Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Qualifications and Advice

Oh, lookahere! It really is a new post!

So, while I have a little bit of a break between edits, and I'm taking a time out from the research I've been doing on Victorian London, so here we are with a shiny new post. Yay.

Anyway, I came across something on another blog, which struck me as both kind of amusing and fairly frightening. The blogger in question is a PA author (a new PA author, I might add), which is fine, I suppose (though we know how I feel about the vanity publisher that is PublishAmerica.)

But, this blog is aimed at giving advice to other writers. Okay, his intentions may be good, but upon reading this blog, good intentions are really all he has going for him. He's spouting off misinformation and half-truths as facts. He doesn't know what he's talking about, to be honest, and if an aspiring writer stumbles across his blog... To make matters worse, the advice he's offering is also loaded with grammatical errors as well.

So that got me to wondering, what, if anything, qualifies a writer to give advice?

I've been asked for advice, but beyond the most basic of info, I hesitate to offer any simply because I don't feel I'm qualified to offer it. Yes, I have some experience, but not nearly enough that I feel comfortable telling someone else what to do. And who knows? Maybe I'm more than qualified, but since I don't feel it - I'm not going to do it.

Now, I have to wonder who on earth would accept writing advice from someone who doesn't know the difference between a plural and a possessive? Or doesn't understand that there/their/they're and to/two/too are NOT interchangeable? And it isn't that it was a simple typo, confined to one post. He consistently misuses these words, repeatedly. What's worse? When a commenter pointed out what he was doing wrong, instead of learning, the blogger grew angry and basically wrote the commenter off as being "elitist." So, not only is he spouting off wrong nonsense, but he won't even listen to reason and accept that he doesn't know what he's talking about, and learn from it so that he can actually help someone else.

So, what does qualify a writer to give advice? Number of books published? Who they are published by? How long they've been writing? What genre they are published in? Or does it even matter if the person has never been published?

Or am I just being too nitpicky?


Stacia Kane said...

This is actually something I wondered about for years, and it's a reason why I still don't generally give writing advice; who the hell says I'm qualified, you know?

I did do my Strumpet series, though, and this is where my thinking on that came from:

1. I'd published, at that time, six or seven erotic romances from Ellora's Cave, and all had gotten excellent reviews not just for the stories but for the writing ad the quality of the sex scenes.

2. PERSONAL DEMONS had been released and has also been given great reviews for the quality of the sex scene.

3. I put all kinds of disclaimers all over it, basically saying "This isn't how you have to write sex scenes, it's how I do it, and I'm not saying I'm the best at it or anything, just that I figure if you're here and reading this it's because you think I write good sex scenes." So it felt to me less like I was presenting myself as some kind of expert and more like, "Hey, this is what I do, see what you think." And in just about every post in the series I provided exercises--like homework--to try to help the reader find their own style and way of writing them and the level they were comfortable with.

It ended up being pretty successful and a lot of people told me it really helped them, but it was still a little embarrassing to sound like I was teaching other people how to write.

I generally don't trust any "how to write" posts from people who don't have at least a few solid publishing credits, just like I don't trust query advice from people who don't have an agent. I wouldn't take driving lessons from someone without a license, you know?

I did see that guy's post and was so tempted to respond, but ultimately he was just looking for attention. I think he honestly believes that hits on his blog will translate into sales of his book. And really, if you're going to listen to writing advice given by someone for whom the English language is so obviously a strange and confusing thing, you probably have so much to learn anyway that you're not really hurting yourself, you know?


Kim said...

I LOVED your Strumpet series. Really, that was some of the best advice I've ever gotten when it came to love scenes!

But I just can't imagine taking advice from someone who uses "there" when he means "their", "your" when he means "you're" and "thats" for "that's". The your/you're is a mega pet peeve for me, and seeing all of them? Not someone I'd take advice from. :)

Stacia Kane said...

Oh, thanks! I'm really glad to hear that--without sounding like a total nerd, the best thing about doing it was hearing that it actually did help people and made them feel more confident. I mean, it was really fun for me to write, but it's just awesome to think it actually *worked*, if you know what I mean.

But no, I wouldn't take advice on anything from that guy. Something about the arrogance of him, even in the face of his obvious ignorance, is so off-putting that it's hard to imagine anyone would, really.

Sadly, I'm sure there are at least a couple of people who will...but you can't reach everyone. Sigh.

Marian said...


Well, I do discuss writing techniques on my blog, and I'm generally careful with typos and sentence construction.

But I'm by no means an expert. I just thought that if I had ideas or tactics which might help - such as writing dialogue in script form to see if it can stand alone - then I'd toss those out there. I like discussing ideas and techniques, and hopefully that doesn't come across as too advice-y.

Regarding the PA author, on the plus side (the very small plus side), he does seem to realize that PA is a vanity press that does very little for writers. So hopefully he won't continue implying that it's the same as the major publishers.

Kim said...

Ah, but there's such a difference between a typo (which we've all done!) and not knowing there/they're/their are NOT interchangeable and that "thats" isn't even a word.


Jamie D. said...

I know I'm not qualified to give writing advice - I'm not published/vetted/etc. So while I do post about writing occasionally on my blog, it's normally more of a "this is what I'm doing, what are you doing" type thing instead of advice. Writing is such a personal thing that honestly, I kind of take published writer's advice with a grain of salt too, because even though something worked for them, that doesn't mean it's the only way it can be done (if that makes any vague sense).

All that to say, great post, I agree. :-)

Kim said...

I don't necessarily think you need to be published in order to offer advice, or that being published automatically makes you qualified, either. That's why it can be so tricky. :)

But, I have to second guess the validity of anyone's advice when they don't seem to have the basics down yet. If they don't know basic grammar, why should I think they know anything about publishing as a whole???


Stacia Kane said...

Marian, I really hope you didn't misunderstand my comment! Oh, dear, I'm so sorry. Anyone at any level can offer advice, ideas and suggestions and tips. When I said "writing advice" I meant "advice" like the post we're discussing; people who claim on their blogs to tell you what publishing is *really* about or how to get published or something like that. I've seen far too many people claiming expertise who have nothing to back that claim up.

Writing is a personal thing; sharing our thoughts and opinions on it is a great thing to do. The difference isn't in offering advice, it's on claiming you have expertise.

Kim said...

Not to mention, the old "I'm right, you're wrong/elitist/a snob so I'm sticking my fingers in my ears and not listening la-la-la-la-la-la-la!"

I should think one really interested in helping others would welcome the opportunity to correct their own errors as well. Not much help if you're spreading misinformation, right?

Marian said...

Hey Stacia, no worries. I see what you mean about advice vs. expertise. Plus, in writing and publishing, extensive experience in one sector doesn't necessarily carry over to others.

Reminds me of a writer I knew whose first book was released by PA and whose second (from Lulu) was called something like "Secrets of Writing and Publishing".