…but it fell flat. I mean it was there but, couldn’t work it out really.
So there are a lot of hopeful authors out there, myself included. I mean a lot, by the way. I don’t mean a good many or more than I thought, I mean a lot.
As Ian Irvine posted in his blunt article, The Truth About Publishing, publishing houses receive on average 4-5,000 manuscripts a year. That isn’t all together, that is EACH house. So lets just take the gentle side of that at 4,000. Now lets also think small and only go with the big four houses. That is 16,000 manuscripts but lets make it more focused. 15,999 competitors each of us is up against when we send our hopeful little book off.
(You should really give his article a read by the way, especially if you feel a little disheartened by those statistics. It isn’t all doom and gloom, he wraps it up in a very inspiring way.)
Lots of information have been made available to help give your writing an edge. Hell, books about how to write a book number in the thousands. They also come from some very successful people, such as Stephen King’s On Writing. One of the most common bits of advice you hear thrown around is the importance of joining a writing group.
Now the best part about being a part of a large group of creative individuals is that you can always find a place to gather. To swap skills, tell war stories, get help and advice. This is a wonderful thing when it happens and can lead to some real growth. Notice the “when” in that sentence. It is important, it is a crossroads. Pick the wrong trail and you end up in a spooky wood populated by the worst of us.
I’ve been in a couple of writing groups and I have always noticed a trend. A downward spiral if you will. (Any fans of Junji Ito out there will tell you just how scary a spiral can be.) The group always starts off with the best of intentions. A place for writers to come and talk about writing. That is the tagline for pretty much all of them. Things are good for the first bit but then more and more tumors start to appear.
The Warning Signs
- Self promotion gets out of hand. I know how hard it is to get your work noticed, god do I, but spamming the feed ten times a day isn’t the answer. I’m part of a horror group right now that might be lucky to see an actual discussion post once every few weeks. It is quickly pushed down by the almost constant FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME and NEW RELEASE posts.
- People start to use it as a dating site. Oh man there are some thirsty boys and girls out there.
- The Admins go mad with power. Suddenly you are part of a group ran by the thought police straight out of 1984. This normally happens either right at the get go or as a heavy handed response to 1 and 2.
- Open Harassment. The mods allow everything and won’t step in when tempers run hot over the oxford comma and people start to harass each other. I’ve seen comment sections go from “I’m not sure if you put the period after the initial or just leave a space?” to “Go burn in hell you cock loving dick-wagon!”
- People start to mistake “Opinion” as “Fact”. Truth of the matter is a lot of people in the groups are just like you, slinging words on a page and wondering if you should have been a plumber instead. There are a few however that will try and come across as industry experts or try to pass off their own opinions as true and absolute facts. This will often tie into number 4.
Granted this can just be the nature of the beast when dealing with a group of people. Like minded doesn’t always happen and it takes a dedicated team of moderators to keep things flowing smooth. Which is a massive time investment with no real pay off other than you know you’ve held off the chaos a little longer.
This isn’t meant as a deterrent from seeking out writing groups. It is meant to show some of the warning signs that the group you’ve joined is either sinking or already sunk. Good, well maintained groups do exist out there. I’m in one that has a constant moderation and a pretty well put together set of rules that keep things interesting and the posts engaging. It isn’t without faults but it has helped and has introduced some of the most interesting people.
Stay frosty out there