Writing Wednesdays: 8 things you should never say to writers

November 16, 2016
What's the worst thing you've ever heard as a writer? I share a few of my favourite worst things to say to writers in this post.

Whenever people who aren’t writers find out you’re a writer, you can almost guarantee you’ll hear one of the phrases in my list below. Things that’ll make you grit your teeth, or want to roll your eyes, or just confuse you.

When you speak to other writers, usually, they take an interest in your work, in you. They know what not to say to a writer.

If you’ve ever spoken to someone whose first reaction to you telling them you’re a writer is one of these things, Tweet me and let me know!

1. “Oh, so do you think you’ll be the next J.K. Rowling?”

NO, NO I DON’T. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me this question, I’d be well on my way to becoming the next J.K. Rowling. Whether they mean do you think you’ll become a household name like J.K. or make as much money as her, it’s a pretty frustrating thing to hear. Authors don’t earn out their advances that often, let alone earn royalties and earn enough money to make a living off writing alone. We can’t all be so lucky.

For more on how authors actually make money, you might like this Writing Wednesdays post.

2. “Have you written anything I’d have heard of?”

How am I supposed to know? If you start the conversation with, ‘I write steampunk-themed fantasy novels,’ and someone responds that they love reading that genre, then sure, totally acceptable question. But when you have no idea what kind of book this person is into, how do you answer the question? (I usually go with ‘I doubt it’, because it’s always nice to be surprised if they have heard of it rather than disappointed they haven’t.)

3. “Young Adult? So you write children’s books?”

Tell me you read that in a condescending tone, please, because that’s how it was intended. (I don’t get this very often, but it does happen.) I mean, YA is not the same genre as children’s, or even MG, that’s why it’s called YA. And besides - so what if I did write children’s books? So what if I write YA? They’re equally awesome and exciting genres. (I mean, Harry Potter is a ‘children’s’ book, so… Case in point.) Please take your high horse somewhere else.

4. “I have a great idea for a novel!”

Great! I wish you the best of luck writing it, I honestly do. But please, don’t give me ideas and tell me to use them in my next book. I want my writing to be my own. I don’t want to write a book with someone else’s characters and ideas. (That’s what fanfic is for, right?) It’s one thing to be inspired, another to just steal ideas.

5. “How much money do you make?”

You may never know. Also this isn’t something you tend to ask unless you’ve got a pretty good relationship with the person and you’re mates and you’d ask each other this kind of thing? Definitely not the sort of thing you’d ask someone you just met.

(Again, you might also like this Writing Wednesdays post on how authors actually make money.)

6. “Is your book based on your life?”

This one is my all-time most hated. If I wanted to write a book based on my life, I’m pretty sure I’d call it something like, ‘Pizza, Netflix, and Procrastination 101’. No, my characters are not based on me/any friends/boyfriend/whatever. No, the plot isn’t based on my life. No, no, a thousand times, no. (Honestly, though – a book based on my life? It would be mostly bad puns, memes, and Harry Potter. You know, plus the pizza, Netflix, and procrastination. Nobody really wants to read that.)

7. “I always wanted to write a book.”

I mean… okay? That’s really cool and awesome and if you’ve got an idea, I strongly encourage you to go and write that book you want to write. Nothing’s stopping you. Plus, writing is so much fun, so huge bonus there. The thing that bothers me with this one is when it’s said as if to imply that it’s no big deal you’ve written a book, because everyone wants to, anyone could. Yes, anyone could. That doesn’t mean everyone does. It takes a lot of determination and passion to write a book. It’s no small achievement. Don’t forget that.

8. “What’s your book about?”

Actually, this one is just a personal one. Many writers might be happy to answer this. Personally, I’m always made uncomfortable by it. Am I supposed to pitch my book to you now? Sell it to you in the hopes that you’ll buy it? Should I briefly explain the entire plot and ruin all the magic in case you do go away and read it? I don’t know what you want from me. I can give you the blurb, or I can just tell you it’s a fluffy teen romance and be done there.

Do you have any opinions on any of these things people say to writers? Are there any you’ve heard that I’ve missed off the list? I’d love to know, so drop me a message here, leave a comment, or Tweet me @Reekles!

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