The Secret to Success? Learn from the Crabs in the Bucket

Image via Flikr Commons, courtesy of Wonderlane...

Image via Flikr Commons, courtesy of Wonderlane…

I am like cerebral flypaper for cool anecdotes, but one that stood out to me was the story of the crabs in the bucket. When fishermen trap crabs, they just dump them in a bucket on the pier. No lid. Nothing to trap the crabs and keep them inside. Why? Because if any crab tries to climb out of the bucket and escape, the others will pull it back inside.

Many of us, when we decide to become professional authors face “crabs in the bucket.” They often look a lot like family, friends and even fellow writers. They fear failure, so they fear our success. If we actually accomplish something remarkable, we prove that success is more choice than fate.

Leave Toxic Relationships Behind

We have to let go of the old to grab hold of the new, but that’s often the most terrifying thing we can do. The past might be destructive, stagnant or even toxic…but it’s familiar. When we decide to do something remarkable, we face the unknown. It’s easy to be lulled into the idea that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.

As artists we need to guard our emotions and our muse. Negativity, doom, gloom and drama can rob our energy, erode our (often) fragile confidence, and undermine success. Refuse to hang out with whiners, complainers and lazy people. Bad habits are contagious.

No company is better than bad company.

Writing Groups Can Be Filled with Crabs

As a neophyte, one thing I didn’t understand was that just because a group meets and professes to be a “serious writing group,” doesn’t make it so. I can say I’m the Queen of England. Doesn’t make it truth.

Many years ago, I joined my first writing group, but I was naive and didn’t know that Show, Don’t Tell applies to life as well as fiction. At first, I was just a member and a lot of people actively attended and participated. My skills grew exponentially.

Then, gradually, most of the published authors stopped attending and attendance dropped off. It wasn’t at all uncommon for me to be the only one who showed up for the meeting. Most of the remaining members only attended when they wanted line-edit. They took but rarely gave (unless they wanted something).

I failed to see the climate shift in this group and stuck it out. I thought that maybe, if I became president, I could resurrect the club.


Instead, I fielded years of complaints, hate mail, and personal attacks, often from people who attended quarterly (we met bi-weekly). They didn’t want to help, but sure had a lot to gripe about.

They didn’t like the day, or the time, or the location or that we only met once a week or that we couldn’t meet weekends or that we met both weekdays and weekends and why can’t we do this or that or both?

The pettiness and stupidity was simply EPIC. I nearly lost my mind with the churlish politics of running a volunteer organization. Many of the members did nothing but criticize everything I did and everything I didn’t do. Yet, when I finally walked away and decided not to be a punching bag president another year? I was an @$$%^$# for that, too.

Crabs are never happy and they LIKE being in the bucket. They can’t see they will soon be made into crab salad.

Original image via Nathan Jones Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Nathan Jones Flikr Creative Commons

Joining a writing group is one of the best things you can do as a new author, but please learn from my stupidity. If the group isn’t producing published writers? If people say they want to be professionals, but can’t bother showing up? If all they do is complain and backbite? If they never finish anything?


I always recommend finding a Romance Writers of America chapter in your area (even if you don’t write romance). RWA is full of professionals who take their craft and jobs seriously. They can help hone your craft and be a system of growth and emotional support. You can also find peer support on WANATribe, #MyWANA or even the WANA Facebook page.

Choose Friends Wisely

We are who we hang around. If we hang around flaky amateurs who don’t keep their word, who consistently fail to honor their commitments, and who never finish anything? People who change their minds every other day what they want to do with their lives? People who whine more than work?

We’re letting them drag us back in the bucket.

Want to be successful? Professional? Hang around those people. Stalk them on Twitter. Comment on their blogs. Digital relationships are just as powerful. My closest friends (all PROS) I met on-line. I learned to be a professional by escaping the bucket, then looking to the pros. I read their books, their blogs and immersed myself in their energy.

