Saturday, July 5, 2008

Five funny things non-writers say...

...when they hear that you're a writer.

1. "I have an idea for a novel. You could write it and we could split the profits."

I want to reply, "So you'll supply the idea and I'll supply the characters, plot, background, setting, style, research, editing, submission and revision? What kind of split do you have in mind?"

2. "I have an idea for a book about {insert favorite nonfiction topic here}."

This one just baffles me. A coworker once saw me editing the first draft of Dracolytes, asked if I was a writer and said, "You should write a book on Type II diabetes." The only connection I could see between Dracolytes and diabetes is that both words start with a D and end with an S. Other than that, I have no idea what made her think I might be qualified to write such a book, or that I would want to do so.

3. "I'd like to write a book. Could you help me?"

Yes, I can smack you until the craziness goes away.

Seriously, if someone asked me this, I'd describe what getting accurate criticism of a first draft feels like, and what the fiftieth form rejection can do to you. I'd talk about the time it takes to complete a manuscript, and the even longer time it takes to query and submit the thing. I'd go into detail about the scam sharks in the writing waters. I'd wind this up by cautioning the would-be writer that there is NO guarantee of publication and NO guarantee of mondo money either.

Then, if he or she still liked the idea of writing a book, I'd suggest some good books and websites on the subject.

Then, once he or she actually started writing the book, we could talk.

4. "Where do you get your ideas from?"


I read once that a writer, tired of this question, started telling people that he subscribed to a weekly magazine that provided him with ideas, but it was for published authors only.

5. "You know, I've always wanted to be a writer."

People don't normally say, "You know, I've always wanted to be a stockbroker" or "I've always wanted to be a neurosurgeon" to someone they've just met. Writing is different, though. Since nearly everyone writes (emails, letters to the editor, schoolwork, proposals, etc.), many people believe it's just one small step from there to the aura of authorhood. People know that you need to have studied for years to be a scientist or gone through rigorous training to be a firefighter, but being a writer is much more attainable. And glamorous. Sometimes, the implication is that the person could have been a writer if they had had just ten minutes' more time in the day.

As someone once said, writers write. Wannabe writers wanna write.


Luc2 said...

It gets funnier (or more annoying) when you tell them you write fantasy...

I don't tell many people I write, but most responses have been pretty positive. But maybe that's because I let none of my friends read my stuff.

Jane Smith said...

I once had an acquaintance who always ignored my boyfriend, often to the point of rudeness, because said boyfriend was Foreign and Different and, therefore, apparently, threatening.

When the acquaintance heard that my boyfriend was a writer, he commented, "Damn. I'd have talked to him if I'd known he was interesting."

The more I think about that, the more confusing it becomes.


Marian Perera said...

I don't tell many people I write, but most responses have been pretty positive.

If I had ever told my biological relatives I was a writer, the first thing they would have asked is, "Why aren't you published yet?" I doubt they'd have read my books even if I'd been published, though; they're not into fantasy and would have disapproved of the sex scene.

I'd rather think of funny things people have said to me or to other writers.

Becky Mushko said...

I have heard all five!

Since I write a redneck humor column, I'm often able to use their ideas. Just not in the way they wanted.

When I was a teacher, I had people—parents of students, mostly—tell me, "I often wanted to be a teacher." But being a teacher requires, like, college and stuff.

Angela Ackerman said...

writers write. Wannabe writers wanna write.

I love that. So true!!

"Wy aren't you published yet?"

Why do non-writers think getting published is so darn easy? Maybe if more of us ended up on the 5 o'clock news as a result of being asked this question, people would start thinking twice before opening their mouth to let the stupidness out.

Marian Perera said...

Why do non-writers think getting published is so darn easy?

My family is Asian, so my relatives had, shall we say, high expectations of me. I made the mistake of writing to tell them that I'd finished the manuscript and was querying it, and I got an international phone call the next week asking what the publisher said.

Anonymous said...

That is funny! Thanks Marian, I needed a good laugh. :) The first one cracks me up - maybe next time you should say that!

Chimchar said...

You know. Only my mom and my older brother know that I'm a writer, and because of that they probably think I'm loony. That's what everyone thinks when I have my interests.

Anyone can be a writer, but very few go with it.

Thanks for giving me a good laugh. XD