If you’ve been writing for awhile, you probably know that a frequent (perhaps the most frequent) question asked of writers is, “What are you working on?” People seem to be interested in the writing life and the flashes of genius that sometimes visit a person in that line of work.
But it’s a loaded question. It took me awhile, but I eventually learned how dangerous the question is. Early on in my life as a professional writer, I would answer the question honestly, straightforwardly, with a short synopsis of what I was writing. And I would see the questioner’s eyes glaze over and on concluding my description watch him or her shrug and utter a disappointed, “That’s nice.” Worse, I would discover, upon arriving back at my writing desk, I had lost enthusiasm and focus for my project. It was as if I had betrayed my muse. Or as if I had a limited supply of inspiration that didn’t want to be written once I had already talked it out.
I still get the question every so often, but I have learned the value of having a ready answer. Here are my personal top-10 answers to the question, “What are you writing?” Feel free to add your ideas in the comments:
- I’m writing a book called The Secret Sins of People I Know. Want to help?
- My current project is a Hallmark Channel screenplay about a charming serial killer who meets a small-town girl. And then another. And another.
- I’m almost done with a multivolume record of my haircuts, including the who, what, where, when, and why.
- It’s a very violent, vulgar, but lighthearted superhero romance.
- Thanks for asking; it’s a historical novel set in Shangri-La.
- A child’s picture book I’m calling Lies Your Parents Are Telling You.
- It’s a new version of the Bible, except instead of being organized from Genesis to Exodus, every word is listed in alphabetical order for easy reference.
- It’s sort of a cross between Fifty Shades of Grey and Sophie’s Choice.
- It’s a memoir—the story of my previous lives, all the way back to when I was a fish.
- I’m working on a nonfiction work titled How I Stopped Punching People Who Asked Me Questions.
Feel free to use any of these. Just keep in mind that the effectiveness of each one differs according to who is asking the question. Feel free also to add your suggested answers in the comments.
P.S. I won’t tell you which of these were suggested by pitches I received as an agent. But some were.