Things Never to Say to a Writer

This post is a little tongue in cheek, and there is definitely a case of “many a true word spoken in jest”; I’m sure most of us have heard this at some point but these are the things never to say to, and questions never to ask, a writer.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Where do you think? I go to the ideas shop and buy as many as I need! Usually, I buy enough to keep me going for a year. Yes, I jest. My ideas come from everywhere. We all dream, don’t we? Well, I like to think about – not what my dreams mean – but how I can turn them into a serial for my blog, a short story or a novel. Dead Heat was inspired by a dream I had of me and two friends.

I also get my ideas from the people around me. My girlfriend inspired my Miss Salter serial, an image on a writing site inspired The Cold Man serial. Sometimes, these things just pop in my head. Sometimes, I wish they would stop for a while so I can catch up.

I’ve Always Wanted to Write a Book

Great! Go and do it. There’s nothing to stop you. I wish I didn’t have so many sometimes, my laptop is full of snippets, single sentences and collections of notes that I may one day be able to turn into a novel. I have too many, and I usually have three fiction projects going at any one time, so what’s your excuse for not starting just one of yours?

I Wish I had the Time To Write a Novel

If you want to be a writer, you’ll make time to write. You’ll sacrifice evenings watching Eastenders, you’ll shut yourself away to make yourself write. Actually, forget that. Writing becomes a priority because when you want to do it, nothing will stop you – even having no time to do it. I was up last night applying the finishing touches to Dead Heat. I started it last summer and made myself write it, squeezing it in around other things. When I am busy, I work around other things.

I Have an Idea For a Book, Will You Write it For Me?

*COUGH* *COUGH* *COUGH* *SPLUTTER* I might for 50% royalties but the nature of the book industry these days is that neither of us will make a huge amount of money on that. Besides, I have too many of my own ideas to get through first. If you want to write your own book then do so; you will dramatically improve your own language skills.

I’ll Watch the Film When it Comes Out

Nice sentiment, but the overwhelming majority of books do not get made into films. I’m touched and flattered you think I might be good enough, or my idea might be attractive enough to a recording studio, that you think it could be made into a film. However, few people write books with the expectation of getting it converted to celluloid. You should read more, it broadens the mind and you could be waiting forever for Steven Spielberg or Ridley Scott to knock on my door.

When Will You Finish That Novel? You’ve Been Writing it for A Week/Six Months/Two Years

It takes as long as it takes. As ideas come to me, I have to go back and change things. I like to keep internal consistency as I go. This is why, when I decided to change the gender of Tiberius Tadius Saturninus so he became Livia Saturnia, I went back and changed all the scenes he had appeared in to change the narrative, dialogue and context of the 30,000 words I had already written. If I didn’t do that, it would become too complex

What’s It About?

People are interested, naturally, but they’re usually not interested in your elevator pitch (a single sentence summary), they want to know the whole plot. I want you to buy a copy, so I’m not going to tell you more than I want you to know, especially when it is incomplete and could still change enough for my explanation to be a waste of time.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I don’t even know myself. I could have written two chapters and only have an outline of a couple of characters and the setting but have no idea where the story is going aside from that.

Can I Read it Before It’s Finished?

Why the hell would you want to? No writer is able to produce a masterpiece with his/her first draft and I am no exception. If you want to make sense of the jumbled mess of files, snippets, half-written chapters, characters that are little more than concepts and could be merged with another incidental character, then be my guest. I guarantee you will give it no more than about half an hour before giving up.

Can I be your Proofreader?

This is always appreciated, but unless your observation skills are top notch, and your English skills as good as professional editors, your offer to read it for spelling, grammar, formatting and structure could be counterproductive. Please don’t be offended, but you’re unlikely to be able to correct anything more in-depth than my typos.

So what about you? what questions or statements bug you when you hear them from non-writers?


1 thought on “Things Never to Say to a Writer

  1. lilypup

    My favorite has to be “I’ve always wanted to write a book. Do you have an agent I can use?’ Ick!

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