In Support of Hugo and Jake (10 Ways Writers Are Just Not Normal)

Writers beg for reviews.

Good or bad. We crave them. Reviews are our bread and butter. It does no good to write the best novel of your life, your masterpiece, your baby, if no one reads it. And no one will read it if they think no one else has. A perversity of the human mind, everyone wants to read the next big thing first, but they don't want to risk reading the next terrible thing alone. So they want to be first, right after you. That's where the review comes in. Someone actually read our work! Oh joy! Oh rapture. And they took the time to actually think about it. And they were moved enough to write down what they thought about it. Even if what they were moved to write was,

U suk. 

We see that and think, "But they didn'ts say the book sucks!"

We read,

I was moved by this book, so I took it with me to the bathroom where I was finally able to put it to the use for which it is best suited. It is very good that this was a long book, as I was very moved, having eaten two whole pizzas and a dozen chicken wings that afternoon.

And we get all tingly. They actually read it! 

A lot of people are loathe to leave a review. They don't want to hurt our feelings, or they don't know what to say. Some think their opinion isn't valuable to anyone. If they only knew how valuable that input was. Even if the input is worthless to the author, or to any future readers, those reviews help push buzz, increase the number of "hits" we get, improve our odds of coming up in a search. They also help encourage others to write their own reviews. 

If a five year old shouts, "Look at me, look at me." we find them annoying, but perfectly normal. If actors or athletes, or comedians do it, we think they are perfectly suited to their jobs. When writers do it we sound pathetic. We don't say, "Pay attention to me." or "Look what I can do." We say, "Tell me what I did wrong." No wonder people run the other way--which is good because we'd have a panic attack if you actually spoke to us anyway.

Writers like to read and do research. The after party sucks.

Most writers start off as avid - no, obsessive - readers. We read magazines that are ten years old in the dentist's office. We read the backs of cereal boxes. We read stereo instructions. We read the fine print on our medication. To prevent an early death from print overdose, we eventually develop reading tastes. Writers like reading, writing, and researching so much, we write articles on writing and researching. No kidding.

The book eventually gets written and shopped and hopefully edited. And then someone asks what it's about. I trip over my tongue. I try to sum up 800 pages in a two sentence "elevator pitch". It doesn't work. We're told to sell ourselves and our work. This feels like a combination of bragging and dodging bullets in a war zone. We're writers, not salespeople, Jim. If I had any social skills, I wouldn't have had time to write 800 pages in the first place. 

Actors love red carpet appearances and lavish media parties. Writers think we will like such things. We don't. Writers don't write for money or fame. Well, we do, but we'd do it anyway. It's a disease. We should do a fundraiser to cure it, but that would require us to be socially adept enough to organize a fundraiser.

Writers commit murder on the regular.

A popular mug sold online warns not to annoy us, lest we write you into our scripts. I think we actually do this less than readers assume we do, but it does happen. Stephen King is said to have gotten revenge by writing a particularly nasty character in. 

Most of us have mused from time to time on what might happen if the FBI ever had a look-see at our online search histories, or paper libraries. Just today I spent two hours studying in great detail the coastline of Florida, poring over the shipping areas and especially the National Guard armory located in one commercial bay very close to an Interstate. That probably wouldn't be so damning without also noting I had earlier looked up "invasion force", "incendiaries", "ballistic trajectory calculators", and "emergency response drills". That's nothing, though, when you consider that before internet was so readily available, my librarian had cause to add me to some list or other. I checked out Hitler's Mein Kampf and a book called, Poisons, Toxins, and Deadly Infections. 

There was a really good reason I watched this seven times that had nothing to do with my juvenile and purient tastes.

Writers sit around thinking, What would happen if the zombie plague was actually caused by a prion? And we spend a great deal of time researching whether a human body can implode, rather than explode under the right conditions. (Yes, in a black hole, according to Neil Degrasse Tyson, but others disagree.) If you interrupt a writer at some odd moment when they appear to be experiencing a petit mal seizure, you may find yourself being asked if a serrated knife is better for hand to hand combat than a smooth blade? Never offer an author a penny for their thoughts. This is actually a fairly decent per word rate, and they may tell you exactly what they were thinking. This could make you an accessory before the fact.

