Thursday, February 14, 2008

Gimme Two Hundred Dollars

I'm at a writers' workshop, a term I use loosely, when one of the people coordinating the affair taps a short story I have written and proclaims: "Yes, I've read this. It's good. Really good. I wouldn't take any less than two hundred for it."

"Really?" I ask.

"Not a penny less. Not a farthing."

"So..then, are you going to be writing me out a check?"

"Well..no, I'm just saying. If I was going to sell that sucker, it wouldn't be for less than two hundred."

Another writer at another conference, some time ago, leaned over, looking at me and whispering: "There's no secrets to being published, you know. It's all just hard work."

I looked at him as sternly as he was looking at me and whispered in return: "Okay."

He tapped a finger to the side of the nose and winked before skipping off.

Someone else told me that writers are by nature not a supportive lot. There are only so many paying markets out there and so many of us scrambling to find a niche. Don't get me started about the corporations. So, this someone said, don't expect much help from other writers. Sure, they'll tell you how to get published, but they won't share too deeply with you.

My own belief is that I am willing to read people's work and try and give them honest feedback. I've read some work from people who visit this blog. Sometimes I've been kind, others--not so much. I think the most important thing though is the sense that there are other people out there trying to do the same thing you do: make some cash off the written word. Maybe even a little fame.

All this being said, I thank all who have given me good advice and even those who have offered questionable advice. Now, that being said, I have to go off and write a paper for school.

15 comments:

Lana Gramlich said...

I can sympathize with this sentiment, but from the artist's standpoint. Most workshops that merit any attendance at all range from $800 to thousands. Um...we're starving artists, remember? If I could come up with that kind of change, I wouldn't need the workshop!
And if I had a nickel for every time someone said "I love your art" but didn't buy any, I'd be retired!
Happy Valentines Day, btw!

SQT said...

I find the people are great with the writing tips, it's the publishing tips that get sketchy.

But I get that. I've seen it in all kinds of industries. Most people feel like there is only so much success to go around and they don't want anyone taking theirs.

Avery said...

I don't understand the whole, "I'm not gonna share because you might get my publisher," mentality. We're not in competition with one another, we're in competition with ourselves. If the other guy gets picked up, then that means either he had something specific the editor wanted in a piece, or we have more work to do on ourselves. Being a douche about it isn't going to make life easier.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think writers are much like other humans. Some are helpful, kind, friendly, others not so much. I try to give help when I'm asked, but I've learned that some folks really don't want help. They want affirmation. I usually wait to be asked these days.

Sidney said...

I've probably repeated it before but the best writing advice I ever read was Writing=Ass in Chair. A good formula and one I don't follow enough. :-)

Fab said...

I also got the impression that writers are a bit competitive and not inclined to really help each other. That's why I was so surprised by all the assignments you guys give and feed back on. Of course, when bad advise is given, or toooooo honest feedback - it can cause friction... I get that.

Thanks again for stopping by Stewart! And the kind words...

Vwriter said...

There are some people that go the extra mile. One of the reason that I appreciate your feedback, Stewart, is because you give it on multiple levels. You give your gut reaction (whether you can relate to the work or not and whether or not it resonates with you), structural, character and thematic analysis, and your opinion as to whether the work in question is salable to the intended market. This means a great deal to any writer, and I appreciate it a great deal not only because it is valuabe feedback, but because you invest yourself in the process. Most people that are giving feedback are far too casual in their comments. Finally, what I value most in your feedback is your honesty.

Vwriter said...

But don't get a big head or anything.

Mark Rainey said...

In my experience, most professionals enjoy sharing their knowledge with others who have similar interests. Some to greater degrees than others. Some of us take pleasure in coming up with something outlandish, tapping our neighbor on the shoulder, and saying, "Hey, look what I just got him to do."

--M

Christina said...

I want to thank you for taking your time to read my stories. I've learned a lot from you, which is funny, because of all the years I've had in school, no one gave me such detailed writing help. I'm very careful now how many times I use pronouns in a sentence or paragraph among my other lessons from you. Write that paper and write it well! WOOT WOOT!

Stewart Sternberg said...

Thanks all for the feedback. Although I don't check in as often as I would like, it is rewarding to come back and find such warm comments.

Donnetta Lee said...

Hi, Stewart. You always seem kind to me! And honest. Charles is right. Some people want affirmation not necessarily the truth.
Donnetta

Pythia3 said...

It's the same with women and beauty secrets. 'They' say just put light shadow on the lid and dark in the crease. 'They' tell us to use this or that in this or that way. So, we women leave the cosmetic counter with handfuls of secret tips...and then we spot one of the 'theys' walking out of the plastic surgeons office.
Yeah! Secrets, helpful tips. Ok.

Very funny post, by the way!

Phil said...

Stu's a good person and you can learn a lot from him if you pay attention and take his advice with wise ears,i would know,he's a teacher at my school and will make you a better learner and a better person from just being around him.
He's a good person to go to for advice or information on something that you dont know.

DrillerAA said...

If writers will only tell you how to get published, but now share too deeply, they must also be tournament bass fishermen.