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Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 11th, 2010, 4:59 pm
by LydiaSharp
We're all learning, every day. In fact, that's why we're here, isn't it? How many of us are professionals? (don't answer that)
I don't consider myself a professional, but I still think I have something worth sharing, aka whatever experience/knowledge I've gained since I started my writing venture. Which is a lot. Especially in the past year.

It's just my nature to want to help people. Is that so wrong?

This week on my blog I'm posting interviews from EXTREMELY TALENTED, yet AS OF NOW UNPUBLISHED authors. I received a bit of flack from someone (on another community) who felt that there is nothing anyone can learn from an unpublished author. I highly disagree. The comments I've received on my post today prove that others disagree as well.

In fact, two of the interviewees have been crucial to my personal development as a writer, but ... hmm ... they're not published yet, and I am.

Does that really matter?

I'd like to know what you all think of this. And if you're curious about what kind of suggestions and advice these unpublished authors are giving, visit Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week (1/11, 1/13, & 1/15, to clarify).

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 11th, 2010, 5:39 pm
by MedleyMisty
Eh, just sounds like someone is a bit too much into tradition and status and money and isn't very open-minded. It's not worth stressing over. If you're helped by people who aren't published yet or choose to not try to get published, then hey - they helped you and it was good and valuable and some random stuffed shirt on the internet can't take that away from you.

Although I certainly understand the temptation to engage in righteous anger against prejudiced people who have boxes in their minds that they slot people into and then arrange in a hierarchy of value. Grrr.


Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 11th, 2010, 5:43 pm
by LydiaSharp
Haha. I wasn't trying to exact revenge on him. Not worth it. I was just wondering, since so many of us amateurs also blog about writing. It's easy to say to a pro, "That's great advice. Thanks." You can usually assume they know what they're talking about (although, yes, there is bad advice out there, professional or not). But if you know someone is unpublished, does that affect your view of their advice before you even read it?

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 11th, 2010, 6:35 pm
by Tzalaran
i don't worry about if someone is un/published when they are giving me advice, i worry about the quality of that advice. Tips or comments that i find useful, i use and thank the person, those that aren't useful i ignore and thank the person for their time.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 11th, 2010, 7:02 pm
by Kaitlyne
I agree that the quality of advice is most important. I've seen some published writers say some goofy things before, and I've gotten some good advice from unpublished authors before. Heck, I'm unpublished (mostly, a short story ten years ago hardly counts :P), but I like to think I give decent advice. I also like to think I'm a decent writer aside from not being published, but I could just be delusional. ;)

I actually get frustrated when I come across the attitude that because I'm unpublished my opinion doesn't count, or that I don't know what I'm doing. I've done plenty of research and I'm a learner. It's what I do. I certainly don't know everything, but that also doesn't mean I know nothing. I'll listen to professionals and those more experienced than me because they are valuable resources that I can learn from, but amateurs can be, too.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 11th, 2010, 9:52 pm
by Trustedwriter
I am (so far) unpublished, but I've been writing for as long as I can remember, and I enjoy sharing tips and ideas. Even if I don't blog in the public eye or dispense advice widely, I have friends who write and I like to be encouraging and helpful to them...I don't want to keep my knowledge to myself! And I don't think I'm a bad writer just because I'm not published yet, so I do think my advice has some value.

I myself find writing advice wherever I can get it. Whether it's from a published author or not doesn't matter to me if it's helpful.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 11th, 2010, 11:48 pm
by Nathan Bransford
I learn from unpublished authors all the time, and I've been doing this for a living for 7 years now.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 12th, 2010, 8:55 am
by Hillsy
Interesting that there appears to be a direct comparison to the "Am I Crazies", albeit advice has an infinately lower standard. Think about it. If you give someone advice, you're basically confident that what you say has worth (otherwise you're just postulating and playing it off as substantiated fact), and there is that same value judgement applied to any aspiring writers work. The former is often backed, the latter often found wanting. But I digress.

I'll go partway against the grain. When I was younger me Dad gave me some advice (oh the irony) about advice. "Everyone's got some to give, but not everyone should be handing it out. All you can do is listen and work out afterwards if it was worth it. The real trick is working out who to listen to in the first place." Ok thats not verbatum but it's pretty close. Yes, you can always hear good advice from unpublished writers and I would never dismiss anyones advice out of hand, but given the limited nature of time, you're going to tend towards the experts. In this case the "experts" are publishers, agents and writers.

