Friday, January 6, 2012

Everything you ever wanted to know (and aren't afraid to ask)

In recent months, I've gotten lots of email from strangers.Sadly, many of them aren't offering discount pharmaceuticals or free internet porn.

They're asking for advice. From me.

Let's all pause and shudder together over how terrifying that is. Then let's spend a moment thinking about how our group shudder was a little like an orgy.

Where was I?

Advice. Right. Strangers have been contacting me via email, Twitter, Facebook, and in one terrifying instance, rabid courier pigeon, to seek advice on writing, querying, publishing, critiquing, and providing oral stimulation without messing up your lipstick.

I might have made up that last one.

I try to answer the questions as competently and patiently as I can, but it takes a big chunk of time. Time I should be spending on things like edits and blog posts and plotting my next book and googling for naked pictures of George Clooney.

Whenever possible, I refer people to existing articles and web links. If someone asks how to query, I tell them to call in sick to work, log on to agent Janet Reid's Query Shark, and read every single post in her archives before even considering querying. If someone's struggling to find beta readers or critique partners, I refer them to The Water Cooler at Absolute Write or suggest getting involved with their local chapter of Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America or whatever group happens to represent their genre.

I might also refer them to blog posts I've written about certain subjects, because as I mentioned yesterday, I'm very lazy.

Still, I'm thinking I should get smarter about this. What if I assembled a collection of the most common questions I'm asked, and created a document or a page on my website offering up all the best links, tidbits of advice, and general suggestions? An FAQ of sorts, only with more penis jokes. Then when I get one of those messages, I could offer up the great big list of answers.

What do you guys think? If I do decide to assemble something like that, what would you like to see me address? Have there been any posts I've written here that you think should be included in a writer FAQ? Please share your thoughts!

Oh, and in the spirit of sharing, I wanted to pass along two of the best writer links I've seen in recent months. The first is a post written by my agency sistah, Kiersten White, offering a collection of  Do This, Don't Do That tips for new authors. The second is an amazing post by author Chuck Wendig suggesting 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing Right F**king Now. Both offer much smarter advice than I could ever give you, and I encourage writers at all career stages to check them out.

So what do you think of my questions? You've already forgotten them now, right? I probably should have put them at the bottom of this post instead of a couple paragraphs above. See, this is why you shouldn't ask me for advice.

Except that I can use copy/paste, so all hope isn't lost. Here you go again:

What do you guys think? If I do decide to assemble something like that, what would you most like to see me address? Have there been any posts I've written here that you think should be included in a writer FAQ? Please let me know what you think!


13 comments :

Iain said...

Top of the FAQ sheet should be on how to deal with a rabid courier pigeon. I think we all dread that one happening ;o)

Patty Blount said...

This may sound arrogant, but I understand! The very same day I announced my book deal, I got an email from a cousin I haven't seen in decades asking me for advice.

I think your FAQ idea is great! You could do a variation on that with a new page on your website "For Writers" that lists all the blog posts tagged with specific key words. It's like doing a keyword search for your readers.

Oh, and tips on not messing up my lipstick would be great!

Meika said...

I think a FAQ post is a fantastic idea! I'm sure you've got plenty of useful advice to pass along and not enough free time to keep replying to all those emails. Perfect solution!

Sarah W said...

If it makes your life easier, I say do it.

(I don't wear lipstick, but I'd kind of like to read those tips, too)

Elizabeth Poole said...

I think it's a great idea! You get to help people, but you're not spending all your free time answering email, which could be a full time career in and of itself.

I actually considered emailing you, but didn't want to bother you since I knew you were busy. I was wondering about writing humor. The Internet, as far as I have found, is bereft of good articles about it. I know you're supposed to write what makes you laugh yourself, but there's got to be more to it than that, especially during revision.

So I am all for an advice for writers page! :D

Linda G. said...

*sigh* Nobody ever asks me for advice. (Not that that's ever stopped me from giving it.)

Mark Simpson said...

Hey Tawna, I was thinking about adding a page to my website outlining tips and advice for writers---any chance you could spare a few hours today helping me plan it?

Seriously though, I think you answered your own question. If you outlined FAQs you receive while consolidating all the useful links you've happened across with one additional page on your website, everything could be addressed with a single link. It would also probably increase traffic to your site, so there is something in it for you too.

Not that I'm a saint by any definition, but I too have at times perhaps been guilty of spending too much time helping others. Free advice is always worth what you pay for it, but if someone asks I am almost always willing to try to help them learn the easy way--things I of course usually learned the hard way.

But that does come at an expense--in economics this is called "opportunity cost".

So consolidating links and FAQs on a single page is not a cop out; it makes things easier for both you and the people who seek your advice. And that you are so willing to help others who are in fact your competition--or at least potential competition--indicates that there may be more to you than well articulated sexual depravity. (which in itself is still pretty cool.)

Maddy said...

Not sure. It might detract from your main purpose but so saying I've seen lots of writers put up permanent 'pages' with that kind of information to refer people to. If you had the time then you could do it once and just point people in the right direction.

Tamara Epps said...

I know that I always love reading through writer's FAQ pages - I'm usually looking for useless yet interesting info such as 'a day in the life' posts. I would also love to see a post from you on how not to give up.

Tamara Epps said...

I know that I always love reading through writer's FAQ pages - I'm usually looking for useless yet interesting info such as 'a day in the life' posts. I would also love to see a post from you on how not to give up.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

A great idea, Tawna. But then again it's time isn't it? Best of luck with it if you decide to go ahead. I await your FAQ page with interest...

Bethany Elizabeth said...

The FAQ is an wonderful idea. :) It seems like no matter how much good advice I read, I always want more - and any and all subjects are great too! Drafting, editing, surviving, which alcohol goes best with which stage of writing...
:)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Having a separate page of FAQs seems like the way to go. I hate giving writing advice myself, but I often feature guest author/bloggers who do so readers get an assortment of ideas and processes to ponder. Now I'm off to investigate Kiersten's blog...