Do Writers Need To Be Supportive Of Each Other?

Do writers need to be supportive of each other, as if we are all part of one big dysfunctional family, as if all writers are the same, or at least connected in some way? I can see that it’s important not to be envious of those who make it big, since envy destroys the envier, but I see no reason to be glad of the success some writers attain, especially those who write books I would not read if they were the last books left on the face of the earth. Nor do I see any reason to celebrate the success of someone I have never met or have never exchanged so much as a single eword. Nor do I see any reason to encourage writers to write. Those who want to write, write. It’s as simple as that.

To some extent, almost all people are writers, even if they just jot shopping lists, post status updates, and respond to email messages, but this doesn’t make me connected to them except in the cosmic sense that we are all connected. (To be crankily honest, some who call themselves writers should have stayed with writing shopping lists.)

I’ve never felt any great bond to other writers, perhaps because I never really considered myself a writer. I don’t always write — sometimes I do, more often I don’t. I have no great passion or deep need for writing, no burning desire to create, no characters that scream to be born, no story that demands to be written or that writes itself. I don’t define myself by what I’ve written or what I might plan to write. My books are not my children, my characters are not my friends. When I write, I do have moments of being in the “zone,” but mostly I have to dig for each word, which is okay since that’s the part of writing that’s fun for me — finding the perfect word to say exactly what I mean. (The other day someone posted a question in a writing group asking for help figuring out a word since he didn’t have time to find it for himself. To me, that’s not a writer. Words make a writer. If you have no time for words, what’s the point of writing?)

Speaking of words, I don’t understand why so many writers brag about their word counts. What does a word count mean? It doesn’t impart anything about the quality of writing. For all I know, the authors could have been stringing nonsense syllables together or writing shopping lists, so why should I care how many words they wrote? Word counts mean nothing, what counts is the meaning of the words.

I really do sound cranky, don’t I? Well, perhaps I am, but it does irk me that just because I’ve written a few books and gotten them published, I am supposed to accept other writers as my “family.” Someone who slaps together a draft and posts it on Amazon as a published book doesn’t have anything in common with me. Someone who sits down and spews out thousands of words — good or bad — doesn’t have anything in common with me. Someone who scribbles an erotic book that catches the fancy of the masses doesn’t have anything in common with me. (Nothing I write will ever go viral. I have taste.)

Still, I do what I can to be supportive of other writers. I have two blogs that cater to writers — one is for book excerpts, and one is for interviews. (Feel free to send me an interview or book excerpt according to the instructions on the blogs.) I also have a writing discussion group on Facebook to help writers develop their craft, and I host a self-promotion extravaganza every Saturday to give writers a forum to promote. So maybe this is a case of my actions speaking louder than my words.

27 Responses to “Do Writers Need To Be Supportive Of Each Other?”

  1. sandy Says:

    Well as you know I review books . . . initially for a local newspaper, The Boulder Daily Camera, then for (how I found your books) and now Kirkus. With bookpleasures I could choose the books I wanted to review (Kirkus just assigns them) and for the most part was pretty good at figuring out what books I would like and did like them (the ones I did not care that much for I tried to direct to readers with different tastes and interests I thought would like them). So, as a reviewer I’ve had the opportunity to discover authors whose work I really like and who I might not have otherwise discovered because they were not best sellers (I’m not a run with the crowd person so often dislike what large numbers of readers appear to eat up). Anyway, point being that I want to be supportive of the authors I appreciate because they put time and effort into something I liked and I know how hard it is to get your work in front of the readers who will appreciate it. PR is EXPENSIVE! and who has that kind of money anymore? In fact I will be reading at a poetry night at one of our local libraries and plan to read from a book I recently reviewed:
    Turning Seventy by Lucile Horsley Blanchard. this is a book I highly recommend, as I did yours, altho they are very different but wonderful in different ways. So I think that yes, writers should support other authors, not willy nilly but the ones with whom we share a bond, a common taste, a common message, and all too often, a common struggle to get our carefully chosen words out there to be discovered by readers who will be glad to have read them.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I do get tired of the attitude that we’re all in this together. No, we’re not, and never will be. Each person has his or her own goals and each has a different way of attaining those goals. I’m not a run with the crowd person, either, which is probably why I don’t like being just another face in the writing crowd, especially since I like so few books that come out of the crowd.

      Hmmm. I thought I read that Kirkus was out of business.

      • sandy Says:

        Kirkus is online now as is Midwest Review of books, the reviews are limited to very short word counts, one editor said readers these days all have ADHD, something like that. Its a different world. In fact I’ve stopped writing altogether (except for the reviews because I need to be making a little money and believe me it is very little).

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I see. Truly a different world.

          You’ve just mentioned another reason my books will never make it big — readers have to pay attention or else they miss a lot, and most readers don’t want to have to pay attention.

          • sandy Says:

            Well look at it this way: your audience will be the readers who are smart enough and focused enough to pay attention, not a quantity audience but a quality audience.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            That’s a great way of looking at the situation. Thank you. And it’s true. Look at us — we became friends because of your reviews of my books. And someday we’ll meet in person.

          • sandy Says:

            I am definitely looking forward to meeting you in person

        • Kathy Bertone Says:

          Sandy, I just went to your blogger site to read some of your reviews and get more information about you and it is very difficult! (Sorry Pat this is a bit off topic but thought you would not mind.) I had a blogger site and switched to WordPress a few weeks ago and it has made a HUGE difference in the ease of operation, people commenting, etc. I don’t mean to sound like a wordpress commercial but I find it much better than the other! I see that you say you are going to stop blogging because you are not getting responses. Don’t! I did read a few of your reviews and wanted to comment but it was too difficult signing up with blogger and joining, etc. so perhaps that is the reason you were not getting comments. Again, sorry to take up time here with this but I could not even find a website for you or other contact information. Don’t give up!

