stupid things I see on blogs

Are You Getting Conflicting Advice From Publishing Blogs?

I’d like to point out a few examples of conflicting advice new writers often see on publishing blogs. And I’m including my own blog in this as well. I just post what I know, not what everyone knows.

It’s not that anyone is giving out bad advice on a blog. At least I hope not. Most think they are giving out great advice.

But there are, especially in publishing, always going to be conflicting opinions. And no matter how much you read, there’s always going to be someone with a different opinion who thinks they are 100% completely correct…and they never back down (smile).

This past week I wrote a post about John Irving, with an excerpt from his novel, LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER, about “write what you know.” In the novel, the main character, Danny Angel, is a writer and the main character is not fond of Hemingway or the theory of “write what you know.” Here’s the excerpt again in case you don’t feel like clicking the link.

This kind of question drove Danny Angel crazy, but he expected too much from journalists; most of them lacked the imagination to believe that anything credible in a novel had been “wholly imagined.” And those former journalists who later turned to writing fiction subscribed to that tiresome Hemingway dictum of writing about what you know. What bullshit was this? Novels should be about people you know? How many boring but deadeningly realistic novels can be attributed to this lame and utterly uninspired advice?

And in this blog post, written by literary agent, Rachelle Gardner, I read about the six things writers can learn from Hemingway.

Of course Ms. Gardner is right. There are many things writers can learn from Hemingway. Just as there are many things that can be argued about Hemingway’s style and technique. There’s no clear cut, definite right or wrong here.

Then I read another publishing blog this morning where an ex-literary agent is giving advice about how having the wrong literary agent can be worse than having no agent at all. And the post ends with a line that suggests writers only get one chance with one manuscript.

I do agree that an agent client relationship should be built on trust and respect. And there are some questionable agents out there. The ex-agent isn’t totally wrong by posting about this.

But WTF?

You don’t get just one chance. As authors the most wonderful thing about publishing is that you can have many chances, many times. I know this from my own personal experience and I know this from a good friend who has been a literary agent for over thirty years now. Unfortunately, my friend doesn’t blog. I wish he would. But it’s not his thing…because he doesn’t have to promote himself anymore.

The moral of today’s post is this: please take all the advice handed out on publishing blogs as lightly as you can. No one knows everything, no matter how great they sound. And, from what I’ve seen so far, the bloggers who seem to think they do know it all, know the least.

Blogging is a form of social media, and most bloggers use blogging as a means to promote themselves in one way or another (trust me, none do it out of the goodness of their hearts). I do promote here all the time, admittedly, with announcements about my books and reviews for my books. It’s what I’m supposed to do as an author.

But I also try to balance my posts with information that isn’t related to my books or my publishers. And I never, never, claim to know it all when it comes to publishing. And that’s because as an author I care about other authors. And when I see them getting bad advice, it galls me.

There are no set rules in publishing.

People are going to disagree all the time.

Most of all…you never get only one chance as a writer…NEVER. Unless, of course, you read a silly blog post, written by a self-promotion monger, who leads you to believe you only get one chance at having your book published. And I’d hate to see this happen to anyone. Because what you believe in your heart is usually the way things will turn out in the end.