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Character

11

March 6, 2011 by Renee

This post began as one about characterization, and I suppose it still is in a way. I think we need to talk about the character which we as writers put out into the world. Twitter and various other sites have recently been ablaze with something called the YA mafia and some project that sparkles or glitters, something pretty and shiny, anyway…WTF?

I will not post links to anything on either side of this insanity. I simply want to discuss this as a whole in terms of pitfalls that can trip up new writers.

I read a couple of posts related to this mafia and this project, and man, I wonder what this world is coming to when we’re overcome by the temptation to abuse the anonymity that the internet provides. Tearing apart writers under a pseudonym or an avatar, so that we can anonymously get our kicks and suffer no consequences screams “Look at me! I’m a coward! Kiss my anonymous yellow ass.” Are we or are we not adults? Yes? Let’s act as adults act then. Own what we say, take our lumps if we say something stupid.

Apparently we have in the publishing world something that is called the YA mafia. This is the latest conspiracy theory. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous in your life? These powerful authors who make up this badass group, methodically work together to ruin the careers of writers who dare to speak against them or (eek) give them a bad or negative review. They spend their days scheming and plotting to bring the little guy down. I say little guy, because allegedly, these are bestselling authors doing this scheming. Boy, they must have an awful lot of time on their hands. I can’t wait to write a bestseller so I can twiddle my thumbs all day. (sarcasm)

Deep breath now. In…out….good. Let’s be adults and examine this a little more…realistically. Ruining careers? No one, and I do mean no one, can ruin your career but you. Got it? If you do stupid things, consequences will happen. You put negative out there and negative will come back at you. It’s life. Suck it up. Publishers and agents have a mind of their own and are not going to be swayed because one of ‘their’ authors says “Oh, so and so is a horrible and awful person and you should never represent/publish them.” Seriously folks. Think about that for just a moment. Agents and publishers are out to make money. If they didn’t represent damn fine writing simply because one of their clients dislikes that person, how the hell are they going to make money? They’re going to represent another, less talented writer instead in order to keep the client happy? I think not. The mafia? Doesn’t exist. Even if it did, my opinion is that it would be a highly ineffective group.

As for these reviews in this project…ahem. From what I’ve seen, the only readers paying attention are readers who aren’t thinking for themselves. Do I read book reviews? Of course I do. Do I base my decision to buy a book on reviews? Yes, all the time. If I see a nasty review where the reviewer tears the author a new one, I. Buy. That. Book. Tell me I shouldn’t and I just have to see why. If I see glowing reviews with nothing but fluff, meh, I might or might not buy it. When friends review a book and critique the writing in an intelligent and reasonable manner, stating that they didn’t like it because….I might hesitate to buy that book. First, these are readers whose tastes I know, and second, they aren’t reviewing to tear someone down. They’re offering an opinion and nothing else. When did book reviews become a way to rip someone apart? They’re supposed to be about the book, not the author. I suppose I’m naive or just poorly informed and it’s always been this way.

What should writers do about such things? I can’t say I wouldn’t be very eager to retaliate should I be the target of such nastiness. My Irish would definitely rise to that challenge. However, my common sense would ask why I’d fuel the fire.

The important thing for all authors, published or unpublished, to remember is that we reap what we sow. If you tear apart another author out of jealousy or spite, it will come back to bite you in the ass. If you make shit up in order to make your actions look reasonable, it too will come back to haunt you. Karma, baby. Belive in it.

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11 thoughts on “Character

  1. Tiger says:

    "No one, and I do mean no one, can ruin your career but you."Come on. That's not true. Careers are built on word of mouth, especially these days. How many writer blogs have you read in the last little while that were flogging the whole social media and its import thing to death? I can't tell you the amount of times I have seen a person leave a comment like: "this author's bad behavior has ensured I will never buy their book." That doesn't just apply to something the author does directly. If there's some kind of smear campaign against them, it can and will destroy them.As for the YA mafia. No, of course there's no daily morning meeting where everyone sits down and hashes out how best to ruin their hopeful contemporaries. There is, in my experience, a culture of silence. That is to say, we're all told to be nice on the internet. Ok, good advice. But so often what this means is, never speak out against a fellow author, not even to question their work alone. No matter how offensive or questionable the book, no matter how reprehensible their personal behavior. I read some of the author comments left on the project, and a couple of them are downright shocking. They are underhanded and sound like they were left by a mean girl in middle school. What happened to having thick skin as a writer? As for agents. Yes, they want to make money. But what's the thing that often gets mentioned in the next breath? Whether an author is someone the agent wants to work with. As long as we keep thinking of negative reviews as a sin, that can and will keep people from getting ahead. Even if their reviews are well reasoned and never degenerate in to personal attack.

