Hello and welcome back to the blog! I’m still chipping away at the second book in the Breaking Character Series, tentatively titled A Grave Awakening. More queries were sent out this week for From Darkness Comes… and I’m still awaiting query responses from the first book in the Breaking Character Series. The timeframe given by the agents on the latter are set to expire later this month. It’s looking like Breaking Character won’t net me an agent, yet I remain hopeful regarding my writing journey. This week I wanted to talk a little about writer hate. You know, writers that hate other writers. I have concluded that I know far too much about it.
There have been many notable feuds between writers. William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway had a feud over each other’s vocabulary. Stephen King and James Patterson traded barbs several years ago over the similarities of all of Patterson books. King even took a slight at Stephanie Meyer once, saying Meyer “can’t write worth a darn.” Not to mention a backhanded compliment delivered by King to Dean Koontz, who “can write like hell”, while other times is “just awful”. Yes, you’ll have to forgive me, I’m a King fan, so I’m tuned into who he does and doesn’t like.
If you’re wondering, and I know you are, there are writers I care so little for that I would use the dreaded hate word. A couple of years ago I finally got around to reading The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien. Writers and readers alike have been praising this work, along with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I’ll admit my expectations were high. Tolkien didn’t live up to them. Don’t get me wrong, the overall story arc was entertaining. Yet, I found his writing subpar and grew tired of his tendency to describe the unimportant. Sorry to those of you who are fans, but I’m not.
After reading King’s comments about Stephanie Meyer I decided to give Twilight a try. My early impression was that he was right, she was at best an average writer. However, that wasn’t what got my blood boiling over Meyer. After all, if you read as much as I do, you’re bound to come across some bad writers. No, it was her respect for the horror genre or rather lack thereof. Her sparkly vampire disregarded the lore created by an entire genre that had made her book possible. When I got to the section where Edward’s sparkling nature is revealed, I put the book down and walked away, never to return. Also, as a horror writer I was miffed by the sudden onslaught of vampire stories that caused magazine editors to banish the nocturnal fiend from their pages.
My feelings for Meyer may have been influenced by King. However, the same cannot be said for James Patterson. Years ago (I believe this was before King even made his comment, and know it was before I read it), I read an article describing Patterson’s writing process. At the time it included a detailed outline, which he sent to a cowriter, who therein wrote the first draft of the story. It was then returned to Patterson, who completed another draft and turned it into a novel. Yes, that’s why every Patterson book seems to have a cowriter mentioned on the cover. Go ahead, look for it, it’ll be there. As a lover of the creative process involved in writing I didn’t understand this, and still don’t. It turns the writing process until a virtual assembly line. That’s something I just don’t respect.
A few weeks ago, I got into a Twitter argument with another writer over the use of adverbs in fiction. My stance: a writer worth his salt can come up with a more appropriate word that the adverb is trying to modify. This writer chose to address my opinion rather than stating his own and did so with snark. Ever the king of snark, I responded. After a brief back and forth, which involved an insult and a claim that “said” was an adverb (hint: it’s not), both on his part, I was blocked. Silliness is what it was. An argument over the use of adverbs? I usually walk away from such confrontations on social media but didn’t that time. Yes, I learned my lesson if you were wondering.
(Editing note: I’m keenly aware that I use adverbs, but it’s with discretion and never after dialogue tags, which was his main point, other than not understanding parts of speech. I had assumed he had blocked me because of our argument. While that might be true, I think making an error was also a big part of it. He was too busy attempting to twist my words against me, that he didn’t realize he was wrong. I was too offended by having my words twisted to realize his error. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t realize it, because I don’t think I could have passed up the opportunity to throw it in his face. I was that mad. Don’t go thinking too highly of me though, I assaulted his character for attempting to twist my words. Not a proud moment, but it happened.)
So, why is it that adults who should know better make snarky or snide comments regarding another person’s abilities? Is it jealousy? A superiority complex? Or an inability to shut up? I’m sorry to say that most of us have forgotten something our mothers, grandmas, and teachers told us growing up. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Juvenile, I know. Yet so is ridiculing another writer because you don’t care for his writing ability or creative process (I’m guilty of both if you recall).
Several months ago, I unfollowed a self-proclaimed polymath (yes, you read that right) on Twitter who put both other writers and the writing community down on a regular basis. This writer/artist often complained about how other writers attacked him or instigated arguments. Ironic, right? He even went so far as to say the artist community was superior to the writing community and the latter was full of giant egos (yet his was the biggest I have encountered in eight months on Twitter). Look, pat yourself on the back all you want. I won’t stop you, nor will I join in on the patting. However, ridiculing others on a constant basis, then acting pompous and innocent when called out is where I draw the line. After reading several of his comments, I put my phone down and walked away for the rest of the day. The urge to sling mud at this man was strong, somehow, I resisted. The next day I unfollowed.
This is the part of the post where I reach for some sort of conclusion out of my rambling and try to sound profound. I’m not a psychologist, so I won’t try to delve into why we hate or what it does to our individual psyche, though I’m sure it’s not good (#insight). While prepping for this blog post I had a thought that struck me as useful, so I’ll share it. In the early days of this blog, my paternal grandma would read every post and still does from time to time. While I was writing, I often considered what she would say about the subject matter of my posts. That’s what I suggest for everything you write, say, or post on social media. Whether she be an earthbound saint, like my paternal grandma, or a heavenly one, like my maternal grandma, act like she reads everything and try not to make her blush.
Until next time, remember to follow your dreams, even if they terrify you.
(A post editing note: I have received several new followers in recent days and weeks. In fact, someone just emailed me regarding how to receive email updates from the website. I’m afraid something went wrong when I tried to respond via email. I’ll do it here in case someone else needs help.
When you’re on the website there is a small box in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, which stays there. Click on follow in that box. You’ll be prompted for an email address to set-up a free WordPress account. After entering your email address you’ll receive an email to confirm. That’s it. You’ll receive emailed updates about the website.)
Stephen Michael Roth