Tuesday, 21 June 2011

On Being Slapped Back Down to Size....

There are tons of blogs and websites offering advice to wannabe writers. I follow a few bloggers who dispense wisdom for those of us who have none, and I’ve always wondered how one gets to a point whereupon one feels qualified to advise. But I wonder no longer, today is the day!

I’m going to call it ‘The Numpty’s Guide to being a Writer’ and yes, it has been brewed in the pot of my own bitter experience. So here we go…

Cardinal rule number one - Never, never, ever talk to anyone about your writing because, trust me, you will live to regret it.

Mmm, good advice, I hear you say, but hardly revolutionary. Yes, but ‘Tales’ still struggles with this one. Never do it, dear readers, unless you are about to be feted as the next JK Rowling, and I can honestly say, that ain’t ever gonna happen to me!

As a part-time and single mother, I regularly make this mistake. I’ll be standing at the school gate waiting for my darlings, when another parent will ask that dreaded question, “Do you have anything planned for the weekend?”

My heart will sink as I remember that a. the children are spending this weekend with their father, which means b. I will be spending the time dossing around either walking the dog, or bashing away at the keyboard, while bemoaning my lack of a more colourful life.

Now, a sensible woman would lie and say “this weekend? Actually, I’m going skydiving with Juan Carlos, my twenty-five year old toy-boy. He’s a flamenco dancer and whoa, can he move those hips.” But I am not sensible. So I’ll mutter something vague about ‘working’ and if pressed, will mention those terrible words, ‘writing’ and ‘novel’. This is a horrible mistake. Okay, no one will believe the Juan Carlos story, but at least in the months to come, while you're nursing the wounds that come from facing up to the fact the novel you've spent years writing is, basically, pants, no one is going to ask breezily “How is the book going?” Gah! How many times do I have to do this? (thumps head) How Many Times????

But I can’t help myself, particularly if I’m on a creative roll. I sat down yesterday, chuffed with the story-ette I wrote for Tic Tocc on Sunday, and decided to write a bit more. Two thousand words later (oh yeah) I had to stop for Scouts parents’ evening. The boys were ‘chez papa’ and, in the interests of putting on a united front, we were all going together. I popped over to pick them up in my car, buoyant after such a productive day.

But Mr X-husband was not a happy man. Firstly I was late, having been too absorbed in what I was doing to mind the time, and then he noticed the car is full of dog hairs, which he finds upsetting. “Never mind,” I trilled, thinking ‘peace and calm, peace and calm, don’t be provoked, peace and calm. “You could always walk.”
“I can’t walk because you’re so late,” he snapped, but I wasn’t in the slightest bit ruffled, I was so pleased with my new story. So I decide to tell him about it, even though I know this is a bad idea. And in the grand scheme of my dealings with him, it was another own-goal.

“I’m late because I’ve been working on a brilliant new story,” I jabbered excitedly.
“Oh really?” He didn’t miss a beat. “So it’s something you’re actually going to get paid for this time, is it?”

Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch. And yes, you’re quite right, I did ask for that, didn’t I? And as my Dad would say, “I totally walked into that one.” I was left scrabbling for a suitably cutting retort, but in all honesty, it would have taken me about three weeks and a lot of paper to come up with anything as remotely cutting as his put-down. I muttered something along the lines of “that was your cue to say something supportive,” but he was back into grumbling about how acquainting myself and the car with the vacuum cleaner would be a better use of my time.

So there you have it: never talk about your writing with anyone other than writing friends, and save boasting about how much you’ve done today for #amwriting on Twitter. Otherwise you’re just asking to be slapped down to size, and in my experience, there are plenty of people willing to oblige!


  1. Oh Sam.
    You make me realise how lucky I am to have the support of my family.
    I do avoid talking about my writing with people I work with, because frankly, I get fed up with the numbers questions (How many have you sold being a prime example). Most people outside the world of words dont understand the sea changes that are taking place and therefore still believe that self-publishing or indiepublishing is the same as the vanity presses, and assume that if you haven't got a "proper" publisher, then you must be rubbish. It's as big a slap down as I can think of and so not true; I've recently had an interview with an independent author who has been on the Kindle bestsellers list for weeks. The novel in question, The Company of Fellows is a superb read, and yet, Dan chose to bypass the traditional route entirely, as are many, many brilliant new authors. And this includes you Sam.
    Never give up, keep on keeping on and one day, you'll be able to make their jaws drop by announcing something they can actually understand.

  2. Ahh...you are *so* right....even though it saddens me to say so.

    My greatest horror was actually receiving a YES from a publisher for my 'Pirates DOn't Eat Waffles.' I framed the letter and promptly tore off to tell all and sundry my good news.
    I submitted everything the publishing company reuested....including a childhood photo.....and never heard from them again. They absolutely refuse to answer emails, pleas for an actual refusal...etc. Even when I wrote to tell the editor I was being featured in Pirates Magazine....an excellent vehicle to sell a pirate book I would imagine.

    And all anyone can ask is: So where's the book?

    I realize now that I stumbled across a small, extremely unprofessional company...hence the acceptance letter.....but it doesn't make it sting any less.

    Keep writing......it's in your beautiful soul.......


  3. Oh Sam! I totally sympathise. And it's not you by the way. Those non-writers out there JUST DON'T GET IT. If I'm ever tempted to tell non-writing people that I'm a "writer", I will temper it by saying that I write sex manuals for pensioners under an assumed name that I cannot reveal and could they please not ask me about it again. Sending you hugs x

  4. Why is there always SOMEBODY (ex-husband,mother, whoever) who equates satisfaction in art with making money! GAH!

  5. Mimi, that's a rotten thing to have happened, I'm sending a malevolent glare out to the company in question.

    Heartful, hee hee! I might borrow your 'sex tips for pensioners' idea, that's priceless!

    Zen, unless you've sold the film rights there will always be that element who aren't impressed. One day darling, one day!!! (don't hold your breath!)

    Kvennarad, you are so right!!


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