It’s that scaretastic time of year again, when zombie writers emerge from their dens after a long summer’s hibernation. What are they in search of? Editors, agents, and publishers—OH MY! I’ve already talked about the Writer’s Maze to traditional publishing, but there’s something more you need to know about Fall for Writers.
Besides the cornstalks of wonderful query-writing fun, there’s another correlation between this time of year and being a writer. Halloween for writers can be terror incarnate with the assembly of freaks on the prowl.
For example, the scarers, the creeps in costume who hide in plain sight and don’t yell boo until you’re not looking. The ghosts, friends who only bring their crazy out on the internet. Then there are the goblins, the creepy men who stalk you on Facebook and Twitter and pretend they’ve read your book - which hasn’t been published yet – so they can flirt with you. The witches, self explanatory. And the trolls, the people who stalk you on the internet leaving bad reviews and rude comments, the schoolyard bullies who’ve grown old but haven’t grown up.
But there are those people who are even scarier than all those others put together. The clowns. The clowns are those who pretend to be your close friend, but who don’t really have your best interest at heart (and no, this isn’t a vengeful post to take a stab at someone who’s wronged me). This is a collaboration of stories real-life friends have told me, rumors I’ve heard at writer’s conferences, and mixed-in tidbits of my own personal experiences.
In a self preservation fashion, I’ve compiled this silly, yet gloriously satisfying, Fall for Writer’s Survival List. Complete with descriptions, curses and cures. Keep this handy by your desk for your own protection.
The Scarers: Are people whom you don’t consider a friend, but rather a trusted acquaintance, can be a professor, a freelance editor under your employ, a book-cover designer, an author, or anyone else considered an expert in their field whom you trust to give you honest advice about your career.
Note: I am not a scarer because I am not considered an expert by any stretch of the imagination.
Curse: The scarers are so named because of their gift for crushing a writer’s dream with their own tales of “Getting published is hard and can take years” or “Not everyone who wants to be a writer gets published.”
WARNING: Actual sayings have been paraphrased for the general audience as an example of what a scarer might say, but be warned any person who utters a phrase meant to discourage you is a scarer.
Cure: Play deaf immediately. The scarers only power is just a scare tactic and their curse only works if you listen to them. The curse works like a tapeworm planted in your ear, designed to gnaw through your brain until it’s devoured every drop of courage, resilience and confidence you once possessed. If you encounter a scarer, plug your ears and hum, “Just keep writing, just keep writing. Just keep writing-writing-writing. What do you do? You write, write.”
The Ghosts: The ghosts are the people you know in real life, who are perfectly charming and lovely in person, but they get online and suddenly they’re Debbie-downer. Everything sucks and the whole world is out to get them…and you, why? Because they’re paranoid narcissists with nothing better to do with their lives than dream up scenarios (which probably makes them good writers) of literary global doom and publishing world conspiracies. You know the ones who claim they had the idea for Harry Potter or To Kill A Mockingbird first? Yeah, them.
Curse: The ghost’s only hope of scaring you from another realm is if you follow them through the looking-glass. That’s right stay away from all mirrors in which you relate to or resemble their delusions at all. That is what the ghosts want, company in their haunting pity party.
Cure: Focus on reality. In the realm of the living, the ghosts can’t hurt you. If you remember who you are and what’s real, you’ll survive a ghost attack no problem.
The Goblins: If you haven’t had the unfortunate encounter with a goblin yet, count yourself lucky. For me personally, goblins came as a surprise because no one warned me of their existence. Goblins are like dirty old men (though age really isn’t a requirement to be a goblin) groupies for authors on social media. There are a few ways to recognize a goblin. One, if they POKE you on Facebook. Two, if they Instant Message you saying things like “You’re prettier and younger than I imagined you would be from your book” or “I think you look sexy, Beautiful, we should totally talk.”
Curse: Freaky nightmares in which you imagine yourself having to hide on the internet because you’re too afraid to be in the public’s eye any longer. You feel isolated and alone because there’s no way this is happening to your friends too. They would’ve mentioned it, right? Well, not necessarily, a goblin attack is embarrassing and not everyone wants to discuss it. Some writers find it easier to cope by simply taking a shower and never mentioning goblins again.
Cure: Expose the goblins. A goblin loses his power in the lime-light. That’s right, many goblins are married or in committed relationships and don’t want anyone to know that they’ve been IMing and POKING around with writers. Screenshot your goblin attack and show the world what’s really going on.
NOTE: I don’t really recommend the screenshot thing, only because I myself am too chicken to do it. I have been a victim of a number of goblin attacks and I merely run and hide. But if you’re braver than I and decide to do so, please tag me in the post so that I might revel in your courageous glory.
The Witches: Although this title pretty much speaks for itself, let’s review. Witches always seem to be around, a part of their magic I suppose. They brew up their potions of trickery and manipulation. They might even disguise themselves as a friend in need, only to feed you a poison apple of sabotage.
Curse: A witches curse can be hard to spot because you may not know that you’ve encountered a witch until you’ve hung yourself on the clothesline in the town square and the villagers have come to watch you swing. The witch may tell you to query an agent that clearly doesn’t even represent your genre, or they might suggest you enter your work in a contest even though it’s obvious your work isn’t ready. Or worse yet, a witch may read your work and steal your ideas.
Cure: Sadly, there is no foolproof cure for witches, they’re magic remember? But you can always arm yourself in knowledge and guard yourself well. Make sure you’re not being gullible. You must know for certain when your stuff is ready, and when it isn’t. And most importantly, if you’re worried someone else (who is maybe further along in their career than you) might steal creative mojo from you, don’t share your ideas and stories with them until you’re ready to publish so at least you’ll get the credit for being original.
The Trolls: Everyone’s got trolls and it doesn’t matter what you do professionally, there’s always someone who wants to knock you down and tell you what a giant piece of crap of you are. Actors, singers, producers, publishers, editors, writers, everyone—everyone has known a troll or two in their lifetime. The hardest thing about a trolls right now is the ease at which they can bad-mouth their victims. The internet is one giant playground for a troll to find people to bully and putdown.
Curse: The only power a troll has is if you start to doubt yourself and believe in what they say. If you for one second begin to see yourself through the troll’s eyes, then he’s won and you’ve lost a piece of yourself to fear.
Cure: The best defense against a troll attack is to know who you are. I’m not suggesting that you maintain perfect confidence about yourself and your writing abilities throughout your career. I’m saying admit who are to yourself before you put yourself out there for the world to pick you apart, be okay with who are and arm yourself with that knowledge. If you know who you are and a troll tries to tell you you’re something else, you’ll know better than to believe him.
The Clowns: The clowns are the scariest predator of all if you ask me. These clowns are meant to be serious, knowledgeable experts in their fields, but once you get up close to them you can see their makeup and then they squirt you in the face with the plastic flower in their lapel. They discourage you with words like “only five percent of writers find success” or “you shouldn’t write because you want to make a career of it, you should only write because you love it.”
Curse: If you’ve encountered a clown you’ll know because you’ll lose your nerve and quit the game before you even have a chance at winning.
Cure: Laughter is the best medicine to fight off a clown. Though they claim they want to be taken seriously (they even advertise how smart they are with their degrees and accomplishments in their bios) their nay-saying is evidence of their cynicism and you should never – under any circumstances – succumb to the skeptical intimidations of a clown. Laugh at them and walk away.
Now you know, don’t be a writer that falls for tricks this fall, be a writer who’s well informed and stand tall when you submit your work. And if that doesn’t work, throw the book at the monsters and run like hell, there’s always another path to success.