On August 1, 2020, Kasie and Rex took on “literary citizenship” as an aspect of building one’s writing career. Here are the show notes:
Theme for the day
Taking the Easy Way Out by doing anything but actually writing
- Join our community on Patreon
- Featured Authors love us and we love them
- Who can really “help” you be a writer?
- “Literary Citizenry” and other procrastination efforts
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We used to have a segment on this show that was Writer Craft Books until Rex became a permanent fixture around her and roundly dismissed the practice of reading craft books. So, today we’re going to talk about looking for help.
We did this episode on Bad Writing Advice and this episode on Fakes, Phonies, and Frauds and between the two we’ve covered the spectrum of hacks and valid resources. Early on we talked about workshops and feedback and how they can help you get better and also curb your creativity.
In preparing for the class I’m teaching this fall, I dove into a new writer how-to book, The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman and it brought up a lot of the work I’ve been doing in the SCWA this month on publishing.
She mentions that platform building advice, like “you should have a following to interest an agent or a publisher,” is not necessarily true and it made me think, “Man, have I been the one giving bad advice?”
And the answer is, “Yes.”
In an industry as subjective as ours, all advice is bad at some point. So let’s talk about the kinds of things that change, in cycles, and why advice might be good one minute and bad the next.
But before we get to that, let’s deal with why writers are looking for advice at all. They’re procrastinating. Nobody puts off writing more than writers.
What are you doing so you don’t have to write?
Next week we’re going to talk about Author Branding. Part of branding, according to Friedman, is the “mindset of abundance” and she uses the phrase in her discussion of “literary citizenship” in which she talks about being a contributor to this industry where you hope to have success.
Some elements of literary citizenship (in escalating commitment levels):
- Digital participation (hashtags like #wschat, #writingcommunity; following other writers, RTs and shares of their content)
- Digital relationships (following on multiple platforms i.e. Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, etc. being a “fan” of a writer and responding to their blog posts, recommending them to others, evalgenilizing on their behalf)
- Content creation (building your own blog, workshops, podcast, etc.)
- Community creation (Patreon, Facebook groups, email lists, badges, branding, subscribers, etc)
- Authority establishment (invitations to speak, present, write or promote)
- Leadership (board service, conference keynote, influencer status)
Jane acknowledges that citizenry is about collaboration, promoting others as well as yourself, and in doing so, strengthening the industry as a whole and acknowledging a mindset of abundance — If I succeed, we all succeed.
Segment 3 (blogging here more than notes / hyperlinks… forgive me)
This has been a two-sided debate for a long time and I’ve usually come down firmly on the side of “couldn’t care less.”
I want writers to build a reader base, find their audience, share their message. I don’t think literary citizenship — basically talking to other authors — is as effective as talking to readers. And maybe it’s because I have been talking to other writers for a while. We’re 106 episodes into this thing right now. And maybe it’s because I know there are publishing programs out there that sell reviews, likes, and follows and then encourage everyone in the program to go out and review each other’s work.
Writers are measuring the wrong things. It’s okay, that’s a common condition in business and government, but for an indie author it can be devastating because time is money and the more time you spend in citizenship that doesn’t connect you with readers, the less time you’re spending creating the next story.
I might also be speaking from a position of literary citizenship exhaustion after the 9 weeks of workshops for SCWA’s Summer Series that, while I enjoyed spending time with other writers, gave me less than they took from me. #truth
That side of the debate is that “literary citizenship” is the marketing work a publisher, agent, or publicist should be doing so the writer can create. But Friedman points out that few authors are making a living on book sales and so monetizing literary citizenship activities has become a valid stream of revenue. Consider this show and our Short Story Basics course as evidence thereof.
The other side of the debate is that writers teach as they learn and the journey gives us a lot of lessons and as we relay those messages, we are making better writers, better authors, and developing our own industry which benefits us all. This is true of a lot of industries: technology companies attend conferences, share products and design and development practices. Business people write books, teach courses, and have podcasts and such. So “literary” as an industry is not doing something unusual by recommending people participate in the community.
So we’re gonna talk about that.
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