Practical Meerkat’s 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers, week 39

by Laura Anne Gilman

First: mea culpa.  This week was distilled chaos, and between jet lag, deadlines, and Rosh Hashana, I forgot to upload this before going offline Thursday.  So we are a day late.  Still, 39 weeks, and this is the first time I’ve blown the deadline?  Not too bad, in terms of career stats.

But here we are, and I’m about to tell you something very important.  Don’t Listen to Me.  Or Janet Reid, or Agentgame, or Sarah Weinman or Nathan Bransford or Joe Konrath, or MJ Rose or…

Hey yeah, I follow a lot of them on twitter, and read their blogs, same as anyone.  But you shouldn’t listen to them.  Or at least, not as much as you might want to.

One of the great things about publishing in the Internet age is that we have access to people with experience.  There’s far less floundering about: if you have a question and can get online, you can find an answer.

But there is a danger to that, too.  We find someone who is talking what sounds like good sense, or is saying what we want to hear – or who has a lot of followers, and therefore must be Right, or at least Important – and we become their adherents, hanging on their every tweet or post, repeating what they say as though it were the sole gospel.

This?  Is a very bad idea.  Not because those people are wrong, but because they’re not going to be right every time.  Nobody is.  Especially, nobody is right about what YOU should do, every time.

Yeah, even me.

Follow a range of people.  Read a variety of blogs.  Listen not to one voice, but a full spectrum, and take what they all say under consideration.  When you find a pattern, make note of it.  When you see an outlier, question it.  And above all, don’t venerate one person to the point of  pop star idolatry.

No, not even the person who is saying exactly what you want to hear, or the things that everyone else seems to be nodding their heads to and retweeting/liking/+1ing.

Publishing in an industry made up of best-guesses and specific cases.  The longer you spend in it, the more you understand that for every rule there is an exception, and for every market there is a trend, and it all changes.  If you hew to one particular set of experiences, and follow their lead without lifting your head to see what else is happening, you may very well miss out on the hint or tip or advice that will change your career, or give you a deeper understanding of what you want and how to get it.

Remember, “write what you know” doesn’t mean write less, but learn more.


Coming up in Week 40:  Retirement for Writers

Laura Anne Gilman is a former editor with Penguin/Putnam, and the author of more than a dozen novels, including the upcoming urban fantasy TRICKS OF THE TRADE (12/11), and THE SHATTERED VINE, Book 3 of the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy (10/11).  Her SF collection, DRAGON VIRUS, which SF Signal called “amazingly evocative….a potent ride through a changing future,” was published by Fairwood Press in June 2011.  For more info check her website, her BookView Cafe bookshelf, or follow her on Twitter (@LAGilman)  And yes, her nickname really is meerkat.


About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD was published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at Learn more at, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


Practical Meerkat’s 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers, week 39 — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: SF Tidbits for for 10/2/11 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog