like grass, writers are occasionally mowed down in a grinding cacophony of bladed terror; their remains are then tossed to the curb, bundled up in black plastic, and left to rot and fester under an unforgiving sun.
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic.
My point is that writers do a lot and often go unappreciated—until someone wants our money. There is an entire industry out there dedicated to sucking the green cash-blood out of writers’ veins, and it’s called the Writing Advice Machine. (Or, at least, I call it that.) There are thousands of outlets out there, happy to offer writers kindly advice as to how to go out and make Stephen King millions—for the low-low price of $59.99! There are workshops and conferences and scores of how-to books just thrilled for the chance to make us better authors (plus shipping and handling.) What a deal, right? Stevie McPumpernickle is speaking at the Spiffydome for one day only and, even though he only wrote one mid-list thriller back in the 80′s, he still knows The Secret to Publishing Success! And it can be yours for just 10 low monthly payments!
Obviously, when a reputable name in publishing speaks at a venue or writes a book, it can be a good decision to take a look at that product. But, the savvy writer will steer clear of workshops and seminars hosted by no-name or small time authors for ridiculous piles of money. And yes, while I myself happen to be small time, you’ll note that I’m not asking for that juicy jugular vein of yours from which I may suck your precious monetary funds. I write this blog because I love you. I looove you, my precious…
Ahem, anyway, the Writing Advice Machine is an industry in and of itself. It is built on the audience of hopeful writers. If all those workshops and books actually made every customer the author millionaires they said they could, then there would be no amateur writers left. (Nor would there be any Expert Hobbyists like myself.) And the sad thing is, there just isn’t enough room in publishing for all the professionals they claim to be able to make. Of course, the machine does contain some of good information for some fresh-out-of-the-box writers; if it’s your First Submission Ever, do glance at a library copy of Writer’s Market. You’ll find some good stuff. If you’re about to enter grad school, please accept my condolences and pick up a copy of Poets & Writers. Worship at the loving feet of Duotrope. But, apart from those notable exceptions, paying for Writing Advice is largely useless—and your wallet might get mowed down.
So, if you find you’ve signed up for a subscription or a conference that gives you the same information I’m giving you, then get your money back. And don’t eat the complimentary buffet; hotel food is awful. Come, sit down next to me, and I’ll be happy to tell you what an abysmal path it is you’ve chosen for yourself, free of charge.
And I’ll always be happy to tell you about the mid-list thriller I wrote back in the 80′s. All you have to do is ask.