What Are You Writing About?

What Are You Writing About?

So, when I say I’m writing a novel, inevitably the next question is always: “What are you writing about?”

I’m secretly annoyed by this question. Although I know everyone who asks it really means well, there’s something sort of unfair about it.  So, you might be asking again: “Umm… okay.  But seriously. What are you writing about?

The Typical (Fake) Answer: I’m writing a fiction novel. It’s a fantasy using themes and characters from Latino mythology, history and culture.

The Unconventional (Real) Answer: How the hell do I know? I’m writing it (present tense) I haven’t wrote it (past tense).

It’s kinda like asking a architect whose working on a blueprint: “So, what are the dimensions of the rooms going to be? Which way will the windows face? And what color will be the inside walls?”

How does the architect know? That’s what he’s working on at the moment! When he’s finished with the blueprint then he’ll let you know.

The question is also no different than asking a baby boy: “So, what kind of man are you going to turn out to be?” The baby would look back at you with a frown, as if you were crazy. You would be.

But I don’t blame you. I’d imagine I’d ask the same thing of someone else who said they were writing a novel.

Let me think about this. Maybe the better question would be: “What do you hope your novel will accomplish?”

There’s several reasons why this is not only an appropriate question but also one that is respectful of the author.  Because it acknowledges that writing is a process, and right now there is no real product. But it does show that you know the writer is not wasting their time. There are goals he or she is striving for, and that is really what the writing is “about.” It’s broad enough too. Because if you were to ask questions like “What’s going to happen in the novel?”  Well, chances are a writer will not tell you “what’s going to happen.” They’d prefer you read the novel and find out for yourself when their done. That’s why writers are writers and not public speakers. Stick to questioning the writer about what they want the novel to “do.” Do they want it to simply entertain? Do they want it to make people think? Do they want it to be new and original? Or a fresh spin an something old? There are so many different reasons why someone begins to undertake a creative work and I bet you any writer won’t mind answering this question. They’ll probably find it refreshing.

“So… ummm…  Ollin.  What do you hope your novel will accomplish?”

I want it to be a really great story. That’s my focus at the moment. Everything on top of that will be just butter. Sorry, I wish I had a more detailed or complex answer, and I’m sure other writers or artists might give you just that. But for me it’s that simple. As a reader I don’t care how culturally specific, original, socially conscious, or entertaining a book is. I read a book because it has a good story. The rest is just butter on the bread.

much love,


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Categories: Writer's Journal