Writer Fails

writing 6


I’ve written before about how, as a writer, everything you put out there is your calling card as a writer. Everything that goes public: every email, every tweet, every Instagram caption, every Facebook status – the moment you name yourself a writer (or author, or novelist – let’s not get nitpicky or pedantic here) each typed-out word that is viewed by the world is a part of your image.


And yet, time after time, I read posts and tweets from people whose public profiles proudly and visibly claim their title of “Writer” and then show the world that they either don’t know or don’t care enough to use the language correctly.

Take a tweet I just saw a few minutes ago, where “Name Redacted (Writer)” said “Can you imagine <doing this really big thing> in this <really slow method>, let alone <doing this much smaller/easier thing> this way?”

Now, I do exempt writers whose first language isn’t English (it isn’t mine, either, btw) but by and large, those aren’t the worst offenders.

I’m also not bothered much when people who aren’t writers or editors do this. I can figure out what they meant.

But when someone who announces they are a WRITER, and is constantly trying to promote their work on social media cannot be arsed to get this very simple sentence right…

I’m so-o-o not-good with this.

First (in case you cannot figure out why the statement was wrong) – the sense of this is destroyed by the comparison order. The words “let alone” have a very specific meaning in this context, and it requires, for the meaning to be clear, for the SMALLER task to precede the larger one.

Reversing the order makes the sentence nonsensical.

And the problem with that is that someone who calls themselves a writer (in all-caps, too) in a public venue, needs to show that they know what the ever-loving-fuck language is about. That they understand the simple rules and how to get their basic points across.

Every word you write defines you as a writer. Every sentence you throw out there into the ether goes to your mastery of your craft.

And every error, big or small, chips away at your reputation. Every linguistic miss tells prospective readers that you probably aren’t worth reading.

Proofread you posts, your tweets, your emails. You can’t be 100% perfect every time, but by gum, you should be willing and able to give it a real and enthusiastic effort.


The sounds of silence: publishing scams and other beasts

There are a lot of pitfalls for hungry new authors out there.


And this article here will tell you all about them:
publishing scams

But there are other problematic things going on, too.

Sometimes, I get offers by email to submit my next novel to a small press. They beg me to check out their website and note the submission guidelines and then hurry up and submit because they have a lot of other writers clamoring for a chance to work with them.

Sometimes it’s just well-meaning friends, telling me I should totally check out this small press they are with, because definitely I deserve to have the burden of all this formatting and cover nonsense lifted from my shoulders, and don’t I want the “legitimacy” of being “really published”?

And sometimes I succumb to the blandishments and click on the link.

You know what I see, when I’m badgered into checking out a website for a small press?

I see their submission guidelines, and a lot of verbiage about what they are looking for (“We are excited to see works that sing to us/break new ground/push the edge of the envelope/make us weep/whatever”) and the minutiae of how your stuff should be formatted. They are meticulous about font and point size, about margins, and headers and footers, and the exact placement of your name and the title of the work being submitted.

Sometimes the website does mention that they’ll spring for a professional edit, but conversely, they almost never – in the absence of that declaration – admit up front that the writer will bear that cost.

Once in a while the site will mention how they market the books they publish (Twitter. Facebook. Maybe some attempts at paid advertising if they are really serious.)

Even, very, very occasionally, the small press site mentions the royalty split.

But you know what they don’t mention?

What advantage they can offer in the way of getting your book into libraries and bricks-and-mortar stores.

Not one site I have visited has ever noted what their distribution system is. They mention no partnerships with larger book distributors. There is no listing of the book rep staff, or representation of any kind.

And frankly, that’s the one thing I cannot, as a self-published author, do effectively for myself.

And that feeds back into my problem with traditional publishing models.

They are banking on the insecurity and need for validation that many writers have, in order to make money from our hard work.

But they’ve discovered that they need not offer much in the way of a return for the writer – that as a group, we are still so blinded by the words “published author” that we don’t even notice when we are being fleeced.

Don’t believe me?

The next time a small press puts out a call for submissions, or reaches out to you personally asking you to submit, ask them what their distribution system is. That’s all – just a simple sentence asking them if they field their own book reps to the libraries, chains, and independent bookstores, or have an agreement with a distribution company like Independent Book Publishers Association.

And then settle back to enjoy the soothing sound of nothing at all.


Flash Fiction Friday has returned!

It was only a candle.

In fact, it was only the stub of a candle, set on a battered pewter plate, and she didn’t light it right away, but sat waiting as the last faint rays of the sun faded away.

She knew what she needed to do, of course. She’d been well-schooled in the rituals. But part of her still hesitated. Was it right, to do this thing? Was it fair – to invoke the shadows for her own desires?

