How to be Friends with a Writer

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How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby rosepetal720 » 23 Aug 2011, 08:50

I'm posting this in case Nathan still wants guest posters on his blog, but I'd also like to hear what you guys think about the writer + non-writer relationship. It should be a fun discussion.

How to be Friends with a Writer

A while back, I guest-posted Why I Don’t Tell People I Write on Nathan Bransford's blog. I wrote about the odd things people say when they discover you want to be a writer.

I realize now that the article was somewhat unfair. Being the friend of a novelist isn’t easy, and most people aren’t used to it. For those of you who need help interacting with a writer friend, I present to you the Idiot’s Guide to Being Friends with a Writer.

Be Aware of Disappointments

Even phenomenal writers face disappointments. I’m not talking about “I’m sad this isn’t working out the way I planned” disappointment; I’m talking about “I will never achieve my purpose in life” disappointment.

Writers can question their worth as human beings during the first draft, revisions, querying, being on submission to editors, even while marketing the book and hoping it sells. Your friend might feel like no one understands. Be sensitive.

Get Ready to Listen

Have you ever had friends get in a romantic relationship and that’s all they can think or talk about? That’s what writing a book is like. Being a newlywed with the excitements and frustrations is like revision. Finding an agent is like trying not to get divorced.

In other words, your friend is thinking about her book constantly. You’re going to hear about it a lot.

I don’t mind it when people say (kindly) that they’d like to talk about something else once in a while. But I still need a listening ear from time to time.

Don’t Ask “Are You Published Yet?”

This one gets to me the most. Most people don’t understand how long it takes for a novel to get from start to finish. The professionals often write a book a year, but that’s their job.

Unpublished novelists have to make time between work and family, and they do it without pay. The first novel is the hardest and takes the longest.

Finding an agent can take months if you’re lucky, longer if you’re not. After you find your agent you have to find an editor, which can take anywhere from weeks to a year. Once a book hits the publisher’s desk, it takes at least a year to get to book stores. So even after a book is finished, it could take as long as three years for an unlucky person to get published.

I’ve spent the last five years explaining to my friends why my book isn’t finished, and it’s embarrassing.

Don’t Judge

Even if you’ve read a person’s work, you cannot know a writer’s full talent or potential. I’ve hated stories that everyone else loved. I’ve read chapters that were terrible, but then the second draft was magnificent. Just because you think your friend is a bad writer doesn’t mean she won’t make it.

In the same vein, be aware that just because you think your friend is an amazing writer doesn’t mean agents will feel the same way. Disappointments will still come.

At Least Pretend to Take Them Seriously

It’s easy to tell when someone doesn’t think I’ll get published. If you visibly treat writing as a hobby when it’s the most important thing in your friend’s life, I hope she becomes famous and in the acknowledgments lists everyone she knows except you. No joke.

There are writers I don’t take seriously, but I would never let them know. When people shrug us off, you can’t understand how much it hurts.
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby dios4vida » 23 Aug 2011, 09:15

That is awesome and so very, very true.

I would add "at least pretend like you'll read their book when it's published." One of the most painful things for me is that my sister has blatantly told me that she will not read my books. Yeah, I know she doesn't like to read fiction, and she isn't a fantasy fan, but she's my sister. She blogs about science stuff and I don't understand any of it, but I still read them. (Oops, stop the rant...) It's hard to keep smiling and believing that even if you do make it you'll have readers when your own family or closest friends won't support you.

Also, "don't give me writing advice if you aren't a writer." You might be the most wonderfully supportive and appreciative friend in the history of the world, but unless you're a writer, too, you won't fully understand the process. So when you ask how my writing's been and I say "oh man, I'm stuck on this thing so I haven't been doing much this week" sympathize and lament about writer's block but please don't try to fix my problems by spouting out advice you once heard on Good Morning America. And telling me about the kid who got their first book published at 15 does NOT help encourage me when I've been writing for 10 years and have yet to even get close to publication. (Seriously, mother-in-law, I'm talking to you.)

