Friday, July 13, 2018

How Blake Snyder Saved the Adjective

My personal abrasion towards “formulas” and “writing rules” has been a little bit of a mystery. In my adulthood, I realized parts of it had to do with my parents’ tendency to be a little too free with advice and constructive criticism, often their impulsive ideas putting me into embarrassing situations. Anyone who has received advice—whether it be on writing, dating, parenting, travel, or auto repair—has found that not all opinions are helpful, some downright problematic.

In fact, I’ve started to realize that people often advocate for their biggest flaws. I often tell the story about the unpublished writer whose English came across as a second language due to his overwriting and perfectly proper grammar, and how he “reminded” me to never put a preposition at the end of a Facebook status so that I am practiced in perfect grammar for my actual work. I politely reminded him that his way of writing wasn’t for everyone, and not a style I was particularly interested in emulating. Just recently, a friend of mine, who is struggling with a man loudly rejecting any commitment to her, insisted that I should just start sleeping with someone (anyone) and that’s how you get feelings! Meanwhile, another friend’s mother-in-law was advising her not to feed her baby whenever it wanted, but instead give him a pacifier dipped in soda until the baby came around to her timeframe.

Blake Snyder was sort of the exception for me. I think, in part, it had to with a way he was introduced. I was working with a cowriter on a radio show we hope to produce next year and she pulled out Snyder’s Beat Sheet to outline from. This was not my normal way of going about things, but obviously, as there were two of us writing different episodes, we needed to get in on the general story before we could get started. As we filled in the beats, things became clearer to me, and all of the sudden, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for.

In many of my scripts (both play and novel) the characters are supposed to be funny with endearing connection to one another, but it never seemed to happen. I didn’t take the time from the plot to just have a fun moment. But where should a scene like that go?

Well, according to Snyder, page 30!

Blake Snyder was a screenwriter with, according to him, a good deal of script sells, some for millions of dollars. Only two of his movies were actually made—typical for the industry—but he believed himself to be great at knowing what Hollywood wants, and how to pitch it.

And I believe that.

For one thing, he immediately promotes to name your screenplay first; come up with a catchy title and then find a logline that goes with it. Script comes third to those things. Well, as I was reading Save the Cat, Snyder’s book on how to write a screenplay, I had several people ask me what it was about, some even saying, “Great title!” which was bizarre compared to most of the books I’ve read.

Since learning about the Beat Sheet last October, I’ve applied the lessons to most of my writing, in both editing and outlining. And regardless of the actual results, one of the nicest things about the “formula” is that I felt less overwhelmed. I understood how to keep the plot moving and had areas that I tended to ignore pointed out to me. In life, I avoid conflict as much as possible, being a pretty good smooth talker when it comes to difficult situations. It’s hard for me to have characters not understand where the other is coming from—or even just not care—and a lot of their logical discussions subtracted from the stakes and conflicts that could be there.

The Beat Sheet is an excellent way of putting emotional range in your manuscript as well as recognizing easy places to add in more conflict and, well, plot.

So I bought the book. I didn’t have people explain the Beat Sheet to me as well as I’d like, so I wanted to get it straight from the cat’s mouth. Unfortunately, the cat is more of a salesperson and less of a writer than I’d hope.

Snyder’s opening states that one reason he felt this book needed to be written was because most screenwriting advice is too formal and pretentious. He speaks like “real people” do, complete with a lot of exclamation points and some typographical errors.

Most importantly though, Snyder’s biggest “casual” way of talking is really the Trumpian-method and instilling credibility through confidence. Ever single one of his scripts is described, point blank, as “hilarious.” He constantly states how awesome his ideas are in a matter-of-fact sort of way. This in itself wouldn’t bother me, except that Snyder doesn’t seem to have a lot of taste.

The loglines he shows are of films that have been actually made, praising their qualities as examples. Not a single one of them stick with me. All of his own ideas tend to be pithy but unrelatable, campy, common denominator comedies that are only interesting because of the humor, not the plot, and not really the concept. But this is common. I read a lot about queries or pitches that succeed and what gets one person hot and bothered is not what gets another. And let’s face it, common denominator comedy sells. It’s most of what you see on the marquee, so I can’t disagree with his premise that, regardless of how I feel about them, this is what works in Hollywood.

The first time he lost me, however, was when he tried to show how changing character’s traits or situations could drastically lower the stakes in the movie.

“A just-hired employee goes on a company weekend and soon discovers someone’s trying to kill him.”

“In the example of The Retreat, again the adjectives come into play to tell us the writers most likely did it right… But let’s play around with the character to see other ways they could have gone with this same premise. What if the person going on the retreat is 65, has been at the company for 20 years, and is about to retire? Okay, so now it’s about a company “downsizing” its employees for real before they can collect their retirement benefits… No one will show up for that movie.”

Really? No one? Because that was the first time in 52 pages he’d talked about a movie that I actually was sort of interested in.

I like Miss Congeniality and Legally Blonde, but for the most part, the vast majority of the films mentioned in the book sounded really dumb. Trying too hard, personality-less, and no hint of inspiration. Movies I would only go see because we wanted to do something and we showed up at the theatre to randomly pick what’s best for a large group. But, let’s be fair, that’s exactly what happened with Miss Congeniality and Legally Blonde. It wasn’t their premises I was going after.

The book, which is mostly bossy and closed-minded, still had some good ideas. Selling a script and writing a good one are two totally different skillsets, and while I wish Snyder had been more honest about his ability to sell a script rather than write one (Both of his produced scripts, Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot! and Blank Check, as awesome as they sound, have lower than 14% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes), I think that using Save the Cat! as a guide to make your script more attractive is a good idea. These tips can contradict your inspiration and innovation, and what makes for a catchy title isn’t always going to be one that you, well, like, (Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot? Really?), but they don’t have to. They’re good ideas to apply in moderation.

He was right in what he said about loglines needing to contain irony. Give us a trait that makes your character likeable (with an adjective), and then tell us something unexpected about it. Hollywood unexpected and real-life unexpected not being the same thing. And also, yes, title matters. It just does.

Truth is, I think he knew what he was talking about, but he was so bent around the axel when it came to “fake it ‘til you make it,” he made himself come off as a little oblivious:

“The amazing Sheldon Bull and I wrote a hilarious comedy in 2004. What if the President’s [sic] helicopter goes down behind enemy lines? And what if he is forced to capture Osama Bin Laden—all by himself? … We even had a great title: Chickenhawk Down. And here’s why we did not sell that script: Because there are about two people who can play the part of the President. It’s the lead. And there really isn’t anyone out there who can “open” that movie. Tim Allen was our first choice. And… who else? What we had done was paint ourselves into a corner on casting. Yes, it’s funny. Yes, it’s a great story.”

I mean, I’m no Hollywood producer, but something tells me that Tim Allen wasn’t the reason you couldn’t get that script sold.

When I pointed this out to my brother, he said, “It sounds like they came up with the title first and just wrote a script on that.”

Well, yes. As Snyder advocates.

My problem with the book, and most books of its kind, is that instead of really thoroughly discussing the pros and cons of their suggestions, the outcomes and whys, mentioning the goals they are targeting, he just states everything like facts and rules and hopes you won’t recognize his Impostor Syndrome coming through.

But when I mentioned that, people couldn’t understand why he would want to point out the flaws in his thinking. He’s trying to sell a book! How would it benefit him to do so?

First off, my point isn’t really about him. It’s that writing books need to be clear to people who tend to latch onto formulas and get scared about being whimsical or, even, themselves. These writers can be incredibly emotional when the time comes to “break the rules,” ironically, more so than those who fight writing techniques like DEFCON 1. I’ve been able to articulately explain my reasons for them breaking out of their mold far more efficiently to people who hate writing rules than to those who love them. The latter are more likely to end up in tears or literally screaming, “THAT’S NOT MY JOB!” to a modest suggestion. The biggest breakdowns I’ve had to deal with as a critique partner is always with people who like the rules and don’t want to hear that doing what they were supposed to didn’t work.

