Risks of the Writing Business

by Nancy Jane Moore

The world is full of people who want to write fiction. And since fiction writing doesn’t come with a clear career path of degrees, internships, junior staff positions, promotions, and the like, there’s a whole industry out there aimed at advising wannabe writers.

There are books, workshops, writers’ groups, conferences, coaches, MFA programs, retreats, and all kinds of online programs. Some of them are very useful indeed. Attending Clarion West was one of the best experiences of my life, and I’d bet 90 percent of the writers I know have at least one book on writing they’ve found valuable.

Unfortunately, there are also incompetent people trying to become agents or publishers and scams aimed at taking money off unsuspecting writers in return for supposed “publication.” Fortunately, SFWA sponsors a very useful program called Writer Beware® that alerts writers to dangers out there.

Writer Beware® has been very thorough and very effective, so it’s no surprise that they’ve made enemies. What is surprising is that at least one of those enemies is conducting a nasty online campaign against Writer Beware®, the volunteers who do the work (especially Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin), and even SFWA officers. 

I stumbled across this via a mention on boingboing, and got the details from John Scalzi’s blogpost about the issue. It seems this group, which calls itself “The Write Agenda,” put John on its list of authors to boycott. John is president of SFWA and this enemies list includes other SFWA officers (among them Book View Cafe’s own Amy Stering Casil).

I checked out the website (Scalzi links to it). One of the first things I did was try to figure out who was behind it. I always do that when I stumble across websites making strong claims. I want to know who is saying something and what their agenda might be.

But nowhere on The Write Agenda website could I find a list of the people behind it. For me, that would be a major red flag even if I didn’t know the outstanding integrity and credibility of the people they’re attacking. I’m sure there are situations where anonymous web posting is in order — Syria comes to mind — but this is not one of them.

If this site was started by someone who felt they’d been unfairly labeled as incompetent, or even a scammer, by Writer Beware®, you’d think they’d want to use their name so that they could attract people to their business.

They claim to be individuals and writers, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what individuals and writers get out of attacks on other writers and Writer Beware®. This isn’t simple disagreement with the philosophy or strategy of Writer Beware®; it’s a vicious attack on volunteers whose only sin has been providing useful information to writers.

It looks to me like the agenda of “The Write Agenda” doesn’t have anything to do with helping writers.

This kind of attack on people who give their time in service to other people brings to mind an old saying:

No good deed goes unpunished.

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Flashes of IlluminationFlashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.

My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.

Both books are $2.99 and available in four DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, prc, and pdf.

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Risks of the Writing Business — 8 Comments

  1. Thanks Nancy and Vonda for this post. Will follow the tweet feed. Writer Beware is one of those sites like Wikipedia that you end up using even if you don’t have it bookmarked. It shows up whenever you ask a question in Google about something or someone. Least I can do is support it in its hour of need.

  2. Sharon Lee wrote about this on her blog and now this group has “blacklisted” her. I read about it from Sharon’s Facebook entries.

  3. I re-posted on my blog and dared them to blacklist me. However, I have not logged on. This type of vicious campaign could easily pack nasty viruses or worms or trojans, so I stayed away and did not even poke with a ten foot pole.