Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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May 26, 2017

Sh*t Non-writers Say


We’ve all had it happen. You’re at a cocktail party, or a Superbowl party, or a kid’s birthday party – and word gets out that you’re a writer. Then it begins…the inquisition. It’s funny – pro or con, serious or humorous, everyone has questions or opinions about our career. I was an accountant. Trust me. Accountants don’t get the questions we do.

On the Not-so-good Side:

I write romance. This seems to elicit lots of body language: waggling eyebrows, raised noses, and shaky smiles. I’ve been asked/told:

  • Do I write ‘nasty’ stuff? 50 Shades is often cited.
  • How much of my sex scenes is autobiographical? (then they look over at my husband)
  • If I feel the need for a plot.
  • ‘Oh, I don’t read that drivel.’
  • That I jot a few ideas a day, but mostly stare out of the window.
  • Maybe I have a drinking problem.
  • It’s almost a cliche, but I’ve had several people seriously tell me they had a great book idea. I’ll write it, and we’d share 50/50 in the millions in profit. These people know where I live, and that I obviously don’t have millions, even keeping ALL the profits. But, then again, I don’t have their great idea, so…
  • Why do they still think we make a ton of money at this? Seriously. I don’t get it.
  • No, my books haven’t been made into a movie.
  • Not a Lifetime show, either.
  • No, Oprah hasn't featured one of mine.
  • I haven’t met Stephen King, but when I do, I’ll tell him you’re a fan.
  • How would I know if you've heard of my books?
  • Oh, I don’t read. *said with an elitist sniff* Exactly how am I to answer without being insulting? I haven’t figured out a graceful reply – especially while biting my tongue.

On the Good Side:

There are many people who seem fascinated by what we do, and want to understand more. Some even are in awe. Almost all want to know:

  • How/when I started
  • Where I get my ideas
  • The process of how a book is made, how long it takes, etc. They seem startled by the answer.
  • If I have an agent, and how to go about getting one. They seem startled by the answer.
  • How long it takes to write a book.
  • Where DO I get my ideas?
  • When I meet romance readers, and they hear what I write, their faces light up and they get all chatty - I love that.
  • If they're readers, all I have to do is ask what genre they read, and we're off and running on a great conversation.

Almost all have an idea for a book, or want to write one (except those who want me to write it). I’m encouraging, always, because you never know who will actually sit down and do it. I doubt that when I began, anyone would give odds on my finishing – least of all, me.

I love it when I run into readers. I’ve had some great conversations with book lovers. There’s an instant connection; we get each other.  I'm one of those people who, when I see someone reading on a plane, in a waiting room, wherever, I'll ask what they're reading. These conversations have developed into friendships. Sigh. I <3 readers.

Bottom Line:

Good or bad, if you’re a writer, you’d better get used to the fact that others have strong opinions about your job. I’m fine with all of it – except people who treat me like a rock star when they hear I’m an author. I think that probably says more about me than them, but that, as they say, is another meeting….

What crazy things have people said to you when they discover you’re a writer?

Share the good - and bad!

p.s. Laura just broke her leg in two spots while vacationing in Oregon, so we definitely want to fill the comments with "sh*t that non-writers say" to make her laugh. We're saying prayers for a quick and pain-free recovery. Get well, Laura!     

*     *     *     *     *

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77 comments on “Sh*t Non-writers Say”

  1. So sorry to hear about your injury! Thanks for sharing this post. My friends just look at me, puzzled, when I talk about my writing. They've seen nothing to show for my years of work, so perhaps they think I'm making it all up. Which of course, I am!

  2. Oh, I love the money question. I'm tempted to ask what they earn in their careers. . .Sorry I couldn't think of one to make you laugh--but it's still early...

    Sorry to hear about the leg, Laura. Hope surgery won't be needed and it provides some fuel for your writing, at least!

  3. I can relate to each and every one of these comments, right down to my ex-husband when I wrote my first one. "We can write together and make a ton of money." (He didn't read even one book in the 20 years I knew him.)

  4. In a talk by Debbie Macomber to a writer's group, she talked of a signing where a woman came to the table, picked up a book, set it down saying. "Oh, I don't read *those* books." Debbie said she was fed up at that point and although she knew better, her response was "What? No pictures?"

    The questions I get most often: "Have I heard of you?" and "Have I read any of your books?"

    Get well soon!

  5. Oh, no! I hope you can find some great writing fodder out of the broken leg experience. Because everybody does that, right? It's not just me?

    Rest and heal. My favorite line is the folks at a book launch who say (while I'm signing their book), "So are you working on the next one?"

