Free Tips and Advice – But Is There a Catch?

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WHEN I created Budding Writers’ Corner, a community group on Facebook, and a blog – yes, this blog – during the last quarter of 2020 to give tips and advice to aspiring creative writers, my family, friends and colleagues expressed curiosity. They hurled various questions at me, including the following:

(A) Did you resign from your corporate job to be a blogger and Facebook admin?

(B) Have you retired to start breathing easy in the relaxed atmosphere of blogging and maintaining a Facebook group?

(C) Are you going to use social media to sell your books?

(D) Will you offer a master class in writing, for a fee, via Budding Writers’ Corner and Creative Writing for Beginners?

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My response to each of the above:

(a) I quit my job after nearly ten years not to become a blogger but to pick up where I’ve left off in my personal writing projects that I’ve set aside for so long.

(b) The new COO has assumed that I was retiring (based on my age, ha ha!) but I forgave him for the incorrect announcement.

(c) As for selling, this has not occurred to me. The sales of all my books that were published in print were handled by my publishers.

I will, however, suggest to my Facebook friends and blog readers to check the links to my self-published books on Amazon KDP. I will also continue to share links to my stories, essays or articles – all free content – that are published online.

(d) And, no, I will not offer a masterclass in creative writing. I have no pretensions to being a master in my profession despite the volume of my published (in print) body of work.

What’s in it for me?

WHAT caught my attention the most in all these queries pertained to the “selling” part. I have no beef with that. Selling online is the way to go even years before the COVID-19 pandemic, its resulting lockdown being the accelerator in the e-commerce boom. The growth of international online sales is unprecedented and predicted to rise to 120% year-on-year. By 2024, global online sales is forecast to reach a quarter of total global retail sales. What business-minded people would not want to market their goods online?

But, no. I’m not business-minded for a start.

I am not selling any product or service in my Facebook group or in my website. The tips and guidance that I share in both are free. There is no catch. You, my readers and followers, will not be asked to buy anything.

There is nothing in it for me but a sense of gratification each time I share with aspiring writers the little nuggets of practical lessons I learned as writer and editor in over 30 years. Although this may sound trite at best and self-aggrandizing at worst, I wish to give back to the community of would-be creative writers out there by providing pointers and guidance towards their aspirations.

Giving back to the community was not new to me as I helped a young publisher in her advocacy, that of providing books at extremely low price to underprivileged families that could not afford supplemental educational materials for their children.

Giving back to the community was, frankly, not new to me. A decade ago, a friend and I helped a young publisher in the Philippines in the latter’s book projects for underprivileged families who could not afford supplemental educational materials for their children. For a flat token fee, I compiled and edited a set of pocket dictionaries, wrote basic English grammar books, children’s stories, retold fables, and so on. These books were sold by the publisher at extremely affordable prices. These were distributed not only in Metro Manila but in far-flung provinces in the country. The educational materials were sold in flea markets and temporary stalls outside the school premises. That made me wince at first because I wasn’t used to having my books (fiction, by other publishers) sold outside “proper” book stores. But as the publisher-advocate said, her aim was to give wide access to as many readers as possible from the low-income bracket. And those in this bracket would not be inclined to shop in bookshops where prices of books were prohibitive to them. Fair enough.

To my surprise, however, I still get feedback after all these years from those who availed these reading materials, leaving me feeling gratified. Hence, the impetus to put in some time and effort to Budding Writers’ Corner and Creative Writing for Beginners.

If any of the practical tips I have shared and will share will help just one aspiring writer, that would give me ample satisfaction.

Another impetus to give free guidance

THE time I spend in preparing practical tips to budding writers was also borne of my painful exposure to criticisms on the genres I was engaged in at the time. At a young age, I wrote for the comics and was shortly offered editorship of two weekly titles by the biggest publication in the country at the time. I was so proud. But this feeling fragmented when I was told to my face by a literary writer how he and other literary writers looked at the genre. Writing comics scripts, according to them, was not writing at all as comics-magazines, after being read, were consigned as fish-wrapper materials – unlike the books in which their literary works were printed. It was unkind of them to infer that comics writers were inferior. But I wondered if this little clique of “august” literary writers knew that other literary writers, more admired than them, were also writing for the comics albeit under a pseudonym.

Writing comics scripts, according to a small clique of literary writers, was not writing at all as comics-magazines, after being read, were consigned as fish-wrapper materials – unlike the books in which their literary works were printed.

From the author’s incomplete library of her own romance novels

When Filipino (or Tagalog) romance novels were introduced, I shifted to this genre with no effort at all. The response was tremendous. The huge volume of readership was transformative in that it encouraged people to get into the habit of reading. But a cutting indictment on local romance writers by a multi-awarded literary writer had gravely upset me. He said, in essence, that writing romance was akin to [the writer] prostituting herself/himself. This writer who I will not name was, perhaps, not conscious that his speech about writing romance would be distressful to many of us, romance writers.

The huge volume of Filipino romance novels’ readership was transformative. It encouraged people, the young especially, to get into the habit of reading plain text. But writing romance novels, according to a multi-awarded literary writer, was akin to prostituting herself/himself [in choosing to write romance novels].

It was this unthoughtful comment, nevertheless, that also served as added impetus for me to go ahead with giving free tips to aspiring creative writers. You, as a would-be writer, should then work hard and prepare assiduously for your chosen profession.

Writing is a discipline.

It is also a craft.

And the path towards this career is fraught with endless hours of writing a draft, and editing and revising the same – and this is even before submission of the manuscript.

A confident writer is not disheartened by blunt editorial assessments or unfavorable readers’ reviews but should, instead, use the same as guides to better one’s best efforts.

And maybe, hopefully maybe, you will one day share with the new breed of aspiring writers what you have learned along the way towards a successful writing career – and please make it free of charge, without a catch.

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