By Nicole Blades

We get it. From the outside, the writer’s life might seem somewhat mysterious—heck, even a little glamourous. It makes sense that the typical non-writer would have some questions and curiosities about how we do what we do.

Where do your ideas come from?
How long does it take to write a novel?
Do you get to pick the book cover?
Do you know the ending to the story before you get there?
How do go from an idea to an actual book in the store?
What is a book deal, anyway?

Although we’re artists and pretty sensitive about our work—putting ourselves out there, being vulnerable in such a public way—most of us gladly entertain the questions.

To be honest, sometimes hearing ourselves explain it out loud can help us make sense of why we do what we do. Talking about the behind-the-scenes of publishing can almost ease the pricklier parts of the business.

But then there are those questions. You know the ones… when less sensitive non-writers go beyond the average “how the sausage gets made” query. I’m talking about the “do you even hear yourself?!” things that folks say to us without any sense of propriety. These are the questions that venture into prying, take up space in awkward, and settle into plain ole cringeworthy.

They are the questions that, if you were to strip away all your filters and desires to keep it professional, would prompt a strongly worded rant telling these folks exactly where they could put their graceless inquiries.

As a bit of comic relief, I recently started a video series on Instagram and TikTok called “Things NOT to Say to a Writer” to air out some of these, “Hey, lemme ask you this…” indecorous moments. In the series, I reenact scenes that every writer I know has encountered at least once in their writing life.

Here are five of the series’ greatest—or worst—hits, so to speak.

  1. “I read your book and found a typo.”

Watch it now:

There is absolutely nothing we writers can do about this. And telling us about a typo after the book is published and living out in the world will only haunt our dreams. So, keep it to yourself, Sharp-Eyed Watson!

  1. “I wrote a book in my spare time; you should read it (and help me get it published).”

Watch it now:

The notion that a) writing is just a little hobby of ours is insulting, and b) we have the brain space and interest to read through your “free time” tome to help you get it published is presumptuous, at best. Please buckle in and be prepared to do the work, just like we’re actively doing. It’s a craft, not a magic trick.

  1. “You should make your book into a movie; try sending it to [big time director].”

Watch it now:

If it was that easy, don’t you think every single writer with a book out would also have a movie adaptation—directed by their favorite director (hey, Ava!)—in the bag already? Exactly.

  1. Here’s what you should write.”

Watch it now:

If you think how your Meemaw met your Peepaw is such a good story, then you should write it. In fact, we dare you to write it!

  1. Your book was so good… except the ending.”

Watch it now:

This is like telling a chef that the dinner was decent, but the strawberry shortcake dessert really ruined your whole dining experience because you’re not a fan of strawberries. We don’t need to hear this directly from you! Keep it to yourself or your book club discussions. You are also free to rant all about it in your online book review, but we beg of you, do not tag the author in said review.

And if you’re looking for a few things you should say to a writer, I’ve got you covered there too:

We want to know: What do you wish non-writers understood better about your work? Join our discussion on Facebook. (And for more videos where these came from, be sure to follow Nicole Blades.)



Nicole Blades is a novelist, speaker, journalist, and Tall Poppy Writer. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleBlades; IG @nicole_blades; TikTok @just_blades. Find out more at: