First of all perhaps I should disabuse you of the pseudo-scholarly nonsense that everyone’s opinion is of equal worth; it’s just not true. It’s as if people believe you don’t have to know anything about something to be able to say talk about it meaningfully. No, while it is true that everyone has a legal right to say anything they want to, in the name of good taste, some people should just please, please stop. I used to be somewhat of a libertarian, but since I’ve started writing this column I’ve started to believe that perhaps we need to legislate good sense.
What brought this on? The other day I wanted to find some good e-zines on the Internet. So I went to Google and executed a web search. Then, I executed a second web search that included a command to exclude the word “sex.” (If you don’t know why I had to do this, you need to do more web searches). I never found any good ones. If you know of some good e-zines, fell free to email me the address, because most of them suck.
What else brought this on? I read the Daily Universe
a few times a week. Reading that even once is enough to send anyone on a rant (as you can tell if you read my last column). People who read, write for, and write to the Daily Universe
are necessarily petty and lame. I provide no evidence for this, you have to read it to believe it.
So, in the interest of good taste and making it so I don’t have to hate everyone in Utah and on the Internet, I’ve come up with a list of guide lines for aspiring writers and web page makers. Note that this probably applies to all artists and multimedia gurus.
The first thing you should take into consideration is what your motivation is. Think about this. If you’re writing to make a living at it, get better before you tell everyone you’re worth publishing. If you’re doing it primarily for yourself, then please don’t inflict yourself on anyone else unless you realize what you’ve done is pure genius. If you’re doing it for the attention, then either be funny or have something insightful to say. If you’re writing because it’s glamorous, go to hell.
In short, don’t try to publicize your writing unless your writing is any good.
Here are some other tips:
A desperate need for attention is not sufficient time to waste a newspaper editor’s time. If you want to be published, don’t write a letter to the editor about how socks with sandals is tacky, or any other non-issue. (A corollary hint is that if the only option you have for publication is the school newspaper’s letters to the editor column, then you should just give up.)
If you are a sixteen-year-old posting on MySpace about how you like that guy in your math class, and Fluffy the cat was especially cute today, and mom is so mean because she grounded you even though you were only two hours late for curfew, and you were kissing that guy who’s too old for you but you didn’t use tongue, and your English teacher is mean, and the Gap has the cutest clothes, and that artist guy in your history is so creepy when he comes dressed in black, etc. JUST STOP NOW and never touch your computer again after you’ve deleted your web page and everything associated with it.
If the only thing you have for material for your web page is how old you are, where you go to school or work, and several unfunny pictures of your cat, don’t. (These last two reasons have led me to believe that it should be illegal for any girl under the age of 18 who has not had a CS class to publish a web page).
“Backstreet Boys Fan Fiction” is not a valid genre. Most fan fiction is not a valid genre.
Getting an idea from a good book does not mean that YOU will write a good book.
If you’re publishing on the web, make sure you provide links so a visitor reading can easily access the list of contents. Even better would be a link to the next story. (I’m referring here to online comic sites who think that a link to a .jpg or a .gif is sufficient ease of navigation. If your comics are in a certain order, please, please, please give me a “next” button.) Always remember that web surfers are lazy; otherwise they’d be outside playing. They don’t want to take the trouble to hit the “back” button in their browser every 30 seconds.
Format! (And make sure your colors contrast so people can actually read it. “Pretty” does not mean “legible.”)
In poetry, “free verse” does not mean “whatever obnoxious whim took me.” It means the meter and rhyme are determined by contextual artistic concerns, not a predefined format.
Please remember that this is only a partial list. Just keep in mind that when you write, you should be focusing on quality, even if you don’t want to be professional. I really would like to see a lot more amateur writing on the web and in the print world. But if you’re going to be published, you’ve got to think about someone other than yourself.