What about you? Facing some crabs in the bucket? Have you escaped the bucket? How did you do it?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. Sometimes the crab pulling you back is yourself. I have been a member of a professional organization (including a 3-year stint as president) for 8 years. They’re a great group and I always feel like I’ve learned something when I come out of a meeting, but yet, I’m still taking a year’s ‘leave’ from the group to explore new things. The yearly fee is hefty ($250.00) and I’ve decided to use that money for some professional development of my own to bolster my other writing interests–online workshops, books, etc. I’m sure I’ll go back, but I need to have a different focus for a year. I’ll miss them, but I hope to come back with lots of new knowledge to share from my year away from the bucket.

  2. Kristen, your writers’ group story is so familiar, it’s scary. But we learn and grow and, with a little luck, find a better class of crustacean to hang with. 🙂

  3. First of all: I will never look at crabs the same way again …

    I’m part of a very small writing group with just me and a couple of friends, and we meet, on average, once a week. We don’t really critique or even look at each others’ work; it’s more just like jogging with a buddy, as the friend who initiated the group says, something to keep us motivated, as well as being a place where we can bounce ideas around or get feedback if we ask for it, but mostly it’s just a weekly reminder that we are meant to be writing stuff/a semi-regular source of human interaction. It works for what it is, but I can’t imagine being part of a ‘proper’ writing group; I can only imagine how many ways there are for things to go South.

  4. Thank you for this great post, I am chairman of a local writers group and we are still learning how to make the meetings the most productive for our members. I would love to hear from other people about how their meetings are run. Because we have such a diverse group of members, from those just dreaming of writing to published authors, everyone seems to need or want something different. Typically we open with a speaker, usually a newly published author to tell about their experience in writing, then the 2nd hour, we either do a practice session of flash fiction or we do what we call Read & Recommend, where members bring in their WIP for feedback and suggestions. We have had the hardest time with the Read & Recommend because there is never enough time to make it beneficial. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Joanne Tailele
    chairman, Marco Island Writers

    1. Hi, Joanne –

      I’m no expert, but I was fortunate enough to be in a fiction writer’s workshop for a year, run by our local university’s writer-in-residence. There were 15 of us, and we met weekly for 2-3 hours. We had a scheduled rotation of two writers’ works being workshopped each week – they would email us their chapter/short story a week ahead of time so we’d have time to read/write comments. There were certain protocols for both the critiquers and the authors during the sessions that I won’t get into here (but if you’re interested, we can chat more later), and it was a really valuable approach that worked well. Over the course of a semester, each writer would have his/her work critiqued twice. In addition, our workshop leader would bring in craft articles and give out optional writing exercises that we would also go over near the end of each session, tailored to craft questions raised during our discussions.

      It does seem that your association is trying to be all things to all people, and I can imagine the difficulties involved!


  5. Did you hit the nail on the head with this one or what? I belong to two excellent critique groups where members push each other to publish. And one other group that it’s like pulling teeth to get people to meetings or volunteer to help with anything, yet they are constantly demanding bigger and better things. I say choose your groups wisely. There are only 24 hours in every day and we need to make awfully sure that those hours are spent moving toward our goal.

    Terrific post!

  6. I have never been in the bucket, but you spent too long in yours.
    I know very few jokes, but one concerns crabs.

    • Katrina Kirkpatrick on June 24, 2013 at 7:48 am
    • Reply

    Occasionally it’s not the crabs. Its the already published fisherman standing outside the bucket with a club in his hand and pounding on the head of any crab who should show some sign of talent or skill. The fisherman likes to be the only fisherman among a sea of talent-less crabs. Beware of the fishermen as well-they’re published yet insecure enough to feel the need to put down the crabs. They often even take great pleasure in it.

  7. I’ll never forget the day I was struck with the inspiration for my first book. I was in a room with one of those crabs. I was working at Verizon and was in a training class. During one of the breaks, I wrote the beginning of Harp Lessons. One of my coworkers, a rather grouchy old man, announced in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Hey! Shea’s writing The Great American Novel!”

