To WD or not to WD

If you are a writer, you have undoubtedly come across the U.S.’s most popular publication on writing – Writer’s Digest.

Even if you hate it, you’ve probably read it.

Personally, I don’t hate it. And I don’t love it. As a former subscriber to the print version, I know two things are true about the venerable magazine:

  1. It’s got some pretty good articles on just about every aspect of the business of writing, and
  2. It offers a broad spectrum of writers the advice they need to improve their craft.

So, what’s not to like about that? Why am I even bringing this up?

Well, I have a conundrum.

A couple of years ago, I canceled my print subscription. But, you may say, why would you do that?

It’s not like I am hard up for cash. I can afford it. But, frankly, after just two short years, I started to notice something.

They repeat themselves. There’s only so many ways one can talk about fiction and non-fiction writing, memoirs, essays, etc. before you start to sound like someone hit the re-play button one too many times.

I’m not saying they recycled articles. Heck, no. WD is better than that. Actually, they are brilliant. I am always amazed with their innovative approaches to subjects like character and plot. But, to be honest, though the presentation is often different, the topics are the same. I kind of got tired of it.

I switched to the digital newsletter they offer for free. I figured I would just read the e-newsletter now and then to get my WD-shot of good writing advice – when I wanted it, and not feel obligated to read the entire print magazine cover-to-cover because I bought it (yeah, I’m that way).

But, as an ancient Chinese proverb probably says, just because you don’t pay for something doesn’t mean you don’t pay for something.

If you sign up for WD’s weekly free email newsletter, you sign up for a lot more. You’ll also get emails from:

  • Writer’s Digest Competitions (I just got one while writing this post!)
  • Writer’s Digest Conferences
  • Writer’s Digest University (the classes are soooo tempting)
  • Writer’s Digest Offers (WD’s books on writing and such)
  • Writer’s Digest Tutorials
  • Writer’s Market
  • Writer’s Digest
  • And, at the end of each week, you are rewarded with a summary email from Writer’s Digest Week in Review

So, yes, in any given week, if you sign up with their free email newsletter, you’ll get up to fourteen emails a week. (Yes, I counted. From March 17th through the 23rd, I received fourteen emails from WD.)

Yikes! That’s two a day!

Ug. I am prepared to cancel my free email subscription.

Sadly, I have done so before, precisely because they spam my inbox.

The thing is, when you can find it, their content is great! Take this article on Character Motivation. For me, it was nice to see character motivations laid out in the sequence that the article’s author, Nancy Kress, used. Here’s a summary:

  1. Characters who never change, neither in personality nor motivation. They are what they are, and they want what they want.
  2. Characters whose basic personality remains the same; they don’t grow or change during the story. But what they want changes as the story progresses (“progressive motivation”).
  3. Characters who change throughout the story, although their motivation does not.
  4. Characters who change throughout the story as their motivation also progresses.

While reading Ms. Kress’ notes on each type of character motivation, I had a light bulb moment. I realized I didn’t have to have each of my four characters in my newest WiP go through a complex fictional pattern of evolving motivation with changing personalities. I could have some of them evil at the beginning and they stay evil at the end. Whew!

I had actually planned it out that way (some would change while others didn’t), but I had beaten myself up about it, thinking I wasn’t doing it right. But after reading Mr. Kress’ article, I realized I was just using a different strategy for each character to tell my story.

Anyway, I know many of the online articles have previously been published in the print version, they just come out later in their email newsletter.

Long time to get to this but here’s my conundrum: do I cancel my email subscription to save my inbox (and sanity), and just re-subscribe to the print version of the magazine? Yeah, I’ll be paying for a magazine that repeats itself, but at least I won’t be inundated with spam.

What about you? Do you read WD? If so, how? Print, online, e-reader?


11 thoughts on “To WD or not to WD

  1. I think yours is a remarkable comment and useful,too.
    I’m not a subscriber myself ,but I happened to read some issues of the publication ,and I totally agree with you. Lol

  2. I don’t read WD (print or online), but I would hope there is a way to unsubscribe from certain emails, like the contests, or offers, etc. Most websites have that option, so if they don’t, it may be worth bugging them about!

    Great tips from Nancy Kress, BTW. Rereading “Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint” and she hits on those same ideas near the beginning of the book.

    1. Yeah, I know I checked into that once, but it seemed it was all or nothing. I’ll check again.

      The thing is, I wouldn’t have ever come across Ms. Kress if not for WD. And she does offer some good, sensible advice.

  3. Take a few weeks to investigate other sources of writing advice — e-mail newsletters like Funds For Writers, for instance — and other magazines — The Writer comes to mind. Decide if it’s writing advice you’re looking for, or inspiration and encouragement, or marketing information, or what. Then decide if Writers Digest gives you anything you need.

    I sure sympathize with not wanting clutter in your inbox. I also sympathize with not wanting to kill trees for a publication you’ll only glance at most of the time. But, we want to keep our print publications around — after all, when you’re a famous writer, you might sell them an article about your special techniques! 😉 Perhaps you could see if your local library has any similar publications to check out.

    1. Excellent ideas! Especially the library. Since getting my Nook, I’ve completely forgotten about the library. Shame on me. I’ll stop by next week and check out the magazine rack. Thanks!

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