Ladies & Gentlemen, Meet…Jenna Willett

Welcome to a brand new feature here on Hugh’s Views and News, where every month I pass my blog over to a guest blogger.

Jen's Pen Den
Jenna Willett

My first guest is Jenna Willett, who is the author of some wonderful short stories, many which I have throughly enjoyed reading.  Earlier this year Jenna kindly invited me to participate in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge and, during my brief time in the competition, she offered me a lot of support which I really appreciated.

So, without further ado, let me hand you over to Jenna.

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Are You a Positive or Negative Writer?

Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, I like to say, “I work in the Industry of Rejection.”

Let’s face it. Being a writer–especially one with lofty aspirations of making the New York Times Bestseller list–is tough. Not only do you willingly open yourself up to a world of cynics, naysayers, and Debbie Downers, but you get so used to hearing the word “No”, you forget the meaning of “Yes”.

But, that’s what we all dream of hearing, isn’t it? “Yes”? Yes from an agent. Yes from a publisher. Yes from readers! That’s why we put up with “the Industry of Rejection”. We all hope to one day achieve our goals. To receive “the call” from a literary agent. To walk past a stranger reading our book. To host a book signing. To receive another call about our next book being published…

The “dream list” goes on and on. And, some days, that’s all that gets me through the business’s negative muck and mire.

But, there’s something else–something more tangible than hopes and dreams–that pulls me through the “No, no, no!” sludge:

Other writers.

Up until the fall of 2013, I only interacted with two other writers…Yep, that’s it. Two! Then I created my blog, hopped on Twitter, and entered an NYC Midnight writing challenge–and boom! My writing world blew up. Suddenly, I had dozens of writing pals from around the world, all of them positive, supportive, and helpful. I went from working alone and feeling alone, to being embraced by those swimming through the same Negative Ocean as me.

Honestly, I don’t know how I survived so long without those lifesavers to keep me afloat.

Yet, throughout the past two years, I’ve encountered other types of writers, ones who haven’t been so positive, supportive, or helpful. In fact, they’ve been the complete opposite.

The Basher

“I don’t know why so many people like your story. It sucks.”

Just because you don’t like a story doesn’t mean you have to bash it to pieces. Find ways to tactfully explain why a story doesn’t work for you. Is it the plot? The characters? Perhaps the writing itself needs work? Whatever the problem, be specific and help writers improve their work. Don’t demean it. That doesn’t help anyone. Plus, it makes you look like a jerk (or worse).

The One Upper

“Who cares if you optioned your story to a Hollywood production company? I’ve self-published five novels and I just got an agent to help me publish my sixth!”

Well, bully for you! And thank you for congratulating me on my hard-earned success…Sheesh! As competitive as we can be, there’s no need to try to outshine each other. When another writer tells you their success story, stifle your “Oh, yeah?” impulse and celebrate with them.

And, trust me, you’ll get a chance to talk about yourself in the future. For now, rejoice with the other writer and remember: “Yes!” is a rare word in the industry. Let a writer revel in it when it happens.

The Righter

“You have to outline before you start writing. It’s the right way–the only way!”

News alert: There’s no right way to write. Sure, there’s basic grammar and whatnot, but the rest of it? All up to the individual writer. So don’t judge others for their methods of madness. If something works, then it works…And if something doesn’t, well, the writer will likely ask you for advice.

The Eye for an Eye-r

“You didn’t like my story? Oh, well. Whatever. I didn’t like yours either. In fact, I connected with it so little, I gave up after the first page.”

There are hundreds of ways to handle criticism: Venting in private. Crying in your car. Stuffing your face with Peanut M&M’s…But there’s one definite way you should not handle it: Rejecting the feedback and attacking the writer who wrote it.

Not only does retaliation make you look classless and immature, but it also alienates you from other writers. I mean, who wants to work with a writer who’ll blow up every time they receive constructive criticism? No, thanks.

My advice? If you can’t stomach responding with a polite, “Thank you for your honest opinion”, then don’t respond at all.

Every time I encounter one of the writers listed above, I’m torn between sadness and fury. I just don’t get it. We already have to put up with so much negativity from the rest of the industry. Why should we add to the burden by being negative with each other? By stomping and pushing and crushing each other? This isn’t The Hunger Games!

This is our hopes and dreams. Although we might be going to war on the same battlefield, our fight isn’t with each other. It’s with fulfilling our personal goals.

So, the next time you interact with another writer, I encourage you to be positive, supportive, and helpful. If they pen a great story, applaud them. If they announce they’ve received a book deal, celebrate with them. If they explain their unique writing process, listen and keep an open mind–maybe even try one of their methods to see if it works for you? And if they give you constructive criticism, accept it with grace.

