Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
You started writing to create characters, not to hang around them. Didn’t you buy all those writing gadgets so you could be comfortable while avoiding other people? Nevertheless, being an author means you sometimes must leave the comfort of your writing space and face the trials and tribulations of human social interaction.
The best part of being a writer is being a part of the writing community. Lots of authors say this, and some of them even mean it. But like any community, you have to be a good citizen if you want the group to accept you. I contend that writers have a social contract, a set of guidelines, expected behaviors, and obligations writers are held to in order to create a thriving, vibrant writing community. These rules have never been formally written down, but we have all tacitly agreed to them as being effective standards of good behavior, and you disregard them at your own peril. As a writer, here’s what you’re signed up for:
- All that standard, boring stuff. You know, meet your deadlines, finish your work, edit thoroughly, blah blah blah. Ugh, are we still talking about this?
- Say thank you. Make sure to show your gratitude to people who help you along the way. Pro tip: a handwritten thank-you note is mega-classy and will make you stand out. These are also great for being specific about why you’re thanking someone. “Hey Bob, thanks SO MUCH for your thoughtful feedback that my protagonist is a little flat, which must have taken a lot of courage given that your own characters are more wooden than Noah’s Ark.”
- Moderation. If you bring the same story or chapter again and again to your writing group, people will think you didn’t value their advice the first few times. While this is true, you don’t need to be so obvious about it. Share a single piece no more than seven times.
- Don’t hog the spotlight at your writers group. There are other people who want to share their work too, so don’t be overbearing about bringing work to share. You shouldn’t get preferential treatment just because you’re hosting the meeting at your house and you bought the drinks and Chex Party Mix for the occasion. These entitled moochers are well within their rights to munch on your Goldfish crackers and drink your second-finest wine and expect you to critique a piece they obviously threw together in like an hour.
- Pay it forward: Critique other writers’ short stories and manuscripts. They’d do it for you, and it’s your chance to get even for all the bad things they said about your book.
Buy your friends’ books. Buying a peer’s book is a sign of professional respect. Buying the cheaper ebook version is a sign of being a savvy shopper.
- No jealousy allowed. Celebrate friends’ successes! Rather than seethe with envy, better to remind them that without help from good people like yourself, they’d be nothing. NOTHING.
- Provide encouragement. Everyone needs a little pep talk now and then. Writers are bottomless pits of insecurity and neuroses, so be generous with kind words. Something like, “You know, you remind me of myself at your age,” or “Congrats on selling that story! You sure proved me wrong!” or “Sorry that editor rejected you. I’ve already sent him an angry letter on your behalf.”
By adhering to the writerly social contract, you’ll strengthen the entire writing community. The group’s success is your success. And the more you do for others, the more they’ll want to do for you. In short, the important thing is that you want to collect favors owed you like you’re Don Corleone. Then one day, you’ll have collected enough favors and become so successful that you’ll never have to see these people again.
What are the unwritten rules that you think should be part of the social contract for writers? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!