 Mostly though, you get cynical people like me and just by being clear the context in which the suggestion will work, I’m more likely to agree with you. Just telling me you’re hilarious and amazing isn’t going to do the trick. When you say, “[Double Mumbo Jumbo is] a rule you and I can’t break!” and use an example of how Gods and aliens don’t go together, or something else I don’t believe, you’re sort of persuading me to throw the kitty out with the bathwater. I’m old enough now to recognize the consequences of being like that, but many people, especially teenagers, are more likely to say, “That doesn’t really make sense,” and toss the entire idea. If you however, point out, “Here’s what happens when you do this,” rather than just telling me not to do it, I’m more likely to hear you out.

Some people need permission to do something unexpected. Others need to feel respected in order to listen. Bossing them around just makes them stop listening.

Mainly, there’s more than one way to save a cat, and I think that most writing advice needs to promote understanding of cause and effect rather than just telling you what to do. A lot of advice is bad, and I would hate to live in a world in which only Blake Snyder’s films got made.

The book tells you how to sell specific types of movies. Parts are applicable to other mediums and genres, but really, he’s telling you how to make your comedic film alluring to producers. As a book on writing, if you can ignore his businessman talk, his narrow-view of the world, and know to take it in moderation, I think that playing around with these ideas can help clarify for you how to make your work better. The ideas certainly have made me feel clearer headed. I’m just glad I heard about the concept before I actually read it. And I think, in the end, that’s what Blake Snyder was all about.

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Too Close to Love Yourself

When it comes to, "You're too close to your work to judge it," I would presume it’s simply more obvious that's what's happening when someone is delusional about their talents, and so the ideology tends to center on those who think they’re much better than they really are. But, while the feelings of frustration are different—a sadness filling you instead of a tension—isn’t it just as painful to watch someone awesome look at themselves with disgust?

I started writing Take the Wheel back in October 2014, more than three years ago at this point. What’s most interesting for me personally is it was about two months before a certain jackass came back into my life and I had a downward spiral for the next few years. The book has been worked on in parts over time, being left in a drawer, abandoned and forgotten in favor of other ideas.

The series of posts, “So I’m Writing This Novel,” hoped to follow what was supposed to be a much shorter time frame in which I talked about the creation of the book. The last article was over a year and a half ago.

To be fair, I began work on what I intend to be my magnum opus, the start of a series of novels all set in one world. And I too got distracted by other novels.

But something else had happened.

During my relationship with The Jackass, I had a bit of an adult reality check. It wasn’t that I was capable of failing, or that my goals were a lot harder to achieve, but that “failing” doesn’t mean failing spectacularly in a singular ball of glory. “Failing” could be a long process of bleeding out, in which certain attempts get you closer and closer to something you realize you didn’t want at all. I began to understand that I may never be a mother or get married, and over the course of the last few years, I’ve actually accepted the possibility of a celibate artist as having its benefits. Time-wise and financially, I am able to focus on my books as a career.

I also struggled with trying to publish for the first time and feeling lost in the void. My view of myself shifted and, though I was unaware of it, I started to see my writing as nothing more than boring rambles which never could interest anyone.

Depression lies.

As some of you are aware, I’ve been spending 2018 trying to turn my life in a better direction. Instead of working as a caterer for private jets in which I was on-call 24/7, often working 15 hour shifts and constantly worrying about special orders that may come in in the middle of the night, I have transitioned to another place in the company in which I now can work on my books and other projects in the frequent downtime.

Last year, I realized that a big portion of why I tend to isolate myself is that many “social” activities don’t interest me. There’s a reason, after all, many require booze. I decided to start getting people together to work creatively, a means to meet people under circumstances I enjoy and am comfortable. Because of the start of my playwriting group, First Folio, I’d been working on some theatrical scripts since January as well as co-writing a radio show. But due to the massive stress and just general apathy, I didn’t work much at all. This didn’t disturb me because I’d been creating less and less over the years, and I just… stopped caring.

Well, my life has begun to get a routine. My work is able to be left at work now. I’m often going out with friends to do, shocker, non-productive activities. I have a stable and private place to go home that I’ve been decorating to my tastes and needs. I have a decent amount of money to do what I want, and my attempts to eat and sleep better have been increased with the lowered stress and the ability to stick to a schedule. I’ve been talking with a counselor about unresolved issues, plus scheduled biofeedback to deal with the tension-caused pains.

I feel better. I feel great.

In this nine hour day where I can work on my stories while getting paid, I started to set myself back up for success. I picked out one of the multiple books I’d left mid-tale, the favorite one that I thought I might be most inspired to do, and I bared myself to read it, to remind myself what had happened.

It was because of that I first realized just how terrible of a writer I’ve been thinking I was. It was because of how easy it was to read, no boredom, that I suddenly came face to face with the way I’d been seeing myself.

It wasn’t fear of being bad, but acceptance. Something that told me my stories rambled and I had nothing interesting to say. Too much dialogue, not enough action. Too much rambling and nonsensical stories that no one would get.

The book that is currently titled Take the Wheel has been worked on in several ways, the beginning rewritten, a good portion of it just a summation of what should happen. But it is an interesting story with a clear world, good pacing, and flawed characters. They tell me the way I saw the world those three years ago, portraying the start of my deepest depression.

After a co-writer showed me a story formula in which enlightened me to what I felt was missing in a story, I felt restricted to outlining and using templates to create. I wasn’t inspired and considered most of my ideas stupid. What made me stand out? Why couldn’t I create something that anyone would care about?

But for me to sit there and enjoy 50,000 words of my own writing in one disjointed work day, that meant a lot. Considering how I saw my writing being perceived, and received, I couldn’t understand how the flow of the language and what I presumed to be inaction actually worked in cohesive, complete scenes.

Two weeks ago I went to the Jackson Hole Writers Conference and listened to a man who had written over nine screenplays before Little Miss Sunshine was made. His story about how he became a writer, and reminding me that everyone has been seen as a hack, an amateur, a nobody regardless of who they became in the end, really helped me reignite my passion.

I don’t know how long I will stay committed, or if the depression is just one trigger away from returning, but it doesn’t matter so much. The bigger point is that despite my priding myself on being able to evaluate my own projects, I was too close to myself to really take the experiences in my life with a critical eye, to recognize my “failures” were normal parts of life, of the process, and to remind myself that a big part of self-evaluation is actually reading what you’ve written.

It’s easy to get swept away with thoughts of destiny or look for “signs” the universe finds you insignificant, but always remember that experiences shape you, you don’t shape them. It’s not your worth that makes bad things happen to you, and it’s easy to believe the “nothing” that you hear back when seeking your place as a writer is the universe telling you you’re a nobody.

So, I’m back on track, I strongly hope, and though my next two months are jam packed with work and teaching, I have a good plan to finish Take the Wheel by the end of September, almost exactly four years after it began. Let’s see if I can keep my promise.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Your Reader is a Scorned Woman

Hell hath no fury like the woman given permission to be a bitch. Some girls have so much pent up aggression and rage and yet the desire to maintain a likeable and compassionate demeanor that they rarely let it out. The last thing you want to do is give them permission by being an asshat.

But enough about me.

Your readers are not the scorned woman who has just prior witnessed one wrong. I mean, sure, sometimes. That surge of hate-mail that floods inboxes after a controversial change is made? That’s the immediate anger of a scorned woman. However, that’s often a temporary, impulsive reaction when an audience member first realizes she has been betrayed by someone she thought she could trust. The unfortunate reality is that most readers are past that stage. They’re not the woman who has just found out about her husband’s selfishness, they’re the woman who has long accepted cheating as the inevitable part of the process.

