Things not to say to writers.

I don’t know if there is a code of ethics for writers out there, but there are a number of things one comes across that leads you to believe that there should be one. So I’ve compiled a list of things that have been said to me/I would hate for people to say to me, and it might all sound a bit brutal, but… well, I’ve never been one to mince words.

1) “You’ve had your success; you can stop writing now.” 

Some of you probably saw the Huffington Post article that’s been cycling around the internet for the last couple of days, where one writer plainly asks J.K. Rowling to stop writing and scoot over to the side so others can have the spotlight (actually this is the main reason behind this blog post). I cannot begin to tell you how indignant I was over that; how could that writer even say such a thing? You’d think, being a writer herself, she would know that you can’t just stop writing. It doesn’t work that way.


2) “Hey, I wrote a thing, do you think you could read it?” 

No, no, a thousand times no. You don’t get to put me on the spot like that. I REFUSE IT. Knowing me does not entitle you to corner me with a question like that when I might not even your story and probably have a million other things to do! I’m sorry if this sounds mean, but if I wanted to read something, I would ask for it, so why would you make our relationship so awkward to the point where every time I see you I start thinking, “Oh god they’re going to ask me to read their thing again.”


3) “How much money do you earn?” 

I really hate this question, not because I’m embarrassed by the meager royalties I receive, but because it makes it seem like I’m only in this for the money. Okay, so I guess there are some who do write for the money, but I doubt they’re very good writers. It can be a bit awkward when you tell people you write simply because you enjoy it and they look at you funny, as if trying to say, “Of all the things you could do, this is how you choose to spend your free time?”


4) “Will you include me in your thanks/dedication?” 

This is another one of those things that put me on the spot. How can anyone even ask that? Acknowledgments or dedications are very personal things, and I’m not going to start including every Tom, Dick and Harry just because they ask. I’m sorry, but unless you’ve played a significant part in the publication of the book or influenced me in a great way, there is no way you’re going to see your name there.


5) “Will you include me in your book?”

This is even worse. Believe me, if I wanted to include you as a character in my book, I would’ve told you by now due to legal issues and all that. Plus, do you really want to be in my book knowing fully well I can torture you and give you the most gruesome death? Still want to be in my book?

evil laugh

6) “Do you have, like, a real job?”

I would love more than anything to tell people that I’m a writer, and lately I have been able to do that because writing is currently my primary source of income. However, when I tell people that, they look at me funny – really? Do you do anything else? That’s when I start trying to control my breathing.


And the cherry that tops it all…

7) “I don’t like reading.” 

Sadly, I have to deal with this on a daily basis. It never gets easy.


So, these are some things that really get on my nerves. I’m sure there are more absurd things out there, but these get to me the most. What about you? What should people never say to you?

35 thoughts on “Things not to say to writers.

  1. I haven’t seen this HuffPost article, but how rude! I personally question if anything J.K. Rowling writes will ever be as good as the Harry Potter series, but that doesn’t mean she should just stop writing. It’s the same as a music artist who happens to put out one super successful CD–why should they stop?

    1. I haven’t read any of her other books yet (though they are both sitting on my shelves) but I agree with you there; Harry Potter was her masterpiece. But yeah, it does not in any way mean that she should stop writing! I couldn’t believe the nerve of that article.

  2. There is a lot of things people shouldn’t say to me. Things like, “You are just a small and weak girl.”
    Oh you don’t know what I can do to you, only if you know me well enough. *evil grin
    I love to write stories. I find it so much fun. ^_^
    I agree with the things you mentioned in that post. Especially number 2.
    But I found number 1 pretty mean.

    1. That’s pretty sexist. 😦 Nobody is weak… unless they allow others to push them about. And yes, writing is a load of fun!
      It is rather mean, isn’t it? I don’t know how the person who wrote the article can call themselves a writer when they’re telling a fellow writer to just… well, quit. Jealous much?

  3. I’d say the most frustrating people say to me is “That’s nice.” Translation: “Interesting enough to blip on my radar and oop! There it goes. Tell me no more, I won’t be reading anything you wrote.”

  4. When someone informs me they don’t read, I apologize for everything they’re missing out on. By the way, I wrote something…. 😉 I know what you mean on that, too. Chances are it’s not edited even once, it’s going to suck, and you can’t be there to hold their hand. The first draft is never something to wave about willy nilly. Cool post.

    1. Haha, I do apologize for that too! And yeaaah; usually they expect you to do it out of the goodness of your heart too. I mean… with beta-readers that’s okay, but editors these days charge crazy amounts of money for manuscripts. =/

  5. Great post and so true. I hate when people ask if I have a ‘real job’, drives me nuts. One guy even said that writing would be a good thing to put on my CV, for when I get a proper job.

