Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
Seanan McGuire
seanan_mcguire

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Playing nicely with the other children: Authors, Readers, and Reviewers.

When I first "became" an author—which makes it sound sort of like a Pokemon evolutionary step; "Apsirasaurus has become Professiosaur!"—I viewed the tangled world of online writing communities and book reviewers with trepidation, like I was about to discover a whole new world. One filled with dangers unknown and hardships unknowable (but hopefully equipped with a hot Goblin King waiting for me in skin-tight pants). I was an idealist, and I admit it; I really expected that everyone was going to play nicely with everyone else. Or maybe I was an idiot. I don't really know. Anyway, I was armed with a few simple rules that I intended to stick by if they killed me:

1. Don't read reviews.

2. Who am I kidding? You're going to read reviews even if someone holds a gun to your head. So go ahead and read reviews, but don't reply to reviews, and especially don't argue with reviews.

3. The Internet is forever, and there is no privacy lock so secure that it can't be broken. If you need to vent, do it off-line, with close friends, not in a forum where you could later be forced to eat your words.

4. Don't be Princess Demandy-Pants. If you want something, ask nicely. If you're told "no," accept nicely. If you stomp your feet and scream, people will laugh at you.

5. Don't be a dick.

I have done my best to live by these rules, even when it's hard. Sometimes, yeah, I want to reply to reviewers. Sometimes, yeah, I want to yell at people, or go "but that's not what I meant," or ask them if they even read the books. Sometimes I want to stomp my feet and scream, and at those moments, I don't really care if people will laugh at me. Most of the time, I think I succeed in playing nicely with the other children, and when I don't think I can do it anymore, I'm pretty good about getting the hell away from the keyboard before I say something that I'm going to regret later. Do I fuck up? Yeah. Only human, table for one! But I try.

calico_reaction recently posted a very thorough and thoughtful consideration of appropriate authorial behavior on the Internet, especially as regards interacting with reviewers and review blogs. "But wait!" cries Annie Author. "Isn't everyone equal on the Internet? Can't I say what I want, when I want, where I want to say it?" Well, sure, Annie. Just remember as you do that people will judge your work, for better or for worse, through the lens of your actions. So if you argue every time you get a negative review, shove your way into discussions of your books, and generally act like a brat, some people will say "No, I don't want to read that book, the author sucks." That's just the way the world works.

I try to think of other people's blogs as their homes, or, at worst, as panel rooms at a large, exceedingly eclectic convention. I may be allowed to visit, join in conversations, and even disagree with things that are said to me, but if I act like a total jerk, I should expect to be kicked out on my little blonde butt. And yes, this also means accepting that there are some conversations where I am genuinely not welcome, and would genuinely not add anything to the proceedings. Is it hard? Sometimes. Is it essential? Absolutely.

There's this phrase that gets bandied around a lot: "authorial intent." Even if you're not a writer, you've experienced authorial intent. Authorial intent is where you tell someone that you love the way she's wearing her hair, and she jumps straight to "OH GOD YOU THINK MY FACE IS HIDEOUS." Wait...what? No, no, that was a compliment on your hair...only it doesn't matter what you meant, because the interpretation of your statement is a personal thing. No matter how careful or precise you are, there's going to be somebody who reads your beautiful story of true love between a plush bear and a wooden toy rabbit and interpret it as a socio-political commentary on why baking kittens is bad (PS: baking kittens is bad). It can't be helped. But you know what? Correcting the people who believe that doesn't change their minds. It just makes you look like a jerk.

On the flip side of the coin, Presenting Lenore did a really fantastic post about appropriate behavior for book bloggers. Many of her tips apply to writers and reviewers alike, as they are frequently of the "don't be a Princess Demandy-Pants" variety.

We all occasionally need a little time to sit in the corner and think about what we've done, or just to stalk away and cool off. It's always nice to see more coherent heads than mine putting this into words that make sense. Hooray for playing nice!
Tags: contemplation
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