She has her pick of the litter. There are thousands of suitors that she could choose from, none would reject her (books can’t pick their readers, if you’re following). And even though a casual relationship is not only possible, but guaranteed, she’s not looking for a quick, one-night stand in most cases. Sometimes, sure, but what she really wants is that head-over-heels in love, where she can’t get enough of him, where all she wants to do is experience him, and hopefully, while the relationship will have a shelf-life, that shelf life is dated far in the future. And even after he is long gone, she still can think back to him with fond memories. Even return to him when the next man falls flat.

However, you must realize she’s been cheated on. She has been screwed over, left in the lurch, brought to climax just to be disappointed. She’s given chances to those who didn’t care about first impressions only to have them prove that it was more than just appearances they weren’t concerned with. She’s wasted her time with a lot of losers, and the more they hurt her, the harsher her judgment becomes.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, writers say. Judge a book by its content. Typos can’t determine the quality of storyline. Just because my beginning doesn’t hook you, doesn’t mean that the story isn’t good. Appraising a book by its superficial attributes is foolish and disrespects art.

Which is all true.

People should refrain from judging books before they’ve read them. But let’s face it, we have to do a vetting process and that vetting process can’t be “read the whole thing” when determining what book to read next.

I’ve read many self-published books that I considered to be excellent, yet back when I first started to become active on the internet, I didn’t critic the external aspects of the book as harshly. I focused predominantly on setting or plot, trying to be intrigued by summary alone. Most times, I bought books because I wanted to support the authors. If it was a sci-fi or fantasy novel, then I would actually try and read it. I tried to be fair to my indie friends because I believe that self-publishing opens up a whole new avenue of diversity for literature, and I don’t believe in be snobbery. Morally. In practice, it happens.

But because I was trying not to be superficial or a snob, I usually picked books that were less appealing aesthetically, that were obviously self-published and gave me some strong red flags even before I bought it.

I found myself burned a lot.

It’s kind of like the young girl who believes in the goodness of men, who doubts the stereotypes who are given to her, who gives boys a chance. It’s not uncommon for people of either gender to ignore signs of a philanderer, a user, a sadistic narcissist, or even that person who we have no attraction to at all. We enter into bad relationships because we think, “He’s just not texting me because he doesn’t like to text,” only to find out months later that he’s not texting you because he has another girlfriend he’s talking to all of the time. Or he’s just really terrible at conversation in general.

When you give people a chance, when you give them the benefit of the doubt, when you try and find excuses for your red flags, there’s the possibility that you’ll find a diamond in the rough, you’ll have ignored happenstance and shallow reasoning and found something really great. There is merit to the idea. It’s just that it’s far more likely that whatever they’re presenting you with is actually them.

It only takes a few times for people to accept the subtle signs as fact. If you were to be cheated on by every boy who was texting his ex on a first date, how many would that need to be before you became stupid for ignoring it?

Even if a reader has all the time in the world, she can’t read every book presented to her. If I read one book a day, that would still only be 365 a year. I believe I come across more than that in a month.

So what is a reader to do? She has to choose which ones to give a chance to; she couldn’t give them all one even if she wanted to. Preferably, she’d pick the ones that she’s more likely to enjoy, but how can she know that without having actually read them?

I’ll admit that I have hated most of my favorite books and T.V. shows when I was first exposed to them. It wasn’t until the second (or third or fourth or fifth) chance that I realized how much I liked them. You are often afraid of writing something off and denying yourself a great love, so it’s not like we do it lightly.

However, once I began to vet my books, the quality of them started to improve drastically. When I picked up a self-published novel arbitrarily, it was often poorly paced, typo-ridden, and lacked an ending. When I started to trust my superficial instincts, I was more likely to come across something well written.

I picked up the genres that I knew I liked.

Setting is important to me. While sometimes I will give a chance to something outside of my comfort zone—and some of my favorite books fall into that category—I know that a great plot inside an uninteresting location won’t interest me.