Whatever you do, don’t be a writer who knocks other writers down. It will only make you look bad…And it will, obviously, make others feel bad.

If anything, remember this: Nobody can understand you like another writer can. The highs and lows. The hours–weeks–years of hard work. The fears and doubts. The hopes and dreams. So, don’t alienate yourself by being “The Basher”, “The One Upper”, “The Righter”, or “The Eye for an Eye-r”. Be positive, supportive, and helpful. If you do that, then you’ll have a much better chance of surviving the Industry of Rejection.

We all will.

Photo Credits:

123456

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Thank you very much to Jenna, for being my very first guest blogger for this new feature.  Please go and check out her blog and read some of the short stories she has written.  I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with them.

BeWoW - Be Wonderful on Wednesday

This post is also my BeWoW (Be Wonderful On Wednesday) entry for this week.  To find out what BeWoW is all about, head over to Ronovanwrites, where Ronovan explains all.  Then why not join us and participate by writing a post about positivity.

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25 thoughts

  1. yea, I’ve not even finished my book and i feel you. For once I’d like to have someone in my real life believe that I can actually do this thing and pull it off.

    Constructive criticism is something very valuable and has helped me grow as a blogger. It probably does the same for writers. 🙂 Excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can finish your book! Just take it one day at a time. That’s my strategy. If I think about the whole project, and how long it might take, and how complicated it might get, I shutdown. So, one day at a time. And, trust me, before you know it, it’ll be done!

      Good luck! And thank you 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I think these categories of negative people can be applied to a variety of subject matters (not just writing). It’s unfortunate. Some people just aren’t able to check their egos at the door 😦 Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Loved this post, thank you so much for introducing the deligthful Jenna to us Hugh! Jenna, I love the way you write and the way you bring home the way we as writers can so often feel isolated, put down and criticised. It’s hard enough writing without all the negativity. No wonder we find oursleves pelting our faces with peanut butter M&M’s so often 😉 Seriously though, you’re right, we do all need to support and encourage one another. And I do wish you every success in all your writing endeavours 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for awhile. I’m so happy (and grateful) Hugh gave me the chance…I wish you well in all your writing endeavors, too! I’ll be sure to send positive vibes your way! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post. It is so important that we support each other and not just bash yeah other. After all where is all the solidarity. I have been lucky actually. I have only met wonderful supportive writers. But I am not naive, I am sure it won’t be too long before I meet some horrendous people with worse critiques!

    Like

    1. Thank you! I was inspired to write this post after encountering a particularly nasty writer (he, unbelievably, fit all four categories–sheesh!). I’m happy you and others haven’t encountered these types of negative writers. They’re not fun! But if you ever do, just ignore them. They’re not worth the time or emotions!

      Like

  4. I have a very good friend who’s an award-winning reporter for a pretty big newspaper. This woman can write. She has a book she’s developing based on her stories, so she investigated several “writer’s groups” – and in this case, I use the term loosely. Most of them were nothing more than koffeeklatches with byzantine rules and such. It was enough to completely discourage her! If you ask me, I think jealousy had more to do with it. But finally she found a good group of people who enthusiastically supported her effort and encouraged her to turn her string of reports into a cohesive book, not unlike what Bill Bryson writes.

    I’m glad to say I’m one of those people.

    Everyone has a story to tell.

    For all the naysayers that try to push you down, shove back, roll up your sleeves, be honest with your talents, seek help (and beta readers), and GET TO WORK!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Hugh and Jenna! I am so thrilled to be in contact with other writers that I can’t imagine being one of “those” writers mentioned above. I’m all about keeping it positive. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Congratulations on your first guest blogger, Hugh 🙂

    Jenna, yes, giving and taking criticism with grace is difficult but often helpful. I compare criticism to a surgeon’s scalpel; a cut that heals. Thanks to a few critical reviews, I now have a handle on what I was doing wrong 🙂

    Hugh, I won’t forget. Next time, shorter chapters 🙂

    Like

  7. Lovely to meet Jenna. Great classification. Even when I might not be the target of these people (I’ve always preferred to observe what others are up to) I always find it extremely annoying. Life is too short and there are enough nasty things around to just add to them our of pure meanness. Have a great weekend!

    Like

  8. Sounds like trolling. I see that among visual artists and graphic designers as well. I think that writers who know their own strengths and limitations don’t need to undercut other writers. I have no aspirations for appearing on the New York Times bestseller list, primarily because I know that this is beyond my reach. But if you achieve your goal, I say enjoy it and tell me about it so I can enjoy it too.

    Like

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