11 Things You Should Never Say to a Writer

As you can tell, I was pretty irate while writing this post and I’m not even published yet.  (I have to say “I’m not even published yet” because I’m trying to be positive after writing this excessively salty post).  Putting my personal vendettas aside, here is a comprehensive list of eleven things you should never say to a writer:

  1. Can you make me a character in your book? Um no. A few years ago, a girl at my school asked me if she could be a character in my book and I named my villain after her. Don’t ask a writer if you can be in her book unless you want to become the bad guy.
  2. Am I a character in your book? If you’re asking me this, it probably means you annoy me. So, yes, you probably are.
  3. Can I have a free copy? Writing is a job. You wouldn’t ask a doctor for a free exam, so don’t ask a writer for a free book.
  4. How much money do writers make? You have to be joking.
  5. I have this amazing idea for a book and I think you should write it. Trust me, I’ve got enough ideas bouncing around my head to last a lifetime.
  6. Can I read your book?  You can buy my book like the rest of the population.  Until then, shoo.
  7. I found a typo in your book. Great. Thanks for rubbing my errors in my face.  As if my fear of publishing a subpar book and the corresponding anxiety weren’t enough.
  8. No, like what do you actually do?  Do you know how close I am to throwing an uncapped pen at your face right now?
  9. I could be a writer too if I only had the time.  Believe me, honey: we have no more time than you in the day.  If you really want to write a book, stop talking to me and go write a book.
  10. Your job is so easy.  HA.  Yeah, tell that to my sleep deprivation.
  11. Why isn’t your book finished yet?  You know, I’ve been asking myself the same question since I started the damn thing.  Thanks for reminding me.

What else should you never say to a writer?  Has anyone ever said these things to you?

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58 thoughts on “11 Things You Should Never Say to a Writer

  1. Ah, yes! That’s a pretty comprehensive list. Another one I hear from pretty much everyone I tell that I’m a writer is some variation of “Oh, I’m a writer too! I’ve got this great idea for a book. I’ve been working on it for years, but I actually have a job so I haven’t been able to finish it…but let me tell you all about my unfinished book while not asking a single question about any of the 5 you already have published…” Yeah, that one would go right to the top of my list.

    I understand salty completely! Even though I’m supposed to be marketing myself all the time, I rarely ever confess to the people I meet in person that I’m a writer because I have a difficult time dealing with the inevitable ignorant comments about my profession.

    People assume that just because the barrier to entry has been lowered for writers by companies like Amazon, that being a writer is now so easy, you can just throw your stuff online as soon as you draft it. Never mind the fact that some of us spend months in revisions and editing, read a ton of books on writing, take writing classes, go to critique sessions, and try to maintain and grow a platform. Yep, totally easy.

    Thanks for the post. It feels good to read someone else saying these things.

    1. Ugh I hate when people say that to me!! It’s fine to call yourself a writer even when you’re unpublished (like me) but lack of conversation is what’s so irritating. You make an awesome point about how online shopping has made it much easier to become a published writer, but the work required by the author is still demanding.

      1. I don’t mind that they call themselves a writer, because if you write then thats what you are. I mind that they imply that their occasional efforts at the keyboard can be compared to the daily hours I spend at mine, not to mention the time I spend in writing-related activities, and after that comparison, they think their story is more important to dominate the conversation than anything I’ve written.

        To add insult to injury, some people follow up their complete lack of interest in my work, by asking me to read, edit, or review their work, or help them build a platform, etc.

        Writing is my job, so people assume I have the luxury of all kinds of free-time, but I spend that time writing! I have 3 concurrent WIPs right now, two hard deadlines, and a book that should probably hit the market as soon as possible for maximum exposure. I do not have free time. Free time is a myth, like unicorns and fat free food that tastes good.

      2. That annoys me so much!! I may not write full-time, but the only reason I don’t write full-time is because I’m a college student and I don’t have enough time in the day to even do that sometimes!

  2. Variant to number 5: I have a great idea for a book! How about you write it and we split the profit 50/50.

    Yes, I’ve actually been asked this before, and had to explain how unlikely “profits” were in the first place and, more importantly, why their 10 second brain fart did not equal my months and months of labor.

    1. Right? I appreciate someone telling me I have a typo if I asked them to proofread, but other than that I don’t want to know. And as far as 8 and 10 go… I just can’t deal with people who question whether or not writing is a job.

  3. “I named my villain after her” I love this 😂 I’m not a writer, but I feel offended for you! I can’t believe some people have the nerve to ask these questions, especially the money one – like come on, common sense, use it! I will say, though, the “free book” thing even annoys me as a reader. Sometimes I’ll have people comment on my Goodreads reviews and be like “Hey, I really want to read this, where can I download it free?” Maybe go the library, the land of free books? Anyhow, great post, Annie! Really made me laugh!

    Lauren @ Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

  4. The ones that frustrate me are ‘writing isn’t a real job,’ ‘writers are lazy,’ or silence – as in they don’t care or take it seriously.

  5. Oh my, you hit this topic on the head. Totally frustrating when people think writing is an easy/simple process. It takes graft, time, effort and most importantly good content. And simply put, not everyone has that ability. In the same way not every can draw well. Just because you can pick up the pencil and put it to paper, doesn’t mean it’s going to be quality work!

    Faye x

    1. Exactly!! Writing is taxing not only because of the time commitment, but because of the pressure. You can’t tally up points to decide if a book is good–it all depends on how your audience perceives your work. It’s entirely subjective.

  6. So relatable 😛
    I think the worst for me, which is similar to asking to read my book, is asking me to describe the whole plot to them. I just hate doing it because there is no way I can condense the entire plot into a couple sentences and get everything across without giving away anything important. It just ends up sounding terrible.