How to irritate a writer

Apparently, there are many ways to tick off a writer. I should know… after all, I am a writer. But today, you get a reprieve from my rantings. Instead we have a guest post from Michelle Heeter, author of the recently released YA novel Riggs Crossing. I’ll leave it to her to fill you in on the details.

How to Irritate a Writer
By Michelle Heeter

Writers may be predisposed to irritability. Many of us are hyper-sensitive introverts, made sour and paranoid by rejection slips, a boring day job, or simply being surrounded by people more successful than us. If you know a writer, published or “aspiring”, here are a few things NOT to say to them:

You write for magazines? Oh, you’re an “aspiring writer”!

An elderly female relative came out with this one during a dreary suburban dinner.

The subtext: Writing is a ladylike hobby, not a career.

Why it’s irritating: It’s like saying, “you’re a wanna-be”.

The writer’s retort: Well, when I got my first cheque for a story, I stopped considering myself an “aspiring” writer. And these peas taste like shit.

I’m so sick of my job. I wish I could kick back, relax and write books.

This gem came from a Facebook friend whose status updates are often misspelled, devoid of punctuation, or just plain incoherent.

The subtext: Writing isn’t work. Writing is relaxation. Anybody can do it.

The writer’s retort: Gee, I’m exhausted after just barely making that deadline. I wish I could collect six figures for sitting on my backside in meetings all day.

Have you thought about posting your novel on the internet in a blog? I’d love to read it.

This came from a dear friend of mine. I will never understand in a million years why she assumed I’d fail at finding a publisher.

The subtext: Your book isn’t worth charging money for.

The writer’s retort: I didn’t spend years writing and revising a book so that people could read it for free on the web. You pay, you read.

Writing must be so discouraging, with all those rejections!

Have heard this more than once, even when I hadn’t said a word about a manuscript being refused.

The subtext: Dunno. I’m at a loss to explain why people automatically think that the path to becoming a writer is strewn with rejection slips. Is it genuine sympathy, or cattiness?

The writer’s retort: Actually, I didn’t get one single form rejection letter. Every knock-back came with a critique, and the book was accepted by the sixth publisher I sent it to. Oh, and the first short story I wrote was accepted by the first magazine I sent it to. By the way, how’s your book coming along?

Is your book self-published?/Did you have to pay the publisher to print it?

The subtext: Surely, no respectable publishing house would publish your work.

Why it’s irritating: There are a few self-publishing success stories. However, publishing one’s own work through a “vanity press” is often the last resort for a frustrated author who can’t get published any other way.

The writer’s retort: No.

Oooh! I might have to pick your brain about getting published.

I usually get this from stay-at-home mothers, none of whom has ever written anything. Even so, they are convinced that they too could write a children’s book, if only they had the time, and if they had “contacts” in “the business”.

The writer’s retort: There is no secret clique that decides who gets published and who doesn’t. You want to write a story? Pick up a pen and start writing. Koji Suzuki wrote The Ring with a baby on his lap. When you’ve completed a manuscript, buy a Writer’s Market and mail the manuscript to suitable publishers. That’s all there is to it.

Confession: I’ve never had the nerve to use any of these comebacks. But I have nursed grudges about these irritating remarks for longer than I should have.

George’s bit at the end

Thank you Michelle for a most entertaining post. Believe me, I know how you feel. My favourite conversation goes something along these lines…

Person: So, what do you do?
Me: I’m a children’s author.
Person: (smiles politely) Oh, really… so have you had anything published.
ME: Yes, I’ve had 65 books.
Person: Oh.


Michelle Heeter is a technical writer for a software development company. Her first novel, Riggs Crossing, is published by Ford Street Publishing and is OUT NOW… so follow the link and buy a copy. 🙂 And to find out more about her, check out her website.

Catch ya later,  George

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George Ivanoff

LITERARY CLUTTER: Bookish bloggings from the cluttered mind and bookshelf of Melbourne author, George Ivanoff. George is the author of the YOU CHOOSE books, the OTHER WORLDS series, the RFDS Adventures and the GAMERS trilogy.

4 thoughts on “How to irritate a writer”

  1. Another: Person: What do you do?
    Me: I’m a children’s writer.
    Person: Really? (Pitying smile) Have you ever thought of writing for adults?
    Translation: So, when are you going to write a REAL book?
    And,”Hey, I have this great idea for a novel, but no time to write it. Can you write it for me?”
    Author retort: Sure. Hang on while I check the ASA scale of fees for ghost writing.

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