I like how IWSG phrased the question with “favorite” coming first. I think everyone wants others to be interested in their work—especially writers. To show true interest in what someone else is doing, though, a person needs to ask specific questions about the project. Sometimes I think this can help a writer move forward in her story when she’s stuck because a specific question may trigger a path the writer hadn’t thought of before.
As for a favorite question to ask me generally, it’s all in the word choice. My children always ask me what fine adventure I was on today. So did my mother. I think it’s the best way to approach my story writing. As any writer knows, word choice is important, especially when handling a neurotic story teller. Unfortunately, my name’s at the top of the neurotic list!
But about those specific questions I like to be asked about my YA adventure stories, I need people to ask: what are the internal and external problems in this story? Where is it taking place? What are the family dynamics? I need to be able to answer these questions in order to move forward with the story. Of course the person needs to know me and how I write to be able to ask these specifics.
My least favorite question of all time that people ask about my writing is: “Did you ever finish your memoir?”
Instead of actually saying: Yes. Two different versions. I just answer: Nope!
It’s not that easy. I’m not just recounting what happened to me. That’s not memoir. Memoir is a story about a certain time in someone’s life and the life lessons that person learned from the experience. And—man! Is it difficult to do well.
Asking a writer if they’ve finished a book they’ve been working on is like asking “So what did you publish today?”
Writing book-length manuscripts take time—lots of time. This is why it’s a celebration when the story is complete even though there is much more work to accomplish in revision before sending it out for representation or self-publishing it. Then there’s marketing the work. I think when people ask a writer about their writing life, they’re only thinking of the story, and many times they’re only asking generally. Non writers might not understand there is much more to the writing life than just creating stories.
So how do you handle when other people—especially non-writers—ask about your writing endeavors? Please share any thoughts or tips here at Adventures in Writing.
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33 thoughts on “Insecure Writers Want to Know: What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask about your writing?”
Glad your family asks the right questions. My mom sometimes asks: How many times are you going to edit it? Not that helpful. Happy New Year!
At the moment, I find it a little uncomfortable to be asked, but I pretend that I'm not. I pretend it's the most natural thing in the world! It's surprising to me how many people who ask me these types of questions expect different answers than what I give them. Happy IWSG Day! And Happy New Year, of course. 🙂
The wording "what fine adventure" really did make me smile. That's a lovely perspective. After all, it is all an adventure.
I think non-writers believe it just falls from our heads into a book.
At this point, I prefer just to be asked a vague, "How's the writing going?" If I don't feel like delving into the details, or if I suspect they're just being polite, I can say, "Okay." If our relationship is closer, I can say a little more.
I dislike being asked about works in progress. They are too uncertain to say much about; I can't explain them to someone else while I'm still figuring them out for myself.
I wish I had advice to offer. I am terrible at answering these questions. They usually cause me to fumble through some poorly thought out reaction. Maybe what I need to do is craft a blanket statement so when I'm asked these difficult questions, I don't have to fumble my way through 🙂 Happy IWSG Day 🙂
Happy New Year, Natalie! Yes, I sometimes get the "haven’t you finished editing the memoir yet?" Nope! I'm editing the same version. I need a new version, I think.
Thanks so much for your note on Adventures in Writing, Natalie. All best to you and enjoy your 2019!
That's the funny thing, Raimey. I want someone to be interested in my asking about my work, but many times, things aren't going smoothly and I feel like I'm wasting everybody's time. I feel everyone thinks this writing gig is easy.
It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing, Raimey. Enjoy your New Year!
Oh my gosh writing is an adventure no matter what genre you write in, isn't it, Chrys? It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your 2019!
You are so right, Alex! Writing is NOT the "cabin in the woods" experience everyone thinks it is. Thanks so much for all you do to assist your fellow writer, Alex. And thanks for your note on Adventures in Writing. All best to you, sir, and enjoy your 2019!
That's true, Jennifer. Many people just ask to be polite. And yes, many times I'm still trying to figure out what's going on in my story to be too specific with my answers. However, sometimes someone close to me may ask something or say something that might help me see the story more clearly. This is what I always hope for, especially when I'm having problems with a particular story.
It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. I wish you a successful 2019!
I think the IWSG questions are meant to make us writers think. And yes! Many times I need to start days ahead of time to think of something pithy to say so as not to look like a fool among all you successful writers.
Thanks so much for your note on Adventures in Writing, Erika. All best to you and enjoy your 2019!
"what fine adventure" I love this way of asking about a day… I like how in depth you went in answering the IWSG question. I think you're right in most non-writers not knowing what is actually involved to write fully. Happy new year!
"Did you ever finish" is more than annoying. And I think "Nope" is the perfect answer to the question! Non-writers really have no clue as to how we work on our craft.
