Top Ten Things Not to Say to a Writer

Writer meme

This list was inspired by going out into public over the weekend. I am always amazed at some of the things people say once they find out you write full-time.

10 If you meet a writer, do not tell them you have a book you have meant to write. If you do, at best they will walk away. At worst, they will ask how come you haven’t written it yet? (That is a pretty uncomfortable silence isn’t it, Bunky?)

9 If you meet a writer, do not ask about their royalties. If you do, at best they will offer to buy you a drink. At worst, they will ask you to pick up the bar tab. (That was the saddest poor-mouth story you ever heard, huh Ralph?)

8 If you meet a writer, do not ask about a movie deal. If you do, at best you’ll have to listen to the impossibilities of getting a film deal. At worst, you’ll have to supply the tissues and offer large soothing hugs. (It’s almost like this guy is never going to stop sobbing right, Tex?)

7 If you meet a writer named Tiny the WWF champ, do not tell him you have not read his book. If you do, at best his disappointment will cause you to cry. At worst, he will hold you on his lap and read it to you.( It is hard to get away isn’t it, Buford?)

6 If you meet a writer, do not tell them how you would have ended the book. At best, the look you get should be photographed and filed under incredulity in Wikipedia. At worst, Β  the writer might just leave the gathering and work out previous rejection traumas consuming a gallon of ice cream. (No, you are not invited to join the ice cream social, Putz.)

5 If you meet a writer, do not ask what they do for “real work.” If you do, at best they will humor you with lawn cutting stories. At worst, they will give you the impression that they eliminate ignorant people for money.( You have to admit if this guy writes as well as he frightens, he’s good huh, Bosco?)

4 If you meet a writer, do not ask them to review your manuscript. If you do, at best they will try to change the subject. At worst, they will say yes and try as they may never find the time to read it. (You should join a critique group Buster and quit bothering people you just met.)

3 If you meet a writer, do not ask them what brand of whiskey they drink. If you do, at best they will think you are joking. At worst, the writer will grasp the stereotype and provide you with an obscure brand name that cost $100 a bottle. (Pretty expensive way to get inspired hey, Pal?)

2 If you meet a writer, do not ask them what they do in their spare time. If you do, at best you’ll get a vague answer along the lines of washing the dog. At worst, you’ll have to stand and listen to what sounds like a description of a person with an Attention Deficit Disorder describing a typical work month. (The big question now is how do you make a getaway right, Prince?)

1 If you meet a writer, do not mention that you haven’t written a review of their book on Amazon. If you do, at best the smile you get is fake. At worst, you’ll have to hear a long story about how a writer knows if they are appealing to their readers. (Might have been better to lie, Buddy.)


  1. Ha, ha. I love the part at the top. If someone sees Tiny I think it’s best to both avoid and escape. Good post, John. πŸ˜€ — Suzanne

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. πŸ˜€

  2. Good post John. 10 and 6 are very familiar (and I never go public!)

    1. Ha ha ha. Thanks, Keith.

  3. Oh John, you always crack me up!!! I always giggle at questions I’ve heard asked at the 3 book signings I’ve gone to!!

    1. Me too. πŸ™‚

    1. Than you, Anita and Jaye.

  4. I hate that silence that descends the minute someone mentions that you write…

    1. ha haha. Seems like an eternity. Thanks, Anita and Jaye.

  5. Gwen Plano · ·

    Coffee and your “Top Ten” are a great way to begin the day. Your points are the reason I try to hide what I do….#5 is too funny! LOL! Love the top definition of a writer – I so relate! πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, Gwen. I think we all can relate. Have a super Monday. (Almost an oxymoron)

  6. Lol. I love these responses. Do you ever get told you should write about me? I just smike and nod as they tell me about all their bad decisions that they believe are novel worthy.

    1. I have done consulting and one client gave me an outline of his memoire and asked my opinion. I told him not to quit his day job. That was my last assignment with them.

      1. LOL! Whenever anyone asks you to write their story, it usually means their life is a train wreck.

      2. So true. Or the other way. Like watching paint dry.

      3. Oh ever so true! Spare me paint drying.

  7. What a great list, John! Happy Monday!

    1. Thank you, Jill. Have a super day.

  8. I’m so glad you included Tiny today, John. I’ll be needing him over at my place in a little while. What brand of whiskey was that?

    1. Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Ha ha ha.:-D

  9. […] This was happening with every blog, this is just an example. I was trying to β€˜Like’ and leave a comment on John Howell’s blog. I like to leave a comment on John’s blog because I’d like to stay on good terms with Tiny, the […]

  10. #3 is the only one I’ve never heard. Some other favorites:

    -I don’t really like fantasy, but good job.
    -Why not write what’s popular to famous?
    -Have you considered becoming one of James Patterson’s authors?
    -So is your book based on Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
    -I bought your book, but probably won’t read it.

    1. Olivia Stocum · ·

      That last one… yeah. I had a lady tell me she would like to read my book but she only reads good books. And yet, how would she know if it was any good, when she’d never read it? Hmmmm….

