Internet Authors Dont Need Friends

By: Mike Scantlebury

There are plenty of resources out there for people who want to write a book, or people who have written one and want to see it published. Websites like Lulu will provide facilities for you to upload your files and turn them into a format that will allow 'print on demand'. Before you know it, the would-be writer is able to see their work in print and buy copies for their friends and relatives.

There are several types of friends. Some of them know you, and realise that your ambition to write is real and means a lot to you. They are the sort of people who will see your excitement and share it. When you show them your new work, they will be pleased for you and offer words of encouragement. They will coo and be happy for you, support you and encourage you in your quest for publication. When there are setbacks - as there will be - they will commiserate and share cups of tea, sit with you through the bad times and push you on for one more try. They are friends worth having.

There are other types of friends. For instance, there are the people who 'like to be honest'. If you offer that standard enquiry, 'Does my bum look big in this?', they see some value in letting you know the worst, deflating your ego in one short phrase, all for your own good, of course. So, does it look big? No, it looks enormous. Sorry, they say, but I'm your friend and I think you need to know. Why? When does anyone need to be crushed? When is it ever going to do them any good? If your 'friend' thinks you need to be knocked off your pedestal, and diverted out of all this high-faluting publishing nonsense, then you really need to ask yourself who is helping whom? Who benefits from painful truth? 'The truth hurts', they say. Well, only for the person getting slapped down. Delivering put-downs is actually quite pain free, in my experience. I've learned a long time ago that 'honest criticism' is usually neither honest nor critical, in the sense that it might accomplish anything. Far better to stick with your supporters, as above.

There is a third category, and that is the people that are in the same boat as you. Somehow you feel that these are ones that you should be friends with. After all, they are suffering what you're suffering, climbing the mountains you're climbing. You share values and ambitions, don't you? Surely you will be able to help each other. Well, this is the philosophy that the whole Self Help Movement is based on, and yes, experience seems to show that it works with problems of addiction and self destruction. However, hopeful authors are in another category entirely. Each one is trying to create a new thing, a book perhaps, a novel. They often need help, advice, creative suggestions and ideas. They don't need people telling them they're wasting their time, aiming too high, or should be happy with what they've got - which is what a lot of Self Helpers will do. They also don't need anyone who pinches their plans or takes things from them. In the long run, every author is in competition with each other, aren't they, competing for readers, for sales? They can complain together, of course, and if you've ever been to any kind of Literary Convention, you will know that the professional writers spend all their time in the bar moaning about publishers and advances. 'Creative'? Not with each other!

The strange thing, then, is that would-be authors are always encouraged to join Writers' Groups and make friends, to 'learn from each other', which is a good thing, and 'support each other', which may happen, or may not. Stranger still, writers who sign on with Lulu are encouraged to join the Groups on there - fellow authors, you see. Of course, there's much to share, you're assured, and much to learn. But authoring is a strange business. At the end of the day, it's just you and a blank sheet of paper, and one thing you are aiming at is to be different - to NOT be that other guy who writes crime stories, or romances, or whatever. You will be asked by newspaper critics to have a 'fresh voice', a different point of view, a new take on the world. The only way you can do that is to be a separate person, surely? People and friends can help you with that, but not when you're there at your desk, being creative. Then is when you have to be yourself, an individual. If you're going to copy your friends; or try and please your friends; or fit in with your friends and what they want; or be a friend to people who don't want to write; then you're going to lose something. The uniqueness which the reader actually values. That's what they're looking for when they open your book. They don't want to know that you're the same as anyone else, or as good as them, or in their Circle. They want you to be yourself. That's a lonely stance, but a necessary one, and it is inherent in being a writer. At that point, it doesn't count how many friends you've got. It's just words on paper, and they better be good.


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