I could argue that the advice most people give has already been made by someone more qualified than them, and therefore does it need saying? I could argue that, perversly, people exercising their right to give advice without proven experience to back them up is in fact what CAUSES these snap judgemnts; that with so many people speaking of their wisdom, you cannot hear the wise. I could argue that there is very little advice actually given, instead we are subjected to anecdotes whose actual use is blinded by egotism and arrogance. But in the end the reality is you'll never know how good advice is until you hear it. The trick is knowing who to listen to in the first place.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 12th, 2010, 12:59 pm
by Seamus
There is a lot of truth on either side of this. I have gotten gems from children and neophytes and I have gotten rocks from experts. Being somewhere below an amateur writer myself, I appreciate the sentiments of those further along that say they would listen to my advice. But it seems like this is different for those who are still aspiring. The egalitarians in each of us want to not draw a distinction between ourselves and those not as far along as we are. I have to say that, as an infant myself, I bend ever-so-slightly toward asking advice about success from those who have succeeded. I'll let you know if it feels differently from the top when I get there.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 12th, 2010, 5:52 pm
by kristi
All published authors began as unpublished authors. Are we supposed to believe that up until the date these unpublished writers crossed the line to being published authors that they had nothing of value to offer others? I don't buy that for a second. I'm learning more each day from a variety of writers -- both unpublished and published. In fact, my crit groups involve both published and unpublished writers and my best critique came from an unpublished writer. People who feel others are beneath them are usually suffering from their own self-esteem issues. Sorry, that's my psychologist side coming out but it's true. Good topic Lydia.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 12th, 2010, 6:14 pm
by Scott
A real pro will clarify what's worked for them. Someone with a big mouth will skip that part.

There are more reasons for not being published than knowledge of the craft, so I'd say listen to whomever you want.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 13th, 2010, 3:33 am
by casnow
I think when it comes to critiquing manuscripts advice from unpublished authors is just as valid as from published authors because they have just as much experience READING. We are all consumers of books, and so we know when something has it. Most of us are also pretty good with grammar, syntax, etc, and can offer good edits. Besides, it's almost impossible to find published authors that are willing to give advice as freely and often as unpublished authors.

The one thing that I do think published authors bring to the table is the experience of generating multiple novels, working within deadlines, and the business side of writing.

In the end though, I think the "average" published author probably isn't that much better of a writer than many unpublished authors, it's just that they have stuck with it longer, put in the time polishing and re-polishing their work, and had one successful query letter!

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 13th, 2010, 4:08 am
by fionaw
For me, this actually divides into three places you can get advice - amateur writers, published writers and professionals such as writers/editors who have experience beyond their own work. All can have useful things to say - but the proportion of wheat to chaff varies a great deal.

The latter group are particularly relevant to me right now as I got tired of simply getting line edits from critiquers when what I needed was advice on structure and pacing.

I submitted a manuscript to a professional editing company, for hard cash, to see what they would make of it. The 11 page report pinpointed several significant issues I wasn't aware of, and gave me more useful information than I got in two years on a Masters.

I think you need to be clear about where you are as a writer, and exactly what sort of advice you need. My decision was based on making it to the partials/fulls stage with submissions; the question I had was what turned an enthusiastic response into a rejection, and I decided the best person to answer that was an industry professional.

Your questions may be different.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 14th, 2010, 10:09 am
by Vio
While I would say that advice coming from published authors is almost always trustworthy, it doesn't mean that the reverse statement is automatically true. Unpublished authors aren't automatically bad and clueless (although of course many of them are). A few of them might be a lot better than many published ones, but perhaps they can't write a good query letter to save their life, or, unlike Christopher Paolini, they don't have parents running a publishing house. Even leaving those factors aside, it's a fact about the writer's market that only a fraction of the huge number of writers will ever get published - meaning that the difference between the authors who are just good enough to get published and the ones who are just not good enough to get published is infintesimally small. There is no reason to discard their advice just because they are unpublished - many of them have been writing their entire life, are extremely experienced writers, and I am fairly convinced there is a lot of good advice coming from such writers.

Personally, I like to think that it's not that hard to keep apart good from bad advice when you see it.

Re: Advice From Amateurs?

Posted: January 14th, 2010, 5:26 pm
by MoiraYoung
Being an "amateur" myself, I'm not sure how my opinion counts on this one ... ;)

Seriously, though? I think that when it comes to writing, I've been listening to advice since I was twelve. At this point, I've learned to discriminate somewhat. There are only so many different subtopics before you engage the realm of metaphor (Libba Bray's "Writing a novel, a love story" comes to mind), but I find I naturally gravitate to whoever has something worth saying, whether they're published or not.

Then it all comes full circle, and I realize that aside from advice that is just plain common sense, in the end I have to listen to myself. "Myself" may be informed by everything I've read/heard/been told, but all of it is tempered by the forces that make me me.

On a related note, I've noticed a similar resistance to the word "when". As in, "when I get published". But that's probably a topic for a different post.