      1. Never got that one, but I can just imagine the mental slap that delivered. Sad thing for me is that most of those examples have come from family.

      2. Olivia Stocum · ·

        Close. Most of the insults came from church. Which I left and will never go back to again. The rest came from family and old friends who are no longer fiends. It’s amazing the amount of hate out there in the world.

      3. Would not have guessed church. The oddest thing with many of these statements is that they’re said as if to help. Like the honesty is something you need because everyone else might be lying to spare your feelings. It just amazes me how often people will try to discourage an author, but not point out to someone going into law that there are tons of lawyers out there.

      4. Excellent point, Charles.

      5. Olivia Stocum · ·

        Yeah, they do tend to think they’re helping, and when you tell them you’ve heard enough criticism they basically give you (well me) the deer in headlights look. As far as church goes, I hate to say it, but there’s a lot of judgment and backstabbing, at least where I was attending it was like that.

      6. I get the ‘you need thicker skin’ speech if I protest. And people wonder why I don’t go out much and now have trouble figuring out genuine interest in my books. Honestly, I’ve heard that about a few churches. Seems counterproductive to the whole Jesus thing. I’m Jewish, so we just have the guilt trip.

      7. Olivia Stocum · ·

        Jewish guilt trip, that sounds fun. Not. At this point I’m what they call an Organic Christian, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I still believe in God and don’t blame him for the mess humanity made of the world. (Honestly, I don’t know why he hasn’t killed us all off yet!). But I don’t go to church or belong to any denomination.

      8. It’s tradition and instinctive. You just end up doing it along with some level sarcasm. Once you’re old enough to do it yourself, you’re immune as long as it doesn’t come from your mother or grandmother. I’m Jewish light though. More a cultural than religious one, but not even that really. In the same boat as you especially since we do so much evil in Gods name. Maybe he is killing us off by not stopping us from doing it ourselves. He’s just thrown up his hands and walked away.

      9. I would hope God smacks the judgmental ones.

      10. Being Jewish, those smacks tend to be more smites. He’ll just drop burning bushes on everyone.

      11. Followed by a horde of locusts.

      12. Could be worse. A horde of spiders would be a true nightmare.

      13. Do you guys get to drink wine? If so I’ll sign up.

      14. Olivia Stocum · ·

        I do! I prefer flavored vodka though.

      15. Oh. Even better.

      16. Olivia Stocum · ·

        I know!

      17. Where ever humans congregate there is the judgmental aspect. It is how the less talented justify their existence.

      18. Olivia Stocum · ·

        That is a very good point, John. Makes them feel better about themselves, I guess.

      19. That must be it.

      20. I have to agree, Olivia. When certain people ask me what I do I respond with. “I’m retired.” That gets an,”Oh, ” and not much more.

      21. Olivia Stocum · ·

        Yeah, I tend to tell them I homeschool my kids. That gets more respect and they think I’m smart, or something. Haha.

      22. Ha ha ha. Good one.

      23. That is all too often, Charles.

      24. If only we were paid by the off-handed insult.

      25. A fortune would be made by all.

      26. I can see people bragging on the number of insults they got a year.

      27. I got 504. Half of those were hoping I’d die in a fire. Sweeeet! *goes back to crying in the corner*

      28. Ha ha ha. Love it.

      29. Oh my. This was one to the gut. Thanks for sharing.

    2. Oh, Charles. I should have asked you to guest post. These are classic.

      1. It would have been interesting, but might not have been as funny. Probably dripping with enough snark to fill a bathtub.

      2. I love your snark. πŸ˜€

  11. Olivia Stocum · ·

    Oh, wow. I’ve heard all of these, and then I was told I had issues for getting upset about what they said. Thanks for this list. It really puts things into perspective.

    1. Every time I go out in public (except for book signings) at least one of these comes up. Thanks for the comment and interchange.

      1. Olivia Stocum · ·

        Yup. I know what you mean. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Olivia Stocum · ·

    Reblogged this on The Claymore and Surcoat and commented:
    If you’re a writer, or you have one in your life, then read this list. It’s not just humorous, but it’s 100% true. I’ve heard MANY of these from ingnorant people. So, maybe, read it and don’t be ignorant anymore?

    1. Thank you for the reblog, Olivia.

      1. Olivia Stocum · ·

        You’re welcome! πŸ™‚

  13. So, John, what brand of whiskey do you actually drink? (Ducking for cover. Hope it came in a plastic bottle they hurt less.)

    1. Woodford Reserve Bourbon. *glass clunk

      1. Have a shot now that you are on the floor.

      2. Don’t mind if I do.

      3. You have excellent taste, John.

      4. Thank you, Teri. I am very particular since I don’t guzzle. πŸ˜€

  14. Lots of fun today, John. I get #10 and #8 almost anytime I mention writing to someone πŸ™‚

    1. I can relate. Thanks, Mae.

  15. Please tell Tiny that we have six copies of his blockbuster novel…. Make that seven copies just to be sure.

    1. Ha ha ha. Thanks, Greg. He smiled (In truth,I think he has gas.)

  16. Hmm…. does Tiny have an engaging reading voice? Might be cheaper than buying the audio book, eh, John! Great list, good sir!

