3 Things You Should Never Tell or Ask a Writer

Brand-new aspiring writers, this is for you, from us, with love.


There are certain parts about being a writer that are really … tiresome.

As much as you love connecting with your audience and answering questions and engaging in discussions about your work, sometimes people say things, or ask questions, that really shouldn’t be said or asked. Here are a few of the more common ones. (Brand-new aspiring writers, this is for you, from us, with love.)

1. “Here’s something I wrote, you should check it out.”

You complain an awful lot about not having time to write, then expect a professional writer, who is getting paid to write, to stop what they’re doing to read your manuscripts. It’s not that we don’t care about you. It’s not that we don’t want to help you succeed. We wish we could do more. But technically, we’re not editors, and we’re definitely not agents. We’re writers. We can’t just drop everything for you. We love hearing your ideas and giving general advice (this blog, for example). But there’s only so much we can do.

Find a critique group or an online forum or a friend or family member. Just because you won’t get individual help from us doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find. We’re trying to help. But it’s really hard when the only thing you ever ask is if we’ll read your stuff. We’d much rather hear questions about process and writing in general, which you can then apply to your own workflow, on your own time.

2. “This is how you should have ended it.”

Writers enjoy readers’ commentary on their work … for the most part. After all, starting discussions is one reason a lot of us started writing in the first place. Constructive criticism is great and all, but this isn’t even really criticism. You’re basically just saying, “Hey, your book was great but I would have written it differently.”

Okay, thanks for that, but the book’s already finished. It’s written and edited and published. Comments like that aren’t going to change the way the story ends. You might not be happy with how the story ended, but it’s not your story. If you’re really that dissatisfied, honestly, try writing your own story and see things from our perspective. There is a lot of work and there are a lot of layers that go into this process. You need to respect that.

3. “Is there going to be a sequel?”

No. No, no, no. There isn’t. Why? Because stories end. They are not real life: at some point, the writer has to move on and work on something else. Why do you think fan fictions exist? Because every story has to eventually come to an end and for some reason a lot of people don’t want to accept that. (Fan fictions are great, really.)

But stop. Just stop asking if the story is going to continue when the story makes it very clear that it’s the end. You’re SUPPOSED to let your imagination fill in the gaps. That’s the POINT. It’s not a writer’s job to do that for you. You’re smart and creative. You can think for yourself. We can’t just keep writing about the same characters with the same problems in the same universe forever. We need to grow. We need change. And we really need you to figure out how to deal with that. Please?

Share this with your aspiring writer friends if you found it helpful. And if you’re an aspiring writer friend, know we love you. You are awesome. But you gotta stop. Just let us do our thing. We welcome all constructive criticism and discussion … to a point.

What is the one question you as a writer have been asked most often? Was it generic or unique? If you’re not a writer, and had the chance to ask a writer one question, what would it be?

Image courtesy of thematthewknot/flickr.com.

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