Monday, April 27, 2015

Newbie. Is It Offensive?

The question came up — Do you think the term 'newbie' is offensive?

I really had to get the word put into some sort of context to understand exactly what the question was intended to mean. To my chagrin, I was told:

You constantly state "a newbie writer will find…" In other words, isn't that a bit condescending?


When I first started writing, working my way toward being published, I had no issue with people calling me a newbie.  In fact, I even stated several times that I was a newbie writer.

But, it seems, in my weekly writing tips, and here, too, I will relegate a gem of wisdom to the so-called newbie writer. In other words, I appear to be talking down to the people who are relatively new to the writing process; sharing with them with my sage advice, or so it appears.

I do not consider myself a sage.  I've learned a lot of great writing tips and techniques over the years and I enjoy sharing those secrets with others — and not just those writers who have picked up pen and paper for the first time, but also with the extremely multi-published.

Even though I have several books, short stories and articles published to my credit, I still find I can learn from another writer.  Surprisingly, sometimes it is from a "newbie" who is seeking to be published.

Yes, knowledge comes from everywhere, but I digress.

Is the term offensive?  I never really considered it to be but now that it has been brought to my attention.  Yes, it is offensive.  By using the term, it indicates I think myself to be better qualified.

Consider this.  Do you call a medical college graduate, fresh from the diploma strut, and you are his or her first patient, a newbie?  No, you call that person "doctor" and don't have any qualms regarding the issue.  Sure, the student was an "intern" before graduation, but…

Maybe, instead of calling a writer who is fresh to the profession a 'newbie,' we should consider the term 'intern' for that awkward period.

Of course, that begs to be asked.  When does an intern writer graduate?

[sigh] You want all the answers!

Actually, let's take a different path, shall we?

Why do we even need the term 'newbie' or 'intern' to signify that we are new to writing?  What is wrong with just saying "I'm a writer" and move on?  Why must we seek to label everything.  If we want the other person to know more, then list your publishing credits or state you've just started.  I see no reason to open a line of discussion with "I'm a newbie writer" and insult yourself — unless you want to.  For me to say I am a newbie writer when I'm talking to a well-published writer, somehow that doesn't seem to offend me. I'm calling myself, it is not you judging.  Yes, you calling me a newbie writer is most definitely establishing a model of superiority and name-calling. It is sort of like ethnicity slurs. Those of the ethnic and/or minority groups (Italians, Blacks, gays, etc) will use derogatory slur terms among themselves and all is fine — most of the time, depending on how the sentence is conveyed. BUT, for an outsider to say the same thing — that is definitely a major no-no and derogatory.

 Therefore, let's not use any labels. We're all writers. We're all learning.

Of course, there are good writers and bad writers — and yes, those are labels. There isn't anything that can be done for that, it is a truth. Bad writers exist and they aren't necessarily new writers. In fact, they could have several books published.  Good writer vs. bad writers is another discussion.

Right now, I'm moving forward and leaving the "newbie" word behind me. I have no use for it, neither describing myself nor another writer.

Until next I ramble on...


  1. I call myself a newb all the time - even now, seven books in sometimes I will refer to myself this way when I still don't understand something. I personally don't find it offensive. But that's me.

  2. I try not to take offense at what others say and not dwell on negativity. If someone is being hateful I don't give them my attention.

  3. Maybe we should all consider ourselves newbies all the time. I remember my karate instructor, a fifth-level black belt who got his first black belt two decades ago, saying that he is always learning karate. I think that can also apply to writing or any art. We all need to be open to learning more about our art all the time, or we will stagnate.

  4. I think people getting offended with the term is more a symptom of society than the term being offensive. There are a lot of people out on the Internet that think because they know how to put a verbs and nouns together with punctuation that gives them the right to be considered a writer, just like Steven King is a writer. I honestly think those types of people deluded. No one thinks they have to pay their dues anymore. In most professions there are apprentices, journeyman, and masters...or bachelors, masters, and doctors...if the term "newbie" offends, I'm sorry. It sound more like a pride issue to me.

  5. I do not consider this word offensive. I feel too many people get upset with "political correctness" to the point where no one speaks TRUTH anymore. It is what it is. Speak truth. If the writing is bad, the writing is bad. If the writing is good, the writing is good. I've been writing for 6 years and am still a newbie in some areas of writing and not in others. It's more about growing as a writer and we all grow at different rates, and that's OK.

  6. In the earlier days of internet and chat rooms, newbie was used in a derogatory manner. I believe we have moved past that now. I want to be a newbie at something my whoe life. Labels aren't bad if they reflect the "stage" you are in rather than who you are.

  7. I was always a writer. It has been a compulsion to write, something that flowed out of me like breathing, but until I learned my craft I didn't call myself an author. We all start somewhere and our self-confidence determines what we will call ourselves. We may be newbies to the business of writing, need help to understand how to make our writing vivid and exciting, or more help to know how to market our books. We can always learn more and that is why I'm grateful for Bob Nailor.

  8. Fascinating discussion here - didn't realise this label raised so many questions for so many. I wouldn't ever call someone a 'newbie' writer - because all of us are writers, and we're all learning. Being a new arrival at a work place would probably make someone a 'newbie'. Fascinating stuff anyway.