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YOU WISH

If you've been in the writing community long, you probably frequent writer-centric sites, or you haunt social networks like facebook and twitter. As a wannabe author, I used to  hang out on Verla Kay's Blue Boards. If you write picture books through young adult, the blue boards are wonderful-- cram-packed with information (multiple agents and published authors are always around to answer questions) and incredibly supportive. There are many other sites too, like  Absolute Write and Query Tracker Forums.  I am constantly telling people to get their query letters critiqued on one of these sites before ever sending it out into the world.

But, there's a flipside to forums, and while I'm probably preaching to the choir here, it begs repeating:

The internet is not as big and anonymous as you think it is, and even when you speak in code, or scramble someone's name with asteriks and @ symbols,  it's easy to find. And most folks in publishing have publishing friends too, so if someone doesn't see it themselves, chances are a friend will point it out.

On one of the boards I saw a note from the moderator saying, eseentially, that that particular board was a safe place to bitch and vent. It was even a safe place to bitch about your "friend's successes'.

o_O

GUYS. Message boards are not your living room. They are not private emails. They are readily visible to anyone with google. The writing community is small. Even if you don't name someone, with the tiniest ibt of context, we can all figure it out.

I've never been attacked on a message board, but I have seen other writers lambasted by people who have never met them, and never even spoken directly to them, not even on twitter or emails. And you know what? It hurts. Nothing is ever as perfect on the inside as it looks to people on the outside.

I've learned about what writers thought of my revision requests by seeing them discussed on message boards as well. Is it okay to discuss? Sure...but I would have loved to have talked more about my ideas with you myself. Had I known you wanted things to go a different direction, we could have talked more about it. Instead I find out your thoughts via a message board that is supposedly "private".

Because I'm an author and agent, I may be more tapped into the writing communities than the average agent. But some of the hostility and anger I've seen from some writers toward others has really put me off.

Have I ever been bitter, jealous, or angry? You bet. I would have ripped my hair out, at times, if it weren't for my CPs and writing friends and flurries of emails. So next time, consider whether a forum is really a "safe" place, and maybe send an email to your buddy instead. It's human nature to have a range of emotions, especially when you desperately want something and it seems as if someone skates in and grabs it when you've been toiling in the fields forever.

But think twice before you vent about it online.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
tingilya
Aug. 1st, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
Never forget: The Internet is forever!
(Anonymous)
Aug. 1st, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
Too true
As always, an excellent (and much-needed) post, Mandy. In fact, there's a certain irony here, as many YA books deal with the repercussions of ill-conceived text messages, IMs, photographs, Facebook postings, etc. The moral of these books tends to be: watch what you write online (as anyone can read it), and assume that information will live on the internet FOREVER.

Like you say, venting is a natural (and perhaps necessary) part of writing, editing, agenting, etc. It shows that we care about what we do. But a telephone call or email to a writing partner is infinitely preferable to raging on the web. After all, we carefully select our writing partners because they actually get us -- our work, our situation, and our aspirations. Thus, they are more inclined to be patient and offer considered feedback. And isn't this what we all really want?

Anyway, great post (as always!). Antony

vmckay
Aug. 1st, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
I hope people will tale your advice to heart. Nothing is private on the Internet, and everything you say can, and will be held against you. :)
vmckay
Aug. 1st, 2011 07:58 pm (UTC)
Oops. I meant "take" your advice.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 1st, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
This is incredibly true. Even this comment will be on google soon after. The Internet makes the fish bowl metaphor even more real. Great post!
sarahtales
Aug. 1st, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC)
Preach!
(Anonymous)
Aug. 1st, 2011 11:12 pm (UTC)
I've never, and would never bash an agent, author, editor what have you in a public forum. I honestly can't think of a time I've done it in private, either. Maybe ranted to my husband, but not even to my close crit gals do I slam anyone. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a close group of writer friends- or that group that they consider close is strictly a forum based relationship. Sure I think tact should ALWAYS be used, BUT, I don't think that the people that do are doing it under the illusion that it is private. The people on those boards know good and well that agents troll those boards- and I know several people that have been contacted by agents based on their posts (for positive things!) :)

However, I think it's the same spirit as agents posting on Twitter, OMG, I just got the most horrendous query, the first line talks about _________. or something completely non-vague and then puts the hashtag "#pubtip" or whatever- as if they are posting it to be helpful. Would I have the nerve or desire to vent online on a private board? Nope. I don't believe in burning bridges, it IS a small business. But writers can be just as turned off at the lack of professionalism and couth that some agents have as the other way around.
mandyhubbard
Aug. 2nd, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, I absolutely agree with you, on writers in forums talking about other writers (or agents) being totally the same as agents tweeting queries or what not under the guise of being helpful.