Writers know at least two close synonyms for every word... and can never think of the exact right one.

We'll walk down a flight of stairs and poke you on the shoulder to ask what the name of that bridge between Future World and the lands of World Showcase is, and when you answer, we will say, "No, not that." We will text you at work to ask you what that word was that we thought was so funny three days ago... even if you weren't there. 

Here's the worst part, there are no exact synonyms to a writer. No, not even couch and sofa. A girl and a gal are not the same. A dog is a canine, but all canines are not dogs... and anyway cur might be a better descriptor. This would be ok, if we just used the one we liked the best and left you out of it. I know you'd rather we did, but we can't. You're there, and to a writer, that means you are a walking, talking dictionary and thesaurus. We will get annoyed with you if you insist that house is just as good a word as domicile. The best way to answer any request for that word is to stare blankly without blinking and say, "I don't know." Trust me, nothing else will end well. Better, buy a really good pair of noise proof headphones and look really busy when we approach. If necessary, pull up your tax forms.-- unless your writer is a finance guru. In that case, you may have to rent a place out of town whenever they're writing, which is always. Sorry.

The right word is usually "sex".

The right word is usually "sex".

Writers hide from the telephone, but send long letters.

Insert your favorite meme here. Yeah, we're an asocial lot in general. Not all of us, but mostly. The bad thing is, the problem is not that we don't like talking or communicating, we obviously do. We may even be good at it. The problem is, we're mostly only good at telling. And we don't want to see that look on your face of blind panic as you realize you will not be able to stop us from telling you every gorey detail of that incident we're thinking of writing about. So we're not what you'd call, socially adept. We either don't make eye contact, or try to bore into your soul like a third rate Svengali. We laugh too loud, or not at all. We correct your grammar. We copy your speech mannerisms. We dissect your joke. We point out the logic failure of your humorous anecdote. We're not very good company, is what I'm trying to say.

So we spend most of our time communicating in what we hope is a more socially appropriate manner. I once saw a Civil War letter written by a Private's love to her beloved that ran twelve pages! She must have been a writer. I can only assume their relationship was doomed by this fact, rather than an unfortunately aimed cannon ball. Writers don't Tweet very often, have you noticed? It's physically painful to reduce one's thoughts to a maximum number of characters. Twitter is the hard nosed editor of the social media world. Writers hate her. She's a bitch. Facebook is only marginally better. Notice almost all writers have blogs? Yeah, if anyone still opened our emails, we'd be delivering those love letters to your inbox on the regular. And there just aren't as many cannon balls flying as there used to be.

Writers go around making up stories.

Well duh. But our stories go on for pages-- and we want you to read them. No please, read it. Just read it. I need your advice. Just tell me what you think. Look, you don't have to do a complete edit, just tell me if I missed something. Why won't you read it? It doesn't stop when it gets published. Oh no! That's only the beginning. Now we want you to read it again, and tell us what you think. No, don't tell just us, tell everybody. Did you write a review? Why didn't you write a review? What, just a star rating? That doesn't tell anyone anything! 

And we make up stories twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If you tell a joke, that would make a great short story. Run into someone at the store? That gives me an idea for a story. Did you learn something new on the internet today? Story! Had a dream? Story! Went to the hospital with inoperable tumor? Epic story! You can NOT trust us with your secrets, your dreams, your plans, your anecdotes. We will turn them into stories. And then we will ask you to read them and write a review. What? It's not exactly the same.

Writers like the smell of paper, which is actually the smell of dust mites and mold, according to one of those non-writers who shouldn't have an opinion.

You know you're a writer when you go to Walt Disney World, and take pictures-- of books.

You know you're a writer when you go to Walt Disney World, and take pictures-- of books.