    Yeah, shove off buddy. I’m working.

  8. I am now an addict of your blog. I love the image of the crabs. Supportive, committed, stimulating people and a safe environment are as necessary to a writer as the comptuer they type their novels on.

  9. Reblogged this on roehilldotnet.

    • Jennifer Cole on June 24, 2013 at 7:53 am
    • Reply

    What a great post! Thanks for the insight. I don’t have anything to add really so I’ll settle for thank you! Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2013 12:26:22 +0000 To:

  10. Thank you so much for all the insights….for someone who is officially just starting out (like me) it is invaluable info!

  11. I absolutely agree with your post. I’m currently trying to escape the bucket. I’ve made some new contacts that appear to be promising and am actively looking for a new writer’s group with serious writers. With hope and an action plan i can see a light ahead.

    • Christy Thomas on June 24, 2013 at 8:21 am
    • Reply

    I was wondering why I kept getting pinched! Thank you. I definitely need to make my escape.

    Great post as usual.

  12. This is a great post — so true.

    If anything, sadly, unites writers (published, even, best-sellers, even) it’s ego, insecurity and fear. Talent is a dime a dozen. If you get a book published, then you’re terrified of poor sales and bad reviews, (which you recently blogged about personally), and you really need someone (or several) who’s already been down that scary path and will comfort and bolster you — not hate you *because* you’re being published.

    Envy is rampant and toxic. I remember so well watching all my pals get published and feeling so jealous — but cheered for them all anyway. We must! Now (yay) I’m featuring three new NF works on my blog this summer for friends with great books, (one featured in the WSJ this weekend and on Pro Publica today), with Q and As with each author, one of whom I gave a blurb to.

    THIS is what it’s about — cheering the hell out of those who are winning and knowing they will cheer for you in return. Publishing is very difficult but it is NOT a zero-sum game. That sort of nasty thinking is a total waste of everyone’s time. Just get on with it.

  13. It’s so easy to let others drag you down, and you don’t even notice. Thanks for a great anecdote and wake-up call. 😀

  14. This is really good advice– and trust me, I’ve got some friends like that, too.

    Figuring out that you have people like that in your life is hard– but sometimes trying to figure out how to move out of their sphere of influence is even harder, I think.

  15. Funny you say this right now. I have been thinking of being less active (or not at all) in a writing group I’m in that, while it may offer some exposure, is full of people who whine about why they’re not more successful instead of acting professional enough to be successful. Now, I can whine with the best of them, but at least I do it privately, for the most part. (Does this count as whining?) I need to work with people who help me tackle the tough stuff by climbing out themselves and living to tell the tale. And I want to be that person.

  16. Wow. I needed this today! Thanks for your insight.

  17. I totally agree. Our San Antonio Romance Authors group is full of helpful, accomplished people who build each other up instead of tear each other down. We had the good fortune to have you as a speaker once, and you are awesome. I am linking your page to SARA and SAWG. Write on!

  18. Great post Kristin! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  19. I mean Kristen! Sorry! Typo and I didn’t edit before I hit Post…my bad!

    1. LOL. I am not that picky :D. But thanks for the thought. I am thrilled for the comment! *hugs*

  20. The best thing I could have done was get out of the bucket and go about being the Lone Ranger for a while. Never looked back, so to speak

  21. I’m definitely not a trapped crab. Although I’ve been surrounded by several crabs, even some that I have been very close to. I’ve learned to laugh when they try dragging me back in the bucket. My life is not destined to get boiled and eaten. Excellent post. Awesome metaphor.

  22. Boy, do I know some crabs. I heard this same advice a long time ago from John Maxwell. He was quoting the Chicken Soup for the Soup CEO, I think, who was trying to take his company from the millions to the billions. John asked him, “Who do you hang around?” The guy said, “Millionaires.” John said, “That’s your problem. You need to hang around with billionaires.” It’s all about thinking the way successful people think.

