I just read an article at io9 called “How to get John Scalzi and David Gerrold to Take a Restraining Order Out On You,” about people sending unsolicited, unproven scripts or stories to writers and the damage that can do to a writer’s career.
Beyond the normal implication that yes, you are indeed putting the writer in an untenable position with regards to their ability to create things… Seriously, you wouldn’t be contacting this particular writer if you didn’t value their abilities, so why would you want to slap creative shackles around their wrists? If they do anything remotely related to the thing you’ve sent them, something even tangentially related… They do it in the shadow of a potential lawsuit. Yes, you’re a fan. Yes, you would never do anything to hurt your hero – except you already have, and they have no idea how you’ll react when you see their name on a book exploring ideas similar to the ones you sent them. A book that may have been in process for two years before you hit send and heard the little whooshing sound on your mac’s Mail.app. Of course you’re not going to believe “I already thought of that,” even if it’s the logical next step for the characters or the universe.
And here, I could tell give an example of where I’d like to see Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe go, but I’d rather not guarantee that it doesn’t go there, should he come across this post.
Anyway… Here’s the big thing… Beyond that implication, and I’m sorry to have to say this, but… Who the hell are you? What makes you think you’re important or amazing enough that you should bypass the proper channels and get another writer to put his neck on the line and spend some (or all!) of his cred with his contacts to give you a leg up? If you’re as awesome as you think, you can make it through the gauntlet. If you’re as awesome as you think, you’re better served by following one big rule… Don’t be a douche.
I’m a writer. I have writer friends. We all give each other a head’s up when we can, or cheerlead for one another when something needs doing. I am blessed to have intensely talented and creative friends of all stripes and colors. In fact, I’m blessed to be able to consider one of my absolute favorite writers – someone I admire and look up to, someone whose writing amazes and delights me endlessly – to be a friend. And you know what I’ve never done to her? I would never ask her to slip a story of mine to her agent, or her publisher. I’ve never even asked her to critique something I’ve written before it’s been published.
If you look on my Twitter, I’ve asked for feedback from certain of my other writer friends (Eddy and crew), and I know you’re thinking “the Dude abides, and he sees your hypocrisy.” But it’s not the same. In Eddy’s case, we already have an editorial relationship, and I’d like to think we have that level of trust. That bridge is already there. Of course, if he said he felt uncomfortable with it, I’d have completely understood. Otherwise, it’s an open call for people willing to read it and let me know what I need to fix. I’m not putting anyone on the line who doesn’t volunteer their services.
Back to the point… I know these people and I’m wary of pushing my work on them. What makes it cool to do that to people you don’t even know?