“Oh, you’re writing a book!?”
If you’ve ever heard someone say those words to you, odds are that you are familiar with the cringe-worthy ignorance that follows. Whether the person means well or not, we all hate the comments and questions that usually follow. Some of these are ignorant, cynical or just down-right mean, and there are often very few responses you could give that would end the conversation in a peaceful manner.
So here it is! My Top 10 List of things you should never say to a Novelist!
“Can I be a character in your book?”
No. No you can’t. I have worked for ages carefully constructing this work of fiction. I’ve worked my ass off trying to get all the confusing and convoluted plot points to coexist within a harmonic state with all my characters. I am not going to indulge your narcissism to just dump a character with your name, personality and/or desired traits in there. If you want a character based on yourself, why don’t you write a book?
“Your book has (enter relevant plot-element here)? So it’s just like (enter popular novel here).”
I’m not going to get mad. I’m not going to get mad. I’m not going to get mad… Are you kidding me? Do you realize that there probably isn’t an original thought left in the world? You can’t write any story without borrowing elements from other stories. We are all made up of our experiences and our influences. Even the book you mentioned is borrowing from some other sources. What matters is how you use the individual elements to construct a coherent, flowing story.
“So you’re a writer, but what’s your real job?”
This is a common misconception. Writing is not some easy part-time hobby we (serious novelists) occasionally indulge in. It’s something we work hard on. It’s something we intend on publishing someday. It’s really hard work. Either we do it as our main job or we do it after hours (because we have yet to make enough to live off of), but that doesn’t mean it’s any less work. Writing a book is as much a difficult job as anything else. Don’t believe me? Try it and prove me wrong. I dare you.
“How far are you? Are you done yet?”
Listen, novelists have enough stress to deal with by trying to make the novel as good as it can be. We don’t need you hovering over our shoulder, making us more nervous than we have to be. The book will be done when it’s done. It takes time. The time it takes varies depending on book length, book depth, genre, writer, style, editing, and much more. It’s a long process. Stop asking and you’ll have a happy novelist.
“Hey! I have a great idea for your book!”
Stop. Just stop right there. I don’t want to hear it. We novelists already have great ideas for our stories. We have our own ideas for our own novels. We don’t want to hear your ideas. You have ideas? That’s great! Go write your book and make those good ideas speak for themselves. We’ll be cheering you on along the way!
“I’ve had an idea for a novel for a while now, but I just don’t have the time.”
At first, this comment might seem entirely innocent. The problem is that it seriously undermines the amount of sacrifices we have to make to write our novels. We also have busy lives with tons of responsibilities, just like you! I literally wake up at 4am every day to get an hour of writing in before I go to work. If we can make sacrifices, then so can you. You have the time to write if you want it badly enough.
“When you’re done, can I get a free copy?”
No. This comes with the misconception that writing is easy and a novel can be produced pretty quickly. It also comes with the belief that novel writing is easy money, because we’re going to make a killing right? What are a few free copies compared to that? Sure we might give a few free copies out. But those free copies serve a purpose (namely marketing). If you want to read our work, pay for it!
“Could you help me edit my (insert written piece of work here)?”
This one isn’t too bad if it’s a one-time favour to a friend or family member. Be careful to not step into the trap of becoming the free local editor! As for those who ask the question, please bear in mind that our time (especially our writing time) is very precious and valuable to us. Don’t constantly ask for free edits. It’s not cool.
“I have a great idea for a novel! I’ll tell you what to write and you write it. We can split the profit 50/50!” (Alternatively: “Can you write my life story”)
Now there are, of course, books out there that have more than one author. What I’m talking about here is when you mention that you write and this random person wants to lay down their “brilliant” idea for your consideration. They expect you to do the hard work and for them to sit back and imagine the story. If you ever ask a novelist this, you owe them an apology. Novel collaborations don’t happen like that and asking it will, no doubt, annoy the writer to no end. We have our own books to write. As I’ve said multiple times before: write your own!
“Is your book good?”
What do you want to hear? No. My book is a piece of literary shit. Of course we’ll say yes! We have enough crippling self-doubt without you contributing to it. We want our novels to be excellent, but when you make us second guess and doubt ourselves, you’re just being an asshat. Yes, you’re a hat made out of an ass. Now shut up.
Whether you’re the person making the comments or the novelist who has to endure them, please remember that everyone has their own opinions and experiences. Hopefully this list can help prevent stupid comments to be made by the ignorant or help the novelist with some ready responses.