Dating writers

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

August 4, 2oo9 -- 1:45 p.m.

I don't think I can date other writers.

I've been trying to date around lately, and I've found that nothing turns me off more than someone who says they have a novel. This happens often since I'm fishing a pool of book-lovin' nerds.

I think part of it is my own self-contempt, easier vented on someone else. "They think they could be a writer? I'm an aspiring writer and I'm pretty pathetic, so they must be too! I should look down on them!"

Part of it comes from my snobby self-appreciation. "So, how many awards have you won? Huh? Shall I show you all my shiny certificates and publication credits? I made a career at it and ended up a freaking editor until the economy tanked!"

I also have this odd tendency to assume that a writer's writing/bragging are set up on a reverse ratio. The more they talk about their book, the worse it is. Though I've only had limited experience reading other people's unpublished works, so this could be, of course, a total fallacy.

But it's not just my strangeness. Often people who call themselves writers have a certain unjustified conceit. They seem to think they're somehow better people than anyone else because they've suffered for their art. Or this could be my own projecting.

The name-dropping isn't. "Oh, I've taken Brandon Sanderson's class. I also spoke to David Farland and he said he thought I had a great idea and had thought of doing something similiar."

Wow, you've totally impressed me there. A person who we've all met on the convention circuit said some nice things to you. And you've taken a writing class, woo-hoo! That doesn't qualify you to talk about how awesome you are until my ears bleed.

This happens all the time, mostly because us writers are trying to build connections as well as building up our own fragile egos. We like hearing cornered people with forced smiles tell us how awesome our ideas are.

But part of my dislike comes from these so-called writer's "qualifications." Yes, I'm a bit of a snob. Minus the "bit of a" part. If you're a published writer or someone who's been through the rejection process, then we're cool. We'd get along great. But then there are those who consider themselves writers even though a) they've never had ANYTHING published. b) they aren't past the first two chapters of their novel.

Since I didn't live up to my own qualifications until fairly recently, I don't have much right to cast stones. Then again, I didn't run around talking about the fabulous books I'd been writing, either. When I took a creative writing class, I let the work speak for itself.

I think there ought to be a qualification before you can call yourself a writer. I hate putting myself in the same category with someone who has an idea but doesn't put pen to paper. I don't think morally you should call yourself a writer unless you actually, I dunno, write.

Writing is awesome. Everyone should do it. And you don't have to think about getting published. You can do it for yourself.

Yet at the same time...if you brag about the book that's never going to get published, you open up yourself to my contempt. Not because I don't agree that the publishing world is broken, but because I think you're doing it to feed your ego and not because you're actually devoted to the craft. My eyes glaze over when you're talking. And I mean literally. Like a tasty doughnut.


Especially because writers always brag about their unique idea. Ideas, if you look at it, really aren't important. It's execution that's important. A novel about space aliens that come to earth and eat brains--you could get something really good or something really bad, depending on execution.

Maybe that's why I hate talking about my book. A novel isn't an idea so much as a collection of ideas. As such, I have a hard time summing up the basic theme. And, there's the natural suspicion that if I talk about it with complete strangers, someone's going to rip off all the good parts. After all, I'm so paranoid, there's a small part of me that actually believes that Robert Jordan ripped off the idea I had when I was 8 years old. I wanted to write about a world where only women would have magic. And they all live in a big, white bell-tower. Until a male sorcerer falls in love with a woman and they run up the stairs and ring the bells and make a speech about how he ought not to be executed just because he's not a woman. It was going to be called "Freedom of Magic" and I think I finished a whole two pages of it before I went off to go play Nintendo.

Oh, and did I mention my main character's name was going to be Jennaria? Pure. Awesomeness. Robert Jordan so wanted a piece of that :)

So my paranoia keeps my mouth clammed shut even though I know it's completely crazy. It's esepcially strange since I just said the execution's the thing, it doesn't matter whether someone does a little creative borrowing, right?

Well, I never said I was rational. Only bigoted against other writers.

I had a writer date last week. To his credit, he'd finished the first three chapters of the book. And he was going to take it to one of the fantasy conventions and shop said chapters with agents.

Not so much to his credit, he figured he could finish the book if any of the agents were interested in seeing more...GROAN. I probably should have advised strongly against it, but it was a date, not a class, so I didn't feel like it would be date-like to point out that a book banged out at break-neck speed to satisfy an agent's request for a full probably wouldn't be good. Not to mention you couldn't rework the beginning after you ran into problems later, the whole "re-arranging the mantelpiece" concept.

I stole that ideal from Lee Ann or Louisa. See? People steal ideas from all over the place. CONSTANT VIGILENCE!!!

I mentioned to my date, for polite conversation, that I, too, was writing a novel (breaking my own rules, but he brought it up first). When he naturally asked what it's about, I said, "a girl goes to fight an evil empire full of twisted, soul-sucking creatures and ends up getting corrupted by it."

And he asked in a bored been-there-done-that tone, "So what's different about it?"

(Definitely a good way to win the girl, by the way).

What could I say? The writing. The characters. The structure. Everything. Nothing. After all, in genre fiction, if it works, it's not new. If it's new, then chances are, it won't work. I just muttered something about the female focus and went back to talking about Star Trek. That's the best way to get rid of bad dates.

However, I will have to be more on my toes in case an agent ever asks me that same question. They probably never will because they understand that talking a good game and writing a good story are completely different, but it never hurts to be sure.

The moral of the story is that I've grown a deep-seeded fear of people who call themselves writers. That's why Fred, my invisible boyfriend, is a motorcycle mechanic and not an artsy type with a novel in hand. He doesn't mind me going on dates, by the way. He understands that there are some needs (very few) that an imaginary boyfriend just can't meet.

I wish I could avoid the stigma attached to being an aspiring writer. Like someone who's bisexual resents the college girls who kiss each other as a performance stunt in front of frat boys at drunken parties and wishes to avoid being grouped in the same catagory. There are writers, and then there are yucky people willing to stick their tongues down other people's throats for a little ego boost.

So instead of a writer, I will now be calling myself a content producer.

Thank you.


PS: Boy, this is going to get me killed if I ever get famous and anyone actually reads this... Note to future disgruntled fans: I'm talking about everyone else but you. Hear that: NOT YOU.


  1. Lee Ann said...

    I hate coming up with an "elevator pitch" too. Everyone says it's important, though.

    The secret to happiness is to marry a good EDITOR with no special aspirations as a fiction writer. He won't let you leave the house with misplaced apostrophes between your teeth, and if you get too intense, he'll murmur phrases from "Paperback Writer". I'll look around for ya...

Post a Comment