Becuase I did the same thing, once upon a time. And publicly apologized when I realized that it might be mostly helpful but was 100% unfair (and possibly mean) to the querier whose work I was referencing (and on rare, rare occasions, quoting).
stephcampbell_
Aug. 1st, 2011 11:20 pm (UTC)
Drat! I left a comment and didn't realize I wasn't logged in so it posted as "anonymous" wasn't trying to be sneaky. ;)
plz_stay_away
Aug. 2nd, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
Here ! here!!
katyupperman
Aug. 2nd, 2011 04:23 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you posted on this. I think most people who "vent" in public are uninformed. Hopefully some of them will happen upon your blog. Well said!

It was fun to chat with you yesterday... thanks for signing RIPPLE for me. Can't wait to read it!
SteveCordero
Aug. 2nd, 2011 03:46 pm (UTC)
We all know the internet is "forever" and that there is no real anonymity. That's why I post using my name or initials. It's no use trying to hide because as Ms. Hubbard says, people will know.

But the Powers that Hush is a dangerous thing. People have a right to vent. There's no need to be mean spirited in it, of course, but say what you want. Don't be duplicitous. Get it off your chest and move on. If it's on a public message board, so be it. Say what you want and if there are consequences, you bear them.

If Ms. Hubbard and I are thinking about the same place, I believe she's misinterpreting the use of the word "safe." "Safe," not as in "no one will know" but "safe" as in "no one will judge you for your venting."

Steve
mandyhubbard
Aug. 2nd, 2011 03:58 pm (UTC)
Firstly, I do realize there's an irony (hypocrisy?) in me calling out people on the internet for... calling out people on the internet.

But I don't think you can both say that "people will know" what you're saying AND in the same breath say "no one will judge you."

You can't have both, particularly when you're making judgements about other people in a public fashion (sigh, I know, hypocrisy again, as I'm clearly making comments about others I've never met.)

My point isn't to say "let's all play nice" it's to say, publishing is a professional industry, and these comments are easily found. If you want to break in and be treated with respect, it would be smart not to treat message boards as your private living room. Just as I learned a year ago that discussing queries, even in vague ways, on twitter, was totally unacceptable if I wanted all writers to respect me as a professional. many agents still do it, but I won't.
SteveCordero
Aug. 2nd, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Does put us in a paradox, doesn't it, Ms. Hubbard?

The judging part I mentioned was within the confines of the thread. In other words, other people in thread won't say, "OMG, you're a horrible person for venting!" If people outside thread want to say that, so be it. Thus, it is "safe."

I have to reiterate, however, that mean spiritedness is unwarranted. So there is a line to be drawn in venting. That might fall into the paradox as well, but there really is never a reason to be cruel.

mandyhubbard
Aug. 2nd, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think the intention was that it would give writers a place to commiserate, judgement-free. (and you seem to know which thread I was referencing-- I want to be clear that I have seen this behavior all over and am not meaning, AT ALL, to call out a specific group of people. That was meant as one example...)And I think that's awesome, that you've found the camraderie that I think all writers need in order to stay sane. I just wanted to point out that while you feel as if you're talking only to the dozen people who are nodding their head and agreeing, there are probably two dozen more reading it and not saying a word, and quite possibly linking to it for others to see.

Have I ever sent one of those "OMFG So-N-So just sold in ANOTHER FREAKIN COUNTRY, where the hell is MY foreign sale?" type of emails? Um, yes. I am definitely not judging anyone for having those feelings and needing to vent them. Just wanted to do a quick reminder to be careful about the things you say, and that message boards are easily visible. Becuase even if I didn't say anything mean-spiritied about the "So-n-SO" I reference above, if I called her out like that, it could easily create problems. Publishing is small and I cross paths with authors many, many times. It's best to put on a nice, professional face and bitch in private.

*steps off the soapbox*
(Anonymous)
Aug. 5th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you, thank you for this post.
Long story short--I got my agent very quickly after starting to query. My CP had been querying for a long time. About a month later, I stumbled upon an "anonymous" guest post on a very widely read agent blog by my friend--in which she ranted about how crappy my MS was, how unfair it was that I had an agent, etc. 40-some "supportive" commenters and the friend fantasized about a lackluster career for me. My friend didn't mention me by name--but the details were all there. (PS Friend admitted to posting it later on)
Needless to say, it was a devastating experience and it ruined a friendship. On the bright side, I developed a thick skin very early on, I guess.
Not wanting to put someone else through the same Baptism by Snark has informed all of my Interwebs actions ever since. In fact, I've never mentioned what she did until now--and I'm only commenting on it here because I think it's a useful cautionary tale.

So thanks for the reminder. The internet is never anonymous. :)
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