People complain about the limitation of genre, and I get it, I really do. I think authors shouldn’t restrict themselves to being what people expect, but we have to acknowledge that the categorization of genre is there for a reason. When I started to only buy science-fiction and fantasy romance novels, I started enjoying my reading again. I wasn’t attempting to force my way through something just because I wanted to like it. I actually considered if I did.

The trick with genre is to explain it accurately. Use it to help people narrow down their options, then make sure to wave away any expectations that will not be met. As long as people have a general understanding of what type of atmosphere, setting, and reader’s motivation that will be in your book, you’re golden.

I look for typos.

In the blog “Why Typos Lose You the Most Sales,” I irritated an indie author who believed that typos aren’t a big deal. When I went to her Amazon page, I found, of course, many typos on the first page and in the summary. She had only five reviews, four of them that were written by authors who gave only five stars to every book they read, likely review exchanges. The one review, a four star, that seemed to put thought into it complimented her story line, but complained that the atrocious editing (my words) made it hard to understand.

I know that there are writers who believe that judging a book by the typo is snobbish. But this isn’t the situation of a woman meeting a great guy and overanalyzing a physical flaw. This is a woman who has been in many relationships with users to find that usually, if he makes selfish decisions in the beginning he’s going to make selfish decisions in the middle, and the end.

I’ve read great self-published books with typos. I’ve read traditionally published books with typos, but those typos were far and few between, and they were not on the first page or summary. When I give a book a chance despite the poor editing, I haven’t yet been unexpectedly surprised by a well polished storyline. Even though you might be great at content editing and terrible at grammar, truth is, it’s more likely that you don’t know what you’re doing and didn’t edit at all.

I read reviews for consistency, “typos,” “didn’t finish,” and an ending.

I’ve never paid much attention to reviews, though I like to read them for personal entertainment. Only once have I ignored one-stars and found they were right. Most one-stars are biased, exaggerated, and mean. I had honestly believed that what they hated would be refreshing—I was picturing it differently.

On most indie books, the bad reviews are frustrated writers telling authors not to use the word “anyways” and that the writer is fat, the good reviews are generic review exchanges by people who’ve never read them. For this reason, I don't read reviews for ratings, but purely content.

I look for comments about typos first. Again, it doesn’t mean the story isn’t enjoyable, but it’s just one of those red flags that I’ve ignored before to my detriment. Just because a review says there’s typos doesn’t mean I won’t buy it, but if I was suspicious about the work put in and the experience of the writer, this is often what will topple the balance.

The next thing is consistency. I look for commentary that was made throughout all of the reviews. What do the bad and good reviews agree on? This, again, doesn’t tell me how I should feel about it, but it does imply the sincerity of the review itself. Even if one person loved the rape scene and the other hated it, it still suggests that both actually read the book and the information I get (like the kind of setting, events and characterization) is more akin to what I’m actually going to experience.

If they say they didn’t finish or the book just stopped, I’m probably not going to buy. I know authors hate this, claiming that you can’t judge a story until you’ve read it all the way through, but I argue that Amazon reviews aren’t literary ones. They’re not intended to analyze the book’s artistic merits, just tell other readers whether or not they’d like it, and if they didn’t finish, I’m going to assume no, they didn't.

I hate not finishing books, but I hate reading boring ones more. There are things in the review that might convince me that the reason they didn’t finish isn’t going to be something that applies to me, and if other fans say they couldn’t put it down, I might give it more of a chance. But, at the end of the day, I'm not going to read a book that is hard to finish, and I appreciate the warning.

Lastly, if it is a cliffhanger or just has no real ending at all, that’s where you lost me. It’s not because I hate cliffhangers, necessarily, but a book without a payoff for me feels like a huge waste of time. Especially if the series is unfinished, but even if it’s not, I can’t count on I will ever be satisfied. At the end of the first book, while some threads can be left hanging, the writer needs to prove to me that he is capable of tying some loose ends together, otherwise we’ll have a repeat of Lost.

