I Met Someone Else Today who Might (one day) Write a Novel.

The conversation went something like this:

Person: Oh, so you’re a writer.

Rob: Yeah, I’m currently trying to get my novel published actually.  It’s very hard; I mean, I spent hours writing the thing, and now I’m filled with half self-doubt and half pure elation at finding myself at this point.  Y’know, because really, it’s me, exposed, on a page, just waiting for criticisms to come pouring in about what I have spent the last year or so working on.

Person: Yeah.  Y’know, I’ve always thought I was going to write a novel one day.

Rob: Really!  (Well then why don’t you start writing it then?)

Person: Yeah, I mean I’ve had this really good idea for ages.  It’s about this guy, right, and he thinks that goblins actually exist.

Rob: Oh yeah, that sounds interesting. (and if you’ve had the idea for that long, how come you haven’t written the fucking thing down!)

Person: and so basically, what it is is that the goblins are actually little furry creatures to start with, and once they eat food after midnight, or swim, or something, they turn into these grem… I mean goblins.

Rob: Right.  So, do you write?

Person: Write?  No not at the moment, but, y’know when it comes to it, of course I’ll just be able to bash out a novel, no problems, no questions asked.

Rob: Fuck off you Knobhead!

Okay, so maybe the last few lines of that conversation didn’t occur, but that is what is always going through my head at about that point, and I’m sure most other people that seriously write have had a similar experience.

It winds me up no end when people do this, because it belittles all of the effort and time and blood and sweat and tears that you’ve put in to your writing.  I don’t care if they are actually serious about writing, because then they have thought about it, considered the epic task in front of them; and then those statements are usually uttered with a look of fear in their eyes, as if they are about to undertake something truly life changing.  Which is what writing is after all.

No, it just makes it sound easy – and that it is not.  Now I want to go back a few years here, to a point when I might have been that man who was “going to write a novel.” I probably did mention it to a few people, but never to writers, and it was for this reason: I realised then, as I do now, how hard it is to achieve something like writing a novel.  At that point I could barely write if I’m honest; I left school with a limp grasp of the English language and knew that what I hadn’t been taught at school, I would bloody well have to teach myself.  I’m thirty years old now and I still read every textbook on grammar, language and style that I can get my hands on, and I still don’t know if I’m good enough.

So this is a message to anyone who meets a writer that shyly admits that, yes, they have actually just finished their great work that they have spent many hours, days, months, years… considering.  Applaud them, congratulate them, encourage them, even if you think their work is shit; but for god’s sake, don’t condescend or patronise them with your “I might, one day; or, if I wanted to” crap, because if you really were going to, you wouldn’t be absently bandying those phrases around: you’d be whispering them quietly, a look of fear painted across your face, a slight tremble in your voice.

That’s all for now, and for all of you out there, remember: don’t take this shit lightly, and don’t let them treat it that way either.


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13 Responses to I Met Someone Else Today who Might (one day) Write a Novel.

  1. I actually get really annoyed with people… yeah I have this great idea… and I want to. When asked why they don’t… its always “I don’t have time” then you don’t want to!
    Or… and this one really eats me up, I have this killer cool idea, YOU should write it!!! Oh yeah, so then when it doesn’t match your really cool idea you can be all crabby and ticked off that it “isn’t right” nope, no thanks… write it YOURSELF!!!!

  2. julitownsend says:

    I have been told that anybody can write a story, which is true to a point, anybody can, but for it to be good, everyone needs to learn the art of writing. And once you’ve achieved that, how many people are prepared to put in the hours upon hours required, the deleting, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting? It’s amazing how many books are out there, considering.

    Then there’s the publishing, that’s a whole new learning curve, and oh, marketing. You really do have to have an enormous amount of commitment, self-belief and develop a good thick skin to be a writer. We should all be incredibly proud.

    Good luck with the publishing. Mine’s been ‘out there’ for a month now. It’s initially exciting, but then you hit ‘real’ world again. But, I keep going because I’m PASSIONATE about it!

  3. captainwafflez says:


    Even worse than the ‘I might write novel one day’ people, are the ones that look at you like you’re some sort of mentally off-cambre psycho when you say ‘Oh, I’m a writer. I write novels.’

    *cue awkward silence where you watch expressions go from small, sympathetic smile, to slight sneer*

    ‘What kind?’

    See… I hate that question even more.. Because if you say anything other than ‘literary fiction’ then you’re doomed..

    I don’t have a lot of faith in the general public. Ha!

  4. Jill London says:

    I think this type of person falls into two categories: The first hasn’t ever given any thought to writing a novel, they just speak because they like the sound of their own voice. They think everything in life is a competition they have to be winning and that a novel is just another challenge they could walk – if they wanted to 😉 (You can usually tell them a mile off because one of the first things they feel compelled to tell you – loudly – is how great their new, just-released phone/car/computer is). The second type have often done every other ‘experience’ out there and are just trying to find something they’re good at. They’re completely clueless, and don’t really read or enjoy writing, they just want to find something that they’re good at, something that’s going to make them famous or make them feel validated in some way. Usually the people who-really-want-to-write-a-novel-but-are-too-scared say nothing about it (but look like the most unhappy person you’ve ever seen).
    Nice post, Rob. Well written and well thought through, as always with your writing 🙂

  5. ioniamartin says:

    Some people just don’t have enough brain cells to be legally allowed into public, no? He is lucky to have stood in the rays of awesomeness emanating from a real author.

  6. katemsparkes says:

    I know some of these people. I think mine fall into two categories, only one of which actually pisses me off:

    First, there are the people who really have it in them, but don’t try because they’re afraid of failing. I feel for them; I used to be one of them. Always loved reading, always loved writing, had the idea, was scared (and too darn tired and depressed) to start. You can usually tell those people because they mention they want to write, and then they ask you about it, rather than blabbing on about their fantastic idea. They’ll probably keep it to themselves, because they’re scared it’s too fragile to be let out. Sometimes I want to shake them and say “just DO it already! If you screw it up, another idea will come along!” Still, they’re pretty harmless, and I try to be encouraging.

    Then there are the ones like you mentioned up there. They think writing a novel would be a BREEZE, they just don’t have time, or can’t be bothered if it’s not a guaranteed bestseller (or worse, they say they’re going to try because they want the money, and they know this is the next Twilight/Harry Potter/Stephen King blockbuster. HA!). No respect for the people already doing it, they think they know it all, yadda yadda. I don’t encourage those people. I smile and nod and back away slowly before I hit them in the face with whatever heavy object is closest.

    I wouldn’t punch them, it might hurt my writing hand. 🙂

  7. mreuther says:

    I dreamed for many years of writing a novel. Finally, when I was thirty years old, I lost my job. I had nothing but time on my hands, and decided, it’s now or never. Many years later, I have three published books and more on the way. Whatever takes guys and gals.

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