It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so you know what that means: it’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group!
I admit to having a love-hate relationship with Writer’s Digest. Mostly hate. About 67% hate. Writer’s Digest makes me deeply insecure as a writer, because their advice drives me insane. Their advice isn’t terrible nor completely wrong. I just find it well-intentioned but misplaced, and as William Blake once wrote, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Or something like that. Also, Writer’s Digest is lightweight in comparison to, say, Poets & Writers, or Chuck Wendig.
Now, I will give Writer’s Digest the massive credit where credit is due. It is the publication behind my publishing bible, the Writer’s Market Annual Edition. As you can see from the photo to the left, my copy’s got some serious wear on it. It’s been highlighted and yellow-flagged all to hell, and when the time comes, I’ll know exactly who to contact, and how. The Writer’s Market is essential for all writers, lest you prefer to go about this all in the dark.
But if you’re a reader of Writer’s Digest, then you’ve no doubt been frustrated at times with either the annoying fluff pieces they publish. Every author spotlight is exactly the same: Hey, you too can make all your writing dreams come true! Honestly, the author interview they posted in the current issue, featuring Emily Giffin (“the new Jane Austen”…seriously…BARF!) was so trite and contrived, it was embarrassing. I’ve read better interviews. Shit, I’ve written better interviews.
Crap interviews aside, that’s not my beef with Writer’s Digest. Sometimes their advice is spot on. Recently I read a fascinating think piece about why outlines can be more detrimental to the writing process than we’ve been led to believe. The more I read it, the more I was inclined to agree. Hence my loving Writer’s Digest 32% of the time.
Some of the advice Writer’s Digest dispenses is just so wrong-headed, it makes my bullshit meter go off the charts.
Take this piece of advice: “If you’re trying to woo an agent or publisher, you may be asking
yourself, ‘How much is enough? How many Twitter followers is enough? How many page views should my blog have?’ And so on.” According to the writer of this piece, if you’re a non-fiction writer, aim for about 50,000 – 100,000 blog page views per month, and 15,000 – 50,000 Twitter followers.
This to me seems like the kind of advice that could only be useful to someone like Malcolm Gladwell or Jon Krakauer. For me, this advice is not only useless, it smacks of bullshit. It smacks of someone more concerned with their author platform (and, believe me, I’m a very strong advocate for a solid author platform, provided you’ve got something to back that platform up with, like, say, some decent writing chops) than with any real writing advice. And that’s the kind of useless trivia that sums up Writers Digest for me.
So you’re probably wondering, “Hey, Gus, if you dislike Writer’s Digest so much, then why the hell are you reading it every month?” Excellent question, and what an astute observation. I have two answers to your question. One, me hating on things is like a spectator sport. Like Hunter S. Thompson said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” What’s the sense in hating on something from afar, when you can hate on it, even at a 67% clip, from up close. And, speaking of buying, the second answer to this question has to do with Fab.
Yeah, Fab. Everyday design products at great discount prices. And that included a discounted one-year subscription to Writer’s Digest. My wife pointed this out to me. Why not, I thought. $15 for a one-year subscription? I could blow $15 on worse things.
I’m already regretting the purchase.