There's been an article going around the writerly circles of the Intarwebz lately about an author who stalked and confronted the person she felt was her "#1 critic."
Now, fuck knows why the Guardian chose to publish this particular piece (I personally suspect it has to do with attention-whoring on the part of both the outlet and the author in order to increase the sales numbers of both parties, but that's my opinion), but publish it they did, and - as we've discussed multiple times on this blog - THE INTERNET IS FOREVER. There are no take-backs on the Internet. You can't un-ring the bell once you pull that cord, so...yeah. Even if they wanted to take the article down (and there has been outcry for them to do that very thing), it wouldn't be gone. There's Internet archives, screenshots, reblogs...this is now on-record and what did I just say?
THE INTERNET IS FOREVER.
Which brings me to the point of this little rant. Our mission here at the ELEW is to whip inkslingers - both burgeoning and seasoned veterans - into shape. It's right there in black and white: "The Evil League of Evil Writers does not support whining, crying, sniveling, whimpering or bawling about writing, publishing or any aspect thereof. If you're looking for a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear about the rejection letter you've gotten from a literary agent, or a bad review of your work, you will not find it here." So, you can guess how well this latest debacle went over with me.
The mental health of the author in question is not the issue here. (It's been shown through various posts written by the author herself that she has a history since adolescence of behavior/mental/emotional instability. These are facts, not a critique of the author's personality. Thank you to co-founder Bitchstress Dreamkiller for the research links provided.) What is in question here is professionalism and the lack thereof in this particular instance.
It's been discussed here before that you do not respond to reviews of your work, not even to thank the reviewer for reading your work.
YOU DO NOT RESPOND TO REVIEWS OF YOUR WORK.
REPEAT AFTER ME.
YOU DO NOT RESPOND TO REVIEWS OF YOUR WORK.
BOLDED: YOU DO NOT RESPOND TO REVIEWS OF YOUR WORK.
UNDERLINED: YOU DO NOT RESPOND TO REVIEWS OF YOUR WORK.
ITALICIZED: YOU DO NOT RESPOND TO REVIEWS OF YOUR WORK.
ALL THREE: YOU DO NOT RESPOND TO REVIEWS OF YOUR WORK.
Do you fucking get it now?
"But Dina," you say, wringing your hands. "You thanked people when you were a baby writer! You fucking hypocrite!"
Yeah? Well, guess what? I didn't have a website like this one to tell me NOT TO DO THAT. It wasn't until much later in my career that I learned how professionals respond to reviews, and that was from reading the blogs of professionals I admired. And you know what they ALL said? "DON'T FUCKING RESPOND TO REVIEWS NOT EVEN TO SAY THANK YOU!" Once I learned that, I didn't thank anyone else. I knew enough to not respond to criticism, so I was safe there, but once I learned the "DO NOT ENGAGE" tenet, I adhered stringently.
"But Dina," you say, your brow furrowing in annoyance. "Big Author X thanks people/reposts reviews/does stuff you're saying not to here! They're a Big Name Author and they do it, so it must be okay!"
Yeeeeeaaaah, no. Just because they do something doesn't mean it's okay for you do to. Think of it like a professional sportsperson - just because they can perform a certain feat doesn't mean you can do it with the same finesse or skill. You are not them, so don't try to be.
Also, part of the reason you don't reply to any review/criticism, positive or negative, is because you'll be tempted to respond no matter what, and that's a dangerous precedent to set. Best to avoid all contact instead of limiting yourself to only a certain type. Further, it makes you look like a douchebag when you constantly point out positive or negative reviews to your fans/followers. One says, "Whee! Look at me! This person thinks I'm awesome! Go see!" and the other says, "Whee! Look at this douchebag! They think I suck! Go tell them they're wrong!" See what I mean, here? Either way you look like an asshat. So don't do it.
Now, the above stated, let's get into some specifics regarding the above article. The author in question, for all intents and purposes, STALKED the person online she felt was causing her the most "harm." I'm not going to get into mental health issues/thin skin/personality problems or any other "reason" anyone might come up with to defend this author's CRIMINAL behavior. Just because there's a potential reason does not excuse the behavior. Like that fucknugget douchebag who murdered those women in California not too long ago. Just because he had reasons for his issues doesn't excuse the fact that he committed murder. Yeah, I went there. I made the comparison. I don't want to hear any whining about how the two crimes aren't at all similar, because guess what?
They are. They're both crimes. They were both committed by people who felt wronged in some way. Jim C. Hines has a fantastic article on the difference between victim and perpetrator in regards to this butt-hurt author's wangst, and I agree with his assessment one hundred percent. This author not only broke the unwritten "do not engage" rule, she broke what amounts to the writer's equivalent of the fourth wall - that space kept between writers and critics.
Dear Author has an excellent piece on why some people (bloggers, critics, writers) choose anonymity, and the author in question is one of the reasons.
Writers like her are the reason we can't have nice things. She is part of the problem. DO NOT BE PART OF THE PROBLEM. If you don't want to be criticized, this game is not for you. Because you know what?
There will always be someone out there you're going to annoy, hurt, or piss off. Hell, they might just not like you, your writing, your cat...whatever.
Some people are just assholes, and they glory in it. You know what the secret is?
I'll tell you. Get a pen and write this down on a sticky note and put it above your computer monitor. Ready? Here it is:
DO NOT FUCKING CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK.
I know. It's way easier said than done. Believe me, I know. It took me many, many years to accept, and many more to put into practice, but that's really the secret.
Do not fucking care what other people think.
You are never going to make everyone happy. Someone will always disagree with you, hate you, think you're an idiot, whatever. If you spend your whole life trying to make everyone happy, you're just going to end up a miserable mess. So you write what you want to write, and only give a rat's ass what someone has to say about your shit when it's someone who has an actual effect on the direction you wish to go. (Hint: This is not people on Goodreads.)
Example: a literary agent rejects you with a standard, impersonal, form rejection. Okay. Fine. YOU DO NOT WRITE TO THEM AND TELL THEM WHY THEY ARE WRONG TO DO SO. You accept it and move on. They're not offering a critique, nor do they have time to do so, so just move along. Cry in your beer for a night if you must (I know it hurts, but it's just for a minute, so down a shot of tequila and get back to work), but don't post a whiny screed on your blog about how that agent sucks for rejecting you. DO NOT ENGAGE.
Example: a literary agent rejects you with a personalized rejection listing a few things about your work that could be improved. This is an instance where you may POLITELY THANK them for their time and suggestions. This is NOT a time where you tell them their suggestions suck and so do they for not accepting your genius. See, this is one of those people who has an effect on the direction you wish to go. You can care about what they think. Go ahead. Just don't let how you feel affect how you react.
That's the trick to this whole "not caring" thing. When you do care what someone else thinks, you're still responsible for what your caring makes you do. You are STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR BEHAVIOR.
Don't be the reason we can't have nice things. Don't be a douchebag author.
Fuck, don't be a douchebag, period. The world has enough douchebags without you adding to them.