Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When Pet Peeves Attack...

by Linda Robertson

This week the topic is questions we hate to be asked as authors...

I'm going to give you one. It's the one that really pissed me off. Not that the question was so bad in itself, but the querent was either blatantly condescending or ignorantly disrespectful...I'm still not sure which, I only know I got mad. And the telling of this is got so long, I'm only giving you this one example.

You can argue that this isn't really a question, but I say it is, in a passive-aggressive sense. Also, our new Monday Man-Whore Moore had a take on this question in his own post, and his answer was not so different that mine. (WELCOME to the WORD-WHORES!! *Muppet flail*)

I have this great idea for a book, I just need someone to help me write it.

A woman at a fair-sized bookselling event I attended said the above sentence to me in variously evolving forms as I endured her badgering for a twenty minute period (felt like an hour). Yes, she badgered me for not recognizing how awesome this opportunity was--not that she would tell me what her idea was, and not that I wanted to know. Bottom line: I learned that day that twenty minutes is how long it took me to descend from civil politeness into an overwhelming desire to put a fork through her eye. Or her throat. Whichever would prompt her to angrily give me the obligatory, "Good day, Madam, I said, good day," and move her ass along.

Luckily, the 'light lunch' they served  at the event had been various cold-cut and veggie wraps and hadn't included flatware.

What did I do? For starters, when she stopped to take a breath and I could get a word in, I assured her that she was the only one who would be truly passionate about her story and therefore she must write it herself. No one else could ever hope to give every little nuance the love and flair that she would. She insisted that someone had to help her: "I couldn't possibly do it myself. I have far too many things to deal with. I mean, my cat (insert cutesie name ala Mr. Wiggles here) has (some weird disease which she went on describe in gory detail, including the gross things she had to do daily for the poor thing) and then my husband's health is failing because (more sad exposition) followed by more excuses and financial complaints). So you see I wouldn't possibly have the time to write a book. But I have a great idea that really could be something."

So, now having wasted several wrinkles in my gray matter on details of her entire life history, and having lost 1/3 of an hour of my life--minutes that I could not reclaim or roll over into next month's allotment, I told her my story. That over a twenty year span I raised four boys, worked part or full time depending on the year, tried and failed at a career in real estate, went to college, and dealt with a couple of cats, a couple of dogs, and a couple of husbands, moving from Ohio to Illinois, to three different cities along the California coast, to Virginia, and back to Ohio to Mansfield, to Butler, back to Mansfield, to Medina and back to Mansfield. And that I had an ailing father who died shortly before my first book was published.

In the midst of all that, I had one dream goal: to get published.

I explained to her that it took work. It meant doing my chores (more work) as fast as possible, and it meant turning off the mind-numbing tv set and putting my keister in the chair in front of the computer screen utilizing every spare moment to write and hone my skillset as much as possible to stand even a slim chance in this competitive business.

"If you want to see your idea on the shelf at your local bookstore, you're going to have to put your ass in the chair and write and learn and earn it just like I did, lady. Now that I've achieved that elusive dream and gotten published I'm not going to waste my shot writing someone else's stories, I'm going to write my own because that's exactly what I've fought so hard and so long to do."

Know when to let your words rain down
upon those who deserve it like the sulfur-infused
hell-fire shit-storm of eloquence that you are, baby.
**Use it sparingly for most impact.


  1. Oh great godfrey daniels. I'm sorry that happened to you, Linda. The nerve. And, from the sounds of it, the inability to keep personal things personal. Good thing for her you had self-control (and a lack of forks). Gack. Great comeback and great tip of the day, though. =o)

  2. You make it sound like they would allow writers to play with sharp objects in the first place. lol But yeah, that's one of Steve's biggest pet peeves and it happens too often. We were once out to dinner with a couple of personal friends and she started trying to tell him about the book he needed to write for her because it would absolutely be a best seller. He just kept telling her he has an entire filing cabinet of ideas of his own he'd like to write someday and doesn't have the time or interest to write someone else's. She really wouldn't take that for an answer, either. She was pretty obnoxious about it. She kept telling him that HER idea would really be a fantastic book. I finally interceded in a not-so-nice way that did get her to shut up.

  3. I don't mean to sound bitter. I've been approached by well-meaning folks before and since who have a sense of decorum, manners, and are receptive to some real advice. This lady just had no clue and her brazenly rude and belligerent manner instantly spiked the alert on my BITCH-o-meter.

    It's just really thoughtless to /assume/ that anyone (who has done all this difficult and time consuming but personally fulfilling work to get their career started in a creative business) would simply write someone else's idea and give them half. As if our creative brains don't have thousands of ideas already. And, as Moore said on Monday, ideas aren't /worth/ half. SO much time goes into getting the words on the page... Ghost writers, however, are writers for hire and they do just that: they write other people's ideas, BUT they are paid beforehand (at least an installment) by the person with the idea--hence they have a pay check keep the lights on to start with. People who write /hoping/ there's a check in the end, do it out of love for the craft and the story.

    If you have a great idea and can't/don't want to spend the time writing it yourself, save your cash and HIRE someone.