I look at the cover.

You can judge a book by a cover if it’s a good one. I still take this less seriously because I have found less commonality between bad designs and bad writing, but if the cover looks homemade, it can be a sign that the writer is new to the business, doesn't know how to self-evaluate, and didn't bring on other people's opinions and advice. If other aspects of the book have made me skeptical, a cover with amateurish graphic art will definitely throw me off.

If a guy comes to you on a first date without having showered or put on a clean shirt, it might not mean that he’s a bad guy, but it does suggest that he doesn’t care all that much. He’s not willing to do what it takes to impress you, which is going to bleed into other aspects of your relationship/read.

I look at formatting.

This one is much more direct. If you have extra spaces in the paragraphs or words cut off by the page or skewed images, it’s not a red flag you’re 'a cheater' necessarily, it just that I’m not going to tolerate being around you. I hate reading books with extra spacing and weird formatting.

Pandering to artificial expectations isn’t just about kowtowing to snobbery, it’s about making a person comfortable in a den of thieves, a potential girlfriend secure after a series of cheaters. Yes, you might be the one exception, (the main question to ask is, “Are you really?”) but why not go the extra mile to prove it? Dress nicely on the first date, don’t text your ex, don’t ignore her for the sports game, and don’t get annoyed when she doesn’t completely trust you on a first impression alone, especially if you’re claiming a first impression doesn’t dictate who you really are.

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Monday, July 2, 2018

Writer’s Beware the Written Selfie

As a young woman in the beginning of my publishing career, I once had the opportunity to lament my lack of selfies taken. Fact is, I didn’t have any pictures of myself period. This wasn’t a problem until, ta-da! I published one of my first short stories and had a request for a headshot.

Over the course of an hour or so, I positioned myself in front of my bookcase in my Los Angeles apartment, throwing open all my doors and windows to get the semblance of a good light, and orienting my iPad to take a grainy picture of my minimal make-up.

The picture came out fine, but, shocker, looked like it was exactly what it was. Soon after I made my website and started to get more involved with social media. The requirement for pictures grow steadily, and I began to search for ways to make decently professional photos without breaking the bank. I put more of an effort to get natural pictures of me to grab when I need one.

For that reason, I’ve never disparaged selfies. I see little difference between getting your friend to help you pretend like you sitting in the park reading was a candid shot and snapping one of yourself when you feel good. In fact, I think it’s a little more honest. Maybe less interesting, of course, but when that girl in the bathroom has 524 likes, I suppose I can’t criticize what is obviously in high demand.

Plus, I think it’s a good thing for women, or anyone, to feel good about themselves.

Yet, the age-old adage, “Nothing is erased from the internet,” proves true today, and you have to be careful about your image.

Posting on the internet is strange. It’s far more intentional than any other social interaction—you didn’t just run into someone in the market and the subject of Trump happened to come up—you were sitting there by yourself, had a thought, decided other people needed to know, and make the effort of writing it out, choosing your words, and deciding to post. You have less control over who “hears” and, more importantly, your thoughts will linger for years afterwards, haunting you.

The “writer’s selfie” is like the photographical selfie except it is portrayed through text.

It can be tempting to use Facebook for catharsis, a therapeutic means to discuss our fears and dreams, go on rants and receive validation. That can be a highway to connecting with each other, that being real and human. It can also bite you in the ass.

Sometime back I wrote “An Anecdote about Writers Judging Writers.” I discussed a man who lambasted self-publishers, making a claim that if your book is self-published, there’s a reason. He later had multiple problems with his small press and turned to independent publishing as well. In it, it should be noted, he claimed, “I've also read books from almost every author in here.”

Today I came across a different author discussing an entitled rant of someone who started off by claiming he’d never read a book since ’92.

