‘You should write about [blank].’

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“You should write about (insert topic here).” I know this turns thorns in the sides of many writers, but it doesn’t bother me a bit because sometimes – more often than you’d think – the story that follows is actually interesting and I love to hear a good story, even if I don’t wanna write about it. Sometimes people believe that as a writer you can write anything. And for some very fortunate writers out there, this is true. I’m pretty sure John Irving could write a historical teen romance novel if he really wanted to.

“I’d write a book – I just don’t have the time.” Grrrrrrr! Guess what? I don’t have a whole lot of time either, but for some of us writing is a necessary part of life. For true writers, lack of time is a nuisance, but never a hindrance. I find time to write just like I find time to eat. Writing isn’t a fanciful pastime to fill all my empty hours. It’s part of who I am. And if you really, really wanted to write that novel, it would be part of you, too. When you tell a writer that the only thing holding you back from writing the Great American Novel is lack of hours in the day, what you’re actually saying is: I can do what you do, easy. If only I had the time! Interestingly, most of the people who say this to me are people who have never written.

“What’s your book about?” Yikes. That’s always a hard one to answer, at least for me. Luckily there’s a rule of thumb in the publishing world that you should be able to describe your book in two sentences or less and if that’s a problem then you need to focus on your “thesis statement.” This question has been posed to me many times and it’s helped me master the art of the one-sentence pitch — which is an art all writers should master.

“Is there a lot of money in that?” For 90 percent of us, the answer is no. Stephen King and John Grisham make the other 10 percent. But thanks for asking the inappropriate question. Now let’s discuss your finances, shall we?

“I have a great idea for a novel.” Yay! So … what’s your book about?

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