I love meeting other writers in-person. It's a fun way to make new friends, and there's something about the group mentality that can't be replaced by computers.
There's one thing about in-person writers I hate. Hate is a strong word... which is why I used it. They're obsessed with publishing!
I suppose this is an odd complaint; since I quit my day-job to write, I'm also "obsessed with publishing." What bothers me is I can't get in a discussion about writing without hearing everyone's thirst for validation. If we talk about writing and publishing doesn't come up, it's as if the whole conversation is wasted.
Let me back up a little; talking about publishing isn't inherently annoying. Goodness knows, I discuss getting agents with people online all the time. It's just that all the publishing discussions I've gotten into with writers face-to-face are unproductive.
First off, everyone has a different opinion of what "published" means. We use that one word to define nearly ten different things.
I remember being told someone was published and gazing at that person in awe, only to discover the person paid to print 500 copies of a book and hasn't sold any of them. There isn't anything wrong with that! I think printing your book is fantastic. But it's not what I thought the person meant. When I was disappointed, the person was hurt.
You have to define what "published" means to the people you're speaking with before you can discuss it. This can create many disagreements and bruised egos.
Second off, it becomes the blind leading the blind. Everyone thinks they know everything about publishing and they want to grace others with their expertise.
The leader of my last writer's group always told others what they needed to do in order to get published, even though he had been looking for an agent for years and had no idea himself. "This will never get published" became a phrase he used almost daily.
Every time he told us something we wrote could never be published, I wanted to scream at him, "What do you expect us to do? Tear it up and throw it away because it has no value? Can we please write nonpunishable crap without you policing us?!?"
I wish more people would write for writing's sake. Even if publishing is our primary goal in life, we can enjoy the journey without the pressure of accomplishment.
Since too many people know too little about publishing, it opens itself up to too many arguments. With a different group, someone thought it was ridiculous that ebooks cost as much as printed books. I was about to explain that ebooks cost just as much to make (the material of a printed book only cost $1, and you still have to pay for the author, agent, editor, format, cover, distributor, etc.). But as soon as I said "They cost the same to make," someone sitting next to me said, "That's not true."
Oooooo, it makes mad when people do that. I wanted to turn to him and say, "You caught me; I just made it up off the top of my head. I do that sometimes, say random untrue things for no reason."
I cooled down when I realized that again, we were talking about completely different forms of publishing. He was a professor who was about to print a textbook when he realized it would be cheaper to create an ebook. He launched into a rant about how ebook sellers are trying to steal our money, ignoring what I had to say.
This rant is getting long, but I've gained momentum and now I can't stop.
Another thing that gets under my skin is the idea that everyone has to have the same goal. After Nano I asked a friend of mine if she was going to do Camp Nano in the summer. She looked sad as she said, "I have to revise my last book first."
I said, "You don't have to do any revisions." She looked confused, so I went on. "You don't have to do anything. If you want to put your book on a shelf and move on to something else, then you should do it. Who says we have to edit everything we write?"
The biggest reason I hate talking about publishing is this: it's cruel.
Most of the writers you meet will never be published. There's nothing wrong with that. We can all live happy, fulfilling lives writing, revising, printing, self-publishing, or whatever strikes our fancies. That's okay.
Instead of sending out the message that whatever you do is worth doing, we send the message of "You can be famous! Climb that mountain! Reach for the sky! Follow the American Dream!" Then when they get to the end of their lives and they're still unpublished, they end up an unbearably cynical old man.
Getting published is important to me. But I'm tired of the confusion, pressure, hurt feelings, bad advice, egotism, and all the negative feelings when we discuss it. When I meet writers in person, I want to talk about writing.