When You Write About Writers You Make Editors Sad

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This may well become an annual announcement but writers, you must, for the love of all that is holy, stop writing stories where the main characters are writers. I understand the appeal. You are, perhaps, writing what you know. You’re writers so you’re creating stories around the experience of being a writer. In recent memory we have read stories about writers hoping to be published, excited to have been published, writers who have entered contests and won contests. You have written stories about happy writers and miserable writers and lonely writers and desperate writers. Sometimes your writers have sex and it is awkward. Very often they drink, smoke, or use illegal substances. Some of these stories about writers have been satirical (but not) like when you pretend to be kidding but really you’re serious.

Your characters sent us a secret coded message. They want to pursue other career options. They want to put out fires or loaf about collecting unemployment. They want to be bicycle messengers and construction workers and engineers (either train or the other kind). They want to work as mechanics and office drones and nurses and doctors. They do not want to be writers. They are tired of being writers. Listen to your characters. They can do more, trust me.

When I say writer, by the way, I’m also saying poet. Oh how poets love to poem about poets. You write odes to poets and sonnets to poets and couplets to poets. Poets, poets, poets. We get it. You are poetic. And yet, a quatrain for violinist or a school teacher would be a refreshing change. Consider it, perhaps.

A corollary to this rule is that writing about teachers and students is also pretty uninteresting. We read approx. 24 stories a week about old professors who leer after young women (or when we’re lucky, men). We read about students being bored in class or studying for tests or wanting to become, you guessed it, writers. School is great but we don’t want to read about it. We work in schools and we are writers so when you’re submitting, imagine how sick of pizza you would be if you worked at Pizza Hut.

We still love you!

  • xTx

    For me, poets who poem about poeming makes me want to punch them in the balls. Writers who write about writers is annoying but not as bad as the poeming poets. Stephen King has a lot of main characters who are writers. That bugs me. WHAT ABOUT MAKING SOMEONE A PLEBOTONIST OR WHATEVER THE WORD IS FOR BLOOD TAKERS IN A DOCTOR’S OFFICE?!?!!!!

  • if only someone was interested in my former career as a packaging buyer I could write about that… but even I am not…
    @xTx – vampires?

  • I’m totally with you on the Stephen King thing. How many stories did he write where there weren’t any writer characters? (And I include painters in that.)

  • Margaret

    I’m with xTx on the ball-punching (ovary-punching for the ladies?) for poets writing about poets/poetry. I mean, really? You have nothing better to write a poem about? Get out of your house/university for ten seconds you freak.

  • Tim

    xTx: It is maddening in King’s work. Not only are they all writers but they’re all wildly successful. I like his writing but I want to slap that stuff out of him.

    Roxane: I worked at Pizza Hut for five years and never tired of pizza. Never! And now I write about it pretty regularly! But I agree with everything else here. At one of the magazines I worked on we got all kinds of stories about writers and then one time we got an essay actually titled The Writer, all about the moody travails and social martyrdom of the committed writer. It was so somber and crazy in its descriptions of writerly behavior (they carry appetizers in their pockets at parties, I remember, to save) that I wondered if it was satire and sometimes still regret not taking the piece.

    All editors should band together and create a single journal that takes all the writer-centric stories of the world.

  • What’s even better? Samples of the main character’s “writing” in the actual story. Especially really, really long samples that suck ass and you suspect they’re not supposed to suck ass.

    Even better? If main character is smoking weed while reading over those long, long samples.Or drinking coffee! In a cafe! Oh, man is that fun to read.

    I love you, PANK.

  • I’m loving this announcement. It’s crazy how many writers still write stories about writers. Both of my high school creative writing teachers hated the writer-as-protagonist trope with a passion and insisted that none of their students should ever, ever do that. However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a supporting character being a writer, if the story’s fabulous.

    xTx: Oh god yes. If the writer-as-protagonist trope wasn’t already ruined, Stephen King definitely ruined it. I do love watching all the based-on-a-Stephen-King-novel movies though. So deliciously awful and nostalgic. It terrified me as a child. I still watch it a couple times a year. Tim Curry is a god.

  • Lukas

    I only find myself really, REALLY disliking writing about writers when the (fictional) writer is irresistibly attractive and charming and successful and witty and mysterious and also sometimes does bounty hunting on the side.

    Author-insert wish fulfillment is the single worst sin in literature. To me, anyway. Even on fantasy roleplaying forums you’ll get laughed out for doing that.