5 Things You Shouldn't Say to Authors
When I released my first novel back in 2008, I noticed a definitive shift in my conversations, now that I had gone from aspiring writer to published author. Having a book out was considered cool...certainly cooler than some office job or taking customer service calls. To write and publish a book was viewed as an accomplishment, so naturally, there were some instances in which said accomplishment was coveted by others...some even going as far as to trivialize it. You know what I'm talking about if you've ever seen some NFL receiver drop a pass and your out-of-shape dad yelled at the TV, "I coulda caught that!!" Authors deal with that too.
The following are five conversational excerpts I've heard over the years, and I've heard them all more than once.
“You should write a book about me.”
Ugh! Good Lord, this one crops up the most...and I’m practically always let down by the following diatribe of relationship-turned-sour, “whoops” babies, and the hooked on drinks and drugs narrative. Look, I get it, you went through some shit. Life wasn’t easy—but guess what—you’re not the first person to survive a nasty divorce or get cheated on. Most people have suffered a dark period. No need to waste 60,000 words on the story we’ve all heard before. Tackling a novel is one of the single-most exhausting creative endeavors you can take on: it takes months to do and a “won’t quit” mentality to do it. What I’m saying is that it’s a lot of work. So unless you’re a celebrity or you’ve undergone a truly unique experience such as cutting off your own arm because it was trapped under rocks, well, I’m afraid the best person to write a book about you is you. If you’re truly passionate about your story, you shouldn’t need someone else to write it for you.
“I’m working on a book but can’t seem to get motivated.”
Repeat after me: “There are no cheerleaders in publishing.” No one is going to sit next to you at the computer and coax you to produce words. This is a lonely process in which encouragement is minimal. If you don’t have the drive—sorry—but there’s nothing I can say to give it to you. A lack of motivation means one of two things: you’re either lazy or there’s other things you’d rather be doing. No shame in either. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there were a few Saturday nights I’d rather be out than behind my keyboard, and a fair few times I indulged. The need brings me back though. The need made me write for six years without making a dime off it. If you don’t have that need then you might reconsider writing altogether. If you read this and it only strengthened your resolve, congratulations, you have what it takes.
“I’m pretty good at Twitter so I could probably write a book.”
That’s like me saying, “I’m pretty good at air hockey so I could probably make it in the NHL.” See how fucking dumb that sounds? No? Let’s try another: “I’m pretty good at Call of Duty so I could probably make it in the armed forces.” You with me yet? You see how one doesn’t equate with the other? If you did, you’d know never to equate your Twitter feed with writing a novel. Now, is being a proficient tweeter a useful tool in the promotion of one’s work? Oh, absolutely yes! But Twitter writing and novel writing are two completely different animals. In fact, some of the best novelists I know have terrible Twitter feeds…not engaging and boring as all hell. As I’ve said, writing a novel is difficult; don’t trivialize it by comparing it to something Amanda Bynes does in between psychotic episodes. She’s really good at Twitter, by the way.
“I read a lot of books so I could probably write one.”
Wrong, comrade! Yet again, we’re back in “I’ve played a lot of video games so I could probably design one” territory. Let’s break this shit down. Reading: absorption. Writing: creation. The flow of information between reading and writing are actually going in different directions. Don’t get me wrong, reading books is important if you want to do this. Authors always say that to aspiring writers: “Read a lot.” It’s how you learn the difference between well-developed characters and two-dimensional ones. It’s compelling story-telling vs. trite bullshit. Reading is always going to serve as your training wheels on the path to discovering how a well-crafted novel is put together. I appreciate a voracious reader as much as the next guy. All writers do. But to equate the act of consumption with creation doesn’t jive. If reading twenty bestsellers was all it took to produce one—hell—myself and most of my friends would be rich by now. Sadly, that’s not the case.
“Writing a book sounds easy.”
Call me when you're done and we'll see if you feel the same.
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