    Ever since then, I’ve tried to surround myself with people I can look up to and strive to emulate.

    • Pirkko Rytkonen on June 24, 2013 at 10:15 am
    • Reply

    I like the crab story. I am just starting out so I needed that…I have to find people that will be committed to writing.

  23. I am blessed to be part of a good group (small). However, even though I’m not yet a published novelist, I can see that this group may not always meet my needs.

    And I hate being around negative people (writers or otherwise). They will sap the very life out of you.

    Good post!

  24. I haven’t found myself in a bucket yet and this is a good reminder to avoid evil, egotistical crabs. Thank you for your sound, common sense insight.

  25. I don’t belong to a group but I have some friends who critique my work for me. They are always encouraging, sometimes I wish they would be a little more critical…lol (careful what I wish for). This is great advice Kristen as I have been looking for a writer’s group for a while.

  26. Reblogged this on Cynthia Stacey and commented:
    Awesome advice from Kristen Lamb author of We Are Not Alone!

  27. Hi Kristen: What a great post. I’ve actually developed a bit of an aversion to writers’ groups, even though I know there are some great ones out there. At one of the more memorable ones I attended, I walked in tentatively, not knowing the format or protocol, and was soon verbally attacked by one of the members who was certain I was there to steal her vampire poetry. Um, no. But I stuck it out a few more times, and ultimately decided to compliment the group on my blog. The president then wrote me a sarcastic note because I didn’t use their formal name in my post. I decided it was time to leave the bucket.

    • annerallen on June 24, 2013 at 11:25 am
    • Reply

    I love the crab metaphor. I’m working on a blogpost on this subject myself. A new writer benefits so much from a critique group, but they benefit just as much from leaving it at the appropriate time. Most people do not want their friends to succeed, unfortunately. It makes them see that success is possible, and if they don’t have it, it could be their own fault. Much better to believe that all agents/editors/self-publishers are all idiots and never let anybody get out of the bucket.

  28. I’m in a position now where I have no close writing friends, no one to bounce ideas off of in real time. I was in a few friendships where I was always helping them but they never had much to say about things I was doing. I’m shocked by the fact that strangers and acquaintances have purchased books that have my short stories, but none of my close friends or family have. I have had some success on with finding serious writers that give good critique and want critique in return. However, I have not found anyone locally.

    1. Go to WANATribe and join a tribe or start one. It’s a social site I created for creative people (mainly writers).

    • Lalo on June 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm
    • Reply

    This post has proven timely to me since I have been thinking of starting a writer’s group in this area. Another helpful post. You’re on a roll! Thank you.

  29. I’m in a good writer’s group and am thankful for it. The two people who started it gave some thought before kicking it off and there are guidelines about giving suggestions, not commenting things like, “I hated it” and so on. Be kind. also, there has to be participation at least once a month, we meet bi-weekly, so that no one sits around simply being a critic. I’m sorry you got shafted running your group. I can’t understand why people complain about meet times, and such, it’s always going to inconvenience someone. That can be a good thing. 🙂

  30. I agree with you, Kristen, about RWA. They are very professional and organized. I have been a member of Sisters in Crime for years (one of the founding members of our local chapter) and that group is made up of mostly readers (those that say they are writers don’t write much). Through friends I was invited to join a critique group made up of romance writers (ended up being the best!). I started attending some meetings at RWA and finally joined. I was impressed by their dedication to perfecting their craft and becoming published.

  31. This is an awkward topic. If you want to be a billionaire, then it makes sense for you to hang out with them, but it doesn’t make sense for them to hang out with you. Nevertheless, when I decided I wanted to write a novel, I joined the local RWA chapter (SARA), because they had the most professionally-minded writers. I would be not just the low man on the totem pole, but the only man on the totem pole. Still, they have been patient enough to help me learn.

