Tuesday, October 5, 2010

5 Questions Writers Hate

Okay, so that isn't a fair title at all. Every writer is different, so really, I should have titled this blog "5 Questions I Hate." But such a title could refer to just about any aspect of my life (even though I'm trying to limit this blog to things that only have to do with writing, even if only in a vague and general way). And no one would want to read "5 Questions About Giraffes I Hate." I suppose I could have entitled it "5 Questions About Writing I Hate," but then you could have assumed I meant I had 5 questions about writing that I hate, which isn't what I meant. I do have 5 questions about giraffes that I hate (curse you, giraffes!), but since I am trying to limit this blog to things that only have to do with writing, even if only in a vague and general way, I'll save those questions for another time and place.

Here are 5 questions that I, as a writer, hate:

Question 1: What kind of books do you write?

This one might not bother a lot of writers, but it bothers me. I think the reason it might not bother a lot of writers is because there are a lot of writers who stick to one or two genres in their writing. Now, at the moment, I've only written three books, and I'm trying to begin actively working on a fourth soon. Of these four books, two could be categorized as YA fantasy, and two could be categorized as science fiction. One might assume from the given information that the kind of books I write are fantasy and science fiction. The problem with this is, I feel like I've only begun to write! I don't want to limit myself to just one or two genres. I want to write a variety of things.

My two favorite writers, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle, didn't just write in one or two different styles or genres. Lewis wrote fantasy, science fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, allegory...he was a writer. What kind of books did C.S. Lewis write? The answer is yes. The same can be said for L'Engle. Most of what she wrote was YA, but she also wrote some adult fiction and nonfiction. She wrote fantasy and scifi, but she also had some VERY down to earth books. She even wrote some children's books. She didn't limit herself to one genre or style because she was a writer--she just wrote whatever came to her.

I'd like to think I'm that kind of a writer, too. Only time will tell. I hope to one day be able to answer the question "What kind of books do you write?" with "YES."

Question 2: What is your book about?

I hate this question for a couple of reasons. One, it puts me on the spot. How would you like it if someone came up to you and said, "So, tell me about your entire life?" You have to think of where to begin, add in all the important details, and then find a good place to conclude without giving too much information. The second reason I really hate this question is because most people don't really understand what they're asking. Do you really want me to stand here and tell you what my book is about in 20 words or less? Because if you REALLY want to know what my book is about, then you'd better be prepared for more than 20 words. I doubt anyone is going to really want to listen to me give them a good summary of my book. I mean, if you REALLY want to know what my book is about, then you might as well just read the book--when it's published (this will lead me to another hated question momentarily).

I have a standard answer I give for when people ask me this question. "What's your book about?" "Oh, it's a YA fantasy about Dragons and stuff." The only people who get more detailed answers are people who seem GENUINELY interested and people I'm trying to sell my book to--because, hey, they really need to know.

Question 3: Can I read your book before it's published?

*FACEPALM* People don't think before they ask this question. I mean, seriously, what better way to tell your writer friend, "I want to read your book because I don't have enough faith in your work that you'll ever manage to get it published...or at the very least, I'm not willing to wait that long."

I know, I know. This is NOT what people are trying to communicate. They're trying to communicate that they have an interest in my work and are really eager to read it. But it comes across completely differently. If someone is interested in my work, I'd much prefer they wait until it's ready to be seen by the world instead of hoping to catch a glimpse of it in it's raw stages.

With that being said, it is CRUCIAL for a writer to find friends/fellow writers/people they trust to read their work. It's just not at all wise to let EVERYBODY read it. It's not a bad thing for someone to offer their help in editing, but I think it's better to let a writer approach you if they're interested in letting you read it. I've been blessed with several good friends who have given me awesome feedback on my first book. It would not be the book it is today without their help. But at the same time, I chose these people b/c I trusted them and knew they would help me more than harm me. It's not a good idea to let too many people see my work before it's ready. So yeah...don't ask me to let you read it before it's ready to be read. When it's published, that's a pretty good indication that it's ready.

Question 4: Why haven't you found a literary agent/publisher/editor yet?

This question arises out of ignorance. I realize this. For some reason, there are people who assume that finding someone to represent my writing is a very simple task. I have had people ask me after only one week of trying to find an agent why I hadn't managed to find one yet. I'm like, "Are you serious?" The sad thing was, they WERE serious.

I don't like the implication that the reason I'm not published is because I'm not working towards that. Sometimes, I could work harder than I am, but most of the time, I'm just waiting. I'm impatient in this process, but not as much as other people seem to be. It's discouraging sometimes.

Some very good writers have had to wait a long time before becoming very good published writers. I hope that's the case with me.

Question 5: Do you really think writing is a useful endeavor?

Oh, if I could only explain to practical people how creative God is. I guess practical people are as much of an enigma to me as I am to them. I can see the logic in the idea that you "can't eat a work of art," but is that the only measure of something's worth--practicality?

A very close friend of mine once said, "The Bible is the only book we really need." I guess that's true, but I didn't like the implication that we shouldn't HAVE any other books. I like something that a Christian musician, Mitch McVicker, said at one of his concerts I attended: (VERY paraphrased) The world doesn't need more Christian music or Christian musicians. But the world will always need truth, and I'm trying to be faithful to what He's given me to do.

God gave me the ability to write. God gave me the desire to write. God has given me dreams and visions and stories to write.

Why do I write? I don't like that question unless I'm answering someone to whom I'm trying to sell my writing.

A much better question is, "Why wouldn't I write?" I love it. I'm GOOD at it. It's what God has given me to do, so I write. I don't even know all that He has planned for it and through it, but you know, that doesn't matter. I'm just trying to be faithful. He'll fill in the rest of the details.

Maybe it's just that God wants to use this impractical person to shame the practical. I'm cool with that.

I may have more "questions I as a writer hate" later, but for now, I'm going to go find some giraffes I hate and ask them some questions, like, "Why are your spots so brown, dumb giraffe? Why is your neck so ridiculously long? Why doesn't anyone know what sound a giraffe makes, you freakish freak of nature?"

*I don't really hate giraffes. Okay, just some of them.


  1. I know what sound a giraffe makes; I just can't replicate it. I don't even know how I would represent it in type.

  2. Love it! I think some people ask those questions out of genuine curiosity and wanting to know more about you in that sense, but most of us have NO IDEA what such questions mean to a writer. Thanks for giving us a heads up. ;)

    Oh, and I CAN'T WAIT to read your books... once they're published, that is. ;)