Amber Skye Forbes

Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes

How NOT to Talk to Me as a Writer

Lately as more people have found out that I’m getting published, I’ve come across a lot of interesting situations both out in the world and on the internet. So I’ve decided to compile a list of things you probably shouldn’t say to an author. Or to me, specifically.

1. “Tell me a story!”

Whoa, okay. Slow down there. For one thing, I wrote a book, a thing that took a week to outline. I didn’t just pull it out of my butt and start writing by the seat of my pants. I am not a panster. I don’t like writer’s block.

Second, I don’t exist for YOUR entertainment. Oh, sure, I wrote a book and books are entertainment, but my book exists for your entertainment, not me.

Also, storytelling and writing are two very different skill sets. I can applaud people who can come up with a story on the fly to tell someone, but I am not one of those people who can.

And don’t be mad when I tell you that I don’t like being put on the spot. This is a common complaint among writers for a reason.

2. “I want to write a book that is about…”

First off, not to be rude, but I frankly don’t care what your book is about. I want to see you writing that book because your story means absolutely nothing to me unless it’s on paper. When I come up with ideas, I don’t even mention this idea until I actually have the first draft written because an idea means nothing until it has come to fruition.

Plus, most people who constantly talk about their ideas do very little in the way of actually getting anything done.

3. “Where do you have the time?”

Oh my gosh. I really don’t. Seriously. But I have to make time because it’s my career, just as you have to make time for your job. It’s going to be even worse when school starts because I might only have time for revisions instead of actually being able to write the sequel to When Stars Die. I might only be able to plan the sequel and actually get writing it come December, when I have an entire month off.

4. “Well, when you get rich and famous…”

Hold it right there. What makes you think suddenly writing a book is going to garner me fame and fortune? Because JK did it, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, whoever else? Those authors are one in a million. They don’t make up the world of authors.

I mean, it’s great that you want me to get big and make lots of money. So do I! It’s my goal to be a bestseller and to be an inspiration to my fans. I think I can make that goal come true with constant hard work. But also realize fame and fortune doesn’t happen overnight. Also realize fame and fortune doesn’t happen for most authors. And, last, also realize that an author’s first book usually isn’t the book that gains them success.

However, this doesn’t mean I’m not working toward success. I certainly hope When Stars Die is a success. I want it to be, but I’m also writing this other book too, and I’m going to keep writing.

5. “Will you read my manuscript?”

This question isn’t so bad, but they ask it with the assumption that I’ll do it for free. I’m only willing to do this with other AEC authors with the assumption that they’ll read my manuscript back–mostly because they are expected to critique it.

Otherwise, if you’re not an AEC Stellar author, I’m charging you. Sorry.

I just don’t have the time to read for free. I can’t even make time to participate in my writer group’s critique sessions–as in returning the favor by critiquing other writers. I can only attend the write-ins because, well, we write.

6. “I don’t really like to read.”

We are done with this conversation.

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20 comments on “How NOT to Talk to Me as a Writer

  1. Kate Sparkes
    July 10, 2013

    The first one always makes me want to yell “Dammit Jim, I’m a writer, not a raconteur!” This could either amuse or confuse people. Either way, I’m good. 😉

    And the rich and famous thing… my mom does this. It’s wonderful when people have faith in me and my work, but a) I have my own expectations and goals, and they’re not that, and b) she hasn’t even read the book because it’s not her genre, so… yeah.

    • amberskyef
      July 10, 2013

      I think the rich and famous thing is the most annoying one out of all of these. Fame and fortune on the first go round is luck more than anything else–unless, like John Green, you already have a massive fan base established well ahead of time, but most writers don’t.

      • Kate Sparkes
        July 10, 2013

        Exactly. I’m happy with building a career slowly, but (well-meaning) people always mention the authors who made it big on their first books, and then I have to explain that they’re memorable because they’re anomalies, and that just kills the conversation right there.