    1. True, but don’t hang around broke people who believe wealth is gained by winning the lottery. Read books about creating wealth, follow those people on social media, follow their blogs. A lot of those people will respond and offer guidance. I talk to “aspiring writers” all the time, but I make sure to engage the ones who act like a pro. Wasting time on whiners is bad for me, but it doesn’t mean I won’t reach out to new, unpublished, or struggling writers who deeply desire to be successful.

      1. Amen, to this. Kristen gave me a load of helpful advice on a short short story I had written (and I didn’t even win the drawing – she was just being her mentoring self).
        This is why I faithfully follow her blog, buy her books and frequently refer to her as my Jedi master on my blog.
        You walk your talk, Kristen, and I admire you for that.

  32. Great post! I’ve certainly run into my share of crabs. Thanks for reminding me about RWA. I’m a member and will seek out a local chapter, after hearing your high praise of their dedication and professionalism.

    • Ellisha on June 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for this post Kristen. I have found it hard to develop a committed writing group, but I find that I really enjoy your blog. Online encouragement can be just as good as in person encouragement.

  33. My crab story is different. I tell my mother; why eat crabs when you can eat beef steak. It takes too much work to get very little meat when eating crabs. There is the cost. Crabs are “cheaper” than beef steak. There is availability. Beef steak is rare at my birth country. Beef steaks are tough to chew. You can gum and swallow crab meat. This was her point. It takes hard work and with little money to get what you want, the very little meat. She learned it from her mother. I want to grow King Crabs from Alaska, for the crab legs. There is more tender meat and it easier to remove the meat. I avoid people that pull me in, back in the bucket, of negative attitude who encourage acceptance of failure and to quit. I did not earn a college degree but I learned that to succeed; it is an individual walk to the unknown even if there are those behind, walking in the same direction.

  34. Unfortunately my best friend is a crab… and he helps me look after my kids. Do I have to choose?

  35. I understand what you mean about useless groups. I was part fo one that did more complaining about what should be done than they ever did. I have found about three good groups according to the criteria you mention.

  36. It can be surprising and hurtful who turns out to be a crab. I have spent too many years being a closet writer because my family was full of naysayers.
    Another great reminder, Kristen. I hope when I’m ready for a group of professional writers, I’ll be able to find some locally. I know I will find them at WANA. Thanks!

  37. Toxic writing relationships are the toughest, especially when you’ve been there for each other from the beginning of your career, until one day you realize its been a take/take relationship with you being on the give/give end. One hard and very difficult lesson is that sometimes we outgrow our groups and need to move on to a group/writer relationship where there is balance.

  38. Great piece Kristen, I appreciate you sharing and as a new writer find your experience very informative. Thanks!

  39. I left a local writer’s group for just those reasons, and moved to Sisters in Crime. What a difference! The professional group has exponentially increased my skills.

  40. I went to one writer’s meeting. Everyone was laid back and enjoying life as it came. I didn’t go back and instead looked online as you suggest. I don’t have time a social group, I wanted pros who would hold my feet to the fire.

    I’ve been in the fence about the RWA. Maybe I should join. I was a member for a while and got nothing. Closest meeting was hundreds of miles away. I never thought about starting a chapter. Hmm.

  41. Oh, those crabs. They’re rotten. Don’t eat ’em. Seriously, they’re tainted and poisonous.

    I have been a part of several groups, and I have only been in one that I thought had my best interests at heart. Wouldn’t you know it, they were published authors. I think there is something to be said about mentoring.

    A published author can view a work in progress and think, mold and shape. Writers just starting out or have hit their head against a brick wall too many times think, slash and dash. It’s the nature of the beast (or the crab, in this instance).

    Most of the time, a new writer, or a writer that has just begun to take good criticism to their bosom like a freshly baked loaf of bread, will endure a fair amount of bad advice. Most unfortunate is that they yet lack the filter of experience, so off they go…bad advice and all.

    A good group is invaluable, as is a good beta reader. Both need to be met by trust. But how to know if one can trust their chosen group? Ah–experience.

