Once people know you are a writer, they ask questions. Usually questions you’ve heard a thousand times before, and you’d think writers would have a quick answer ready.

Instead, most of us appear at a loss for words. Not because we don’t want to talk about our work. It’s just writing doesn’t lend itself to easy or simple answers.

Let me explain what I mean with responses to some frequently asked writerly questions.

  • “How’s the novel coming?”

There’s really no good answer for this one because writing a novel is a long, tedious process. It’s like asking a pregnant woman if she’s had the baby yet.

Lauren B. Davis calls novels wild, unwieldy beasts that resist being tamed. “You have to keep at it day after day, even when it seems like absolutely nothing good is happening,” she says.

On a good day, the answer to this question would be the novel’s coming along. On a not so good day, you don’t want to ask.

  • Are your stories autobiographical?

The short answer is, of course, we writers extract from our lives for the elements of our work. Sometimes we fictionalize and disguise, sometimes we write vivid memoirs and call them fiction.

Fact is everything and anything is inspiration and fodder for a writer’s creative mind, including dinner party conversations and the clothes you’re wearing.

And once that answer soaks in you’ll never look at a writer the same way again.

  • “Are you published?”

This is such a double-edged question.

Any published author has an easy answer. You should expect to be handed a business card with all pertinent information.

But be prepared. This question may also raise an infomercial about everything a writer’s written since learning the alphabet.

On the other hand, for writers who are submitting to editors and agents with little or no results, it can be like salt in an open wound. It’s hard not to be sensitive when you’re working so hard to grab the golden ring.

  • When’s the next book coming out?

Writers love this question. Well, I do, but it’s a complicated response because you have to understand the process.

First, a writer has to complete a draft (writer speed greatly influences draft completion). After which, revisions and edits begin (and there can be many, many of these).  Revisions and edits lead to more rewriting. A cover must be designed, back cover copy and blurbs prepared, and interior formatting done before the book finally goes on sale.The whole process can take years.

The answer depends on where a writer is in this publication process.

I’m not saying you should never ask questions. Quite the contrary, please do. We writers love to discuss our passion. Just understand when our answers aren’t quick and simple.