Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Annoying Things People Say To Writers....

by Matt Lynn

Tom's splendid post yesterday about film rights has prompted me to think some more about the slim volume I'm planning to write one day called 'Annoying Things People Say To Writers'. One of the hazards of this job is that people have no idea how it really works, but of course they think they do.

The result? If you mention that you are a writer at a dinner party, they make really irritating remarks. Such as....

1. 'All you need to do now is sell the film rights'.

What am I meant to say to that? Oh, yeah, thanks, I'd never thought of that. But I'll get it sorted on Monday morning. Thanks for the idea.

2. 'I've been meaning to write a book when I get the time'.

Listen, if I meet a dentist, I don't say, 'Oh, I've been meaning to do some root canal work, I just never get a minute.' Or if I meet an airline pilot, I wouldn't say, 'Oh, I'll take an A330 for a spin when I've got a day off.' I recognise that those jobs require years of dedicatd training and practise. And yet everyone seems to think they could knock off a novel, easy-peasy, if only they could find a spare minute. It is more than a little rude to suggest that what we do is so simple anyone could do it in a few dull weekends.

3. 'Can I have the name of your agent'.

Why do people imagine we want to give out the contact details of our agents to everyone we meet? They can look it up for themselves. I've just given up on this one, and I now hand out my agent's details automatically to everyone I meet. At my wife's parents house in Cardiff a little while ago, I met this 90-year old lady who used to live next door to my wife when she was small. Turns out she's been working on a historical romantic epic of several hundred pages. I humbly gave her my agent's details. I bet he was pleased to get that one.

4. 'I looked in Smith's and they didn't have your book. I just thought you'd like to speak to your publisher about that.'

Listen, an author is psychologically incapable of walking past a bookshop without going inside to check if they have his book, and, if so, how many copies. Even Dan Brown does it - I've seen him, moving the display bin a bit further to the front of Waterstone's. Trust me, if they haven't got my book in stock, I already know -- all you are doing is rubbing it in.

This one will be continued next time someone says something really irritating to me -- which won't be long I'm sure.


  1. I wonder if anyone ever asked Ian Fleming the name of his agent? - "The name's Bond. James Bond."

  2. How about:

    5. "Where do you get your ideas from?"

    6. Author: "I'm writing a history of X."
    Person: "So is that fiction?"

    7. "Do you actually make a living as a writer?"
    (Many assume some sort of private income.)

    8. "How do you get your book published?"

    9. "I've got this idea for a book but it's really hard to explain."

  3. Do you write under your own name? I haven't heard of you...
    Aaaaahhhhh....most people can only name about three living writers, why is what I do less valid if some numb skull at a party hasn't heard of me????

  4. And a related rant from the screenwriting world: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/archives/2009/09/i_will_not_read.php

  5. 10. "Do you get writer's block?"
    (No! No! No! Writer's block is for Trustafarians and for people 'working on a screenplay'.)

  6. Wow it must take so much discipIine.
    No no more than getting to work every day.

  7. How do you like hearing this one:
    Your books sound interesting. I'll order them from my local library.

  8. Matt: Love it. That comes near to "i'll buy it second hand off amazon".