Friday, February 10, 2012

The Beatitudes of Writers

Some would say that this modern age has thrown out the old writer, the one who signed books and interacted with people, and replaced them with a breed of instantly published e-book writers who lurk at their computers and loiter on the internet. I disagree entirely.

There are certain qualities writers need that are necessary for success, even perhaps survival, in the publishing marketplace. Many writers possess these qualities, some do not, others have yet to emerge from their shells. I have compiled a list of beatitudes for writers. I hope they help you.

1. Writers need to understand people and interact with them on a regular basis. Our readers are our lifeblood. Our characters are people. So why shouldn't we strive to understand (though this is hard at times) and communicate with people. The better we know how people act, the more believable characters we can make. The more we communicate, the better our dialogue is.

It is true that in this age the internet has arisen as the dominant method of communication. This does effect writers and allows us an easy method of communication with editors and agents and each other, but we must not forget how to communicate with people face to face. Think about it.

Say, for example, that you create a wonderful story, cultivate a loyal, online tribe, but never interact with people apart from a small circle, and a publisher notices you. They e-mail you and offers you a chance to pitch the book to their editor-in-chief. Now, you go out there, your knees shake, you are uncomfortable and pale. The editor stares at you and waits patiently. Then, because of your lack of face-to-face capabilities, you fail the pitch. This is a disaster.

So remember dear friends, even though the internet provides us with boundless marketing and networking capabilities, we must never abandon face-to-face interaction. I understand that many of you are dedicated and must be at your computer, but would it hurt to take a break, get a haircut, and just talk casually with the barber? Those guys are limitless sources of material too!

2. Writers should, specifically, interact with their readers. In the past this was through book signings (which are still done) and even letter correspondence. In this modern age of ours this quality of a writer has gone up in its necessity. Our readers are online now. They are on our website and blogs. They expect interaction and you should give it to them. This beatitude is easier to possess today than it ever was. Twitter is a prime example; short, quick responses to short, quick questions or comments. Then (KABAM!) the reader feels valued.

3. Writers should know their manners. This can be used in context to both the above beatitudes. When working with editors and agents, the editors expect and deserve respect. They are the gatekeepers. When publishing an e-book, be respectful and polite to the reader. When talking with an agent, be respectful and they will respect you. A lot of the senior members of this writing community grew up with manners and they are impressed by members of the younger generation who use it.

4. Writers should give the readers their best. Nothing more needs to be said on this beatitude. It is a rule and a quality that should not need explanation.

Dearest reader, I realize that there are some aspects in attribute/beatitude #1 that have not been thoroughly explored, but I do not believe blogs should be overly long. I do hope that these beatitudes (or behaviors) are ones you will apply to yourself. They are the ones I try to live by.

2 comments:

  1. I agree with all of these. One of the most important aspects of characterization has nothing to do with writing, but with psychology. Writers must, on some level, be amateur psychologists (but not boring ones!), and study people through communication and the old past time of people watching at the store.

    #4 is your shortest, but also I think the most important here. We owe ourselves our best, and we owe our readers our best. I can't understand why anyone would want to do it any other way, and I'd hesitate to call anyone who did a writer. Though not knowing better can be an excuse, if only for a moment ;)

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