Things you shouldn't say to a writer

First published on LinkedIn.

Here are four comments that well-wishers/naysayers make to writers which writers would prefer not to hear.

1. Stop wasting your time.

The writer’s job is one of struggle. The first struggle that she has to overcome is her struggle with a blank page.

There are many times when the writer knows what she wants to write. But no matter how hard she tries, the right words refuse to show themselves.

This happens more times than the writer likes to admit.

But, eventually, the words start writing themselves. Not the best words, the ones that capture exactly what she wants to say, but adequate words that capture the essence of the story she wishes to tell — words that will be pruned by her editor’s pen over and over and over again before she is comfortable with sharing her work with the world.

Completing a writing project is one of the writer’s greatest achievements. So, she enjoys wasting time writing. She enjoys writing and believes John Lennon who is reputed to have said:

Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. 

Moreover, she prefers to listen to writer, William Faulkner, who is reputed to have said:

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good.

Furthermore, the writer writes because it is her way to work through issues that are of concern to her and to share her ideas about the issues of concern with an audience. In doing this, she starts or continues a conversation.

2. Your writing sucks!

Remember, what sucks to you may be genius to someone else.

Moreover, telling a writer that her work sucks is not helpful. Why not show the writer what parts of her work is problematic?


Sentence structure?




Be specific in your criticism.

Your comments should help the writer improve her craft. So, the next time when you say that someone’s work sucks, remember to say exactly how it sucks, so that the writer can figure out how to fix it.

Until you do this, the writer will continue to write. She takes inspiration from Margaret Atwoodan eminent author who is reputed to have said:

If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.

3. Why don’t you write about X, Y or Z?

This is a good question.

However, the writer writes about what she knows — topics in which she has an interest. She agrees with Ursula K. Le Guin who is reputed to have said:

As for ‘Write what you know,’ I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them.

In her stories, the writer is testifying about what she knows.

She will keep on writing a sentence at a time, with the aim of accomplishing the writing goal that she has set for yourself.

The writer will act on the sage advice of Stephen King who is reputed to have said:

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

Remember that there is a writer sleeping in all of us. She just needs to be awakened.

Take the advice of Toni Morrison who is reputed to have said:

If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.

So, don’t be afraid to try.

But if you choose not to try to write that book that you want to read, know that a writer out there may have already written it or is writing it.

The writer you are asking/telling to write something else may humour you and try to write what you suggest. Or she may continue to write what she knows and what interests her.

Her readers will continue to be happy to read whatever she puts out.

4. Who will want to read that?


People still read.

Those who read agree with Judith Butler who is reputed to have said:

We lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world.

Remember, the writer identifies the niche she wants to occupy, and she fills it. And there are readers out there who are ecstatic to travel with her on her writing journey by reading and providing helpful critiques of her work, for which she is grateful.

So, next time you speak with a writer, tell her something that will help her improve her writing.

About the Author

Janette B. Fuller is a ghost writer and author of four books. 

When you are ready to write your story and/or after you have written your story, make contact with her at She'll help you write your best story by helping you arrange      your thoughts and/or edit your work. Check out her books here


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