Thursday, November 22, 2007

Stalked by a Wannabe

Ye gods. I had the Pushy Wanna-be from Hell turn up at my house last night to foist her manuscript on me to read.

She wouldn't take "no" for an answer when she spoke to me on the phone earlier, battered through my "It really isn't a good day and I have other problems to deal with".

"Just leave your work at Silverfish and I'll pick it up," I added. The bookshop is my drop off/pick up point in Bangsar and I'm in the area most days.

Wanna-be wouldn't hear of it. She must put the manuscript in my hands now and get immediate feedback.

When my friend in the bookshop refused to give my number out, this lady actually tried to snatch the address book out of her hands! (I had actually given wanna-be my card when we met so don't know what this was all about!)

Wanna-be is actually a nice woman who has done someone's else's creative writing course which has equipped her with a lot of enthusiasm and plenty of expectations of being published.

I sat with her in Starbucks one morning some months ago giving her feedback on a couple of chapters after she had contacted me. There was a lot that didn't work, one section that did that I told her she could build on.

Then I had time and it was good to felt I could help someone. But how did the expectation that I was on call for her at all times and with no notice form in her head?

I do try to help writers by reading something for them when I can, but haven't enough energy for everyone all of the time. (Sometimes I don't feel I even have enough energy for me!)

I think the best thing I can do for Wanna-be is to give her the contacts of a good "book doctor" overseas (or perhaps locally) who can give her the detailed analysis she needs for a fee. And some websites where she can post chapters and get feedback for free. (Have been intending to blog about these resources and hope to do so.)

Must add here a note about the most horrendous wanna-be I met up with who argued vehemently with me every time I tried to tell her what was wrong with her manuscript!

"I'm not sure how this character dies at the end," I say.

"He was hit on the head with a golf club, of course."

And she doesn't believe me - even when the evidence is clear - when I say that there is not a single mention of the weapon or even that the murderer plays golf in her story!


Eric blogged some horror stories the other day and I think we may have been blogging about the same person!


Janet said...

Hi Sharon,
You have my utmost sympathy and definitely empathy. There are writers who don't understand that they need to send us the manuscript first for us to decide whether we would want to publish it. I can never understand why writers insist on meeting editors personally to "talk about" their manuscript, because surely the manuscript speaks for itself? I think the meeting-in-person is only necessary once we have decided to accept the manuscript, for further discussion etc. I'm most annoyed by writers who are pushy (like your psychotic one!) and are complete un-self-aware of their imposing, obssessive behaviour. And what amazes me is that this is basic human etiquette--when someone tells you no, that means no. And for goodness' sake, you're selling manuscripts here, not your chatter. We want to read the words, not listen to your ramblings. Why is that so hard to understand?

Sorry, a bit of a rant on my part here as well. ;) Have been meaning to write an article about the proper etiquette on submitting manuscripts to publishing companies--will do soon, but requires a little bit of research. You'd be amazed--there're some teenagers who know how to compile their work, put a neat contents page and a good cover letter, whereas some adults just dump rubbish on us without even a proper cover letter.

Over here, we actually bother to read the manuscript anyway. In the U.K. or the U.S., I think the editors would just bin (or recycle) the manuscript the moment they see something atrociously written that's supposed to pass for a cover letter, or something that doesn't even have a cover letter.

bibliobibuli said...

it's a welcome rant, Janet, and i know how hard your job is.

just spoke to eric who said this woman is not the same one he blogged about and added "you'd be surprised how many of those we get". now that's scary!

i actually did take this lady's manuscript to have a quick look at but didn't let her beyond the gate and told her off right there and then for her behaviour. i really hope that she does read this blog post and sees just how out of line her behaviour is.

Greenbottle said...

i used to read a lot of martin amis - in the toilet- and there's a rather amusing short story in "heavy water & other stories" called "the coincidence of arts" dealing with this sort of thing.

you should read it.

it starts like this:..

"This is a FARCE man. Have you read my novel yet?"
"Well why's that now?"
"I've been terribly__"

bibliobibuli said...

ooohhh i have to read this, greenbottle

Janet said...

I didn't think it'd be that big of a coincidence, but more importantly, I feel this kind of people are pretty generic. There are so many of them around that they're already stereotypes with stereotypical traits so really, could be anybody! ;) Good thing she didn't get past your gate! Am amazed at how easily one's address can be revealed. There's no privacy in KL, or is it just a very small place?

bibliobibuli said...

she had my card anyway and i don't really keep my address secret. she was so persuasive battling and battling at my defenses. i have a ton of sympathy for new writers but sometimes that isn't a good thing.

GUO SHAO-HUA said...

what do you expect to happen when books with low-grade or just plain bad writing are published, when people who can't write are given weekly columns in newspapers, when bloggers who dont have any substance are elevated to "celebrity" status and invited to writing events, when those who don't qualify at all become judges for writing competitions?

you create a society of delusional people who think "hey, if THAT can happen, then i can do it too."

we've got ourselves to blame. time to raise the standards and keep raising it.

bibliobibuli said...

when bloggers who dont have any substance are elevated to "celebrity" status *gulp*!

mr. guo this is why the work of an editor is so important. we all need a "no crap gets through" policy.

GUO SHAO-HUA said...


hey, Puan Bakar, here's something that's a must-read. it's written so well. a lovely piece by film academician and critic David Bordwell about growing up and growing old. it's so moving.

Lydia Teh said...

Poor Sharon, I do feel for you. *Hugs*

Anonymous said...

Sharon, I think you should start charging for reading manuscript, hehe... That may put off some people:)

Kak Teh said...

sharon, i am no publisher but I met 'someone' during one of the MPH booktalks who asked me to find publishers /agents for him in London. At that time, I did feel as if I was stalked if not for one of you, was it Lydia or Xeus who pulled me away for tea!

I think Janet should write about the do's and donts and the right way to approach publishers and editors. I can learn a few things too.

animah said...

I'm sure I've said this before. Start charging. The more stalkerish they get, the higher your rate. Set out a clear scope. Anything beyond that is subject to an hourly rate. That way they won't take you for granted.
Also make sure they agree to the rate in writing, perhaps with a downpayment. If they are serious they will pay in advance.

Its not about being commercially minded - its about valuing your time and your self worth.

Alice Teh said...

Hmmmm... some people are just so persistent to the point of being pissy. Pardon my language. Being persistent one thing, but being pushy to the point of stalking is taking things a tad too far.

I can see that you're a person with lots of grace and tact. I hope that Wanna-be will 'wake up' and realise where she'd crossed the line.

bibliobibuli said...

kak teh - i think a guide would be very useful ... but would the right people read it???

animah - the answer is i don't want to do this at all! (unless for my real friends or my course participants or for those people i approach because i like their work)

alice -hope so too!

Anonymous said...

If you don't want to do this, you could outsource. I mean you could get someone you can trust to do a good job, charge the writer and then pay the guy. Of course, you'd keep a little yourself :)

I think everyone is happy that way :)

bibliobibuli said...

thanks. would rather just pass these folks on. yes, i have a couple of names of people who might help.