Last week’s post contained a list of questions I get asked about that either annoy me or are asked all too often (check it out here).
As such, it’s only fair that I share a list of questions I wish people would ask me about my writing.
Most of these are with the hope of sparking a more engaging conversation than those listed in last week’s post.
As was the case in last week’s post, these are listed in no particular order. The only change is that these are the questions I personally would love to hear more often.
What Are You Working On?
This question is great because it demonstrates a curiosity about our writing projects, which gives us an opportunity to enthuse about our stories (or vent if we’re having a rough day, a point I’ll be addressing below).
When someone asks me what I’m working on, it gives me a chance to talk about the project to someone who’s separate from it and can give outside feedback. Seeing their reaction can provide some insight as to whether or not my ideas are intriguing or what points need a clearer explanation.
This is good practice for the elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a short and snappy synopsis of your book. Basically, an explanation you can give in the length of an elevator ride. It’s kind of like a sales pitch, in that it’s intended to gain interest from a potential consumer.
In this case, this consumer is a reader.
Elevator pitches can be translated into social media posts for events like #PitMad on Twitter, which gives writers a chance to connect with potential agents and the querying process, so having a solid one is essential for us.
Sometimes, this can lead to a dialogue that can help me develop my ideas further because the person I’m talking with might say something that sparks a new plot point or fills in a hole I hadn’t realized existed, or maybe even give me a tiny detail that may not feel significant but deepens the story; a conversation like this is how William of Against His Vows became William Meade IV, as so much of his storyline is about him having to break away from his family’s shadow, including his father who is also named William Meade. “Why not just have a whole bunch of William Meades?” just made so much sense. Like, why hadn’t I thought of that yet?
Even if you find it challenging to follow along because you don’t know exactly what’s going on in your writer friend’s head, talking to them about their ideas and letting them talk through them can help them evolve and eventually blossom.*
*Both the ideas and the writer themselves.
Do You Need To Vent?
Writing is hard. We have our moments of success, but we just as often find ourselves feeling stuck or disheartened.
Maybe we’ve hit a wall and can’t figure out how to get our characters from Point A to Point B. Maybe we just can’t focus, or our editing is overwhelming. Maybe a research trail we were following has hit a dead end and we can’t find the information we need.
Maybe we’ve started looking at feedback from beta readers and it’s not exactly what we would have hoped.
Maybe after a seemingly endless period of waiting, an agent passed on our manuscript and we’re facing the query trenches once more. Or maybe we’re scrolling through Twitter and seeing so many success stories from others announcing having received an offer of representation of have signed with a publisher not long after facing rejection.
It happens. It’s all part of the process.
Personally, I find that having someone encourage me to open up about what’s bothering me writer-wise can be such a relief. I’m often closed-off about my projects, which something I am working on, and writing can be such a solitary activity that it can lead to feelings of isolation.
Giving the writer in your life an opportunity to express their frustrations is one of the best ways to show you care about them and their craft. Even if you don’t know what they’re talking about or don’t feel like you can offer the best advice for the situation, having someone there to listen is one of the best balms for an agonized writer.
Wanna Get Some Coffee?
It doesn’t have to be coffee. It’s really more about taking a break.
Checking in with your writer friend and encouraging them to step away from their work can be a huge benefit for them.
I know I have a hard time taking a break from my writing, especially when I’m struggling because I get so fixated on getting through a scene or solving an issue while editing. I’m the kind of person who brings a notebook to the local Bingo hall to work on my latest project between games and bought a tablet and a mini Bluetooth keyboard to do blogging stuff on the go (in my defense, it was a week before my birthday and I had a gift card). When I’m not at my computer or hunched over a composition book, I’m usually playing through upcoming scenes in my head and trying to figure out the details so I can jump in as soon as I’m back to working on the project.
It’s not easy for me to simply watch a movie or read a book for fun because my writerly brain kicks in and I’m suddenly analyzing everything.
Having someone to pull me away from my work keeps me from burying myself in it. Going for a drive around the block or firing up a round of Mario Party are great some of my favorite means of doing this.
Provided it’s not for too long a time.
How Does This All Work?
There are plenty of misconceptions and mistaken assumptions about the publication process as a whole. I’m sure I have my fair share of them.
There are varying degrees of how much a person understands about setting out to publish a novel and, in my experience, those watching from the sidelines possess less knowledge about the subject than those who are playing the game.
I know people who think I’m writing an automatic bestseller and all I’ll have to do is rake in the cash and practice my autograph, or that publishing a novel will automatically make me able to shift to writing full-time.
This is far from the case, and I’m often telling family members things like, “You really don’t understand how the industry works, do you?”
Of course, the remark is meant with a sense of humor, but also with the wish that people would ask more about the process.
Even if it’s a topic I’m not as well-informed about, being able to share what my plans are as I’m heading towards my goal of being a published author is something I enjoy. It was among the thing that inspired the launch of this blog, as it gives me a chance to share my progress and experiences along the way.
Asking for more information about the process is a great way to engage with your writer friends.
Not only does it hold us accountable to our goals by sharing them with you, but I can guarantee you’ll learn something about the intricacies going on behind the scenes.
When Can I Read It?
You may recognize this one from last week’s post, in which I said, “I appreciate the enthusiasm towards my goals and those around me genuinely interested in seeing them come to fruition…but having people clamoring to get their hands on my books, particularly ones that aren’t ready to be published (so, all of them for the moment), tacks on an additional pressure.”
The thing is, this asking me when you can read my book is just as much a show of support as it is pressuring. Someone asking this with a genuine interest in my work reminds me that people have faith in what I’m working towards, and that I need to as well. On my lowest days, remembering how many people are looking forwards to reading my work can be a great source of motivation and a reason for me to power through the slumps.
So even though it can be overwhelming at times, knowing how many people are excited to read my writing is exciting.
I touched on this a bit in my previous post, but writers and other creative souls can feel underappreciated. Even when we share our art, so much of what we do behind the scenes and in the process of making it is solitarily done.
Asking questions like these and others to engage with us lets us know you care not only about us, but our work, and are as eager to see what comes of it as we are.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to the writers in your life!