Great post, rosepetal. :)
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby AnimaDictio » 23 Aug 2011, 10:28

I've always thought of writers as members of a special club. I've never been inclined to discuss writerly issues with non-writers. How could they possibly understand?
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby MattLarkin » 23 Aug 2011, 11:15

In particular it can be awkward if they ask what you write, you tell them you write fantasy, and they say, "ohhhh." Much as it's become more mainstream, speculative fiction still seems odd to many people.
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby dios4vida » 23 Aug 2011, 11:20

MattLarkin wrote:In particular it can be awkward if they ask what you write, you tell them you write fantasy, and they say, "ohhhh." Much as it's become more mainstream, speculative fiction still seems odd to many people.


Yeah, it's as if they assume you're mentally unstable or something just cause you write fantasy. Either that, or you aren't really writing because, well, it's fantasy. :evil: We're real writers, just like every other genre out there. It's hard. We have to follow the rules, too. Deal with it.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby Watcher55 » 23 Aug 2011, 12:48

Great post rosepetal.

If we're rude, it's because we really are working and we really do want you to Go Away.
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby Cookie » 23 Aug 2011, 13:18

dios4vida wrote:
MattLarkin wrote:In particular it can be awkward if they ask what you write, you tell them you write fantasy, and they say, "ohhhh." Much as it's become more mainstream, speculative fiction still seems odd to many people.


Yeah, it's as if they assume you're mentally unstable or something just cause you write fantasy. Either that, or you aren't really writing because, well, it's fantasy. :evil: We're real writers, just like every other genre out there. It's hard. We have to follow the rules, too. Deal with it.



I totally agree with this. Most of the people in my life have been supportive about my choice in writing, but there are some that nod their heads and smile. Or, in my best friends mother's case, suggest I write something people would actually want to read (she may have been suggesting I write about lighter, fluffier themes than war and death, but still). It took everything I had not to back-hand her.

This is just my highly biased opinion, but I think spec-fic writers should be held in a higher regard since they think beyond the bounds of reality to create beings, cultures, and worlds from scratch. It's one thing to write a story about a guy living in NYC dealing with a divorce, and quite another to write about a wizard in made-up land dealing with his evil ant-person ex. Your imagination is your biggest tool, your greatest gift, and why you would be looked down upon because you use it to it's fullest and mightiest extent is just plain silly. My imagination is a strange and wonderful thing and I am not going to apologize for using it. In fact, I am going to look down on you for being so boring (not really. Maybe. It depends on my mood).

*gets off soapbox.*
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby HillaryJ » 23 Aug 2011, 17:34

My best non-writer friend reads history and historical fiction. She doesn't understand fantasy or contemporary or futuristic, or why one would need to write/read that. But, she doesn't blink when I change directions mid-conversation, and can riff with me for hours on hypotheticals (though with a certain historial, Russian influence on her part). I consider that priceless even if she doesn't understand the hours I log writing and revising, or the highs and lows of sales, near misses and complete failures.
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby dios4vida » 23 Aug 2011, 20:04

Cookie wrote:This is just my highly biased opinion, but I think spec-fic writers should be held in a higher regard since they think beyond the bounds of reality to create beings, cultures, and worlds from scratch. It's one thing to write a story about a guy living in NYC dealing with a divorce, and quite another to write about a wizard in made-up land dealing with his evil ant-person ex. Your imagination is your biggest tool, your greatest gift, and why you would be looked down upon because you use it to it's fullest and mightiest extent is just plain silly. My imagination is a strange and wonderful thing and I am not going to apologize for using it. In fact, I am going to look down on you for being so boring (not really. Maybe. It depends on my mood).

