Things To Not Say To A Writer

by | August 28, 2020 | General | 4 comments

It may be true that many writers suffer from Imposter Syndrome. If that’s the case, life is hard enough for a writer. Don’t make it worse by making the following statements.

I wish I had time to write.

Such a comment makes it sound like you the writer are wasting time honing your craft.

I’d write, but I have a real job.

Same as above. This comment discounts the time and energy it takes to write a book. Many writers don’t make much money from their craft, but it’s a job nonetheless. The image of writer as dilettante must cease.

How much money do you make?

Since so many writers don’t make much money, this question puts them on the spot. It’s embarrassing. You wouldn’t ask other professionals how much money they make. It’s considered rude. Also, not everyone writes to make money. It’s a passion. By insisting writers earn lots of dough, you are insinuating that without said dough, they aren’t “real” writers. You are saying that those who don’t earn oodles of cash are wasting their time and are probably not good at their craft anyway. If they were, they’d be making millions of dollars like Stephen King, right?

I have a great idea for a book. How about I tell you my ideas, you write them down, and we split the profits 50/50?

This comes from people who don’t realize or care how much work goes into writing a book. They think a vague idea has as much clout as a finished product you’ve spent months (often years) and energy on.

I have a great idea for a book, and then go into great detail to describe a book that I’ve yet to actually write.

The notion here is that anyone can write a book. It apparently doesn’t take much effort.

I want to write a book someday.

See above. The insinuation behind this statement is that any idiot can write a book. This statement discounts the author’s efforts in writing and finishing a book. It’s insulting.

Your books are very sexy. Do you do a lot of the things you write in your books?

This statement is sometimes said by men who assume women who write erotica and erotic romance will screw anything that moves. Some want vivid details. The unspoken question is, “will you do those things to me?” This is not a good thing to say.

Can you read my book and give me a free critique?

Would you ask your dentist to clean your teeth for free? Would you ask your doctor to do you annual physical for free? Of course not. So why do so many people think artists, including writers, shouldn’t be paid for their hard work? A good editor can cost hundreds of dollars. Google Harlan Ellison and “pay the writer”. Read what he had to say about it. Now, if you are offering to do a critique exchange, that’s different. You’d be offering something of value in exchange for the critique. That is perfectly okay.

My life has been fascinating. You should write about me.

That’s what autobiographies are for. Write it yourself.

I don’t read.

This is the saddest admission of all.


Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Her new LGBTQ paranormal erotic shifter romance novel “Full Moon Fever” is now available for purchase at Amazon and other book distributors. Her collection of erotic fairy tales, “Happily Ever After: Twisted Versions of Your Favorite Fairy Tales” is also available at Amazon.

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Elizabeth Black

Elizabeth Black's erotic fiction has been published by Cleis Press, Xcite Books, Scarlet Magazine, Circlet Press, and others. She also writes dark fiction and horror as E. A. Black. She lives in Massachusetts next to the ocean with her husband, son, and three cats. The beach calls to her and she listens.


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Short and very much to the point, Elizabeth!

    Then there’s the one I get from my family: “Why don’t you write something serious?”


  2. Elizabeth Black

    I’ve heard that one before, too, Lisabet. Or I hear, “Why can’t you write stuff that isn’t smutty? I don’t read porn.” People who say that don’t understand what erotica and erotic romance are all about.

  3. Jean Roberta

    This is a good list, Elizabeth. I wish more people would consider the implications of what they say. Then there are variations of the theme “Why don’t you write … (what I want to read).” When I was in high school, my boyfriend thought I should write more stories about boys, not girls, because girls are boring to read about. When I began writing about lesbian, bi, and some gay-male relationships, several friends advised me to stop limiting myself by writing about something that very few people have any interest in. (Ten percent of the population? And that doesn’t even include all the people who have LGB friends and relatives, or those who are curious.) And the shocked or disapproving responses to erotica are on a whole other level.

  4. Elizabeth Black

    Thank you, Jean Roberta. I sometimes wonder if people even think about what they’re saying when they ask us questions like those. I write horror in addition to romance and erotica, and I get the same kinds of questions for horror, as in, “why do you write stuff like that? Why can’t you write blah blah blah?” I haven’t heard the LGBTQ+ questions like you have, but I think it’s because I don’t have anyone around me at the moment who would question it. Yes, the shock and disapproval for writing erotica is a problem, too. American society can be pretty repressive sometimes. That’s another reason for the shock and disapproval.

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