Home > Fiction, MASSIVE HEAD EXPLOSION! > “Oh, I’m thinking of writing a book too…”

“Oh, I’m thinking of writing a book too…”

I hate these words. Here’s how it normally plays out:

I’m sitting in a pub with some friends, I’ve had one too many pints (or, even worse, too many gins), and I will suddenly have the urge to lay myself bare and mention—trying desperately to appear casual—that I’m trying to write a novel.

The pain. The heartache. The terror of exposing the innermost workings of one’s mind to the public.

“Oh, really?” Comes the casual response, accompanied by a shrug. “Yeah, I’ve been thinking of writing a book too.”

Pause.

MASSIVE HEAD EXPLOSION!!!

No, you have NOT been thinking about writing a book. If you had, you would not mention this in passing, with a shrug, as an afterthought.

You do not have a 120k word manuscript—now christened the “practice manuscript” due to lack of publisher—to which you devoted four years of your life sitting on your computer.

You do not have four printed, marked-up, FAT, dog-eared versions of said practice manuscript littering your current flat, your parents’ house, and your grandparents’ basement because you could not bare to throw out even ONE copy, no matter how many newer copies you may have.

You do not sit in front of your current manuscript—50k words in—and wonder if you are really mature enough to be writing this story—that you love, love, LOVE, more than any other story you have ever thought up—or whether you should wait ten years until you are mature enough to even begin to try to do it justice.

You do not wake up at night in terror, worried that your flat will burn down and your computer will be destroyed and somehow the three separate email accounts to which you have sent the latest version of your manuscript will all have simultaneously crashed and every cherished word will thus be lost.

You do not learn of the latest publishing industry news (Amazon/Macmillan e-book debacle anyone?) before you learn of the latest stabbing three streets down (I need to move flats). You haven’t spent your spare waking hours reading agents blogs, submitting query letters for critiques, checking and rechecking submission guidelines instead of doing what all this stress has made you really want to do, which is drink, drink, DRINK!

So. The correct response when some tortured, aspiring author mentions—casually, in passing—that he/she is trying to write a novel, is: “Wow. What’s it about?”

Don’t worry. Said tortured author loves, loves, LOVES his/her story way too much to tell you all about it in a bar. He/she will mention a vague plot arc and change the subject.

Which is probably what you were trying to accomplish in the first place.

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  1. February 17, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    A. Men.
    Amen.

  2. Lua
    February 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Your post made me smile! I know exactly –and I mean EXACTLY- what you’re talking about. I’ve learned my lesson, so now I basically keep it all to myself, guarding my secret with my life and when I’m asked what I’m doing these days, I just say “oh well, nothing interesting really,” and secretly fantasize about the day I give my book to the person who’s asking the questing 🙂
    And you basicly described my worst nightmare: “You do not wake up at night in terror, worried that your flat will burn down and your computer will be destroyed and somehow the three separate email accounts to which you have sent the latest version of your manuscript will all have simultaneously crashed and every cherished word will thus be lost.”
    That would be a shame, wouldn’t it? 🙂

  3. February 20, 2010 at 11:02 am

    You have more sense than I do. I blame gin.

    Also…

    How did writers survive before email? Did they save copies of their manuscript on those stupid little floppy disks (remember those?) or, before that, on pieces of paper?

    The horror.

    No wonder so many of the greats were alcoholics.

    Must go find gin. NOW.

  4. Lua
    February 20, 2010 at 11:06 am

    hahaha :):) and I’ll go find my tequila!

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