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September 1, 2009

Do's and Don'ts of Being Friends with a Writer

Kate Hart
This blog entry by Eileen Flanagan, called "If You Love a Writer," has great suggestions for what you should do to support a friend who gets published. Agent Nathan Bransford references her article in his own on the same subject. (Hint: Buy the book, and spread the word.)

But what should you do if you have a friend like me, who is toiling along on a book that may or may not ever see the light of day? I have a few suggestions.

One: Don't be condescending. This includes calling it "your little book" or giggling when your friend calls it "work." Writing is hard, and if your friend has half a brain, s/he already knows there's about a 1/100 chance of that work paying off. Your friend (probably) doesn't laugh when you say you have a meeting or that you're slammed at work. Extend him or her the same courtesy. (By the way? This also applies to people who work from home in any field, as well as stay at home moms. *steps off soapbox*)

Two: It's okay to ask what the book is about, as long as you don't follow up with, "You know what would be way cooler? " or "Oh, that genre isn't real literature, I'm sure you'll get published."

Three: Unless you have been approached as a beta reader, please don't ask if you can read what they have written so far. Seriously. It's like asking if you can take four cookies with you before the dough has been baked.


Other suggestions for what NOT to say, regardless of publication status. Courtesy of the AW forums:
  • "When will it be published?"
  • "When are you going on Oprah?"
  • "Oh, you want to be the next Stephen King/J.K. Rowling/Stephenie Meyer/Dan Brown?"
  • "Can't you write about something nicer?"
  • "Is that sex scene autobiographical?"
  • "Where's my free copy?"
  • "Why isn't it dedicated to me?"
  • "Is it any good?"
  • My absolute least favorite question EVER: "Am I in it?"


  1. So when you finish and let me read the first chapter of your little book from a genre that really isn’t literature, I’m going to tell you that it would be way cooler if it included me, some space aliens, and Fabio. After all, that’s what Oprah likes and the New York Times best selling author, Brown Kingmeyering would write.

    Seriously, I don’t care if you write a book of 1001 tuna recipes… *you* should write what *you* want to write and eat tuna the way that you want to eat it. When you’re finished, YOU will have the satisfaction that you put tens of thousands of words on paper from start to finish and you have written a novel. Does the world need one more book on it’s shelves (if you decided release it in the wild)? Certainly. There are many other things that the world could use less of – litter, bitching, and green peas. If you decide to publish, I’ll buy my 5 copies thank you very much – and would be gracious if even one was inscribed. They will sit high on my bookshelf, lingering with Tolkien, Silverstein, and Salinger. I’ll give copies away, I’ll donate some to libraries. When people ask why I am emphatic about the book, I’ll say, “I. Know. A. Writer. And I’m damn proud.”

    I’ll also tell them that obviously I love tuna. ;-)

    Pen to paper, fingers to keys – write for yourself, not for someone to please.

  2. Money, you will definitely get a signed copy. And some tuna. And a hug.


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