Her teachers had made her memorize the rules till she was word-perfect, but they had not ever explained those strictures.

Still, there had been nothing that explicitly said she should not. The couplet spoke only of having an unselfish heart.

She laid out the chalk circle.

She measured out the offerings of grain and water.

She lit the candle.

And snuffed out the bad luck of her village.

Flash Fiction Friday!

The flat was immaculately clean, and strangely empty. She must have gotten started almost as soon as he’d headed out for work. He imagined her doing one last load of laundry, stuffing her things into her suitcases, desperate to leave not even a ghost of her presence behind.

He felt nothing but regret. This was all his fault – he wasn’t enough, he had never been enough. Nothing in him was capable of giving anyone what they needed, no matter how hard he worked at it.

Time and again, he’d tried. He had a mental list of the things of the things people needed from him: questions to ask, small acts to perform, the need to be actively concerned, the need to allow others their space, the reminders to communicate.

But somehow, it wasn’t enough. He never timed it right, or the way he phrased things was wrong, or else they all saw through him and knew that it was just a list, a set of chores he had been instructed to perform.

And they all, to a man and woman, eventually walked out to find someone for whom these things came naturally. Someone who knew, instinctively, how to care for them.

It was a shock, therefore, when he heard the key turn in the lock of the door behind him, heard that door open, and, when he turned, to see her dancing into the front hallway, carrying a tiny evergreen tree in a gold-foil-covered pot, and wearing a happy, open-hearted smile of greeting.

“Look!” she said. “Isn’t it adorable? I found teeny-tiny ornaments, too. We’re going to have the most amazing Christmas – just you wait and see!”

Flash Fiction Friday!

Desiree was certainly beautiful. No one had ever denied it.

She was tall and slender, with long, well-shaped legs, and tight braids taming back  her jet-black mane, the better to show off those perfect features. She knew just how to stand and walk, hard-won skills of grace and agility, practiced for years, so that no one’s eyes ever strayed until she was out of sight.

Even her name – was there anything about this horse that one did not instantly want to possess?

The Need for Writer Diversity


A lot of the time, I think white writers pay a simplistic lip service to the idea of diversity in literature. It doesn’t matter what genre, but as a fantasy writer, that’s the milieu I know best, and believe me, the problem is rampant.

Because an awful lot of us (myself included) act as if all this means is white writers parachute in characters and settings that reflect more than northern European archetypes.


And I’m not saying this is not a good thing: more stories that let more people identify with characters is wonderful, and long overdue.


We also are becoming aware of the need to tackle some of the problems that PoC and non-binary/neuro-atypical  people face, and this too is mainly a good thing.

Mainly. But…

SFF has always been a place to challenge socio-political situations, to sound the warning bells about where we might be headed. But I have to say that what was written in 1955, while still somewhat valid and interesting, seems heavy-handed and unsubtle – and maybe that’s why most of it lies by the wayside now.


And this is one of the reasons I champion the need for white writers to make space for new voices.


When we tell stories of fascism and oppression, we are not nuanced. We paint these in broad strokes, in splashy colours. The allegorical and metaphorical devices we use are crude and obvious. We see these things in – pardon this expression – black and white. We do not see the middle ground.

“Oh!” I hear you cry. “But I can imagine it! That’s why I’m a writer! And my life hasn’t been a bed of roses, and I have no privilege, and all my Asian friends tell me I am not at all racist and…”



Your friends aren’t going to go out of their way to upset you by telling you something they know you don’t want to hear; “privilege” isn’t  saying your life hasn’t been difficult, but that the difficulties are NOT because of your skin colour (or whatever); intersectionality is a thing; and imagination can only take you so far.

Sure: you can imagine what it would be like – but there’s a good chance you’d still focus only on those big, obvious issues, and never even notice the myriad micro-aggressions that those we have labeled “Other” face all day, every day, in every situation they encounter.

We haven’t lived these stories. We haven’t spent every day battling these things – so much so that they hardly register as anything but “life as usual”.

We have merely observed the surface results.

Those who deal daily in the coin of prejudice and systemic bias can show us the rest of the reality, if we make room for it, and all of us, as writers and readers, will grow.


Flash Fiction Friday!

I’m staring at the photo but drawing a blank.

I feel I should know who the person in this picture is – everyone around me seems to think I do, in fact, know them, but nothing in my brain responds. I might as well be looking at a generic magazine ad.

I look up. I try to manufacture some kind of expression – a smile, a wistfulness, something appropriate – to fake recognition, but I can’t even tell what emotion they all expect me to feel.

But when I see their faces, I realize something else.

I don’t know who any of these people are, either.



*Have at it in the comments, people! Let’s see your quickies.