    1. He sounds like the cross between nails on a chalkboard and a cat with a tail under the rocker. Thanks, John

      1. OMG!!!! Let’s see… “…”

  17. Good one, John. Very relatable, too.

  18. Haha. Excellent list John. It’s no different for writers in the business world. Lucky, i get both worlds. If one more person hands me a document for edits and says “Make it pretty”…
    When a coworker learned I was writing a book, she asked when the movie would be out. She was serious. I appreciate the vote of confidence but…
    My favorite is when people hear you’re a writer and they instantly want to “collaborate” on a book. However, their definition of collaborate means they do no work, you write a novel based on their idea, at their direction, and they get all the credit and supposed money. Or so they think….
    Okay… stepping down from my Julia Sugarbaker soapbox. Hugs!

    1. Oh, and you slayed me with the one about Tiny!

      1. Thank you, Teagan. Tiny is going to be in there all the time.

    2. Actually it was the Billy Graham box of truth. Thanks, Teagan

      1. Ha! Think I’d better stick with Julia Sugarbaker. I’d be afraid to step on anything marked Box of Truth. πŸ˜‰

      2. Ha ha ha. πŸ˜€

  19. Golly! That Tiny’s multi-talented isn’t he? πŸ˜›

    1. He is. Does everything. Thanks, Jan

  20. D.L Finn, Author · ·

    Awesome list… I laughed harder than I should have in reference to #2 and ADD. Your title needs to be a car sticker!

    1. Ha ha ha. Thanks D.L.

  21. Great post, John. I love Charles’ comment “-I bought your book, but probably won’t read it.” What!?? Did you ask why they bought it? Olivia, what did you say in response to “she would like to read my book but she only reads good books?” Did you slap her silly? Why do people think they can make remarks like these? Don’t they know how personal these questions are? How would they react if you said they’d be good looking if they did something about their nose or that blouse they broke the bank to buy looks ridiculous on them?

    1. Thanks, Michelle. If you and I ever show up to the same cocktail party, I want you right next to me.

      1. Haha! It’s a trait I learned with age. Older and wiser.

  22. Great list, John. Don’t forget #0 — “I have a great idea for a book. You write it and we’ll split the royalties right down the middle.”

    1. Ha ha ha. I actually had someone say that to me.

  23. Great fun with these today! I’ve experienced a few of these and have learned to smile and look for the nearest exit. πŸ™‚

    1. Ha ha ha. πŸ˜€

  24. But I lead with #3 all the time… πŸ™‚
    Thanks for this giggle, John.

    1. Excellent lead. πŸ˜€

  25. I get a variation of #10 – they don’t want to write the book, they tell me their idea and say I should write it.

    1. Ha ha ha. That is always worth a stare. Thanks, Teri.

  26. Always a treat, John! Thanks for the giggles. πŸ™‚

    1. Love giggles. Thank you, Natalie.

  27. Great subject for this week’s Top 10, John. You got me wondering how long Tiny’s book is. Would he mind me eating a tub of ice cream while listening to him read? Will I need to bring a sleeping bag? πŸ€”
    When I recently told somebody I was a writer (after they asked what I did) they replied: “so you can type then?” πŸ™„

    1. Thanks, Hugh. For some reason, I did not respond to you on this. I loved the type comment. I think I would add, “Yes and I fetch tea too.” πŸ˜€

      1. No problem, John. I’ve just come back from a week’s blogging break. I’ll be back in the world of blogging from tomorrow. Just off to make a pot of tea now. πŸ˜€

  28. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Here is another great top 10 list from John Howell. This one is the top ten things not to say to a writer. I was checking them off the list as I read them. I’ve been asked quite a few.

      1. You’re welcome

  29. I’ve experienced #5 more than I care to admit. And #4 makes me want to skip town. πŸ™‚ Fun list, John.

    1. Thank you for the visit and comment. “Skip town.” Hahaha πŸ˜€

  30. Ha! Those awkward moments….

    1. Thanks for the Reblog.

  31. I have been telling people I’m writing children’s books and the typical responses are “Do you want to be the next J.K Rowling?” like she is the only children’s book writer ever! – irks me every time! Love this article

    1. Ha haha. When I say fiction writer they say . “Fiction like who?” I say, “Fiction like me.”

  32. I really love this one, John!

    1. Thank you for the visit, Victoria. Hope you got a cookie on the way out. Oh, and a margarita as well. πŸ˜€

  33. Never had this… yet. At least I know what to expect when I *eventually* get to that point.

    1. Thank you, for the visit.

      1. Felix Hinson · ·

        N-no problem…

  34. Good list. For #3, just tell them Whistlepig. Sadly, no one has bought me one yet. 😦

    1. I would say WhistlePig 14 Year Old ‑ The Boss Hog 2016 Edition (cask 19) Rye Whiskey. That will get em. Thanks for the visit. no one has bought me any Woodford reserve either.

  35. Thanks for the laugh. So true!

    1. Glad I made you laugh.

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