  2. cnmill
    July 10, 2013

    Oooooh, Number 4 makes my blood boil.
    People just don’t get it.
    That’s all I’ll say before I end up ranting in your comment section about something. Again.
    Sorry about that!

  3. Michelle Proulx
    July 10, 2013

    Hahahaha “I don’t like to read”. Even before I published, whenever someone said this to me, I really had no idea what to say to them … or how to act around them in general. I guess I just can’t comprehend why someone wouldn’t enjoy reading … unless there’s a good reason, like they’re dyslexic and actually have trouble stringing the words together, or something. Then I suppose it’s all right 😀

    • amberskyef
      July 10, 2013

      It’s just funny to ask about someone’s book and then declare that said person doesn’t like reading. If you find out I’m a published author and you don’t like reading, don’t ask me about my book. Just say that’s cool and move on or something.

  4. Dianna Gunn
    July 10, 2013

    Hi Amber,

    I love this post! My pet peeves are a little different, as I’m actually quite good at pulling a story out of my butt–and often stories I tell verbally become written–but these are all valid points, especially the last one. People who don’t like to read kind of scare me. It’s totally different to not like writing, but to not like READING? Might as well be an alien as far as I’m concerned.

    Thanks for this post,
    ~Dianna

    • amberskyef
      July 10, 2013

      I envy people who can pull out stories just like that. It’s not even that people don’t like to read. It’s that they seem to take this interest in me as a writer, and then they declare they don’t like to read. That doesn’t make any sense to me. Why feign interest and then drop the bomb?

      • Dianna Gunn
        July 11, 2013

        Pulling stories out of nowhere is definitely its own talent, and I’ve lived plenty of interesting stories, which certainly helps. I also totally get hating the feigned interest. One thing I get a lot as a fantasy writer is “I only read non-fiction” or something like “those books are BS”, which is super irritating. Of course, on the other side of the spectrum, you have the guy that told me last night “Books are a great way of creating passive residual income”, when for me, books have little to do with that, they’re my passion first and foremost.

  5. Sam
    July 10, 2013

    #3 … oooooh, #3. That’s actually broken friendships for me, lol. Someone will ask me “how on earth to you find time to write? You’re so busy!” and then, in the same breath, follow it up with “so, when can we hang out? *subtle hints of neglect*” And I’m getting ready to start grad school, so I hear you on that front! Scared that I won’t have time to do much writing at all.

    And then there’s #6, which nips friendships in the bud. 😉 When video games are super-cool, but reading gets shoved to the back burner – no, this is not demanding of my respect or admiration.

    • amberskyef
      July 10, 2013

      I know I still have friends, but luckily a lot of them are understanding about busy schedules because they’re, well, college students and so we all understand that stuff comes up. My writing isn’t really any different from their jobs, which probably get more hours than my small part-time job outside of writing. They also know I do ballet and dedicate time to that, especially because they all know I have fibro and ballet’s good for it.

      And it doesn’t necessarily bother me that people don’t like to read. Some may not like it because they have dyslexia or just haven’t found the right book. I like video games and movies, but my fiancé actually has a passion for these that I lack, so I don’t like to hold long, drawn-out conversations with him about these things–well, sometimes video games.

      I simply mean it in the context of writing. Like, it’s weird you’d take an interest in me as a writer but then tell me you don’t like reading. There is something very fake about that to me, lol.

  6. Flower
    July 10, 2013

    My brother is a good story teller. He’s also been working on his novel for years. But I agree: story telling and book writing utilize very different skill sets.

    Your quote: “Plus, most people who constantly talk about their ideas do very little in the way of actually getting anything done.” Very true, indeed.

    Point #4: Good, healthy view. Calming down my expectations motivates me to actually do the work.

    Point #5: Yes. Charge. I can’t believe people would ask you to do a time consuming task like that for free.

    • amberskyef
      July 10, 2013

      I totally envy your brother! Or it might be jealousy.

