Things Writers Hate to Hear
I love being a writer. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been writing stories, and it didn’t take long for me to realize there are several things writers hear from non-writers that really grind our gears. Sometimes the commenters mean well, other times they don’t understand how difficult writing can be and they just want to crush your soul.
I polled my fellow writers on Instagram and quickly realized I wasn’t the only one hearing these comments. So, I’ve decided to create a list of things writers hate to hear. How many can you relate to? Be sure to leave a comment with anything I’ve left out.
1. What’s your “real job?” There are many writers who have full-time day jobs and write on the side, but that doesn’t mean their writing is less work or less important to them. Likewise, it might shock you to learn how many writers do write full-time and who aren’t famous. That doesn’t mean they’re broke and starving.
2. This is just a phase. You’ll lose interest in this hobby.
Sure, writing often begins as a hobby. Some will lose interest, others will keep writing for fun without ever hoping to publish and make money off their work. Still, why do some people feel the need to look down on writers just because they love doing something that others don’t? Even if you think writing is just a hobby, the writer in your life will appreciate your support no matter how long they continue writing.
3. Am I a character in your story? Are you a character? Is so-and-so a character? Can I be a character?
The short answer here is no. I honestly have never met a writer who put themselves in a story (with the exception of autobiographies) or created a character that was the spitting image of someone they know. We might pull inspiration from acquaintances or give a protagonist a personality similar to ours, but that doesn’t mean they are someone. It’s not strange to create a fictional character and make them do fictional things. It’s literally what this job is about.
4. You’re never going to make money by writing. You should just quit.
Really? Because I’m making money off my writing right now! This statement applies to all artists, and yet we all purchase items that have been touched by artists. Also, just because a writer isn’t a millionaire doesn’t mean they can’t supplement their income through their craft. Nor do all writers aim to become rich—many just want to write for the sheer enjoyment of it.
5. You wrote a horror story? Are you a murderer?!
Just because our stories may include shocking subject matter doesn’t mean we have personally experienced the events, nor do we want to. In my book, Blood of Fire, the protagonist’s government destroys her village and almost everyone in it. I can tell you, my hometown is still standing, and I have no wish to see any harm come to it. Not every plot is fueled by real life scenarios. That’s why it’s called “fiction.”
6. I bet you want to be the next J.K Rowling/Stephen King?
No, I want to be the first Marlow York. Boom, done!
Plenty of writers look up to famous authors, but that doesn’t mean we want to be like them. People have compared my book to The Hunger Games (a series I absolutely love), but my story isn’t that story and I’m not Suzanne Collins. It would be great to become as successful as the famous authors I look up to, but I still want to tell unique stories in a voice that is entirely my own.
7. If you’re a writer, why don’t you always speak with correct grammar?
Because I’m a human being and English grammar is difficult! Also, my manner of speech reflects the region I grew up in, my culture, and the slang of the time period. My books almost never reflect the way I talk; this blog is about as close as you’ll get to reading the way I talk without speaking to me.
8. How do you spell ____? What does ____ mean? You don’t know? But you’re a writer!
I get this a lot, especially while I was in college earning my Bachelors of English. Writers aren’t walking dictionaries. Our vocabulary might be a bit larger than most people’s because we spend more time focusing on words and tend to read a lot, but that doesn’t mean we know everything.
9. You have an English degree? Why not study something more useful in college?
Many people assumed I wanted to become an English teacher because I got a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. No, not at all. I studied writing because I love to write and wanted to do it better. If you think knowing how to write well isn’t applicable to jobs outside of teaching, then pay attention the next time you see writing while you’re out on the town. From creative writing to advertising to technical manuals, writing is valuable pretty much everywhere.
10. What is your book about?
It’s not that we don’t have an answer or don’t want to talk about it. Generally, writers just aren’t sure how to answer the question in a way that’s concise and interesting. Nailing your “elevator pitch” takes time and many writers struggle with it. So, yes, please ask what the book is about, but don’t be surprised if some of us get uncomfortable or don’t have a perfectly scripted answer just yet. And if our explanation is a little confusing or we start to ramble, please don’t turn and walk away. I speak from experience when I say that really hurts.
11. Can you send me your book for free?
No. Unless you want to do some sort of collaboration or trade, don’t even ask. Books take a lot of time and effort to create. Years of work goes into each book, and to expect a writer just to give it away for free is pretty insulting. There are situations where writers choose to give a book away, but it’s usually for a good cause or for marketing. If you’re a friend or family member and for some reason feel entitle to a free book, then you don’t fully understand that we consider this a job and take sales very seriously. If you wouldn’t walk into a store and ask for a free item off the shelf, then don’t ask us for a free book.
12. When a writer asks for feedback and you just say, “I like it.”
Sending our manuscript out for feedback is exciting and nausea-inducingly stressful. If we decide to trust you with our story, we need constructive criticism and detailed feedback. What specifically do you love? What did you hate? Why did you feel that way? Consider this your opportunity to help us make our story great. To be chosen to give feedback is an honor and it means we trust you to be truthful and thorough. Make us proud to have chosen you!
13. You write children’s/young adult books? That must be easy.
The subject matter might not be “adult,” but that doesn’t mean the process is less difficult. I can’t speak for children’s books, but as a young adult author, I can honestly say the book’s age range doesn’t mean the writing and publishing process is less daunting.
14. Writing isn’t hard, you just sit at a computer all day.
I’ve had stand-all-day jobs and desk jobs, I can honestly say they’re both difficult in their own ways. Regardless of which position you work in (standing desks are awesome, by the way), writing is still hard work. Writing and publishing are mentally exhausting, and you often find yourself learning things you never expected you’d need to know. Also, most of the work is solitary, especially if you’re self-publishing. You often find yourself alone with no sounding board, no manual to teach you how to do it “correctly,” and you need to figure things out by trial and error. So, no, writing is not easy just because writers are usually sitting at a computer or scribbling in a notebook.
15. When are you going to be done?
Cue cold sweat, twisting stomach, and shaking knees. Even when writers set deadlines, things happen. The entire process of brainstorming to publication can take years and odds are we won’t know when were “done” until we’re almost ready to send the manuscript for publication. So, if you ask this question, you’ll probably get a ballpark estimate. But we’ll be happy to tell you when we know!