Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Things Non-Writers Don't (Always) Get

by R.C. Lewis

You've been there, right? Someone asks a question or makes a comment about your writing, and you realize they don't get it. How writing a novel works. How agents work. How self-publishing works. How traditional publishing works. They just don't understand. That's part of why writers' communities are so great—they bring you together with people who have some shared experience and knowledge.

To be fair, some non-writers do get it and some writers don't get it all … yet. Another great thing about such communities—we can always learn more from each other.

Here are a few things where I sometimes hit the "never mind" wall with other people:

  • A novel manuscript has to be complete before you try to sell it.

  • Being complete doesn't mean it's done. Selling to a publisher doesn't mean it's done. There are rounds of edits yet to come.

  • Working with an editor doesn't mean just cleaning up commas and typos. Not at first, and not for a long time.

  • Revisions can be a messy, big, creative process. Big-picture stuff isn't just adding a word here and deleting one there.

  • Traditional publishing is a REALLY LONG PROCESS.

  • What query letters are. Why they're used. Anything about how agents work.

  • To all my students: No, I will not sell you copies of my book at cost, nor will I give each of you one for free. Yes, it's because I'm mean. Same reason I give you homework.

How about you? What makes you run to your writer-friends because you know they'll understand?

R.C. Lewis teaches math to teenagers—sometimes in sign language, sometimes not—so whether she's a science geek or a bookworm depends on when you look. Her debut novel Stitching Snow is coming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2014. You can find R.C. on Twitter (@RC_Lewis) and at her website.


brighton said...

"Anything about how agents work." Some of my co-workers were so clueless about it that when I was done talking about the process one commented that it might be kind of racist to be searching around to "get an Asian". (That or I have a speech impediment.)

Mindy McGinnis said...

Oh Brighton... only you.

Donna Russo Morin said...

So well articulated. For me, my skin crawls, and I crawl to my fellow scribes, when someone who barely reads says, 'oh, everyone has a book in them.' So clueless they are to the hours hunched over a keyboard; unimaginable are they to the days when pulling each word is like pulling teeth, one after the other.

RSMellette said...

My least favorites:

"That's what you SHOULD write..."
"I have an idea for a book."

I could go on.

Debra McKellan said...

RSMellette hit the nail on the head there.

One conversation I had: "What kind of stuff do you write?" "Fantasy." "Like Star Wars?" "No, like fantasy." "But isn't Star Wars fantasy?" "No, it's Science Fiction." "What's the difference?"

My head hurt.

Geekamicus said...

From a coworker: "What's a beta reader? Can I be one?"

From a colleague: "Our bookclub wants to read your book. Can we get copies?"

From my sister: "Why aren't you published yet? Just do it."

From the same sister: "Just hire an agent already."

"I just loved your book!" (Yeah, okay, that one doesn't actually bother me.)

E. M. LaBonte said...

Mine is: "Why aren't you published yet?" or "When do you think you'll be published?"

But the worst is: "Your writing is just a hobby. Why are you getting so worked up over it? It's not like it's anything serious."

Yeah, that one got me. I just had to breathe and find a fellow scribe to talk to.

Matt Sinclair said...

But Ms. Lewis, you assigned us homework LAST night, too.....

Christi H said...

This one is killer. Even when Im working on something that IS a hobby, it still is a slap in the face, like it could never be anything more, like "hobby" means it cant be done well. People knit as a hobby, play ball, football, basketball, and other sports they dont get paid for, nobody asks them why they care about improving. My goodness, people. Some tact, please?