    Every writer comes to a point where they can see their own work with truly critical eyes. Then it’s easy to pick a good group, or know when to run. Then again, that’s about the point they find themselves no longer needing a group.

    Geez, to be a writer is to be in constant conflict.

    • Yvette Carol on June 24, 2013 at 9:40 pm
    • Reply

    Wow, Kristen, your experience with your critique group mirrors mine! I got sick of it. I’m still a member but I never go to meetings because of the list of things you mentioned. However, I have just been asked (today) to join an online critique group, so if that works out, I’ll feel free to drop my other membership completely. Life’s too short, babe.

  42. There are crabs everywhere. Best to boil them in a pot and eat them. Tasty. Every day I click on your blog thinking… “What will Kristen say?” Love the images in this post.

  43. I love the crab analogy 🙂

    Personally, I think that the majority of society like to see others fail, and want glory for themselves. There are fewer people who want to genuinely help others, collaborate, and work as a team to both achieve success.

    The worst kind are the ones who pretend to want to help you, and then run you down as hard as they can, so you feel awful about yourself and your work, or talk you out of your dreams.

    I recently read Arnold Schwarzeneggers 6 rules to success. Really smart man, and I think Kristen Lamb would agree with these. They are:

    1) Have a Big Vision
    2) Think Big
    3) Ignore the Naysayers
    4) Work your Ass off
    5) Give something back

    A full article with details can be found here:

    He is absolutely right. People will tell you what you cannot do, so nothing should please us more than to do exactly that. Reach for the stars.

    I may just blog about these rules and how I have seen them affect me as a writer, social media, and how writers can use these rules to be better motivated 🙂

  44. I’ve only just found you, and I’m so glad I did. Not only do I not want to be a crab in a bucket being pulled back, I don’t want to be pulling anyone else back either. I shall link you to my blog, because I’d love a chance at a critique opportunity.

  45. I am member of several writers group but try to stay as neutral as possible, in particular due to my limited time frame.
    But then I have to say I met REALLY nice fellow writers there and appreciate being in contact with them.
    I have entered and left other writing groups where I got the same feeling that you got and I therefore really agree with your article. I think sometime it’s not worth my time. But then: sometimes and some people definitely are!
    On the other hand I did make an experience which kind of shocked me a little: published writers who were part of a writing/writers group which were there supposedly to support newbies – but fact was: they didn’t. They were hiding their secrets like gold and just give “general advice” like “don’t give up”… which I kind of knew myself from the very beginning.
    I wonder if that’s normal… (Of course, in view of the fact that they are actually informed on which newcomers are “on the market” but naturally didn’t feel like “breeding” competition)… Hmmmm….

      • Jess Molly (aka jmolly) on June 25, 2013 at 10:43 pm
      • Reply

      @ Raani, I guess I’ve been really fortunate because I know a lot of published authors (mostly indies) who are willing to mentor newbies and who are tactful but willing to offer advice. And I can see the point of view of authors who give general support but not heavy critique: they wouldn’t want to be accused of being mean. I’ve seen authors give really insightful advice to newbies, but hold back on spelling tips so the newbies weren’t embarrassed.

    • Aerisa on June 25, 2013 at 5:40 am
    • Reply

    Thanks, timely as always. All of a sudden things make sense 🙂

  46. Great post. For a long while I was surrounded by would-be authors on Facebook. We’d post for each other and talk about how we wanted to do more. Five months ago I decided to take a step forward. I created a blog and then an writer’s page on Facebook. Virtually all of those “authors” disappeared along with their support. For months I thought I was doing something wrong, but over time I realized what you’ve posted here.

    • Tan Ya Hui on June 25, 2013 at 6:46 am
    • Reply

    Dear Kristen, this and other posts on your blog made me realise how important it was to be with the right people. I was in contact with this writer friend for 3 years and I recently cut off my ties with him. We both discussed about Mary Sues, overused tropes and about what we would do with our books.

