By David T. Valentin
For any writer who may have been away from their keyboard or social media yesterday, they missed out on the trend #HarshWritingAdvice. Although I could not find what started the hashtag or what prompted the discussion, after doing some searching it seems the discussion was brought up when someone had made the comment that writers are in constant competition with one another. Whoever had written the original statement had never actually had any writer friends themselves, or attended a writing conference, or belonged to any writing group.
Naturally, the internet went wild and responded with their own little stories and memes of writers being good friends with one another.
As a writer, just two summers ago before the world went into a harsh lockdown, I had the opportunity to attend the RWA 2019 conference in New York. I was young (still am) in the publishing industry and just getting my foot in the door. Not only that but I was just getting into seriously hunkering down after college and doing some writing. I admit, at first I half expected to see a bunch of snobbish, competitive people trying to step over each other to prove their writing was better than another writer all while trying to publish their books. After all, everyone had told me that publishing is a brutal industry.
What I had found instead was an incredibly loving family of friends and colleagues uplifting each other, helping each other, and advising each other with even just a smidge of whatever advice they can to just get a little further. At the dinners people were sharing stories, reminiscing of how they met at other writing groups, talking about their stories, and just genuinely being friendly towards one another.
In other words, just because the industry is hard to get into and it is hard to get published, doesn’t mean that we have to step on one another trying to get to the top. Afterall, writing is a dialogue and without each other we’d just be talking to a wall.
And as an editor, I can assure you that no one has ever personally made my writing better, or a fellow writers, by shitting on someone’s writing and being incredibly harsh. A good editor will always find what an author does well and help them do more of that throughout a manuscript. And whatever they do poorly, we must encourage them to do less of or help them get better at what they’re lacking. As I always say to the authors I work with, “this is good, but I know you can do better.”
That’s not to say that there’s no such thing as bad writing. There most certainly is. But I refuse to believe that something so subjective, so different from person to person, can’t be improved; can’t be taught, so long as a writer has a good editor, or the time to practice, practice, practice.