  6. Laura, I wish you a successful and uneventful recovery with someone supplying you with delicious, hot coffee as often as you need, want, or crave it.

    My biggest eye roll moment after people found out I wrote a book:
    "I wrote a book, can you get your publisher to publish mine?"

    Speedy healing, Laura.

    1. Haha, I read that as 'I wish you a successful recovery with someone delicious supplying you with hot coffee' 😀 which is exactly what I wish Laura 😉

  7. Yikes, Laura! I am so sorry--I hope you heal quickly and aren't in too much pain. The good news is the best thing you can do right now is put your foot up and binge-read. <3

    I don't tell people I'm an author, I tell them I am a writer and writing coach. Usually this leads to them telling me about someone they know who has published books, or wants to publish. 😉

  8. Wishing you a speedy and painless recovery, Laura. Thanks for the laughs this morning. I've had the same experience - most people who ask what I do are fascinated, but a few give the turned-up-nose responses. Saying prayers for you and hoping you're back in the saddle again soon:)

  9. Two days ago a friend I hadn't seen in a while asked how I was doing and I told her I had a book coming out in June. She said (and I quote) - "Another book? So, you're really doing this? It's not something you just had to get out of your system?" That was a first. I didn't know what to say. Still don't.

    Hope you get LOTS of writing and reading done while recovering. Sometimes great things come from being forced to slow down- hope the healing is healing. Blessings on ya.

    1. "It’s not something you just had to get out of your system?" <-- *jaw dropped* I don't think I like this friend of yours, Cara. Geesh. And congrats on your June release!!!

  10. I live in a small town so the question I get the most is: Narrows eyes, "Do you write about people you know?"

    1. i have never had that asked, halle - but i've heard from others that everyone wants to know that - except those you really are writing about. they never recognize themselves.

      i get a pass on typos, right? because - pain meds

  11. For the most part, people have been supportive and curious. It's only a little awkward when I have to tell the elementary students I work with that they can't read my books until they're teenagers. But I do tell them I write Romance, usually when I'm trying to get them to read over their writing before turning it in

  12. Sorry to hear about your broken leg, Laura! I broke my left arm in two places falling on Mothers Day so I can sympathize greatly. It's certainly not a painless recovery, is it? Thanks for the perky laughs today though - great blog post! I took your Query class last May and while I haven't sold yet, I've had requests for fulls so I'm very grateful for all your help!

  13. From an artist: "I just know one day you'll be good enough to be published in hard cover. Then I'll read you since I only read 'real' writers."

    1. And the English teacher who said she'd be writing once she retired and had more time. That's been about ten years now.

  14. Speedy recovery, Laura! I enjoyed your video blog about rejection while you were fly fishing in that beautiful setting. So sorry to hear about your bad luck while on such a great-sounding trip.

    I'm just beginning this fiction writing journey with one recently published short story at my "older" age. When I tell people what I'm doing now, I sometimes get a perplexed "Really?" or the blank stare of those who think recently-retired people don't have brains anymore. No big deal; I know what I've gotten myself into, and that's all that matters.

  15. Spot on, post! So sorry about your leg. I've heard a lot of these kinds of comments too. One friend always wants me to include motorcycles in my historicals...

  16. Laura! Okay, we want the dirt on how this happened, and please don't tell us you were just walking along...two places? To be sure you were skydiving.

    Anywho, this was a GREAT post! I've had most of those! It was like a checklist. Here's the latest, which happened at a recent event where I actually felt like I'd walked into a hostile situation. (some members of this book club were deeply offended by what I wrote)

    One lady said, "I'm sure you wrote the story that way just so you could get published."

    *insert frowny face.*

    1. oh yeah, because the writing is so easy, not to mention, getting published...

      okay, what happened. my friend Pam & i were fishing in a remote area. I wandered upstream, and there were grassy hillocks. i had just gotten out of the water, stood up, and stepped back (the squeamish should stop reading g here) and stepped into a hole, with a branch across the edge. that's what snapped my leg.

      they had to get me out by boat. then 15 miles of dirt road, and another 1/2 hr to the hospital. surgery inserting plates 7 screws.

      yeah, when i do it, i do it right.

      1. Oh my word. Do you know, you're the second person I know who broke their leg that way? A neighbor here did the same thing. Although...she was just in her yard, why there was a hole big enough for her to step in and break her leg I have no idea...but, she did. Same thing! The funny (not really) part is...she tried to flag another neighbor who was driving by, waved madly at them...they waved back and kept going. :>O I think it was an hour later before she got help. Here's to a speedy recovery!

