Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Writer

Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Writer

Your writer is a delicate person. They have papered their wall with rejection slips, but in doing so have ensured that if they spend too long in the presence of  said wall, they will begin to sink into misery and a sense of doom, which is never the best time to talk to them. If they are in tears, they probably just killed a character. If they’re muttering to themself, they’re having issues with a dialogue scene.

And there are some things you should never, ever say to a writer.

  1. You control them, don’t you? [about characters]
    Some writers – mainly those who are ridiculously thorough planners *shudders* – would say that they do control their characters. But up to a point. Even for them, it’s very easy for characters to surprise by coming out with a particularly interesting line of dialogue or a plot twist that you weren’t really expecting. You can never be sure quite how they’ll behave, and that’s one of the things that makes writing so exciting. If you wanted, you could probably control them, but it would be boring. Very boring.
  2. How is the novel going? [when you haven’t seen them for months]
    Many people think that this is the thing you should say. No. Unless you spoke to them a week ago and they told you about their novel, don’t ask after progress. If they’re anything like me, they’ve probably moved onto something else by now, and they’re not going to be able to remember which novel it was they told you about a year ago. What’s more, if they had to stop for any reason, or if they just abandoned it, you’ve now made them feel guilty. (NaNoWriMo is the exception to this rule. Feel free to ask them then.)
  3. When are you going to publish your novel?
    Okay, this is less annoying now that it is possible to just go out there and publish it, thanks to e-publishing and the like. But, ever since I was about eleven I’ve been plagued by the same question. It’s either this or Are you going to get it published? And I want to shake them. Yes, I intend to try, I say, but it’s not that straightforward. If I go trad, I’ll have to do queries and synopses and stuff. And it  might take ages. Their eyes have glazed over by now because they don’t understand indie/trad publishing – another reason not to talk to me about publishing. Plus, to non-writers, ‘getting published’ is the be all and end all of writing a book, when actually, there’s a lot of stuff after that. I.e, trying to sell it. So unless you know they’re going indie in the near future, this is an annoying, invalid question.
  4. Oh, you’ve finished your novel! Can I read it?
    Unless it’s well and truly finished and polished, they’ll probably say no, and refusal often offends. Don’t ask. Unless you’re their beta reader, they probably won’t want to share their first draft with you. Just saying.
  5. You’re a writer. Can you read my novel/story/essay?
    Have they said they’re bored and have nothing to do? Then by all means ask. But most of the time, writers are busy writing their own books, networking, and writing blogs. (Most authors have blogs, I’ve found.) They don’t have time to read the story of someone they’ve never met, especially when that person will expect feedback. If it’s not very good, they’ll feel guilty about giving it. If it’s very good, stop being so insecure and send it to a publisher, not another writer. Plus, the writer feels used if people just use them as an editor without ever putting that into words. It’s not their job to correct your grammar.
  6. How long is your book?
    I’ll admit, it depends who is asking. If you know something about writing, go ahead. They’ll tell you the length in thousands of words. Not in pages. We don’t count in pages, okay? Why? Because pages and fonts and margins and line spacing vary so much that one person’s 70 pages is another’s 165, that’s why. A short novel (i.e. Hitchhiker’s Guide) is about 50,000 words, or 50k. Likewise Of Mice and Men. A long novel (i.e. Eragon) might be about 150,000, or 150k. There are some guidelines for you.

Be gentle with your writer, because if you annoy them they shall write you into a book and kill you. That is, if they’re able to find time to write between all the questions you keep asking…

(I understand that some writers are more tolerant than me. Maybe they have fewer annoying people talking to them. It’s the disadvantage of being a student, as 95% of the people I meet each day are not writers at all. Soon, I shall escape them. Soon….*cackles*)

17 thoughts on “Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Writer

    1. I know! I often get asked to read stories by my younger cousin and I oblige because she’s my cousin, but I find it very hard to give honest feedback as I’m the sort of person who can’t say things tactfully.

  1. All of these. I agree. So much. People always want me to grammar nazi their work, which normally I’m more than happy to do. It’s the “what’s your book about?” questions that get me. Half the time I’m not even sure myself :P

    Like you, tact isn’t a strong point of mine. I’m honest, and I like it when people are honest with me. I don’t like pussyfooting around my words :P

        1. Oh, well, I’ll do another post. As you may have noticed, I’ve been posting a lot this week – I’m doing a post every day this week, then I’ll be back to normal posting. I don’t know why. It just seems like a good idea and I think it’s working? :D

          1. Why ever not? My posts are going to be short and a little less frequent because of exams, but woe betide people who stick around in half term and such … I’m going to be back with a vengeance xD

  2. Heh… I hate the when are you going to be published… Writing is NOT an instant gratification type of job… Nope, people like me who barely have an hour a night, if that, to dedicate to writing could take a decade befroe things get to the submission stage!

    Which makes me wonder if I should be a NaNo rebel and work on editing my trilogy instead of writing something new… :}

    Otherwise I haven’t heard to many of the other questions up there. I have discovered that reading and editing someone elses work is harder than writing my own. Still I’m glad to be of service, even if my service is rather slow. *grins*

  3. Brilliant. And true. Thankfully, I have a fairly understanding family; I’ve been asked perhaps one of these questions, and I evaded it skilfully, though I say so myself.
    So… How’s your novel going?

        1. Sorry, don’t know which one you mean. You must have mistaken me for someone else… I don’t write ‘good’ ones ;) I write increasingly less crappy drafts that have just about ended up coherent now.

          1. You passed the test, then. Congratulations. A writer never gets “good”. They only get “better”. And even then, only by slight increments. And yes, getting less and less crappy counts as better. Better is relative.

          2. True, true. Actually, I was exaggerating slightly. There are a couple of things I might at a pinch call ‘good’. The one I’m on a 7th draft of, for example. But I’m still working on it.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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