      Now I do love getting writers who tell me they’re writing books and would love to know if the idea sounds good. That I’m fine with. It’s just I always have people telling me about their ideas, but they actually never even get started on the writing, so it turns me off from not wanting to listen to your ideas unless you actually have established yourself as a writer by, well, writing.

      And it’s not so much disbelief that people would ask me to read their manuscripts. Well, I suppose it is disbelief, but it’s more ‘I have it mentioned here that I am a freelance editor; therefore, I don’t do this thing for free anymore.’

  7. Sharena (Shay Dee)
    July 10, 2013

    A bit of a weird post, Amber. You probably didn’t mean it to, but it came across a little snobby – no offence. It’s titled “How NOT to speak to an author.” But it also mentions you are getting published, not that your published yet?

    If you have little time, you have little time to listen, I totally get that. And as this is a post about you, all is fair. Maybe change that title to something that doesn’t encompass all authors and just put: How not to speak to me.
    Listening, to me, is like reading. They say to read bad books to know how not to write. Often I listen to unproductive writers and learn how not to be one. Either way, no two people are the same and ideas are fantastic things even if not yet written down. My opinion.

    #5 is the one that had me frowning. The same way you asked people if the have the free time to read your MS for nothing isn’t much different from some people asking you to do the same – not demanding or telling – asking, and a “No” is a good enough answer, the expectation of an exchange sounds a bit rich here…
    We’re only authors until we’re authors…until then, when you’re asking people to read for you, you’re asking them to do so for FREE and your “review request” e-mail offered me, as a reader of your MS, nothing in return.
    But now I’m thinking, if I want to be a (hopefully) one day published author, maybe I should take a leaf out of your count down and ask for something in return? How will I ever get to where I want to be if I’m blowing time reading for free? You’re assuming your work is to a standard because you’re an “author”, the same way you only read other “author’s” WIP’s, but the whole point of BETA readers is to test that standard, hence your future online survey to detect slow reading parts. So maybe you will be wasting people’s time in the long run if it turns out you have a lot of trimming/editing to do.

    And then that takes me down the road of what is an author? You say “only if you’re an author…”. Anyone can call themselves an author, self-pubbers are authors by right, though the quality of their writing isn’t in their title but in their work and the reader won’t know that unless they actually start reading it.

    Which brings me on to point #6. A lot of people say this and it grinds my gears!
    The funny thing is, literacy is a life skill, most people read whether they like it or not, but surely you’re mainly referring to books? You didn’t go into detail but I’ll happily sit and have a conversation with someone who has fewer books on their shelf but of a decent quality than someone who has every book of Fifty Shades and a ton more like it. (Sorry E.L James) My point is, in my opinion, I prefer quality over quantity. Reading more doesn’t always equate to gaining more and if you don’t read much it doesn’t always mean the person who does is better off. Just sayin’!

    In the end, this post began to read like an “us” and “them” which wasn’t very encouraging and usually your stuff is! To me anyway, this complaint is in the minority right now…

    What I’m saying is, sometimes, you have to respect that PeN JuNkiEs are writers at heart… all hoping to get published one day…all wannabe authors. And sometimes the requests we make are just verbal aims to help us get there, not direct requests to waste one another’s time even if they feel that way due to lack of reciprocity.

    I’m more than happy to read your MS and ask for nothing in return, not because I have a whole load of spare time but because I’m not above helping those who ask for it. But maybe I am just slowing myself down.

    • amberskyef
      July 10, 2013

      I didn’t mean for the post to come across this way at all, and I’m terribly sorry that it did.

      I just got slightly annoyed at my past writer’s meeting because everyone was just talking about their ideas and doing little in the way of actually getting anything done–and all the talking kept me from getting anything done because I need quiet, or some kind of self-contained quiet that I wasn’t getting. Now it’s fine to bounce ideas off each other, that’s totally cool, but I don’t want to hear you actually TALK about it, in the way that “Yeah, I’ve got this great idea, and it’s about this and this and this” and not really asking how said idea can be executed, just, well, talking about it. That’s all I really meant by that.