“What you all don’t know is I haven’t read a book since 1992. I had a story I wanted to tell like no other person ever could. By not reading, I PURPOSELY lost touch with what the readers wanted. (a little bit too much I guess) I thought by being original, people would flock tome. (sic) Oh how wrong I was in that one, PEOPLE WANT THE SAME OLD SAME OLD. Not only did I miss books like Harry Potter, but I missed out for no reason at all. The world isn’t ready for someone that surpasses J.K. Rowling’s, or George RR. Martin, (don’t look at my first 5 books, fucking asshole critics) (I didn’t have their education, I was learning) I promise 6 would’ve far out done BOTH J.K Rowling’s, as well as George RR. Martin, I CAN PROVE THAT WITHOUT A SHADOW OF DOUBT!!!!!!Fuck you for even questioning me!!!!!!!!!!. Who am I? Nobody, that’s just who I’m supposed to be I guess, as god commands it to be that way. If you think I’m bullshitting, it took me almost 13 years to learn how to write, do you honestly think I DIDN’T LISTEN TO THE READERS? Book 6 was what my ORIGINAL story was all about in the first place, had to come up with all the other 5 books on my own, really fun job to say the least. I guess nobody but me will know the outcome now. People think it’s some kind of game when it comes to authors. I’ll be the first to tell you to support them, or pretty soon you might find yourself reading just an old newspaper clipping for entertainment. I’m sick of the cheap assholes that read 3 chapters for free, never buying a book. Goodbye to all the fans I had, maybe you can now spread the word of an author that almost was. I guess late is better than never, unless you spend 13 years of your life devoted to it. I leave you all now with a question. What will you do when the real authors of the world quit writing? Will you tell them you were just getting ready to buy their books? We’ve all heard that one. GOODBYE EVERYONE, this authors done now.”

When the name was revealed, I immediately remembered him. Not only that, but I had quoted him before. He threatens to quit about once every two months, begs people to buy his book, and fluctuates between anger and sorrow.

So? He’s a writer. We’ve all been there, which is probably why his rants intrigue so many people. But while you think that your one bad day might just be lost in the sea of authors, your name might be remembered and come back to haunt you.

I unfriended him after several of his negative posts began to get to me, the initial curiosity and modicum of understanding turning to irritation.

The main issue with self-publication these days is how all the hardships are more public. You can find some comments made by Jack Kerouac and Neil Gaiman and the like about their moments of doubt, by they are limited, seen through the lens of eventual success, and generally are being repeated by friends or the writers themselves, so not only can they taper the comments, they’ve naturally died down from the anger and can be more logical.

What intrigued me most was that I remembered this name. He’s not the only one posting comments like these, and I first ‘met’ him some time ago. What scares me the most is that people are talking about him. You’d hope that one of your dumber moments would be obscured and forgotten, but the conversation about this guy started to grow and everyone it seemed had a bad experience with his sense of entitlement.

I don’t share his name because I believe everyone deserves a second chance. We learn over time how to be more communicative and less judgmental, how to overcome our fears, and be funny about our bitterness. It’s a slow learning curve to realize how you’re coming across, and the more you work to improve yourself, the more you change, the harder it becomes to really know who you are. But most of us get better with time. Not too long ago I was reacquainted with a young writer who had filled his website with lies about his greatness and indulged full-heartedly delusions of grandeur in an expected, arrogant way. A few years later I found him again to see his attitude altered, his advice more specific, his work improved, and his humility now genuine.

As a writer, you don’t need to keep your mouth shut. In fact, it’s your job not to. You don’t always need to pretend to be strong or secure, but you should remember that social media is a public sphere, a connection with your readers, and it creates an image about who you are. If you look down on fellow writers, are angry that no one is giving you a chance, or are disappointed how difficult the process is, it’s important to figure out when and when not to say it.

The subject of this post deletes many of his comments, yet negativity and ego fascinates people enough that his quotes are still existent elsewhere on the internet, and not everyone is going to leave your name out of it. It’s a scary world we live in today, and this serves as  friendly reminder to be careful.

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