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            Kathy, I don’t mind. And you are right — WordPress is more of a community than Blogger, it’s a lot easier to use, it’s easier to get viewers, easier to get commenters, and the stats are better, so you can see how many people are viewing your posts even if they are not commenting. WP also has a handy tool for importing blogs, so it’s easy to make the changeover. (The main benefit of blogger is if you want to make money off your blog.)

          • sandy Says:

            I did give up on all the social networking. I have an email: and prefer the one on one coomunication whenever possible. I just hate sitting in front of a screen (rather be hiking) and don’t get cell service up here where we live so I’m kind of a techniphobe.

    • Kathy Bertone Says:

      Well said, Sandy. I am very glad there are people like you who do not “run with the crowd” and who enjoy books that are not the current media darling and through your reviews let people know about them. The truth is that unfortunately it is not always the ‘best’ books that get attention (understanding it’s all relative of, course), but those who are the most loud or controversial.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I went to your blog to leave a comment, but gave up after three tries. Blogger hates me. I read the review of your book — great review!! Best of luck with your new release. Or is it a re-release?

      • sandy Says:

        My last novel The Secret of A Long Journey was released May 2012 and the 2nd Edition of my first novel, The Nun, was also released in May of 2012 each by a different publisher (Floricanto and Plain View Press) so the timing was a total coincidence and I took it as a sign I had come full circle and was finished with writing. I’m writ out.

  2. shadowoperator Says:

    I really like the way you basically demolish the position of potential argument opponents and then say what it is that you in fact do for other writers. And yes, it is a case of actions speaking louder than words.

    • Kathy Bertone Says:

      This is so interesting because I am perplexed. I find myself in agreement with you both. I don’t think we need to honor writers just because they write, but I agree SO, one can’t have their proverbial cake and then eat it, although Pat helping where she can is a good thing. I do have a bond with writers whom I know, and who encompass what I respect in both person and writer. And I do get that there is a trend today that suggests all writers should love one another because it is so incredibly hard “out there” and so should bond together as if an endangered species. It also troubles me that the information age allows anyone with ‘pen and paper’ (computer) to produce rubbish for public consumption just because they can. Let me revise that: one can produce anything one wants. The problem is when an unsuspecting public pays their hard-earned dollars for it, believing the book has at least been edited, when it has not. And it makes no difference if they pay $25 or .99 cents. It’s such an interesting discussion, Pat, because I do feel your same frustration. What is a writer? An author? Perhaps there is no longer a difference.

      • Pat Bertram Says:

        Kathy, that is the very thing I struggle with — what is a writer? Anything published on Amazon makes the person a published author, no matter how little time, thought, and effort was put into the “book”. If a story is posted anywhere on the internet, such as a blog, it’s considered published, so that makes the person a published writer. I don’t believe that agents, critics, and major publishers have the right to determine what we all should read, but I don’t think crowdsourcing — throwing a million books out there and seeing what sticks — is a better way. I spent years writing, learning the craft, learning the business. I even had three agents. And finally I found a publisher on my own, only to discover there’s no specialness in being a published author anymore. That sounds self-pitying, but it’s not meant to be. It just perplexes me that someone who has gone through years of “apprenticeship” is considered the same as someone who writes a book in a month and publishes it on Amazon as if it were a finished work.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I really didn’t intend for the article to end that way, but by the time I got to the end, I’d gotten rid of my frustration and so was able to use the softer (and truer) ending.

  3. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    In the end it is up to you who you support and who you don’t support.

    I, too, don’t see the big deal in word counts when it comes to the reader. As a reader I couldn’t care less unless it is a case of putting in a LOT of words just to fill out the word count and thus supposedly made the work more impressive. There are novels out there that in truth should be short stories. In such cases give me the short story to read.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Big books used to sell better because they took up more space on bookshelves and so were easier to find, but since so many books are ebooks, wordcount doesn’t mean much. I get tired of the constant “look at me” that is a facebook stream, so I’m trying to ignore it as much as possible.

  4. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I may be getting a few short stories pulbished this semster, and i may have one novel written and another in the works, but until i get my novel published, i won’t be a real writer. at least, that’s my opinion.

  5. Emma McCoy Says:

    I guess I see both sides. I don’t think that just anyone should be published. I recently downloaded a book through iBooks and found that it hadn’t been edited or proofread or polished in any way. That, to me, was insulting and distracting as a reader. However, I think that it is great for people to write. Even if they lack the talent, they might have something to say that impacts someone else. If nothing else, maybe it’s therapeutic. And, Pat, crankiness aside, you are doing your part in helping writers improve and develop. That alone is admirable. As one who benefits from your insights, thanks.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Emma. I appreciate the compliments. I tend to forget that blogging is writing, too, and that what I write here helps people. And thank you for your insights — it is an insult to readers for writers to publish the rawest works and expect them to accept the draft as a finished work. Being respectful of readers is the mark of a professional.

  6. knightofswords Says:

    Well known writers often have the biggest problem when it comes to supporting other writers: because they are famous, authors know a few words from them might open a lot of doors without considering that a hundred otgher aspiring writers are asking for those few words at the same time. It’s a hard call even for those of us who plod along. I try to support small-press authors by reviewing their books and interviewing them on my blog. But, I cannot support everyone out there because–as a starving writer–I can’t afford to buy every book that comes to my attention. Sometimes, I don’t know what I ought to do.


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