Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How to Talk to Writers

So you're a writer. Not a dabbler, but a "serious" writer—your butt has spent many many many hours in that chair, you have at least one book finished (or damn close), and you're serious about this whole getting-published craziness.

God help you.

Wait, that wasn't where I was going with this.

So you're a writer, and you're headed off to a writer's conference, or a writer's lunch, or some other social function where writers are meant to talk to people who exist outside their own brains. And being a writer and therefore maybe not the best at social events, you panic. "What do I have in common with all these other random writer people? What will we talk about?"

Friends, I am here to help.

I have discovered, through my own vast experience in goofing off research, at least five topics that writers can ALWAYS talk about. A pack of writers could be stuck together on an island for—oh, a long time—and still be able to chatter crazily, if you kept to only these topics.


1. Food
More than books, writing, family, anything, food is the king of writer talk. I'm not sure if it's because we sit alone so much, or we're using powerful imagination muscles that require constant nutrition, but writers are obsessed with food. I haven't met one yet, man or woman, who isn't. So if you're meeting over lunch, yay! There is food. Discuss.

2. POV
POV is one of the great writer secrets. You don't even know what it IS until you accept that you are a writer (unless you were really paying attention in english class, but most of you were probably secretly writing stories anyway). Then you have to figure out what group you belong to. 3rd person? 3rd person omniscient? 1st person? 1st person present? (Courtney, this one's for you. *snort*) Or are you bold enough to {gasp} MIX? Or {further gasp} SWITCH?

3. Revision Hell
It is hell. You'd think that would be 'nuff said, but no. Plunk two writers down together (especially those with a toe or a whole foot in the pub process), bring up the "R" word, and you'll be sobbing on each other's shoulders within an hour. Guaranteed bonding.

4. Waiting
Worse than the "R" word. I'm not waiting for anything right now, so I can say this without a hint of whine in my voice: waiting is THE worst part of this whole thing. Especially for those of us with a patience deficit. The good news: you're not alone. Every single person in that room has had to wait, and has HATED EVERY MINUTE and UNDERSTANDS.

5. Ways of wasting time procrastinating preparing yourself to write.
Agents and editors, cover your ears for this one. Okay, ready?
Writers waste time when we should be writing.
It's not just you, with the Spider Solitaire habit and the secret reality-TV watching and the manic cleaning of toilets or baking or laundry that must be done. We all do this. It makes every one of us feel guilty sometimes, but we do it anyway. I think it might be part of the process or something. Anyway, just bring up reality TV or mention casually that you're looking for a new online game, and watch the conversation spark.

You'll note that "pets" and "kids" aren't included on this list, because though they often do come up, I wouldn't recommend them. Usually half the group has one and half the other, or half both and half none, and those in the non-halves hate these topics. Stick to the top 5, and you'll be safe.

But I'm sure I'm missing some. Fellow writers? What necessary author-topics have I forgotten?

Addendum: I knew I'd forget something! A writer friend reminded me of another oft-used (and necessary) topic: "getting beaten around the head by the publishing process". Heck, yeah. I didn't even mention the other nasty "R" word: Rejection. (bleah)


MF Makichen said...

Awesome post Susan. Okay, I think agents are a big topic too. Writers either need one, or they may need a new one, or they love the one they have:).

Susan Adrian said...

MF: YES! We can always talk about agents too. Thanks!

M. G. Tarquini said...

Great post, Susan! I gave you a total Shout Out.

Susan Adrian said...

Thanks, Mindy! I love your post back. :)

Bill Cameron said...

6. Confusion. Statements in this topic generally go something like, "I don't begrudge X any of his/her success, but how the f**k did THAT book get a seven figure advance, while I got nine dollars and an offer to split the cab fare?"

Gary Corby said...

Fishing for reassurance: going on about how rotten your own writing is, in the desperate hope someone will contradict you.

Saying nice things about other writers! In my admittedly limited experience, I have never, ever met a writer who didn't go out of their way to be nice to other writers.

Couldn't agree more about waiting. It should be outlawed by the UN convention against torture.

Three things writers don't talk about: spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

courtney said...

This post is fantastic. All of it true. Also, I feel so shouted-out to. Hee. GO FIRST PERSON PRESENT! I also like how Food is #1. WIN!

Susan Adrian said...

Oooh, Bill and Gary, spot on! Thanks for those. We all have those moments too.

Courtney: Hee back!

Linder said...


Boy, did you nail it. And, okay, admit it -- I inspired the "manic cleaning of toilets," didn't I? {g}


Susan Adrian said...


I admit it. The manic cleaning of toilets was ALL you. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm clueless when it comes to talking to other writers, so a big THANK YOU for this.

(P.S. Found you through Courtney!)

Susan Adrian said...

Hi w!! Glad to meet you!

Any friend of Courtney's is welcome to my craziness. :)

Lori Benton said...

LOL, Susan. You got us pegged. Baking and Spider Solitaire are my distractions of choice. They really _are_ part of the process. The writing still gets done, amazingly.

Susan Adrian said...

Hi Lori!

I think most of us do SS and baking. Or at least eating of baking. (see #1).

Kelly Gay said...

OMG. Just saw this. So clever and true!

ChrisEldin said...

LOL! I'm over from MG Tarqini's (although I didn't leave a note there and perhaps I should go back and wave....)

She pointed out the one that really cracked me up!! POV--Yes, that is so true!!!


But I'd also add genre-bashing. It's great fun.

Shari said...

Great post! :D

Crystal Posey said...

Good and funny post!