It isn't easy being an author. It's a lot of work building worlds out of blocks of imagination, carefully studying people and methods of speech, and creating an entire rule system for a universe so we can explain it to other people. Muscling through writer's block, plotting out novels, and waiting for months for a publisher's response all pale in comparison to the single challenge authors face every day, though; not choking the life out of the general public.
Deep down, we know you mean well. We know you're trying to extend a hand in friendship, and that you're just curious about who we are and what we do. You want to touch us, because to you we're strange creatures in some exotic petting zoo. Problem is that what you say is one thing; what we hear is often something else. So, here's a little guide to the most common faux pas you can commit when faced with a chance to meet the flesh behind the fiction.
Are You Published?
|Sally eventually stopped mentioning her series and introduced herself as a student.|
When someone asks this question what many writers hear is, are you a real writer, or just a hobbyist? We know that many times a person doesn't mean that. We know what they really mean is, I am curious to know where you stand in your professional field and what you have accomplished as a self-proclaimed artist. Here's a tip: if someone introduces him or herself as a writer, an author, a columnist, or any other exotic and wordy profession, assume they're published. Chances are good it wouldn't be on their business cards otherwise.
Have You Written Anything I Might Have Seen?
|Depends... where do you shop for books?|
Better questions for these scenarios are, "what have you written?", "what was your last project?", or "what are you working on now?" These express interest, while at the same time not putting pressure on the author to prove his or her professional status by rattling off a pedigree.
How Much Does That Pay?
|More than you'd believe, but less than you think.|
A solid rule is not to ask an author any question you wouldn't ask a carpenter, an investment banker, or a car salesman. In short, don't disrespect the creative types. Always assume that the writer makes enough to be at the same event you are, but that he or she will never make enough to turn away a new reader.
Remember Us When You're Rich and Famous
|Sure. I'll even put you in a story. You, personally.|
Do You See Yourself in Your Characters?
|Sure. We'll go with that.|
We, as writers, are partially responsible for this. With the sheer number of times we use write-what-you-know as a mantra, and the ridiculous tally of occasions we've used the "my book is a secret confession for what I really did" plot twist, we were going to get this sooner or later. Yes, most of us will put our life experiences into the books we write. We will also talk about places we've been, dreams we had, or little phrases we've stolen from the hundreds of novels we've read. Just be aware that when you ask this question you're implying one of two things; either the writer is in need of therapy, or the writer is composing self-insert-wish-fulfillment. This question is like the lady and the tiger, except there are two tigers, they're both female, and they're both in heat, and starving. Avoid whenever possible.
I Wish I Had Your Job
|Sure. Sure you do.|
You don't want to spend 8 to 10 hours in front of a machine that you've purposefully disconnected from the Internet to focus. You don't want to take endless notes, and re-write a manuscript three or four times before you feel it's good enough for submission. You don't want to make less than minimum wage for years until you finally catch on with something popular, or develop a big enough following to pay your bills. Lastly, you really don't want to go through the endless frustration of people telling you they know how great your job is, and how they envy you for it. You don't. Trust me.
I Don't Read
|He appears to be speaking... words of some kind.|
The next time you think about saying something like this, especially if you're saying it to someone who is an author, don't. It's the equivalent of saying, isn't your profession quaint and antiquated? This can be mitigated with the proper apologetic tone, turning the message instead into, my apologies, but I don't consume your type of media. It's a quirk. Whatever your intention when you make your entertainment habits known though, tread carefully. Readers and authors are clannish, and they look with suspicion on those who ignore the written word.
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