In a recent post to a list serv, I expressed my skepticism about the woman who runs a writers’ website and their database/newsletter. Although she claims to have “more than 30 years” writing experience, her database and newsletter are often so riddled with errors and out-of-date info (although the “updates” are presented as breaking news) that I quickly realized that I could not blindly believe everything from that source of info.
After I made that post, several people contacted me off-list with their own thoughts and concerns about the website, and other resources and databases for writers. But other people admitted that they had never actually thought to evaluate the credentials of this person, or any other writing expert.
So I thought this was the perfect opportunity to make this point…as with anything else, when evaluating writing advice, it’s truly a case of Buyer Beware (even if the advice is actually free, you get my point).
Anyone can call themselves an expert. And, as a writer (or aspiring writer) it’s good to become accustomed right from the start to seeing through all the layers of hype, exaggeration, etc. to determine a person’s actual qualifications. When I’m seeking sources for Family Circle or one of the other mags I write for, I frequently hear from people claiming to be experts, who actually greatly exaggerate their credentials and experience — or even just flat out lie and totally make stuff up. I’ve gotten pretty good at listening to my instincts as to whether someone is what they claim to be, but I also thoroughly investigate and verify their claims.
It’s no different when determining the value of writing advice — you must consider the source. Does that person come across as professional, organized, intelligent, etc.? If not, it may be a red flag that you should take their advice with a grain of salt. Anyone can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Check out their clips and previous work. In the case of the writers’ website woman, she claims to send out 50 queries a week, but I’ve searched and can’t seem to find a current byline of hers anywhere. Another common ploy is for someone to tout their hundreds of articles — but when you investigate, you’ll find that these articles were all “published” on their own website, or websites that don’t pay at all and basically run anything they get.
Even an ad in Writer’s Digest is not a guarantee that someone is being honest with their claims and promises, or that they know what they’re talking about.
Take me, for example — I do not consider myself a writing expert by any means, but I do sometimes blab about my writing experiences, and often give advice. But I still encourage anyone reading my posts to check out my credits, experience, etc. and judge for themselves my qualifications to dispense writing advice.
Just a little word of caution to keep in mind…