    It didn’t go smoothly all the way. For some unknown reason, I would get mad at him. Not that he insulted my characters or story (in fact, we did give each other our own stories to be critiqued and I accepted his without complaint.) but there was something off that would make me angry. Also, it slowly devolved to the point where I no longer talk my stories with him anymore. It’s not like I did not want to give or take. I felt that there was nothing constructive coming out of him.

    There was an incident where he had three bloated overpowered children as main characters. As we discussed about the story, and that I, being familiar with him, I did not see the errors he had made at all. I brought in another person to critique his story, and she immediately shot it down. His response was that he was upset and did not want to part with it, so it took some coaxing to accept it. I felt that I was being a terrible writer friend, not being able to see his errors and then let him make the mistakes only for it to be seen through in a second.

    During our correspondence for three years straight, there was something ultimately glaring that I never even realised. He had constant grammatical errors and wrong spellings, his sentences extremely awkward and the overuse of dialogue. Initially, I kept pointing out these errors. Ironically, his excuse was he never been to English class for some time. That was actually the most pointless excuse ever made, because no one would accept that kind of excuse for not even improving it. Although he made lesser mistakes, he still made the same glaring mistakes AFTER three years.

    After realising this, I immediately knew how stupid I was. To believe he was a good constructive partner when he never bothered to improve himself. Writing is supposed to improve your writing, so why didn’t his evolved after for so long? Also, why was I stupid enough to let him make all those mistakes?

    To explain why I finally decided to cut off everything with him must start with what we like. We like Japanese anime and culture, so it was obvious that he decided to write a form of literature that is popular both in Japan and overseas fans: light novels. I didn’t know, so I critiqued it like a regular novel. (Also, he still made the same grammatical mistakes, typos and weird sentences AGAIN.) After that, he brought up topics that I believe was trying to insult me: Western VS Eastern cultures.

    No one in their right mind would bring up this topic just to defend and justify their choice of writing. He believed I was biased against his ‘work’ because of ‘cultural’ differences. It is true that there are some advantages to both cultures when it came to writing their stories. But the thing is, he wasn’t asking for a open discussion. Why? He started off the discussion by implying western is inferior, and then the second time, BASHING western novels for not being varied in terms of ideas used or anything.

    As much as I have to agree (that is isn’t very varied), I hated discussing this topic. Honestly, we both have not published a novel, so we have no right to criticize how books were written, especially their ideas and where the inspirations come from. He then went on to praise Eastern culture for being varied. Varied as it is, I cannot take it anymore. Long story short, he was subtly implying this to me that ‘Eastern is better, Western isn’t, get over it.’ That’s just trying to justify your own options and bashing what is rightfully my opinion.

    We speak English, we write English. Of course I have to follow Western ‘culture’ because that’s how it is, English is WESTERN. When you try to write a light novel with English, it doesn’t entirely work. And he couldn’t even write the format properly because he still did not fix the mistakes he had for three straight years: Overused dialogue and still grammatical errors. If we spoke Chinese, then we write Chinese and then follow Eastern ‘culture’. Same goes for Japanese, but I doubt he even intended on doing that either. (Breaking conventional stuff like writing the first English light novel is okay, but when you’re doing it wrong, it’s wrong.)

    After this whole entire lesson, I learnt that I need to find better friends who would not resort to subtly bashing the other culture just to justify his choice. I even respected his choice in writing a light novel, but he still rubbed it in my face. Now I am in search of a writing group that would not do all these after tricking me that they are good writers, when clearly, they are not.

    Lastly, the one thing I regret was not managing to help him and then led him onto the wrong way. I felt like being a colossal dumbass for not helping him well that he became like this, being angry at him when he needs a break. I don’t know whether what I did had any impact, so was I right on giving up on him? Could you tell me where I’m wrong so I would not repeat the same mistake again?

