The Three Kinds of People Who React to Your Novel

So the word is out– my little geek-themed mystery has snagged an agent, and this fall we’ll be pitching it to publishers. It’s very exciting, although I find that it’s changed my life very little. Which is comforting; my life is pretty ace, aside from having to occasionally scrape raspberries off of ceilings when my son gets excited.

I wasn’t sure how people would react to me having written a novel, but they break down into three groups.

1.  The excitables

“Oh my God!!!! Is it coming out TOMORROW?!?  You’ll be RICH, RICH, RICH!”

Not so many of these people, which is good because it is not coming out tomorrow, and I will decidedly remain MIDDLE-CLASS, MIDDLE-CLASS, MIDDLE-CLASS.  And that’s if I play my cards right.  It will come out, best case scenario, next fall. But you can’t blame these folks, because the media likes to portray publishing as this high-stakes, quick-moving thrill ride. Like it’s Wall Street, but instead of cigars there are colorful suits and Dorothy-Parker-sharp wits. In reality, it is more like riding across the Atlantic on the back of a sea turtle.  It’s slow, is what I’m saying. Peaceful, most of the time.  Occasionally treacherous, but not from the turtle.

I downplay my hand to these people.  Eh, it’s nothing!  I wrote it on napkins in my spare time.  Forget it about it!


2.  The uninterested

“Yeah, that’s great.” :yawns:  “So can your son make the playdate or not?”

These are my second favorite people, because frankly, I need normalcy. Maybe some of these folks are purposefully playing at being too cool for school, but I suspect not. It’s useful to remember  that most people really don’t care your potential career changes. Heck, I don’t care about your career, reader, beyond mild polite interest.  If I met you at a party, and you told me you were a becoming a freakin’ Olympian, I would file it as an interesting footnote, have a polite follow-up question or two, and then return to the previous topic in the conversation, which was probably Hearthstone.

I heart my uninterested friends, which I can say here without flattering them, because they are certainly not reading this.

3.  Other Writers

“Who are you with? Are you on submission yet? How much did you get? What houses are you looking at? What are you working on next? Do you have a plan? Is this too many questions in succession?”

And these are my favorite people, having recently edged out geeks, librarians, and parents of toddlers, who are particularly close to my heart. You can talk to writers and they will have smart follow up questions. You can talk structure. You can talk money. You can be frank about how this first draft of your next project makes you want to drink.  Writers are the best people. Very few of them seem to be introverted, and thus far, no one has made me feel small.

“Your agent is Caitlin Blasdell? Oh, that’s good, I guess. My agent is a FIRE-BREATHING T-REX.  I’m her only client.”

(Caitlin Blasdell not pictured.)
(Caitlin Blasdell not pictured.)

Probably conversations like this are destined to happen, but thus far interactions with writers have mostly been exercises in competitive humility.

Writer A: “I never thought I’d get an agent, I just thought I was writing for my own enjoyment.” :bats eyes:

Writer B: “An agent?  If you told me a year ago I’d have an agent, I’d have thrown up on the floor.  And as for enjoyment, ha!  I hate everything I touch!”

Writer A: “Actually, if you had told me a year ago that I would have found an agent I would have BURST INTO FLAMES from the incongruity.  And I was just kidding about enjoyment, obviously!  Every time I even touch the keyboard, surging pain shoots through my body.”

Writer B: “I get that just by walking too close to a pencil!”

And so on.  I love these conversations, honestly, because I need them too, and besides which, when it comes to competitive humility I’m an unstoppable freaking juggernaut.  I will roll over you with my selflessness and back up again, just for good measure, to make sure you’re completely destroyed.

Irony is not my strong point.

1 Comment

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  1. Love this, Max. The funny thing I have figured out is that while writers decidedly DON’T talk in jargon or necessarily even in big words, our conversations might as well be in Gallefreyan. It may just be the boredom factor, but two sentences into gushing about writing and my own children are threatening to move out. I heart heart other writers so much too. For the same reasons. Simple sanity.

    And btw, I suck more than you. You might as well give up now.

    Liked by 1 person

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