Being a writer has its drawbacks, and one of these are the questions which come from non-writers. Made in innocence, but annoying all the same in a way only writers will understand. Therefore, I shall explain a few so you’ll know in future why my face is turning purple.
1. Never under any circumstance try to tell a writer what would be a good idea for a plot.
‘I have this great idea for a story. I think you should write it.’
No, if it’s that good, maybe you should write it. After all, it’s your idea and who better to see it to fulfillment. That’s the polite way of replying. The other is to scream through clenched teeth that of course I’ll write your story, because after years of doing it well, I have no more bloody ideas of my own.
2. ‘Don’t despair, JK Rowling had numerous rejections before she was published.’
Fuck off! Never use the JK word. We all know how many rejections she had, so don’t mention it. There are writers with far more skill than the wizard’s creator but much about being successful is due to luck. Unless you’re a celebrity who can write a novel in wax crayon on the back of a napkin and still get it published, I’m afraid you’re in the slush pile, ever hoping an agent will allocate thirty seconds to read the first page of your book.
3. In response to telling somebody you’ve had a story published.
‘That’s good. Did you get paid?’
Okay, this is a common one. I’m always being asked it. As if making money from my writing makes it more valid. But really …. do I go around asking people what they earn for a living? No. Whatever you make from producing porn is your business. Hey, it’s a free country.
However, I will clear this up and the answer is, yes. Sometimes. Often it’s zero, but I have earned anything from £1.68 total royalties for a failed anthology to £250 with a short story. It depends who you are submitting to.
4. And another one I hate …
‘It’s said, everybody has a novel in them.’
No they bloody well don’t, otherwise everybody would write a novel. It’s probably the case that we all have an idea, but only when you’ve a final draft of 75,000 plus words, do you have that novel. Grrrrr.
5. The final main one is often directly after somebody you know has read your work for the first time. Now I like to receive praise, but not accompanied by a look of astonishment.
‘Hey, this is actually really good.’
Jesus, don’t sound so surprised. I’ve been doing this years and actually – yes, I am bloody good at it.
Those are the main ones, but of course there are others.
Q – Why don’t you write something more cheerful?
A – I mostly write dark fiction and had this comment on my novel. Hell, yes! Let’s make bullying, sexual assault, decapitation and psychotic episodes into a comedy.
Q – ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’
A – Erm … my mind.
Q – ‘Have you had anything published?’
A – Because apparently, you’re not a proper writer until this has happened. Yes, I have, about thirty short stories and poems, plus numerous articles. But even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t mean I’m not a writer.
Q – ‘Are your characters based on real people?’
A – Of course, because I have no imagination of my own. Okay … cue the arrival of the sarcasm police. NO! They’re all my ideas. It’s what I do.
Comment – ‘I thought about writing a novel once.’
My reply – ‘Really, so did I.’
Comment – ‘To be honest, I don’t read.’
My reply – ‘You do know you can get lessons for that.’
And finally, the classic …
Comment – ‘I wish I had the time to write stories.’
My reply – … Well, there isn’t one. I’ve normally walked off by now, returning to my tedious day of doing nothing as I have all the time in the world to do it.
Okay, so I jest a little, but do think before you release these utterances. Writing is bloody hard, and to be good at it takes years. Unless, of course, you are Katie Price or some other Z-List celebrity, then you can simply pay some poor unheard of writer to do it for you.