So I am apart of a couple Facebook writing groups and I have been apart of other groups in the past. From what I have seen there are two types of group out there. The ones that help out new writers and those that don’t. This generally goes along for other creative things like photography and drawing etc.
I am not sure what the differences are between the different groups as a lot of time they have the same members in the groups. But the good groups give real help to those that need help. The bad ones troll the newbies and make them feel bad for not knowing things that only time, experience and burning through a shit ton of words will get the author.
I think that helping new writers is all well and good, but is it something that an experienced author should worry about? Is it something that I should worry about? Is it something that I should spend my time on those Facebook groups helping noobs with there questions?
There is arguments that can be made against helping out new writers. The argument goes that the amount of money to be made is finite and by encouraging new writers, you are taking the potential amount from your piece of that and making that smaller. More writers equal less money. So if you are going to try to do that for a living, then why would you spend the time helping someone out that can take money from your pocket?
Years ago I used to work in the film industry in Vancouver before I got a family and got a job that paid the bills better. (That is a story for a later date.) Anyways, in that industry the film crew is very departmentalized. The sound guys are separate from the lighting guys. The grips are separate from the set decorators. Some departments, like sound, do not like training up new people.
They argue that they don’t want more people stealing there work. And I understand there point of view. I was in the lighting department, well a permittee. And during one of the mad rushes of insane amount of work, they brought in members from affiliated unions to help fill the positions. It kept me from getting my hours needed to become a full member. The way I understand it is if they didn’t bring in those other members, I could have gotten my hours needed. I would have gotten work. By making it harder for new workers to get in, they protect the workers that they have. It kinda makes sense. Kinda.
Does that make any sense in the writing context? The answer is no. There isn’t a finite number of units sold each month. The number fluctuates wildly and a single consumer is going to buy multiple books from a wide ranging authors. And ebooks are so cheap in comparison to traditional books. Today the consumer is able to buy 3 or 4 ebooks per traditional book bought just 10 years before. He is more likely to splurge on another book because of the price.
So now that I have shot down the argument of finite book sales, is there a reason that you should help new authors?
The answer is simple. As you develop as an author, you get tunnel vision. If you look at some of the main stream, household name authors, they can get to the point where they are able to publish anything. Doesn’t matter what it is about or how good it is. There name alone will sell it like hot cakes. They can get away with stuff that most indies cannot. (I am sure you know the authors that I am talking about.)
As an author who has been writing for a decade, I know that I still have a lot to learn. Hell, I am not even published yet. Helping out new authors is a step on that learning process. Teaching noobs, even if it is only by blog posts and Facebook replies, can help you from getting tunnel vision. They get you to think outside of the box and look at your craft in different ways. Those ways can help you learn in more ways than you know.
As a final point, my 6 year old is interested in everything space, and science. I like looking at space, but it wasn’t and isn’t as big of interest as it is to my son. He loves it so much that he is asking questions about everything. He knows what a bloody black hole is. I had to look it up to get the non-movie version of it. He is like a sponge.
To help him learn, as a good parent, it is up to me to make sure that if his able to ask the question, than I need to be able to give him a sufficient answer for his intelligence level. (Some things will confuse him. He is 6 after all.) But in order to do that, sometimes (more than I care to admit to him yet) I have to spend some time on Wikipedia to learn it first so I can teach him.
That is what teaching new people does to the older ones. It helps the older ones learn more as they teach them. And I think that it is a good thing. I think that all authors, no matter what the experience level is at should be willing to help others as they ask for it. It is also of my opinion that those troll writing groups should be shut down from lack of members.