critique groups · Harriet Hale · writing advice

How Not to be an Ask-hole

by Harriet Hale

Ask-hole -“a person who constantly asks for your advice, but always does the opposite of what you tell them.”

I love this, and I wish I could claim it but I can’t. I saw it on Pinterest. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many of my sentences now include a reference to the big red P.

I think we all know an ask-hole and, if we don’t, we’re probably one ourselves. At least sometimes.

Writers can be bad about it. New writers can be the worst. So … here is Harriet’s “rule” for not being an ask-hole. It’s really simple.

Pay attention to what people tell you.

Critique partners or beta-readers.

If I’m asking someone to give me their opinion of a manuscript, I expect them to be honest. If they’re confused, disgusted, appalled by my grammar, whatever it is, I need to know it. If you’re giving people your work, and you only want them to tell you how great it is, you’re an ask-hole.

Editors, publishers, or agents.

When you submit, read the company’s specific guidelines. Each company is different. Follow the instructions. You want a wake-up call? Follow an agent on Twitter and see how many queries get rejected because the author did not follow simple instructions.

After you submit, be patient. Most of them tell you how long it will take them to respond.

When they respond, if you’re lucky enough to get feedback or a request to revise and resubmit, don’t reject their comments out of hand. Chances are, they’re right. Yes it may hurt, but they’re trying to help you. No one wants you to fail.

Don’t have time for instructions? Can’t be patient? Don’t want to hear comments other than “yes”? You’re an ask-hole.

Classes and freelance editors.

It is your job to learn your craft. Take a class (or five) and hire a freelance editor. However, if a teacher or an editor tells you what you’re doing wrong, don’t spend all their time telling them they just don’t understand your process. You’ve asked them to help you, and they are helping.

At that point they’re a reader, and you’ve left them confused.  That is not a good thing. You’re an ask-hole.

Published authors. Authors are some of the nicest, most generous, people I’ve met. They will answer almost any question. And for How it’s done questions – like when and how to best nudge an editor on a submission – published authors have great insight and experience.

First, ask authors you know – as in someone who’ve had a conversation with. Use a little common sense.

Second, keep it short and don’t expect them to drop everything for your emergency. After all, they have jobs, deadlines, and families.

Third, don’t waste their time by asking a question you could research on your own. Don’t be lazy.

With any of these groups, you don’t have to fall in lock-step. It is your story, your voice, your muse. Some advice won’t fit the tone of your story (but it might make you think of something better). However, if you’re spending all your time explaining and justifying your work – and no time listening and learning – you’re an ask-hole.

I’m a firm believer that writing well is a skill you can learn. One of the best ways to do that is to collaborate, ask questions, and build a supportive community.

You won’t do any of those if you’re an ask-hole.

HarrietThat’s it for this month. I’m in the middle of editing for a resubmit request and paying close attention to what I’ve been told by almost every group above. I’ll talk to you in 30 days.


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2 thoughts on “How Not to be an Ask-hole

  1. Excellent advice, Harriet, that needs to be followed by all authors and writers. While I never considered myself an author, I was a writer of articles for publication. Those articles would never have been published had I not listened to the advice I requested!

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