Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wait? You're a Writer? by Betsy Ashton

All of us who write get a series of questions, most of which are asked out of curiosity, a few out of envy, and even fewer to debase us.

  • How long does it take to write a book?
  • What's your "real" job?
  • How long do you write every day?
  • How much money do you make?
  • Are you a best-selling author?
  • I've never heard of you. You must not be very good.
The list goes on and on, like the road leading out of the Shire. Let's dig into these and see if I can clarify my answers:

  • How long does it take to write a book? As long as it takes. Use "How long is a piece of string?" to give the questioner a sense of just how silly this question seems to those of us who write all the time
  • What's your "real" job? Writing is my real job. Between my family, writing my allotted number of pages, interacting with readers, Skyping with book clubs, and promoting my materials through social media, it's a "real" job. It's even what I list on my IRS returns where the forms ask for occupation. I answer, "Author."
  • How long do you write every day? I put in a good four or five hours each day in creating new material and editing older material. New material begins with a blank screen. On a terrific day, I fill up that screen and many more with words. On the next day, I look at those words and see how many I can keep. Sometimes it's most of the new work; other times most is designated "what the heck was I thinking?" and moved to the parking lot, a graveyard for what seemed good ideas at the time.
  • How much money do you make? Best answered politely with "I never discuss money," when you really want to say, "How often do you have sex?" Same degree of "none of your damned business" questioning. Some people think it's fine to be snoops. They usually end up dead in a subsequent novel.
  • Are you a best-selling author? If I was, you'd know it.
  • I've never heard of you. You must not be very good. Well, that is a matter of opinion. My readers think I'm pretty good. As I add more with each book, I rise in the ranks of authors. So, if you haven't heard of me, shame on you. You're not paying attention.
It's hard sometimes to paste that smile on your face, but you have to do it. These people are future readers, most likely. They may not remember what you write but they will remember that you dissed them. Don't diss them. Honor the comment with a polite one of your own. No matter that we don't like being in public, the first time that pesky novel hits print, you are now a public figure. Enjoy it.
Betsy Ashton is the author of the Mad Max mystery series, Unintended Consequences, Uncharted Territory, and Unsafe Haven. She also wrote a dark psychological suspense novel, Eyes Without A Face, about a female serial killer, who unpacks her life and career in first person.


Leah St. James said...

Good answers, Betsy! Love this:
"Some people think it's fine to be snoops. They usually end up dead in a subsequent novel." :-)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Here I go - What Leah said. Seriously. I love your answers. So right on. How often do you have sex? Would LOVE to ask that. Just once. Better than killing them off even.

Jannine Gallant said...

There's one key question I always get: "Why do you write romance? Why don't you write a real book?" My usual response is that romance outsells "real books" with an edge to my voice. God, I hate that one! Excellent responses, Betsy!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Ditto on all the comments. But Jannine, there are times I see it in their face and I want to say Oh I know what you're thinking. How snotty of you. You might not know it but you do read romance. You read it in school. Some is required reading. What? You don't believe in love in real life? No wonder the world is in the fix it's in. But no. I just hold my chin up and confess. As far as asking what I make, yeah, I can't believe people do that. Do they do it with any other profession. Jeeze!

Andrea Downing said...

I get, 'what do you write?' and when I respond with western romance, a blank look--un less I'm out west of course!

Diane Burton said...

Sorry for being so late in responding. Excellent answers to those nosy questions. Some questions are thoughtless (not intentionally mean), esp. if they've never met an author before. As you say, we paste on a smile and answer or change the subject. Good post.