  17. Poor Laura! Heal that leg quickly!

    I'm indie publishing, and I find funny the people who don't follow the industry and think we're still back in the vanity publishing days of the 1990s. Love watching their smirks fade into that glazed look when I talk about how things are working now and the options for publishing. And, this is a second career for me--a business--and it's nails-on-the chalkboard when someone tells me "what a nice hobby for your retirement ". Yipes!

    1. Alina, I know exactly what you are saying. Then there are the people who post fake reviews on Amazon, because they don't like something that you said on social media. Sigh . . .

  18. Bummer about your leg! When I was still working, the district's speech pathologist would corner me every time he saw me and asked how writing my smut was going.

    And, I'm frequently asked to take "peek" at someone's book (memoir, etc.) and give them feedback.

  19. What a great post...I use to have a man I worked with who always wanted to volunteer to be my next hero - we could create scenes together. Yuck, yuck yuck!! You described so many things that have happened to me the good and the bad as a writer. I have one family member who does the elitist sniff and another who buys all of my books. At a cocktail party my husband's boss told me I was making a huge mistake. That I should be writing mysteries and tried to convince why mysteries are the way to go. Needless to say when my husband left that job, I was so tempted to send him an email that said you sanctimonious SOB...but I took the high road. I do what I LOVE! I love meeting readers and fans of romance, we connect, we talk the lingo and have such a great connection, but the naysayers...I walk away from. Why is it that writing about love, an everlasting love is not acceptable? Sorry, I think you touched a sore spot and it just came pouring out today. I'm at the point in my career that I'm going to write what I want.

    Get better. So sorry to hear that you've broken your leg.

  20. The funnest booksigning I ever did was when I had knee surgery and signed books for the doc and nurses while I was still in the hospital. I hope you mend well and fast, Laura.
    I've had no less than three women call me up, referred by friends (?) who wanted to write tell-alls about their in-laws. One wanted me to ghost-write it for her, because she didn't want to get sued!

  21. I was laughing till I got to the--PS you broke your leg in TWO places!
    Here's my recent comments:
    How many books have you written? (It's embarrassing to say I haven't finished the one I've been writing for 3 damn years.)
    If you get stuck, I have a great imagination.
    My husband says...You don't have much time left...

    Thanks people, I'm working on it.

    Geez Laura, hope you heal quick and your calf doesn't itch.

  22. Oh no, Laura. Speedy recovery. I love this post. I get all kinds of reactions when I say I'm a writer, and I'm mostly a children's writer so I get those jibs and jabs about "Oh, I tell my grandchildren the best stories when they come over, perhaps I should write them down and get them published." If only it were that simple. 🙂

  23. My favorite is you're sitting at a table in a bookstore with your books piled in front of you and someone comes up, picks up a book, and says, "Did you write this?" My next favorite--same scenario--are those who ignore your books and ask you where the bathroom is. Hope Laura feels better soon.

      1. All reference librarians are familiar with this one, possibly the most-asked question ever in libraries apart from asking where the red book is, you know, the one that was so useful last time.

  24. I hit all the checklist responses, but the one I still shake my head over is someone who gave me a title: "The Little Church in PeeWee Valley," because PeeWee Valley was on the way to a new church. I asked what it would be about and she said, "I don't know, you'll have to figure that out!"

  25. Oh my gosh, Laura!! I sure hope you get back on two good legs real fast! I hate the questions "How long have you been writing?" followed by "Where can I buy your books?" I hang my head in shame. But, I'm still pounding away at the keyboard.

  26. My favourite is: "You're a writer? Yeah, so what DO you do for a living."
    And Laura, there's just one advantage to a broken leg (or in my case a broken ankle). One can't walk, can't clean house, can't chase the kids. So what's to do but sit down and write!!!! Best wishes for your quick recovery.

  27. I got the waggling eyebrows and my husband the jokes when I first began writing romance. All were from the legal profession, (DH is a lawyer) and I might have suddenly grown two heads!

  28. I hope you feel better soon Laura. I don't tell people I write ('cause I feel like a bit of a fraud) but when I do they're mostly excited. My mum (God love her) comes out with the best comments. She'll ask me how my writing's going and then in the very next breath say, "have you thought about training in massage? You'd be could at that." Thanks mum.

  29. What makes me cringe is when guys I know have read my book and wink at me about *those scenes* haha

    Laura, Rest and take good care. Hope you aren't in too much pain and . . . dare I say it . . .oh, you know it's coming . . .. roll tide!

  30. How come it took you so long to write your book? (Name of famous romance or mystery author) writes 2 or 3 a year. You could do that. Maybe you're just doing the wrong kind of writing.

