Monday, July 23, 2012

What Do You Write?

Over the past year, I've finally started owning up to people that I'm a writer. It's not something I've ever been ashamed of; it's just that I feel so vulnerable when I say it. It's like revealing what color of underwear I'm wearing that day. Actually, no. I take that back. It's worse.

Writing is just so stinking personal for me. This is partly because I'm an introvert. I'm spilling out my insides onto paper for someone else to read. I don't want to bear my soul to strangers. What if they misunderstand? What if they think that the nerosis I give my main character is something that I have? Yeah, these are all things that I have to get over if I want to publish.

Also, most of us do not take criticism well. Thankfully, all of my beta readers are really nice. Some of you are sooooo nice, I think you have a hard time being honest with me when parts of my writing, well, suck. ;-) It's not that I want to be lambasted with harsh critiques, but I have myopia and can't always see the weak spots in my plots and characters. (Actually, it's more that I do see the problem areas and don't want to admit it, so it takes someone else giving me a small nudge to go and fix them.)

As I've been experimenting with my new badge of writer, I've been pleasantly surprised by the responses. No one has laughed or stared blankly. My declaration usually provokes an, "Oh wow! That is so cool!" type response.

Followed immediately by: "So what do you write?"

Therein lies the sticky part. Like bubble gum stuck in your hair, it's hard to get out a good response and the more you mess with it, the more tangled it gets. So too, my answers. Let me share a few with you lest you fall prey to the same blunder.

Answer 1:

"Um, well, I just started..." I back peddle. The other person loses interest. Lesson learned: don't undercut the other person's confidence in you. If you claim to be a writer, carry the label with confidence.

Answer 2:

"Well, a lot of stuff. Right now my WIPs are a chic lit, an international thriller, a YA dystopian, a off-beat dramedy, a scififantasydimensionbreaker..." I rattle off, lost in my own list of works in progress, like Mr. Dugger trying to make sure he doesn't miss naming one of his 19 kids. My acquaintance looks cross eyed.  Lesson learned: don't use writer-ese. Speak in plain language and be concise. Normal people aren't going to think you're a better writer or be impressed because you speak six different genres.

Answer 3:

"That's a great question I'm still trying to answer myself!!" (insert hysterical laughter). Everyone else suddenly starts looking for the nearest exit to dart out to get away from the crazy lady. Lesson learned: don't make other people think you're crazy. Humor is a great way to diffuse tension, but if you're so tense about your own writing that you make other people nervous, they probably aren't going to want to read your books. Also, if you say you are a writer, how can you NOT know what you're writing. Are you writing gibberish? Sleep writing?

And so that's what I'm working on. :-)  Friends and family who are only just learning that I'm a writer do not need a full dose of my "new writer" angst about whether my stories are more YA or adult; whether they are women's fiction, general fiction, or romantic suspense. They don't want a blow-by-blow of every novel I've ever started. They just want their question answered. Preferably with as few words as possible.

Here's my working response to "What do you write?":

"I write coming-of-age novels for teens and young adults in a variety of genres. Some funny, some suspenseful, some fantasy, and some a mixture of all three. I like writing strong female leads with interesting situations, tying in historical events, international connections and unexpected birth histories."

What do you guys think? Is it still a bit undefined and cerebral? Too long?  Does it make you want to read my novels? :-)


  1. I like your new layout. As far as what I think about your answers, I like all of them. :-) You could also just say, "I write coming-of-age novels for teens and young adults in a variety of genres. How much more detail do you want?" That way you are signaling to your acquaintance that you love to talk about your books, but you realize they might not want to hear about it. You could also say what Thomas does when he is asked, "It is difficult for me to talk about what I am writing while I am writing it." It ends all conversation, but he doesn't have anyone ask him further questions. :-p

  2. Good suggestions! I sometimes misread a friendly response as an "interested" response. So your comment is helpful. :-)

    LOL--and I love Thomas' reply. I unfortunately have the opposite personality though where if given the opportunity, I'll bombard someone with waaaaay too much info on a story. hehehe


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