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January 13, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday: Reactions

Kate Hart
This week, YA Highway wants to know: What reaction do you get when you tell people you're writing a book? I addressed the question in a post I wrote in September: "Do's and Don'ts of Being Friends With a Writer." (And while you're here, click to see six ways you can help with earthquake recovery in Haiti.)

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. Haha yes! People ask me all the time whether they're in it. Yes, I based some of my evil characters off people I don't like, but I'm never telling them that, lol. Nice post :)

  2. yay, we have the same least favorite question! (Am I in it/can I be in it).

    lol at when will you be on Oprah. Um, never, thanks.

  3. Hmmm...I think most of my friends couldn't care less about my writing, but some do feign interest and ask me how it's going. :) Oh, and I HATE when I get the condescending "Oh that must be nice to have so much time to do things then." thing when I say I work from home. Seriously?! I do research for a university that I would do from an office if I lived in the same country. Grrrr...Yes, obviously, we share that little irritation! :) (Oh, but working from home is rather nice...)

  4. Sure you won't make it on Oprah, I'm still rooting for that. =)

  5. Wow, I get none of this. My mom just spews out stuff to all of her friends and relatives that I'm writing a book and going to school to be an English major with and emph in Creative Writing. I always get "Oh you're writing a book!? Oh that's so fun, what's it about?" I explain, but no weird looks or facepalm questions.

  6. OMG yes, the people who want to know if they're in it. Because everyone knows that we all just pluck people out of real life and chuck them in!

    My least favourite is when people ask me if I've made them the villain.

  7. "Is that sex scene autobiographical?" R.O.F.L.

  8. Uh... I hate to be "that guy," but there's kind of an obvious flaw in suggestion number three. Namely, everybody knows the cookies are best before they're baked, though I will admit asking ahead of time seems less effective than other means...

  9. Thanks everyone! I'm both glad and sorry you feel my pain. LOL

    Christopher, the only thing funnier than that comment is the fact that your wife made it yesterday via Twitter. pbthththt.

  10. Good post! It inspired me to do a post of my own about these questions. It's scheduled for the 18th (and includes links back to this blog, of course!). :D


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