*gets off soapbox.*


Cookie, I love you. :)
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby F.E. Sewell » 23 Aug 2011, 21:22

Cookie wrote:This is just my highly biased opinion, but I think spec-fic writers should be held in a higher regard since they think beyond the bounds of reality to create beings, cultures, and worlds from scratch. It's one thing to write a story about a guy living in NYC dealing with a divorce, and quite another to write about a wizard in made-up land dealing with his evil ant-person ex. Your imagination is your biggest tool, your greatest gift, and why you would be looked down upon because you use it to it's fullest and mightiest extent is just plain silly. My imagination is a strange and wonderful thing and I am not going to apologize for using it. In fact, I am going to look down on you for being so boring (not really. Maybe. It depends on my mood).


That's why I love science fiction. I have so much respect for writers that imagine super cool crazy worlds (fantasy included, of course). I especially like it when their ideas (or variations of) have actually been created or are looking possible as we move ahead into the future. Submarines and lasers are a few examples. I'm kicking myself right now because I can't think of think of anything else, but basically, what I'm trying to say is that I would have to be a genius to write that stuff, and I am no where near it.
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby rosepetal720 » 27 Aug 2011, 21:30

dios4vida wrote:I would add "at least pretend like you'll read their book when it's published." One of the most painful things for me is that my sister has blatantly told me that she will not read my books. Yeah, I know she doesn't like to read fiction, and she isn't a fantasy fan, but she's my sister.


My sister-in-law said the exact same thing to me. It was like an arrow to the chest. Why would you say that to someone?

dios4vida wrote:Also, "don't give me writing advice if you aren't a writer."


I know, that's so annoying!

Cookie wrote: Or, in my best friends mother's case, suggest I write something people would actually want to read (she may have been suggesting I write about lighter, fluffier themes than war and death, but still). It took everything I had not to back-hand her.


My husband said the exact same thing to me. I had an idea for a book that's kind of out there, and I'm pretty nervous about it. I could really use someone to tell me, "Wow, that's a great idea." I told him about the book, and (he's Southern), he said, "Guess baby don't care 'bout selling them books!" and laughed, as if failure is funny or something.
Author of Sacred Fire, a historical fiction of the Vestal Virgins of Rome.
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby wilderness » 28 Aug 2011, 10:40

Great post! Now how do we get all our friends to read it? ;)

Btw, I liked the original thread a lot and showed it to my husband -- because he doesn't understand why I'm such a basketcase about discussing my writing..
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby wilderness » 28 Aug 2011, 10:44

dios4vida wrote:
Yeah, it's as if they assume you're mentally unstable or something just cause you write fantasy. Either that, or you aren't really writing because, well, it's fantasy. :evil: We're real writers, just like every other genre out there. It's hard. We have to follow the rules, too. Deal with it.


I don't think they think I'm mentally unstable -- I think they think I'm just uber-nerd, that I stay up playing World of War Craft and Role Playing Games. No disrespect for those who do, but writing a novel is a huge undertaking and accomplishment and I wish they would acknowledge that.

dios4vida wrote: (Seriously, mother-in-law, I'm talking to you.)

Hahahaha...seriously!
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby dios4vida » 28 Aug 2011, 12:03

rosepetal720 wrote:I had an idea for a book that's kind of out there, and I'm pretty nervous about it. I could really use someone to tell me, "Wow, that's a great idea."


That's a great idea!! :D

Seriously, though, if you want to write it, then write it. Passion goes a long way to making a difficult concept work. I've done the same thing myself.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
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Re: How to be Friends with a Writer

Postby Claudie » 29 Aug 2011, 07:28

dios4vida wrote:
rosepetal720 wrote:I had an idea for a book that's kind of out there, and I'm pretty nervous about it. I could really use someone to tell me, "Wow, that's a great idea."


That's a great idea!! :D

Seriously, though, if you want to write it, then write it. Passion goes a long way to making a difficult concept work. I've done the same thing myself.


And if you're nervous about the idea, you can show it to fellow writers. We won't laugh. We won't steal. We're pretty good at getting the pompoms out for a good cheering. :D
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