When I was a young, unpublished writer, I wrote to a relatively famous (now deceased) New York author and sent him a chapter from one of my unpublished novels. After many months, the author wrote back and in barely legible handwriting scolded me for bothering him. He said that literary agents were the only people in publishing who could tell me what I needed to know, and why did I write to him seeking guidance when there are dozens of books available about how to publish a book or query a literary agent?
He was right, of course, but I always felt he could have been a little nicer about it. Most published authors simply do not have the time to help aspiring writers. Inquiries come in by phone, mail, or email several times a week, and any attempt to answer each one quickly makes half the writing day vanish. I don’t want to be that grouchy writer, but I do want to be a writer, and that means NOT being an agent, editor, confidante, and all-purpose literary advisor. Most authors compromise by giving the odd lecture, by helping out at writers’ conferences now and again, or by answering some emails and not others.
Then came the Internet and websites, and a little later, the interactive blog. With a blog, it’s possible to answer a popular question ONCE and then make it available to every other aspiring writer with the same question. That’s one of the selfish reasons for this website.
If you have a question about my work or about the craft of writing, first check and see if it has already been answered. Use the SEARCH box or peruse the categories or pages of the site and see if the issue has already come up.
I can’t answer every question. I don’t respond to emails. For obvious legal reasons, I cannot and will not read your work (query letters, treatments, unpublished novels, chapters, stories, and so on), but I will answer any question, especially if it’s one that will help others with the same problem.
You don’t have to use your real name, I won’t publish your email, but if I answer your question, I will probably post it pretty much the way you asked it.