It's not like I'm famous or very talented or anything, but once in a while other writers do ask me questions, because I've been there, done that. I also frequent a writers' board; I believe in paying it forward. I've learned so much since I started my journey as a writer about ten years ago. I think it would be nice to share some of my experiences and what I learned.
But there are questions I won't answer anymore. Not that I think people are stupid. Hey, I've been there; I've asked stupid questions, too. It's just that when something is asked constantly, and when that something could be easily answered by simply reading a lot... it just shows me that the people who ask these questions either don't pay attention, or they're too lazy to look the answers up themselves. They want to be spoon-fed. They want someone to do the work for them. Worse, they don't read. I'm sorry, if you want to be a writer, you've got to read. It'd be like trying to be a chef when you don't eat. Or trying to be a social worker when you hate people. It's part of the trade. If you want to write, you need to read. And if you read, you'd know the answers to these questions.
Here are some of the most annoyingly frequent questions:
- How long should a chapter/sentence/paragraph be?
Really? I know it's a cliche, but it really is like asking, "How long is a string?" It is as long as it needs to be. Read a book or two, and you'd see that a chapter, etc. could be pages long, or just one word. It all depends. You're the writer. You know what you're trying to express. You should know. Don't ask others what you should do.
- How do you punctuate dialogue?
Really? Seriously? Do you ever read fiction? Quick, pick a novel up. Any one. The one closest to you. On the shelf. On the desk. On the floor. It doesn't matter. Open it up to any page. Is there dialogue? Now read it. How is it punctuated? Now pick up another book. Repeat. Do you see a pattern? Now, if you don't have any books in your house, then you have a bigger problem than "not knowing how to punctuate dialogue." Start with the basic: READ!
- How long does it take for you to write a novel? Do you write in the morning? Do you write in the evening? How many hours do you devote to writing? How often do you write?....
Seriously, none of your business. My process is mine. You should have your own. My work schedule and process have nothing to do with you. Stop being nosy and just write. I know, I sound harsh here... maybe you're just trying to see what works for me so you can try it. The truth is, it doesn't matter what works for me. You have to try and find out what works for YOU. We all have to do the work and figure it out on our own. No exceptions. No shortcuts.
- Do you outline?
- ... yeah but...
You can tell if a writer already has an agenda when he or she asks a question. They don't want an honest answer. They want a confirmation. They're already stuck on a concept, an idea, or some kind of conviction. They only ask the question so you can tell them, "You're right!" And when you disagree, here comes the "yeah, but..." That's why I keep my mouth shut and slowly back out of the conversation. Yanno, you don't have to agree. You don't even have to listen. But don't yeah-but me.