Do I really have to tell you anything else about this? Yes, it's true. Writers don't go to bookstores just to buy books (or to see if they've stocked our book yet, or if it sold, or if it has sold now, or now, or why hasn't it sold?) Writers and avid readers like the smell and feel of books like a crack addict loves the pipe. You'll see them, rubbing their grubby, ink stained fingers along the spine of a used copy of Tom Sawyer and muttering, "You have a beautiful spine. You've never been cracked open, have you? I'll read you like you've never been read before." When you see the writer leaving the book store with a brown bag under one arm, a shameful expression, and a handful of free bookmarks, don't judge them if you see them sneezing uncontrollably. Those dust mites are addictive. It's a disease. They'd get help if they could, and they can stop anytime they want to, really.

 

Writers believe in strong copyright laws... and freedom of speech and of the press.

You actually can't have one without the other. Strong copyrights protect the writer like strong walls protected China, that is, pretty well until someone smart and vicious figures out how to go around them. I'm a wannabe author. One day one of my books will sell a whole bunch of copies, and I will be able to afford to have an actual book signing. But for now, I sell my books one by one on the internet. Each sale is often the result of hours of conversation with a single person who decides to download it as a personal decision. I made something like $14.00 last year on this love affair. Trust me, I'm not unfairly enriching myself at the expense of the poor, downtrodden reader who just has to read my experimental fiction novel about kids in a prison. Does anyone need to read my fiction? It's on no college course's required reading list, I promise you. Every download and like slightly boosts the visibility of that book in search engines from Google to Amazon. So imagine how chagrined I was (did I say chagrined? I meant pissed!) to find my best book to date being sold by one of those cheap aggregators online. These guys download books for free during free giveaways, early releases, etc, and put them on their site. No ISBN is attached. Often the cover art, interactive features, and even proper formatting are gone. The book, now an incredibly inferior product, is offered for free on their site. Not only does the author get not one penny of revenue for the many months of hard work that went into that book, but the downloading and searches within these crappy listserves don't benefit us in the rankings anywhere else. Neither Amazon, nor Barnes and Nobel... not even Smashwords... has any knowledge that my book was downloaded repeatedly on this site. I've no idea how many total people read it. I sort of hope zero. Because if they read it from that site, they found numerous formatting errors introduced during the theft and reproduction. And also because I got not even a penny from those sales.

Most authors will happily agree that copyright is great for protecting us from greedy publishers and petty thieves of this sort. And most authors will also happily support freedom of the press, and of speech in general. There is even a thing called the Banned Books Week, celebrated annually. Books that have been banned locally, by states, or by school districts are featured on lists, in displays, and at libraries around the country. Sometimes special events are organized to let the wider community know about the farce that is book banning. 

Previously banned book on display at The American Experience, Epcot, Walt Disney World, Florida

Previously banned book on display at The American Experience, Epcot, Walt Disney World, Florida

True writers, writers that have ink instead of blood in their veins, realize that reviews are in fact protected speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the US. It is free speech, and even if you don't live in the USA, you should probably be for allowing readers, viewers, and listeners to comment on your work for the benefit of others. We can't be for partial free speech. No one ever bled and died to guarantee partial freedom. No author ever demanded partial copyright protection or partial right to write about whatever they please. We don't want to express partial views or partial artistic visions. So why should we only partially support free speech? 

Banned speech. 

Banned speech. 

Yesterday on a skeptical Facebook page, someone asked why the movie Vaxxed hasn't been banned yet? Now, dear readers, you know I am skeptical and science minded. Knowing this, you must know that I find that particularly odious collection of tripe to be overripe with repugnant falsehoods and irredeemable illogic. I would as happily it had never been filmed. I cheered when Tribeca dropped it. So you might think I'd agree with my skeptical Facebook friend, right? Wrong! I could not hold my peace and demonstrated the above point that writers write long posts. I think I lectured a bit. Sorry, dear Facebook friend, for that. But I am not sorry I stood up for freedom of speech. Prior to my post, most replies seemed to be agreeing with the sentiment, without questioning the idea behind it. Afterward, several people opined they too were concerned we might go too far in fighting the good fight. As science minded skeptics, we should be for airing all ideas, and out arguing them, out sciencing them. As a writer and a skeptic, I just cannot ever contemplate how it might be better if any work of art, no matter how putrid, were banned.