  2. Renee Miller says:

    One: No one can ruin an author's career. No. They cannot. They can make things difficult, they can make that road a bit more bumpy, but ruin? No. Let's take Stephenie Meyer, as an example. Why? Because no one has taken more shit, more negativity or had more people try to tear them apart in recent times than she has. Did it hurt her book sales? Not from where I sit it hasn't. And why? Because she refused to be drawn into it. She sold her books, spent her money and although I imagine what's been said about her affected her somewhat, she let the negative shit stay where it belongs.I don't believe that anyone should be silent if they believe in something. HOWEVER, when you are speaking out about a subject or a person's actions and you then proceed to detour into personal territory that has nothing to do with the issue, you've gone from speaking out to being an asshole. Period. I'm a vocal person. If I have an opinion, everyone knows it. If I don't agree with someone, I say it. Of course, everyone who doesn't agree with me is welcome to debate. The key word is debate, not attack, tear apart, put down, or hurt. Debate.The reviews that I've read of the books in this project are not constructive or helpful to anyone. They're more than negative. They're mean and some border on spiteful and purposely instigating trouble. That's not doing their cause any good. It's making them look like a bunch of pissed off, jealous tyrants. That's not what the original goal was, is it? Yes, I agree the comments left by some authors on a particular blog were very immature and mean, but let's step into those shoes for a moment, shall we? How would you feel if someone or a group of someone's spread such negative and often unwarranted stuff about you over the internet? How much could you take before you blow? Honestly, I have a limit, a line that when crossed, there is no turning back. They shouldn't have replied, but then, there shouldn't have been anything to reply to. It never should have started in the first place. It's ridiculous no matter how you look at it. I absolutely do not agree that writers shouldn't disagree with other writers. But, as in all professions, there is a proper way to do so. If you don't like their work, be constructive, not nasty. If you don't like them as people, stay away from them and their work. Who they are in private has nothing to do with their writing. There are tons of doctors out there who are complete and utter assholes. If that asshole doctor knew his stuff and saved lives, he's the one I'd want in the ER when my head explodes from this insanity. I don't like him, but I don't have to, I just have to know he can do his job. And I really think that believing such campaigns can ruin an author is taking credit away from the reader. The reader has a mind of his own. The reader can make choices independently of the world of book blogs and author websites. The reader is an intelligent and rational person. At least, that's the kind of reader I want reading my work. The one that lets others think for him, I don't need. Neither does any author. Why? Because I do not believe the readers who can't think for themselves represent the majority.

  3. Tiger says:

    Stephanie Meyer got her book deal pretty much out of luck. Even she says so. I don't think negativity after one is a highly paid established author is the same as negativity against someone trying to make it."ow would you feel if someone or a group of someone's spread such negative and often unwarranted stuff about you over the internet?"This is the one time I do think authors should stay silent. When you put a work out there you no longer control it. Nor do you control what people say about it, and trying to debate with say, a bad review only makes the author look bad. Even if the author is right.I have read every single review in the Sparkle Project. I don't think they're without constructive criticism. She's given plenty of positive reviews, too. I don't see what's so hurtful about what she has to say. The closest thing she has ever come to personal is "Cassandra Clare is a hack," but even that is about her writing. Some of the reviews are harsh but she provides her reasoning, offers comments on what she does like about any given title, and so forth. How is that mean and spiteful? Readers aren't idiots. Of course not. But readers are humans and humans are influenced by other humans. That's pretty clear. For example, do I think readers could eventually adapt to, say, covers that aren't white washed? Yes. But that's not what they've been influenced to like and therefore it's going to be a difficult transition. By your argument people should care even LESS about this person's blog, since clearly no one is being influenced by it anyway. Certainly no author should care enough to come in and leave backhanded comments all over the place.

