I have learned this lesson now over 15 years of trying to help writers with workshops and other projects. And I learned the lesson way before that, back in the late 1980s as an editor.
The lesson? Writers as a class are pathologically incapable of following even the simplest instruction.
When it comes to writers, I do try to be clear as much as I can. The other day I talked here about manuscript format and just a surface reason for it in fiction. I even went so far as to give a link. Made little to no difference even on manuscripts I am getting for classes since that post.
Well, like an idiot, I also put out one of my short novels as a basis for a Shared Worlds Class. (Seemed like a good idea at the time.) I was scary clear about how I wanted no comments on the novel in any way. None!!!
I said very clearly that I didn’t give a F**k what any of them thought. (Yup, I swear sometimes. I was trying to be clear.)
But beginning writers can’t seem to understand even the most blunt instructions.
And beginning writers think typos are important instead of reading for story.
Beginning writers (as I talk about in Stage of a Fiction Writer) only focus on words. I know that, but I tried to be clear that I wanted none of that. And no comments, even if they liked the book, I didn’t care what their opinion was.
(To be honest, I didn’t become a 40 year professional writer by listening to a bunch of beginning writers or by worrying about typos. That’s why in any workshop we do, we never allow critiques from anyone but long-time professionals or major editors.)
Remember, my instructions to writers for decades now is never read reviews, good or bad. That is one of the most deadly things a writer can do to their creative voice. And unknown to many of you, positive comments can be more damaging than negative ones. I just won’t allow them in, positive or negative.
Thus the reason for my clear instruction.
But for some reason, writers feel the need to comment. And point out typos. And just ignore instructions that don’t suit them in the moment.
And without once thinking that I am the editor who is going to buy their story… Yup, that’s right. The Shared World class has three professional-paying anthologies with it that I buy stories.
So you do exactly what I was very, very clear to not do, and you still expect me to buy a story from you????????????
Why in the hell would I do that?
You all who have already gone against my instruction better be very, very hopeful that my memory sucks as bad as it does. (And don’t help my memory by apologizing.) And the rest of you in the Shared Worlds class, just follow the instructions and worry about your story.
And stop commenting on mine. I honestly don’t care that you liked it.
(Note: That will make no difference to anyone in the class. Back to the lesson I learned a long time ago.)
Yeah, yeah, I know, best of intentions and all that bull. They just wanted to be nice. But maybe some of you would be a lot better storytellers if you stopped worrying about the words and started caring more about the story you are telling. Just saying.
And maybe if you didn’t read another author for their words, but instead for the feel of the story, the pacing, the depth, the themes, the characters, you might also improve your own writing.
Again, just saying.