Friday, August 24, 2012

Three Things You Shouldn't Say to a Writer

If you’re a writer or you know a writer or you’ve accidentally come across a writer in the wild, then you know that writing makes people a little crazy.  First there are the days (Months! Years!) of struggling to learn how to write (and then write MOAR BETTER).  Then there is feedback, both good and bad, book deals, editors that leave, bad reviews,  and a whole lot more crazymaking than any other gig.  After all, no one asks a lumberjack if maybe he could have cut down a tree a little straighter or with a little more conviction.  Probably because he has a chainsaw.
But beyond all of the maddening sideshow antics and the struggle for perfection that for some reason we authors LOVE, there are the questions from those who maybe don’t understand the writing game the way some of us do.  So here, for your own personal survival, are the Top Three Questions You Should Never Ask a Writer.  After all, you wouldn’t  pull a lion’s tail, would you? (Of course you wouldn’t.  You seem like a reasonable person).

1. Are you working on anything right now ?
You should just always assume that the answer to this is “yes”.  If it’s “no” that means we are suffering from a dreaded bout of any of the following:  Writer’s Block or Writer’s Doubt or Uncooperative Characters or Why-in-the-seven-HELLS-Isn’t-This-Plot-Working-???-Syndrome.  When the answer is “no” we are cranky and out of sorts.  And when we are cranky, things happen.  BAD THINGS.  Things your mother should have warned you about.
Always assume that the writing is going fine, brilliant even.  Otherwise, be prepared for a long, dreary tale of woe concerning weak plot structures, soggy midpoints, and low word counts. You might even be subjected to a read aloud of a first draft.  You are warned.

2.  Will I like your book?
Like most doting mothers and fathers, we are pretty much certain you will fall in LUUUURRRRRRRRVE with our little darlings.  Why?  BECAUSE WE LOVE THEM SO VERY MUCH!!!  But the reality is tastes are personal, and this extends to books.  I love okra.  I like it fried, pickled, boiled, roasted, etc.  I also love plaid pants.  But I happen to know from personal experience that a good percentage of the population hates okra, and there are routine fashion commentaries on the hideousness of plaid pants.  So one taste doesn’t fit all, and this applies to books.*  Will you like our books? Eh, maybe.  But the book’s author is probably not the person to ask.

3.  Why do you write for children?  Are you going to one day write a real book for adults?
This doesn’t even dignify an answer.  But luckily, the brilliant Madeline L’Engle put it best:
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

And there you go!  Now you will be able to talk to a writer without worrying that you might end up a character in a future book…maybe.

*Not my book.  It is brilliant, and you are going to love it.


Justina is awesome.  And she's almost never cranky.  If she is, you can fix her right up by giving her cake.  Visit her at  Her first book, Vengeance Bound, is due out April 2, 2013.  You will love it. Maybe.


  1. Ehehe, love it! I think another one to add would be, "When are you going to publish your book?"

    I mean, admittedly with e-publishing this is less of a stupid question, but with most people it just shows that they have no idea how the industry works and that they still think it's as simple as finishing a book, pressing a button, and it magically appearing in shops. Which is how e-publishing works. But most people are still thinking in the trad world. Most people are just ignorant.

  2. I get this one a lot: "I didn't know Disney publishes books. When's the movie coming out?"

  3. I want to do a follow up post to this called Things you shouldn't SAY to a writer. Love these kinds of things -- even if it does increase the belief that writers are all neurotic and cranky. in reality, we're not all that way. but some things will trigger crankiness in all of us!

  4. You're hilarious, Justina! Great post!

    Let's add, "So you're the next J.K. Rowling?" to the list, shall we?

  5. Haha, I love it. :) This cracks me up and it's SO true!!

  6. I adore the first one. I'm printing it out and hanging it on my office door.

  7. A great post, Justina! I've only been asked the first question so far, but I'm sure the others will come up soon. Thanks for the head's up so I can prepare my witty responses. :)

    My personal pet peeve is when a certain family member of mine feels the need to tell me every single year, "I don't like fiction." He even has a friend who once told me the same opinion—at a family anniversary party, no less, when I was simply trying to eat a piece of cake!

  8. Ha ha! Love this post, Justina. I've been asked question no. 3 several times, but I haven't punched anybody… yet.

  9. Great post! I liked her honesty and loved the quote from Madeline L'Enlge. Thanks for sharing. :)


  10. I love this post, Justina. I might print it on a t-shirt. Along with, NO I AM NOT GOING TO BE THE NEXT !*@!*@! J.K. Also, I very much like your bio.

  11. Thank you, Justina, for such a funny post! Personally, I love, "Have you written anything I would've read?" and the (sometimes) unspoken assumption that I must be independently wealthy now. Recently someone said to me, "I get why you read kids' books--you write them and all--but why do other adults read them?" I love the L'Engle quote, too.