  4. Renee Miller says:

    So writers should stay silent, but still speak out. That's a tough thing to do. You're absolutely right, the nasty posts were immature and only served to make the authors posting them look childish and spiteful. We have to be able to let these things slide. No, authors should not comment or debate a negative review of their books. It doesn't benefit them in any way. However, I've never been in their shoes, and from what I've read, this is a long-running 'debate' in which some very personal things have been said, so I can't say I wouldn't have done the same. I'd like to think that I'd take the high road, but the low road sometimes feels so damn good. I guess maturity and professionalism or lack of it, decides whether an author will take the most appropriate route in something like this.And no, I did not mean they should care less about the blog. I do feel that it's popular for all the wrong reasons, and that's a shame. The backhanded comments are coming from all sides. This is the problem. The entire thing is crumbling into a mess of she said, I said, they said, so now I'll say, etc. and what is the point of it all? I did say, and perhaps I should have been more clear, I have NOT read all of the reviews for the Sparkle project. I do NOT believe it's an awful evil thing. I think that initially, it held a lot of potential and was a good idea. A friend shared a link and I read only a couple of reviews. The ones I read were enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth, so I didn't read anymore. Perhaps I should have, and then I'd have a different opinion, but I doubt it.The arguing and nastiness has turned it into something ugly. This is what I mean about character and being careful what we put out there. We should be able to speak, but we should also know when it is wise to do so. I think that we agree on the key elements here, I'm not slamming the project, but I am questioning what it's turned into and I'm questioning this entire mafia idea. Am I the only one who thinks that sounds just a little…exaggerated?

  5. Tiger says:

    The whole mafia thing began as a joke, told to the writer of the blog by someone else, and she continued it as a descriptive device in the rest of the post on the subject. She isn't saying there is literally a cabal of mafia like YA hate mongers out to get her. She is saying that the world of YA–and any genre really–can be an unapologetic tongue bath. (I just re-read that post to make sure) I think writers have more of an obligation to let their work speak for itself. Readers can say whatever they like, and while that's tough truth to swallow I think the writer always comes out better for having taken the high road. However, there are places for authors to express themselves. I would hope interviewers, for example, would ask questions about controversy and give the author a chance to air their side of things. I still think the Sparkle Project is an overall positive thing. She attacks rape culture and the virgin/whore dichotomy that so often arises in YA, and we should all be doing that.

  6. Renee Miller says:

    Thanks, Gwen. 🙂 Very well summed up.

  7. Ref: My Irish would definitely rise to that challenge.Damn! There’s no Irish in me. Shame on my mother for her poor foresight. 😆 Luckily, I’m not easily goaded. The world will always have ‘chicken littles’ spreading gossip and stirring fires. And these flare-ups are cyclical. Every few years, they give the controversy a new name and it starts all over again. Ref: If you tear apart another author out of jealousy or spite, it will come back to bite you in the ass.It’s impossible to stay invisible. What with bots constantly trolling the internet, you simply can’t hide anymore—not for long. And the internet has a long memory. If you said something stupid five years ago, I’ll bet you a dozen donuts I can find it and reprint it in all its ignoble glory.

  8. Renee Miller says:

    Very sensible point of view, Maria. It is a neverending sort of thing, isn't it. I said lots of stupid things five years ago, by the way…can't wait for that to bite me in the ass. 😉

  9. Stacey says:

    Newest Follower!<3 your blog! Stopping by from:http://madeofsnails.blogspot.com/&http://staceylovesscents.blogspot.com/I hope you will follow me back :)I have some great giveaways going right now!

  10. Wendy Swore says:

    grrr. This ate my long nice comment. The short version is: I agree, Renee.

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Renee

Renee

I like to write stuff. Sometimes it's funny. I've published some novels and short fiction. I also battle an addiction to cake and potato chips, and I sometimes have inappropriate fantasies involving Kevin Spacey.

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