  31. Laura, I hit submit before saying I hope you can enjoy your enforced recuperation! Happy healing.

  32. Hope you heal quickly, Laura! My sister said to me once when I said I write romance, "I could write one of those...if I wanted."

  33. I love the "How much money do you make doing that?" question, as if it would ever be considered polite to ask anyone else exactly what they're making in their job. ("So you're a plumber? What's your specific salary for that?" Um, no.) I usually just state an average that working authors make.

    Also, from friends and family, the constant question: "Why isn't your book out yet? Didn't you finish writing it?" People are indeed startled to discover that the gap between finished first draft and book on shelves can be a long, long time.

  34. When people say they don't read, I (silently) remind them that "the man who does not read is no better off than the man who can't." I did say that aloud to my high school students back when.

  35. Laura, I wish you a speedy recovery. Broken anything is absolutely no fun. Maybe you could come up with a story about broken legs being funny as a crutch. Broken legs always remind me of my skiing days at Mt. Hood. Skiing with one of my male colleagues, we got off the lift and he fell down sustaining a spiral fracture. He hobbled around for eight months in a cast. Six months later it was ski season again. We got on the lift and headed up the hill, and you guessed it - he broke it again.

    I wish I had a funny story about what people say about our writing, but all I have is what trolls say when they come out from under their shadowed hovels - and admit that they haven't read your book, but they just know it's sh*t. Hey, storm writer's maybe we could do a short humorous story contest. Best to all. . .

  36. First I am so sorry about your accident. No fun at all. I wish you a speedy recovery.

    Funniest thing I ever heard was a successful author whose snooty aunt asked her, "Oh, do you write?" The author answered, "Why? Do you read?"

    I often tell people I write under a pen name to prevent my husband from divorcing me and then I laugh. I don't honestly care what they think. I wanted to write all my life and I'm having a blast. My husband tells people I'm retired, but this is a second career for me and my only regret is that I didn't do it many years sooner.

    I did have a cousin-in-law who told me I'd had such an interesting life, I should forget about that romance stuff and write about my childhood. Yeah, that's what people want to know about. My childhood.

    I hope you can enjoy your recovery by reading a lot of great stories.

  37. A lot of non-writers (mainly my relatives) often ask me, "When are you going to publish your book?" This happens no matter where I am in the writing process, because most non-writers have no idea how long it takes to do anything that has to do with writing or publishing your work. One aunt even asked me once, "But you're so good at writing! Why is it taking so long?" They just don't understand how much work and patience is required, and it's so frustrating sometimes. The only thing I've learned to say in response is, "I just have to keep writing, revising, submitting, and praying I'll be lucky."

    Thanks for writing this, Laura.

  38. So sorry about the leg! Hope you have a speedy recovery.

    I've gotten the "I don't read that stuff" a lot, but the one that really ticks me off is the guy who, after hearing there's sex in my books, asks if I need an assistant to help me research those scenes. I finally came up with an answer. "No, but I also write mystery/suspense and I need a cadaver to see just how long it takes the maggots to start eating the flesh. You'd make a nice one. Care to help with that?" You should see the look that crosses their face! Priceless.

  39. Nuts! You'll have to mend to get back to hiking and horseback riding and all the out-doorsy stuff. Speedy recovery, my dear.

    I'm one of the ones who hangs her head in shame when someone finds out I'm a writer. Because their next question is always "how many books have you published?" ...I haven't published any books. I always wonder why people think a short-story writer is not a real writer because she hasn't published a whole novel. *Sigh* I enjoy writing YA adventure short fiction, and when I try to tell someone about my latest adventure, you can read it in their eyes. "But you haven't published any full-length novel? Well then, you're not really a writer, are you?"

    Laura, heal and get better, my dear. I'm praying for you!

  40. I'm about to publish my very first book, a Civil War historical romance, and I have been surprised by this: I announce with pride the approaching publication date and my acquaintance stiffens up. "Really?" they ask. "How exciting." Meanwhile, their eyes go this way and that as if they are looking for an escape route.

    Why do they do that? Thank goodness, it's rare. Most people ask when and where they can get their very own copy. Now that's exciting.

    Laura, get well soon.

  41. So sorry about your leg, Laura, but at least you don't have to use it to write (or do you?). Anyway, I hope it heals soon and that you will be up and kicking like a bull soon. Cowboy Karma sounds interesting. Good luck with your books!

  42. A broken leg and the story that goes with it are bound to be fodder for a good book! My fave (and I hear it more often than you'd think) is, "Oh, you should write a book about *my* life." I usually try to reply with something intellectual like, "Oh, well, I write fiction and good fiction has to have structure."

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