As others have commented, "what fine adventure . . ." is such a charming, positive way to open a conversation and I am going to start using it. Wishing you a peace-filled 2019.
The "How's your memoir coming along" question used to drive me nuts as well, since it was always the project on the back burner. There were always other priorities (or life events themselves) that required my focus and attention.
For that reason, after dragging the memoir writing for over three years, I've decided that now is the time to shift my priorities and work on my book full-time, as much as possible. Now, when someone asks me how it's going, I can at least say "It's going." 🙂
You are so correct about the hard work and enormous time-investment that goes into writing, editing, publishing, promoting, and anything in between. It's not just writing a story at all. It's a wake-up call and I'm glad you are pointing that out in your post. Hopefully, a lot of non-writers read that as well. 🙂
I like your favorite question. That is the way to support someone. Love it. Happy IWSG.
Happy New Year, Juneta! Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing. Specificity helps, doesn't it? Thanks for your kind words. All the best in 2019.
Happy New Year, Lisa. Thanks for your kind words here at Adventures in Writing. This is not to say that I might only think of the exciting parts of being an archeologist. But yes, non-writers probably don't understand what it's like to be a writer.
Thanks for your note here at Adventures in Writing. All the best in 2019.
I agree, Lee. They don't. But like I said above to Lisa, I don't know all the duties of an archeologist either. At least I understand this. I'll ask detailed questions and show my intrigue with all that an archeologist may do.
I LOVE that my family uses "what fine adventure" when asking me about my writing. Of course, I tell my children that life IS an adventure, and this is what makes it so intriguing. While I write adventure stories, I find any good book or story an adventure to read–and hopefully feel I'm actually IN the story along with the protagonist.
Thanks for your comment here at Adventures in Writing. May your 2019 be filled with peace also. All best!
Happy New Year, Liesbet! Yes, my college memoir was always on the "back burner" too. In addition "life events" and family "priorities," I’m trying to send out short stories and essays for publication. As you know, everything takes time to do.
Bravo to you, first for "dragging the memoir" around for only three years, and second for shifting your priorities to concentrate on your manuscript. More power to you, Liesbet!
It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. I wish you a successful 2019!
Hi, Victoria! I love the "what fine adventure were you on today" question. Each day should be a fine adventure. I'm writing a memoir, and it's a long slow process. "You're not done yet?" is the silent question behind every polite question I get from family, friends, and acquaintances. I try to answer politely, make a funny remark about it; but sometimes I want to scream, "No, I'm not done yet, damnit!" I'll get there. I believe in me, even if others don't. All the best to you in the new year!
Wording is everything! I always knew writing a book would be hard, but don't think I ever realized just how much time it would take until I started trying. So yeah, anyone who's never tried just doesn't get it. Especially about writing a memoir, it's emotionally exhausting. Best of luck and Happy New Year!
Great post! Happy New Year!
I tend to laugh nervously and get flustered when people ask me about my writing.
I like that you said a specific question from someone can trigger a new path to help in a writer's project. I use the typical questions like, Why did he do that? or Who is the character? or What if? but never thought that someone other than a fellow writer's questions about my project could help in this way too. Thanks for this.
You are so right. Everyone can't understand what is taking so long with my college memoir. I'm not just recounting what happened. I've done that. Now I need to create a memoir story about attending college as a mother of five.
I believe in you, too, by the way. Memoir is difficult, but we will triumph. I believe in me, too. [I hope, but I never give up!]
Thanks for your note here at Adventures in Writing. Every success to you in 2019.
Hello and welcome to Adventures in Writing, Melanie! Yes, wording IS everything. Unless we actually do it, we don't realize how difficult a project will be. But I'm sure that's with many different professions. I think writing in general is "emotionally exhausting."
Thank you so much for visiting Adventures in Writing and sharing your insight, Melanie. It is truly appreciated. All the best to you in 2019!
Thank you so much, Michelle. Thanks for stopping by Adventures in Writing and leaving a note. May you be blessed with health and happiness in 2019.
Yes, Patricia, I do that too. I wish I didn't, but I do. I guess if I had a few books under by belt, I'd feel better about myself as a writer, but I don't.
Thank you so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and leaving a comment. It's greatly appreciated. All best to you in 2019!
My pleasure, Dawn! We never know who might trigger that one pathway that we never thought about. If someone is truly interested in your work, that person may be very helpful to you.
Thank you so much for visiting Adventures in Writing and sharing your insight. It is truly appreciated. All the best to you in 2019!
Wow so nice blog and fabulous work.Thanks for sharing
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Hello and welcome to Adventures in Writing! Thank you so much for visiting and leaving a kind note. All the best to you in 2019!
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