      As for the MS thing, I frankly think there is a difference. The manuscript I’m asking people to read is an ARC, a book of publishable quality (even if people may disagree) that will be in whatever format you want it to be. So it will be in book form. I am asking for a review in return, but I am also doing so knowing that not everyone will do a review and will instead just have free book they have no obligation toward. I expect one, but you run a risk of giving away free books knowing reviews won’t be returned. Publishers risk this all the time giving away proofs and what not–and a lot of people don’t review the proofs they get. Now I know I run the risk of people not liking what I wrote, people not thinking that it is publishable, but it’s still a free book, and all that is asked in return is a review–not an entire critique of which beta readers are often expected to give in exchange for having their manuscripts read. I’m sorry, but I really don’t have time for that. Not anymore. If I want a critique of my future manuscript, I’m going to hire an editor because an editor will do it in a timely fashion. Not only that, but when I used to beta, I often wanted to return the favor, and now I don’t have the time for that unless I’m being paid.

      As for the author thing, I probably should have specified the authors for AEC Stellar. I don’t know why I didn’t. I can go through and edit that. I’d do theirs for free because we are expected to actually critique each other’s manuscripts anyway.

      Now I agree that being established doesn’t necessarily mean better. There are some published authors with horrific storytelling skills that I would never trust my manuscript with. And then there are some writers who have unpublished manuscripts that I would vouch for hands down. I didn’t mean to come across as snobby at all. I certainly don’t want to seem that way at all. I just have a system in place that works for me. Not all writers are going to have the same system because all of our experiences are different, so we adjust. There are plenty of published authors who have beta readers, but it is often a fixed circle of readers they’ve entrusted their manuscript to in the past. They often don’t bring anyone new on board and most don’t have time to critique other writers outside of their circles.

      I am also not above helping others as well, which is why I keep my prices cheap. I never want to be the editor that charges 1000 bucks for an edit because I want to be accessible to everyone. Now I could do editing for free, but I want to make a career out of it.

      Now I will change the title, certainly.

  8. Sharena (Shay Dee)
    July 10, 2013

    lol, a bad day at your writer’s meeting?! Well now, this shines a whole different neon light on your post!

    And as for your job, you know I agree with your price and quality of editing 100%.
    I’m convinced whatever irked me in this post is not who you are at heart; we get annoyed, we vent, we say things. In the end it’s all my opinion, your opinion and their opinion.

    What ever you do, keep charging away: Sword Pen & Paper Shield!

    All the best, Amber, and I’m still looking forward to When Stars Die. ;p

    • amberskyef
      July 10, 2013

      Yes, that’s mostly what it was, lol. Also because someone on Tumblr got mad because I wouldn’t tell him/her a story. So it all tumbled from there.

      I just don’t want to come across as some, I don’t know, inaccessible author who never talks to his/her readers or who wants to think she’s above it all because I certainly don’t think that.

      In fact, there was one post I wanted to write about how publishing is awesome and great, but it isn’t as life-altering as people think it is. But it’s still marinating because I’m really waiting for the release of my book to say anything on the matter–like getting post-release experience.

  9. Pingback: Things I wish I’d learned sooner as a Writer | M. Q. Allen

  10. Miz Carrese
    August 11, 2013

    Whew! I needed this thread!

    I look in the mirror every morning and remind myself that I am an author, although I have yet to make a cent. My first manuscript is in the hands of Beta readers, but I keep writing with a finished book in sight.

    I appreciate this thread for all of its comments. Being a new little fish in an unfamiliar pool, I need to know what is appropriate and what is not. I don’t like tripping on my tongue or making myself out to look like a fool.

    Thank you to all of you who have contributed to what NOT to say. I’ll just go on lurking for now. ciao for now.

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