Auctorial Warning Labels, and the Rule of the Internet

You may not know this, but authors come with warning labels, just like non-author people.  In Real Life, we usually scope out the warning labels attached to our friends and colleagues through a series of interactions.  After a while, you know that Jilly’s warning is Contents Under Pressure; Gabe’s is Runs with Scissors; and Lynn’s warning is Sees No Evil.

On the internet, it’s a little harder to figure out warning labels; and especially the warning labels for authors, because there’s this free-floating cloud of Assumption regarding How Authors Are that kind of fogs up perceptions.

That being the case, I’m going to make it easy for everyone and throw my warning label right out there where everybody can see it.


Here it is; Sharon Lee’s warning label:

Sharp edges; handle with care

Please commit this to memory; it’s not long; it’s not hard, and it can quite possibly save a life.  Or, at least, hurt feelings.

Among other things, the above means that I don’t tend to respond. . .well. . .to people who insist that I must fit into their box, or Do It (whatever It may be) in Some Way That They Personally Prefer, rather than the Way I Personally Prefer.  I especially don’t respond well to Rule-Giving regarding stuff that I happen to be doing mostly for myself.

Allow me to provide context.

Over the last. . .week?  I’ve been on the receiving end of an email scolding me for wasting time writing blog posts, and hanging on social media, when I ought (Note:  Please don’t use the word OUGHT to me when critiquing my life.  Unless you’re my spouse, or a close personal friend who has earned the right, you have no business critiquing my life, and OUGHT is not yours to throw around like confetti.  Thank you.) to be writing more Liaden books.  The letter-writer then wanted me to answer a question, though they were decent enough to acknowledge the irony of that.  And, no, I haven’t answered, because there was nothing civil I could think of to say.

Also, recently, I posted a snippet in a blog post.  Someone in another part of the internet, having this brought to their attention, gave as the Rule that the snippet was too short, that real snippets followed the form used by Author X.

Now. . .here’s the thing.  I share what I’m writing with y’all because I want to.  In fact, let’s back up a couple steps. . .

I write because I want to.

I don’t write For You.

No, really, that’s the truth.  I don’t write For You.

I write, first, and foremost, For Me. I write because writing (for the most part) gives me pleasure.

I do realize that we are extremely fortunate to have a publisher who backs our work.  And I do realize that there are people Out There who buy our books and read our stories, and we’re all thereby embarked on a similar — but not an identical — journey.  We know the same people, though not in the same way; we’ve been to the same places, though we noticed different things.  We can talk about our shared experiences, and learn from, and entertain, each other.  And all of that is Incredibly Cool.

But, the fact remains, that I write For Me.  During our years Wandering the Literary Desert, I still wrote stories and novels, though it took me a while to dare again, after being cut loose from our first publisher.  I’m guessing, based on my established behavior, that I’m going to continue to write, for me.

You, my fellow travelers, are certainly free to critique the story; to argue the route; and even to get off the train.

But you are not allowed to dictate Rules,  and OUGHTs to me on any subject I can bring to mind.

Everybody clear on this?

Thank you.

Now! Fans of Dragon in Exile will be pleased to know that work continues apace.  It’s all bridge-building and braiding and pointing up characterization, and thus not quantifiable by word counts.  We will, therefore, have to go with the Authors’ Gut Feeling Index, which is that we’re doing some good stuff, here.

I am now going to post what I call “a snippet.”  It is short. If short offends you, or if snippets in general offend you, please, please, for the love of ghod, I beg of you — don’t read it.

* * *

Progress on Dragon in Exile:  GOOD/Author Satisfied

At this hour, the shadows sheltered only one habitant — another shadow, slightly darker than themselves. It had for some while stood motionless, listening to the sounds of the sleeping nursery. Now, it moved, black against black, resolving briefly into a gray silhouette as he crossed lighted path, melting once more into the darkness beyond.

18 thoughts on “Auctorial Warning Labels, and the Rule of the Internet”

  1. This post, like most of what you write, made me laugh and it made me cry. And now I’m going to put my finger in the blender and say what you ought to do … you OUGHT to do what makes you happy… and you ought not to let “people” like that get under your skin. They’re not worth your time or energy. But you already know that.