Writers want you to stalk their Facebook page and their blog and their Goodreads... please, come on, would one little like and share kill you?

Have I not made this point enough? Writers live and die by word of mouth. We need you to listen to our prattle and even be willing to sign up for more, maybe even pay for it. We don't suggest you are creepy or weird if you hop from our blog to our Facebook page to our Twitter feed. Most of us set up those accounts just because we want our readers to follow us. It's only creepy if you look up my personal email and send me a twelve page love letter. Dude, stop doing that. You know who you are.

Writers would rather do a blog entry than a video in support of The Bible Reloaded.

Hugo and Jake of The Bible Reloaded and The Qran Reloaded are suing the Christiano Brothers over their review videos. Seriously. The Christiano Brothers are movie producers who don't like their movies being reviewed. I know, crazy, right? I guess they think they have enough media attention and don't need reviews from people who aren't going to heap undeserved praise upon their poorly written films. Look, those films are just badly written. It's not possible to make such funny review videos about movies that are really good. There are lots of people online doing similar things. My son is a huge fan of the Nostalgia Critic and the guy who does the Everything Wrong With some movie reviews. I have to admit, they're funny. The ones on movies I thought were good tend to be less funny. But here's the thing, really good and really successful movies don't need lawsuits to stop their critics talking about them. I suspect the Christiano Brothers realize that these reviews are incredibly popular not because a couple of atheists are doing them, but because they are spot on. Hey, the truth hurts sometimes. And rather than learn from those critiques and grow, or just ignoring the negatives and focusing on the positives, the Brothers Christian would like to silence the critics. You can't do that. If you argue for the silencing of your critics, you arm your critics with a still more powerful argument for silencing you.

Don't sue me for using my name, Christiano Brothers. I had it first.

Don't sue me for using my name, Christiano Brothers. I had it first.

I understand that their argument is that their films are being used in a way that violates their copyright. Poppycock! In this case, of course, TBR has been careful to not use video from their movies in the review, sticking to stills and added memes and such. But let's say they used large chunks of video material. Let's say they used a full half. Would that be a violation of their copyright? I don't view it as such.  If, in writing a review for my book, you use large blocks of quotes to point out the poor spelling and grammar, the clunky sex scenes, the poorly choregraphed fight scences, you are not violating my copyright. You aren't making money off my writing by analyzing it. I'm not suggesting no one could ever violate copyright while claiming to be merely reviewing. If you use your "review" to show a whole movie, unedited, with just a few words appended, I could understand the charge of copyright infringement. If you reproduced an entire chapter of Harry Potter to point out that Rowling has not developed the Title character the way everyone expected, that would be an abuse of the fair use exception. That's not this. The Christiano Brothers are behaving just like the thin skinned losers that have given self-publishing such a bad name with some readers. When you react to bad reviews by trying to get the reviews removed, you come off as unprofessional. It seems to me, the Christians who are brothers have actually lent weight to Hugo and Jake's reviews. They've actually made a couple guys who tell dick jokes as part of their review look more intellectual, than themselves. Why wouldn't we take Hugo and Jake's word that the movies they've reviewed stunk? The Christianos are behaving exactly as we expect bad producers to act.

Freedom of speech protects both this shitty movie, and its reviewers.

Freedom of speech protects both this shitty movie, and its reviewers.

I thought about recording a quick Youtube video. But for all the time I've had that channel, I've put up three videos, and they're all just illustrated versions of written stories. Seriously. I don't feel all that comfortable in front of the camera. I like to talk, but no one wants to see that. Nobody. I'm not funny in person. (At least not intentionally.) I'm not terribly funny in writing. I wish I had money to send to support all the wonderful content makers on Youtube, from Adam the Woo to Hugo and Jake. But I don't. All I have are words. For whatever it's worth guys, good luck on your lawsuit, you have my support.