We writers are a twitchy lot, and this is the time of year when we’re forced away from our computers and into the society of people who are bemused, intrigued and largely ignorant about we do. I’ve spent many a holiday party grabbing onto the nearest drink, dog, or baby–trying to still my nerves. So in the interest of holiday harmony, I’d offer up some suggestions of statements to avoid when speaking to a writer.
1. What are you working on?
I don’t want to talk about it. I think my new manuscript is good, but I’m not sure and it might be bad, and if I gather up my courage to give you a brief summary, you’re likely to say what you said last year: “That’s interesting. “ I then spent the month of January wondering why you said “interesting” instead of “great.” Should I scrap it? Should I start over?
2. When is your book coming out?
I don’t know. If I knew, I’d say so. Right up front. I’d walk right into this party and hand you bookmarks and buttons and talk all about it. I wouldn’t be trying to keep it a secret. So if I don’t say anything, it means there’s nothing to say.
3. I was just reading this really bad book and thought of you. You don’t write any worse than she does. Why don’t you have a series?
4. Would you read my manuscript?
Aside from the fact that that would take me about ten hours, which I don’t have, if I read your manuscript I would feel like I should come up with constructive advice, in order to be helpful. But every time I give someone constructive advice, they wind up getting insulted and never talk to me again. This doesn’t happen in the classes I teach, so all I can figure is that people who expect you to do something for free have different expectations than people who are serious about studying the craft of writing.
5. Have you considered self-publishing?
Everyone considers self-publishing because the ads are all over the place. People who self-publish pay a large chunk of money in order to produce a book that very few people will read. I would rather be paid for that honor.
So what should you say to a writer at a holiday party? I would stick with the tried and true: politics and religion.
Happy season, Bloomer friends. Anyone have any statements they would rather not hear?