Friday, March 30, 2012

Guest Post: Writing as a Competition

I've been using more of *'s real estate on writing advice lately. It shows where my head's at, gets me involved in a community I like, and forces me to articulate my core writing beliefs. As I tweeted about a recent blog, someone remarked "I'm in yer blog, stealing yer research." I promptly hid my kids, hid my wife, and hid my husbands. I tweeted another new blog entry and he essentially said, "Seriously, I don't understand why you're giving away all your research for free."

I didn't respond in any particularly clever way, but this interaction brings up an important idea. Are we, as a writing community, in direct competition with each other? And if so, shouldn't we cede no conceivable advantages to our competitors?

For example, Wordsmith here has handed over his blog's bullhorn for the day. What a gaffe! What a blunder! It's like scoring on your own goal!

Firstly, let's address whether or not the writing community is, by definition, competitive. I would say yes. It's an industry based on sales, money, marketing, and popularity. There are only so many books that are going to be accepted for publication by major publishers this year, and we can't all happily jam ourselves and our manuscripts into those slots. We're not here for the kumbaya, we're here for the s'mores.

But freely exchanging tips and ideas is not the same thing as giving up the secret ingredient to your secret recipe, or your uber-gosu cheat codez. This is not Superman handing out Kryptonite like candy to all of his nemeses.

Writing is such an intensive, exhaustive practice that short of posting your finished manuscript online for all to read, there is nothing you can do to "give away for free" what makes you the unique writer that you are.

Writing is a craft, not a recipe. It does require different techniques and approaches, but it's darn hard, and frankly we're all idiots for loving it. But I think the reason that we do love it is because it's hard -- because it's an exercise of such depth, one that requires so very much of who we actually are. And you can't just copy that off somebody's writing blog. When they think they're stealing for fun and profit, they're actually just stealing for boredom and small gain.

All that being said, I still hope that my ideas on writing propel somebody's manuscript to publication. I sincerely hope that people come to my blog trying to steal my ideas and those things legitimately help them in being better at their craft. That doesn't make my craft any worse.

In a world filled with text, we need people who can turn letters into words into meaningful, powerful stories that resonate. As a community, we have to rise up and present ourselves and our craft as being relevant in a day when people expect every word for free. Our little groups of writing blogs can empower each other in pursuit of this. And I'm all for helping raise the community understanding of story one tiny notch by writing my little blogs.

Helping each other out doesn't hurt ourselves. So things like guest blogging, commenting meaningfully, and sharing advice only helps everybody.

Carl Duzett is from Portland, Oregon. At a young age, he was bitten by a radioactive writer and has been scribbling weird crap ever since. He currently resides in Maryland with his wife and son. Read his half-baked thoughts at * [asterisk], and his quarter-baked thoughts at


  1. I actually think this fairly often when I allow others to read my work online or off. What if they steal my work? what if they take what I've done and said that they thought of it?
    Well, I am not a published, or by any means renowned, author, but the conclusion I've come to is that if someone were to publish my work I would most likely get very frustrated. But in the end, that was my idea, not theirs, and if my idea got published by someone else, then I know my ideas are boss enough for that and I can think of others. Philosophies and ideologies don't end with a single thought, the human mind is limitless in every aspect.

    1. I have removed the duplicate comments; thank you for allowing me to use my authorial powers to apply the REMOVE FOREVER button. Muahahahahahaha!

      Anyway, I have had this happen to me once. Someone read my story and basically wrote the same thing, but with different words. I was surprised by how much it hurt me. It was flattering in some small way, but the way she ripped off my work without trying to change anything or acknowledge me was far more hurtful than the slight "oh, she likes my work."

      There are kinder and more honest ways to let a writer know you like their work. I don't know which side I'm on in the copyright vs. not debate, but having experienced both, I'm more open to conversation.

      Thus concludes this comment that probably doesn't answer anything you raised. Sorry for going off on tangents like that, didn't mean to.

  2. To be clear, I am for copyrights. Mine was merely a hypothetical situation, and not one that I would actually prefer going through. In addition, it is still stealing and lying and it only profits them temporarily.