Awkward Conversations...

Yesterday Kiersten White did a really great post about something that happens to me all the time. (I loved her post because she managed to formulate everything I’d been thinking and somehow put it to words. On paper! It’s like she’s a professional writer or something!)

Anyway, it’s always amazing to me how a conversation can go from “You’re a writer?” to “My second grade teacher said I should be a writer” in about 2.4 seconds. Flat.

And it’s all good. Great, in fact. I’m happy for you, really I am. I’m not all that comfortable talking about myself in the first place. Especially when that same conversation starts to steer into what I like to call “awkward territory”. And, no, I’m not even talking about the ballsy “So, how much was your advance?” conversation, I’m talking about the other…”How ‘bout I send you some of my stuff and you can tell me what you think?”

Umm, no.

Okay, I didn't mean for that to sound bitchy, let me try again…umm, no.

How about this? Umm, no!

No? Still not any better?

Yeah, well, that’s because I’m probably not gonna read it. For several reasons.

Besides the obvious legal ramifications (you know that pesky being-accused-of-plagiarism thing), I’m busy. Really busy. Really, REEAAALLLY BUSY! I think there’s this misnomer that a writer sits in his or her office (or in a really comfy “reading chair”) and writes a book, and then they just send it in to their editor, who edits it, and voila! A book is born!

Not so.

Here’s what really goes down: Said editor sends said writer editorial notes, with which said writer busts their freaking hump in an effort to satisfy said editor’s needs, wants, and innermost desires for that first draft. Oh yeah, you heard me: First. Draft. Because, yes, there will probably be a second, and possibly a third, round of revisions.

You: And then the writer gets to just kick back and collect royalty checks, right?

Me: Umm, yeah, not so much.

Then you do your copyedits. You learn phrases like “Stet” and you decide how many “whom”s a YA novel can withstand, grammatically correct or not, before it sounds like a throwback to Jane Austen. You pour over each and every single line until your eyes feel like they're hemorrhaging.
You: And then you’re done…?

Me: You’re getting closer now, but not quite. Next your lovely little manuscript is sent off to the typesetter, and you receive these gorgeously crafted pages as they will (eventually) appear in the bound books. Beautiful fonts, pretty little art designs created just for the pages of your book, your Acknowledgements in all their glory. Every single page of it!

But, wait! You see mistakes on those pages! That’s right, these are just your First Pass Pages. And yet again, you get to go through character-by-character seeking out every little error in need of correction. You send those in, and depending on your publisher, you will receive Second Pass Pages as well, another opportunity to work until your eyes bleed.

In the meantime, you’ve been working on your next book, or maybe that one’s already done and you've reached the revision stage. In the meantime, you’re also working on another book.

What I’m saying is that it’s never finished. I’m always working. On something. Ask my husband. Or my kids. Look at my house…the proof is in the laundry. (Or the poorly stocked kitchen).

And if that isn’t enough to deter you from trying to pass me the poem you scribbled on the back of your Denny’s napkin, here’s another: I’m not very good at it. There’s a reason I never joined a Crit Group. I’m like your mom, I’ll try to frame it and hang it on my fridge. I want to see the good in everything you do (especially if I like you), which isn’t at all useful to someone who is serious about getting published. I am the Paula Abdul of writing.

So, save yourself (and me) a lot of grief. For the love of god, ask me about my advance. Just don’t ask me to read your manuscript!


Leigh said…
Ummm...yeah. You said it.

I'm sure you'll soon hear from - if you haven't already - "friends" who want you to look at their query letter or manuscript, or worse, write THEIR idea for them. Cuz, you know, you don't have any ideas of your own, right?
Kiersten White said…
Tee hee hee. It IS like I'm a professional writer or something! Emphasis on the "like" because sometimes I still feel like I'm tricking people...

Well put, all of this ; )
Leigh - Sounds like you've heard 'em all. Can't wait...*clears throat*

Kiersten - Right back at, love, loved your post yesterday!

Patti - :)
Solvang Sherrie said…
Too funny :)

So about that you've hired a maid to do the laundry in your brand new mansion, yes?
Hahahaha! Hey Kim, I have a question about the legal issues of reading another's work. I know that this is the deal for every published writer, but before then a lot of us are in critique groups and might share our work with others on the blogosphere. When does this become a legal issue? When you get an agent? When you get a book deal? Just wondering.
Lisa and Laura said…
The Paula Abdul of writing? Classic.
Sherrie - Josh doesn't actually like to be called a "maid". He prefers Domestic Engineer.

Frankie - I'm emailing you now.

LiLa - What? She's the nice one. Better than the Simon, right???
jessjordan said…
Well, since you're Paula, you can sway around all stoned-like, holding some unidentifiable liquid in a Coca-Cola cup, and tell us how awesome we look in our MS. Right? Great. So I'll send mine your way?

Katie said…
Okay. This is AWESOME! I had NO idea you had to do all that stuff! Really!

But I hope to experience it soon.

(crosses fingers)
Hardygirl said…
This is great stuff!

Katie and SF - I don't want anyone to get me wrong: I love *every* second of it! Buckle up, ladies, you're next.

Oh, and Jess - *clapping the palms of my hands without touching my fingers* You (and your manuscript) look beautiful tonight!
Heidi Willis said…
I LOVED Kiersten's post yesterday! I've gotten that, too -everybody and their brother thinks they can be a writer. Which is exactly why I wrote my first book - because I didn't want to be that person who said they could but never did.

Then I reread that book and cried a little. And then started on another one.

I haven't gotten the "will you read mine" yet. I think I just don't have that prestige yet. :) So good for you for getting to that level!!

Loved the Paula Abdul part! I can see that being so you!
Little Ms J said…
Not only did my fifth grade teacher tell me I would grow up to be a writer, I made my senior class English teacher cry when she read a sonnet (that's right) I composed. I won't even go on to tell you about being the 1994 Most Outstanding English Student.

Now, about that advance...
Heidi - Be prepared, you'll get there. Decide now if you're goingt to be Simon, Paula or Randy.

LMJ - I officially go on the record as saying: send me your sonnet. I will totally read *that*!!!
Tam said…
The Paul Abdul of Writing - classic! I promise not to send you my poem. But you know when Jack produces his first piece, you are so getting it.

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