    1. Sheesh. That’s infuriating. You’d think with all those authors out there makes tonnes of money out of writing, people would start to look at it differently, but sadly… that’s not the case. =/

  6. Loved this post! I think we can all relate. I didn’t know that about the Rowling comment. That’s ridiculous, especially coming from another writer.

    #2 has been happening more and more to me lately. It’s a hard situation because I hate saying no, but as you know, it takes a lot of time to read other people’s work and critique it properly. It’s one thing if it’s a reciprocal relationship (like beta readers), but if not, one has to be careful or soon they won’t have any time for their own writing! I try to give a blanket but sincere, “I’m sorry, but I don’t tend to do that” and then offer a few reasons why not. It’s still difficult, though, especially if it’s someone you know on a personal level.

    1. Isn’t it? The funny thing is, that writer’s friend told her the article was a bad idea, but she just went ahead and posted it. =|

      I hear you! It is very difficult, and I hate being put on the spot like that. I end up fumbling and feeling guilty when, really, the other party should be apologizing for asking instead of making you feel like the worst person ever.

  7. I think having hugely successful writers is actually really good for smaller writers. If a mega-writer like Rowling can get someone to pick up a book, then that person is more likely to get hooked on a reading binge and pick up more books. It’s small minded thinking that assumes one book sold by another author is one less book sold for themselves.
    We need good books to help sell other good books.

    1. You make a good point! And actually, that happened with me as well – the first time I read a Harry Potter, I had ventured out of my comfort zone and was trying an author I’d never heard of, and when I liked it, it prompted me to try reading more and more books by authors I’d never heard of!

  8. I’d love to have the problem of #1 but sadly…
    It is only since my book was published, in paperback, that people believed I was a writer. Before then they would smile with that look in their eyes, you know the one, the look you give small children when they tell you about their imaginary friend.
    The question I get a lot of currently is ‘how many books have you sold?’ It’s not as bad as #3, but it’s close.

    1. I published my book in ebook and Kindle format, and like you, they didn’t acknowledge that I was published until they saw a physical copy. Sad.
      I also get asked that question too! It’s pretty annoying. 😦

  9. What a great post, Zen! I related to all of these.
    This line – “Okay, so I guess there are some who do write for the money, but I doubt they’re very good writers” is SO TRUE. I still find it amazing that people say, ‘I’m going to write a book to make some money.’ I think WTF – stop kidding yourself!
    The thing people say to me that really irks me is ‘I could have written that.’ – ARGH….

    1. Thanks, Dianne! Yeah, I really don’t understand people like that. A book written for money is just void of life. You can’t appreciate it for what it is because you feel the writer doesn’t either!
      Oh yeah, that’s a good one. I can’t believe I forgot it – it irks me to no end too!

  10. Ha! This is awesome…great rant!

    Just last weekend when I was visiting family in Dallas, a friend of my mom’s asked how much I made from writing books. Hello, stranger! Thanks for crawling right into my bed…awkward.

    On the opposite spectrum, I run into people that don’t understand why I have a day job if I’ve written two books. Like I should be rich or something. People are crazy and lacking class more often than not. We just have to shrug it off and keep writing. : )

    1. Thanks! 😀

      Yeah, people ask me that too – it’s very very awkward. And regarding your second point, I once had to patiently explain to some people that I only get a percent of the price of the book. They were very shocked!

  11. I understand what you’re saying. One question: if you don’t like when people ask you to read what they’ve written, what do you suggest they do instead?

  12. As usual, a good list, Zen! Because I’m such a hermit these days, I don’t encounter too much grief. The worst thing that happens to me is that my family’s eyes glaze over when I talk about my books. 🙂

  13. What annoyed me the most was not a question but rather an action. When my book came out in December of 2011 I had a set number of free copies to give away and I chose to give all my friends copies of the book. I think maybe one of them even bothered reading it. It was fairly fast paced action packed and only 220 pages. I feel like even someone who claims they “don’t read,” could still have found time to get through 220 pages. I was highly offended that none of these people cared enough about me or my two years of effort to give the book a chance.

    The worst part is that I could have used those free copies for book giveaways on goodreads or other promotional sites. It was such a waste. So there’s my rant. Also, I can’t believe anyone had the gall to ask you to dedicate a book to them. That is crazy!

    1. I am so sorry it took me so long to respond to this!

      I can relate to that somewhat. I have a friend who read half my book, and when I asked her why she wouldn’t continue, she said she got the gist of it and needn’t read the rest. I was at loss for words. I don’t understand how you can get the gist of a book, especially when it involves a mystery!

      And yeaaah, I don’t know what was going on in their mind when they asked for that.

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