    Yours Sincerely,
    Tan Ya Hui

    1. You’re too nice. The guy was an amateur and not a friend and NOT a professional. Read a lot of craft books, this way you can 1) be better at critique and 2) be able to spot BS. If you want to be a writer, then use that time for making idiot excuses to learn grammar and craft. That’s like wanting to be a famous singer then never taking voice lessons or practicing.

      Join a professional group. Find an RWA near you and they are all pros. Even if you don’t write romance it will be good for you. They would never have tolerated this kind of behavior.

      By the way, you were his critique partner, not his mama.

  47. Another awesome post, Kristen!

  48. The crab metaphor makes your point perfectly

  49. I found this very helpful…. I have recently escaped from some crabs that parade around as peacocks… so very frustrating when someone is telling you they want you to succeed but everything they do says otherwise….. le sigh, I loved this piece! I will re-read and re-read when i need it… thanks so much…

  50. This is truly like the 12th time in the last month that someone has recommended RWA. I get it! I get it! The Universe has spoken. I shall comply. 🙂

  51. I’ve had so much fun writing “crabs” into my books, so, in a way, they’ve been helpful (it can be fun to write about jerks–haha). At one writers’ group we all were supposed to talk about how we didn’t want to get published. The second hour we were asked to write stories about two heart -shaped rocks. My sister is the best crab ever. She once suggested that the reason a professor liked my writing was because he wanted to sleep with me. I don’t take her seriously anymore 🙂

    • Jess Molly (aka jmolly) on June 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm
    • Reply

    I’ve been part of a hobby writing site for 3 years and it’s a great way to hone your skills. For about 18 months, I’ve run writers’ circles/word count competitions with people I’ve met through the hobby site. Being kind, supportive, diligent, hard-working, determined to improve and willing to tutor young writers make our circles successful.

    It might take a while to acquaint yourself with published authors and being trustworthy is essential (as in any friendship). Yesterday, I realized that I’m acquainted with 19 published authors and I’m close friends with 6 of them. That’s cool. But everyone, even the newest newbie, has something to offer in form of critique if one pays attention.

    I submitted my manuscript two weeks ago and I’m now 12K into the sequel. Biting my nails while I wait for a response.

    The great thing about a circle that’s made up of enthusiastic friends is that you hold each other up during the hard times. It’s also great being able to ask questions of people who’ve been where you want to go.

    I’ve been very fortunate to work with this group. There’s rarely any friction as everyone is there to learn and to support each other. I love these people.

    You need to put the same sort of effort into finding or constructing a circle that you’d put into choosing a college. You wouldn’t carelessly pick the first college to offer you a place. Why would a circle be different? You need a functional, trustworthy group and you must give of yourself as well as receive.

    Ask questions: Who belongs? What stage of publishing is everyone at? What are the rules and habits of the group? What’s taboo? Do they meet often enough to help you make progress?

    If you get a good fit, hang onto it!

    PS- I like the crab analogy. Totes awesome. 🙂

  52. Great post, Kristen! Most of my support comes from fellow bloggers and writers. My friends and family love me but they don’t “get it” when it comes to my writing. And unfortunately they do sometimes act like crabs when I’m at the top of the bucket!
    I’ll def share this on my weekly blog round up 😉

  53. Thank you for sharing! As writers, you may need to speak about your books. Visit a Toastmasters club to improve your confidence as a speaker!

  54. Great post! I am so inspired by your words of wisdom. You are truly walking in your truth. Thank you!

  55. Nice piece. Writing shouldn’t be a contact sport, but it often is. I have given up on groups

  56. It’s too late for me to enter the contest at the end of your blog-which sucks, I’m re-editing a book- but I walk away feeling like I already won. It’s 357am and after years of avoiding crab-in-barrelisms, I’m finding myself fighting off what I didn’t see as a variant of it until I came across your post. Thanks for the look-out.

  57. Being on this blog is an alternative to being in the bucket! Yeah, its like being in the bucket without “buckling”, being one of the crabs without being “crabby”! It’s safe being here! Thanks

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