Friday, July 29, 2011

"Oh, You're a Writer? What Do You Write?"

Today on her blog, literary agent Sarah LaPolla addresses this issue: you're talking to an acquaintance/someone you're meeting for the first time, and they find out you're a writer. They inevitably ask you, "What do you write?"

I hate this question.

Despite being very forthcoming about my writing on this blog, on the AW forums, basically anywhere online, I'm extremely shy about it in real life. I have fairly close friends who only have vague knowledge of my writerly affliction. If people know about specific projects at all, they only have the murkiest idea of what my latest book kind-of-sort-of is about.

When the "what do you write" question comes into the conversation, I freeze up. I wish I could just say "YA" and have that be that, but outside of the YA world, people have no idea what those two letters stand for.

I usually answer the question with "teen fiction."

The next question, almost every time, is "Oh, like Twilight?"

And I say no, not like Twilight at all. When they probe a little deeper and ask for what the novel is about, I say something along the lines of this:

"Oh, um, well, there's this family, and they have fifteen kids, and the sixth child is, like... not happy? So she starts, like, creating this fake online persona, and, like, then she's actually a man."

This gets me polite smiles and nods and quick changes of subject.

Which I'm glad for. For some reason, talking about writing is really hard for me. Even my mom, my cheerleader throughout the querying process, only knows the above vague summary. My two best friends have actually read my work, but besides that... I write in secret. Maybe because writing has been such an all-consuming passion of mine for so long that it feels too personal to let people in on it.

Real life people, that is. You online folks get to hear everything.

I suppose I'll have to break the code of silence and shout from the rooftops someday, but for now, I'm a secret agent writer, writing under cover of darkness.

That sounds so much cooler than it really is.


  1. Lol A) your book sounds awesome, and B) we get that question too. It can be irritating, but we also understand why people ask that. It's their main point of reference, you know? But hopefully as more YA books are optioned for film, and these great books get wider exposure, people will have a larger spectrum to choose from.

  2. Wow...that's quite an explanation! Sounds like a riot. :)
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  3. I do the same thing! I feel super awkward when people ask me; like if someone were to ask me what I looked like naked. Literally lol. I normally say YA also and when they ask me about it I'm like:

    "Well, it's a siren who's the black sheep and...she's all like upset with her life, and then this guy comes. He's really hot..."

    It makes me look crazy, but people swear they love my terrible synopsis of my book lol. I feel your pain seeing as I'm shy, a recluse, and socially awkward. =//

  4. I am a secret writer too. Plus it's hard for me to talk about what I'm writing when I'm still discovering it for myself.

  5. LOL! Love the secret agent part. Hm, I feel like I haven't had to deal with this too much. It doesn't come up often in real life, and online it seems like an age group + genre is good enough. Someone did ask me for more details regarding my ideas for a new project recently, and I surprised myself with my answer. Turns out I knew more about it than I'd thought!

  6. I am totally with you. I hate when people ask me "What's it about?" I can write a synopsis and blurb, but when asked in person, I am horribly befuddled by onlookers. Not fun. But your stuff does always sound awesome :)

  7. Your books sounds awesome. But I totally understand. While I am much better now at talking about writing with physical people, whenever I summarise the plot it always sounds so, well, stupid. I did it last night and I got the polite but baffled nod. Boo.
    Secret agents for the win.