Dear (Jackass) Writer, No I Will Not Do Your “Friend’s” Research/Writing For You

Dear Jackass,

Wow, isn’t the Internet awesome? Because of the Internet, we now have social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, where we can gather, tell campfire stories, and post LOLcats. Apparently, we can also spam these sites with multiple requests to have actual working authors do your work for you. After all, when you write a steam punk story with a giant machine in it, why bother going through all of the trouble of actually figuring out how to make the machine work? Isn’t it better to just have a friend ask the Internet for a list of movies with giant steam punk machines in them, so you can watch one and write down the sounds their machine makes? We all know machines don’t actually have to do things, they just have to sound like they do things.

Why stop there? What else can you have the Internet do for you? I’ve seen:

  • a request for me to read “a friend’s” story and let them know if it would be something I’d publish. Oh, and make editing suggestions, too, to make sure it’s the kind of story I’d publish.
  • Asking for the home phone number for a friendly professional (in a field which is only tangentially relevant to what you think you’re writing) because it’s 3 am and you don’t want to wait for an email reply to your question.
  • Looking for college students to ask their professors your questions because you don’t want to go through the process of making connections on your own.
  • After being told that some information you’re looking for is in a particular book, including title and author name, asking the person who helpfully gave you this info to read the book and answer your questions for you, because you “don’t have that much time.”
  • Asking strangers to provide free, book-length, line edits.
  • Looking for someone to translate, for free, huge sections of dialogue into a language that you don’t speak, because you think it will make your book smarter/edgier/more “ethnic”. Bonus points for actually using said dialogue, when you don’t know for sure if the translation’s accurate.
  • Asking the Internet to give you common information that would easily have been found – capital cities, recipes, bus schedules for major metropolitan areas, and so on. Just remember one word, dear: Google. It’s there for a reason.

Some of what the Internet is for:

  • Researching. Your own research, that is, the kind where you search for the information you need, yourself.
  • Crowdsourcing a name for a character or company in your next book – not because you can’t think of one, but because you want to include your fans in your work and naming your mad scientist after a fan’s child is a nice way to give something back.
  • Asking for recommendations to an MFA program that is friendly to genre writing.
  • Getting the names of friendly professionals so that you can reach out to them and start building a relationship for future communication.

That’s all for now, Dear Jackass, but rest assured, I’ll have something else to say to you soon.

~ Carrie

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