Three Types of People to Watch Out For In Your Writing Life

Sunday, July 22, 2018
When it's my turn to blog on The Muffin, I usually try to come up with something either funny, positive, inspirational, or instructional. But today, friends, I have a bone to pick with three types of people you could run into in your writing career; and this is a topic that needs to be brought out of the shadows and into the light. So this post comes with a big WARNING sign--maybe even DANGER AHEAD. When you're reading the descriptions below, if the name of someone in your writing life pops into your mind, then you will know to proceed with caution or run away screaming from him or her.
Watch out for these three! :) 

Type 1: The What's-In-It-For-Me Writer
We all know these people exist in our lives--people who won't do anything unless they see a benefit for themselves. It's not that people should be going around spending all their time doing selfless acts, and writing is a business, so you have to make wise decisions. But some writers are extremely self-centered, narcissistic, and un-generous. (I told you, this is not a positive post. SORRY!) Recently I heard a story about two writers who had the same publisher--we will call them Positive Polly and Selfish Sal. Positive Polly was looking for giveaways from writers while promoting her latest book, but also to give some of the other writers at her publishing house a chance to find new readers with free ebook giveaways (a tried and true marketing strategy, especially for series writers).

Selfish Sal jumped at the chance to promote himself, but then he quickly became difficult. He complained that he wasn't getting enough attention and that he never should have gifted anything to Positive Polly for a giveaway. He even went so far as to publicly call out Positive Polly--he said she wasn't doing enough for him when he graciously donated one ebook.

Do you think Positive Polly will ever work with Selfish Sal again? Of course not. She found several other writers who were more than happy to help her out, were easy to work with and considerate, and even thanked her for the opportunity to talk to Polly's readers. The What's-In-It-For-Me Writer will often spend hours complaining and writing some pretty awful emails instead of writing great books.

Type 2: The Harsh Critiquer/Editor
A critique group member or an editor has one job--to help the writer create the best manuscript possible. Yes, this can entail a lot of constructive criticism and suggestions for revisions and cuts. But this can be done WITHOUT insulting the writer or the work and squashing the dreams of a writer. It's a crime (or should be) that there are some editors and critique group members who are so cruel and critical that they make other writers doubt everything about themselves and their talent.

If you ever feel this way after receiving a critique, then get another one. I'm serious! I do a lot of editing and critiquing, and a good edit will be structured like a positive parent/teacher conference for the worst-behaved child in the class--the criticism of the child is sandwiched between positive traits, and it is worded in a way that is helpful to the student, not hurtful. Your manuscript, even the roughest draft, should be treated in this respected way.

Please don't let one harsh critique kill your dreams. Every one of us writers, even best-selling authors, can improve our craft and our storytelling, but there's always something positive in a manuscript to focus on first.

Type 3: The Breaker of Promises 
This person is someone who promises (over and over again) to do something: give you a review, critique your work, show up at your events, share your book on social media, etc, in exchange for you doing something for them also (such as critiquing each other's work or reviewing each other's books). Now, we are all busy, and I have been guilty of taking on too much and being very forgetful; but if someone is doing something for me (critiquing my novel, showing up at my book events, taking my classes), then I make it a priority to return the favor and/or write a heartfelt email of why I can't. (Sometimes, being a single mom creates barriers beyond my control, but then I really try not to make promises I can't keep--still a learning process.)

The worst breaker of promises is in the following example. Let's say, you exchange books with another writer to write reviews for each other (after reading them--real, honest reviews), and you do yours in a timely manner. You wait a good amount of time, because you understand that life is busy, and inquire nicely if the person has had a chance to read your book yet, and you get an answer like: Well, I'm busy.

Well, WHO ISN'T?

There's really nothing you can do about these types of situations except the following: don't trust him or her again!  "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." or "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

A More Positive View
Now I have to end on a positive note. I am a glass half-full kind of gal. There are so many incredibly wonderful, amazing, generous, thoughtful, professional writers, editors, reviewers, bloggers, and readers out in the world whom you will meet. But this writing path you chose is not easy; and if you feel like someone in your writing career is toxic or hurting you or making you doubt yourself, they probably are. If he or she is a friend, try talking to this person first and see if you can work something out. If not, just wish the writer well and move on. If you are looking for some warm people, look no further. WOW!  is full of them--on this blog and on our Facebook page.

Happy writing.

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach and WOW! instructor, as well as a writer and freelance editor. You can enroll in her novel writing coach that starts the first Friday of every month by going here. She is also offering  a marketing class starting this fall. Find out more about her at

Clay birds photo by JD Hancock on 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I imagine you could write several posts about these characters. There's pockets of them. However, I think the positive, supportive ones outnumber the bad apples.

And as far as your editing/critique skills, you do an incredible job of offering constructive criticism (specific suggestions of what works and ideas on how to fix the problems) along with specific praise. I almost think that vague praise ("I really liked it.") is worse than vague criticism ("It didn't really work for me.") because with the praise that lacks details, I always wonder 'Did they really read it? Did the piece truly appeal to them, or are they just saying that to avoid hurting my feelings?' My skin is thick. Give it to me honestly, but please give it to me with details.

Angela Mackintosh said...

This is accurate! I can't believe the Selfish Sal story...well, I can, but geez, it's one ebook. There's also a lot of jealousy going around in the writing community that I've heard of from other writers lately, and I don't get it. I think as writers we need to support each other because it's a tough business. And I agree with Sioux, your editing is phenomenal, and your insight is spot on. I want to thank you for editing my essay recently, and I will have more coming your way! Excellent post, Margo. :)

Linda Strader said...

I've been on the receiving end of extremely harsh criticism. While I usually consider myself to be open-minded when it comes to critiques of my writing, this person had not one nice thing to say...which upset me so much that I couldn't make myself look at her comments objectively. Had she done as you suggested (and as my other critiques have), explaining what worked, too, I would have been more receptive. On the other hand, this person may have been triggered by the topic, as others were not anywhere near as harsh (or mean).

Margo Dill said...

Sioux: Thanks. :) I was a teacher too so maybe the detailed critiques come naturally to me, but I also think it's what you mentioned. As a writer, I want to know what is wrong with my writing (before I submit it) and I need to know WHY it's wrong.

Angela: Thank you! I love your essay writing and look forward to reading more. I am forever grateful for whatever led me to apply to be an intern for you like eleven years ago now? I don't get the jealousy thing either. It actually makes me excited when a writer I know makes it because it gives me hope! Maybe that's another blog post in the works...

Linda: I am so sorry to hear that experience, but I have heard a similar story from so many authors. I agree if someone is purely critical and nothing else, I would probably ignore that critique and toss it in the trash can. Focus on the constructive ones!

Linda Strader said...

Yes, Margo, that's what I've learned to do! Focus on the constructive ones. The other people have issues beyond my control...LOL.

Mary Horner said...

Margo, letting people into our writing lives isn't always easy. Good advice!

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