"Keep your temper," said the Caterpillar

Advice is a funny thing. You have to be careful who you get it from. Or perhaps, it doesn’t really matter who you get it from, as long as you know which advice to pay attention to and which to jettison. Of course, the advice givers all seem to whole-heartedly believe their advice is the best. They’d like you to think so. As I grow more cynical over the years, I’ve come to believe that some people deliberately give bad advice. Maybe it would be kinder to say: advice that they’ve tailored to match what they think you should be doing.

There’s an art to knowing who to listen to. Maybe an art to knowing who to ask and a craft to knowing who to listen to. On a writers loop I receive, one gal asked for advice from pubbed authors on a contest she was considering entering for unpubbed authors. It was clear she’d mistaken the rules and several other unpubbed authors chimed in helpfully, because they also intended to enter the contest and pointed out her misunderstanding. The original questioner came back that she had asked only the pubbed authors and would only listen to their advice.

The best part of this is that “pubbed” in this context refers only to romance novels. RWA recognizes you as a published author only if you’ve published in the genre. So my university press essay collection aside, my years of short stories, essays and articles in magazines, journals and anthologies aside, within the genre halls of RWA I am once again unpubbed. Or, as the more unkind say, a wannabe.

This is ironic to me, because I can only imagine a scene in which a “literary” writer informs a romance author that she’s unpubbed because she has only published genre fiction. While many may believe that, it seems unlikely they’d take a snobbish enough stance to make it a rule. Which makes this a form of reverse-snobbery.

All of this is by-the-by. It is what it is and I really don’t mind. But I do think the newbies (on the kindness scale, this falls somewhere between unpubbed and wannabe — never mind the ghastly euphemism “pre-pubbed”) should take advice with a grain of salt and a hunk of magic mushroom.

Just because someone is willing to give you advice doesn’t mean they want you to succeed.

Now THERE is some good advice for you!

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