Writing Wrongs

December 23, 2005

Posts over on Writer Beware (an excellent blog, if youíre new to submitting your work, check them out), have sparked a small firestorm in the blogsphere about scam agents and the like. I plucked this comment from the fray:

As for the scam agents...well, anyone who is stupid enough for fall for that crap deserves to be taken for a ride. I can't abide people who don't make an effort to educate themselves when there is so much information just a few key strokes away.

Really? Get what they deserve? Ouch. I will say that I do believe in self-education when it comes to both writing and the publishing industry. Donít just listen to the first source you come across. Ask why. Search out other opinions. Gather information and sift through it, determine what is reasonable and what is crap. Because along with all that information out there, thereís an equal amount of misinformation.

Maybe itís my intelligence background, but Iím shocked that people donít search out information, donít use a search engine--or even, they donít know they can use a search engine to find things.

But I never, ever, think people deserve to be taken in by a scammer. Itís the scammers I canít abide, these people who deliberately prey on other peopleís dreams. Is it a matter of desperation on the writerís part? Willful ignorance? A lack of knowledge? How can you know when you donít know something?

I had a dear writing friend (yes, past tense, he died a few years back) who was what I would call a natural-born storyteller. Never took a writing class, was mostly self-educated, made a good living (he was a cameraman among other things, but never put together a rťsumť). He discovered the internet and we both discovered a writing site at about the same time, so we were assigned to the same group.

The first time he posted a story, the entire thing was one single paragraph. No paragraph breaks for dialogue, no breaks for a change of scene. I had to paste it into my word processor and give it breaks before I could read it. When I asked him to post this way (with breaks) in the future, it led to a discussion of manuscript format for submitting work.

Heíd never heard of that. For years, heíd been submitting work in one, long paragraph. Can you imagine page after page of one, long paragraph? Neither could the editors he submitted to, Iím betting, because it was the constant rejection that had him signing up for the workshop in the first place.

I showed him how to format, and the next thing he submitted, he sold. In fact, he started selling on a regular basis. One day, we were both online when he sent me a story he wrote that morning. By the time I read and returned an email raving about it, heíd sold it. Yeah, he was that good. And a wonderful, giving person.

But he didnít know what it was he didnít know.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 10:23 a.m.

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