  2. I, for one, am extremely pleased that you write because you enjoy writing. I am even more pleased that you share that writing with the rest of us. Thank you.

  3. I like whatever you write/chose to share with me.

    Would you like some virtual
    – tea
    – chocolate
    – coffee
    – wine
    – scotch

  4. I want you to keep writing for yourself, because myself loves reading what you write. The best thing about snippets is they make me make sure to get the book or story whenever it comes out. Soooo, Thank You!

  5. Robert Heinlein ,in “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” gave a wonderful piece of advice. I can only give the approximate, since the book is two states away. ” Whenever you say I really ought to, you need to step back and examine your motives.”

  6. Your existing body of work already stands on its own as a great gift to the rest of us. Thank you.

  7. Over the past few nights, I’ve been re-devouring the Liaden universe, starting with Local Custom, and just having finished Saltation. After the full reread, snippets and splinters will keep me alive until Dragon in Exile masters Jump and appears in the greater world. And I can always reread everything again. Please keep writing For You and we will treasure anything you can share.

  8. Personally, I think people confuse the meaning of snippet and excerpt. The first is a line or two from a WiP, which may or may not make the final cut. The second is a chapter or portion of a chapter of a book that has gone through the editing process and is soon to be or already has been released. A snippet is for fun and a bit of a tease. An excerpt is like a movie trailer, used top promote sales.

    Write as you like. I’ll be waiting. Patiently.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing the work that you love (and that you do so very well!) with us. My life is made lighter by your writing. This is a great gift. Bless you!

  10. That it is necessary for anyone to have to say what you did is sad. WTH is wrong with people? Though not sure even family/friends get to use the “ought” word… the IMO maybe but not ought.

  11. I followed a webfriend’s pointer to this post, and am glad that I did.

    I do a lot of volunteer proofreading for this friend and others— I can’t help seeing typos & such— and I offer you this:

    • as he crossed ^ lighted path
    ^ a (or) the

  12. From my perspective, I enjoy your blog, I enjoy your books, and I appreciate your labor. How you manage to do the work of being an author is your business and my participation is to shower you with money and thanks.

    As an example, the kids and I were riding our bikes outside comic-con yesterday (that being entertaining and free, versus being inside where it might be more entertaining but definitely not free) and we admired the boats in the harbor outside the convention center. I had a dream glimpse of you and Steve hanging out on a vessel named for the honor ” ??? Passage” hosting a party and enjoying the convention. That being my dream I’ve got no business asking you to spend the time or the money (San Diego being a long way from Maine and the convention center harbor being an exceptionally pricey docking and comic-con not necessarily helping you to sell any books). And besides San Diego is hot in July (no matter what the tourism board says) and most of those conventioneers were melting.
    Kind regards,

  13. Entitlement bugs the everloving daylights out of me. That you’re choosing to share a piece of yourself with the world is your business and no one has the right to demand you do so. Grrr, argh. 🙂 I, for one, am thrilled you continue to do so – especially for the sheer joy it brings people. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen my husband bouncing through the house chanting “New Lee & Miller!” as he rushes off to wrap around the preeeecious. 🙂

    Bah! Screw ’em all! As long as you’re happy and love what you do, everyone else can go fly a kite. 🙂

  14. My first response was total agreement … I frequently want to tell people that I live my life on my timeline and not theirs. Yet I hold my tongue.

    But if I’m honest, everything can be read more than one way, and I can sympathize with someone who is looking forward to your next book so much that they can’t put their love into words that don’t offend. At least that’s what I hope it is, and not entitlement. Because loving books I understand.

  15. I will happily read anything you choose to write in whatever form you choose to write it in, and I think your readers are blessed that you choose to share both your writing and portions of yourself with us.

  16. As the philosopher Neil Gaiman decreed: George R.R. Martin is not our bitch. Neither are you and your husband.

    I am profoundly sorry that one of our number was so rag-mannered towards the delm. May they greatly enjoy the hospitality of Low Port.

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