Ask Barbara

Writing can be a hard, lonely and dispiriting experience – so why not share your troubles with Barbara. Ask a question and get a candid answer.

Hi Barbara, I know I should be writing, but I’m curled up in bed watching true crime series’ on the TV, feeling depressed. What should I do?

“TV in Bed”

Oh, TV in bed,

As a fellow true crime enthusiast, I say keep doing what you’re doing! Seriously! We all need days off because life is hard. Take the day, feel your feelings, remind yourself you aren’t a serial killer (or are you) or a victim, pick yourself up, and write again tomorrow!

Whatever you do, don’t fall into other types of reality TV, though; that’s a hole you may never recover from.

I’m determined to be a successful author. My friends say I write well based on pages I’ve shared with them, and I’ve always been a good storyteller. My current book is nearly finished (probably 67,000 words about a young female German Jew living in London in in the 1960’s) and I’m not only super-determined to finish, I’m all in to make it a success!

Anyway, one reason I’m so motivated is that I want the money to get away from my awful, dreary, useless husband here in Akron Ohio. I want my best life! Champagne and black limos, fast cars and beaches. Cocktails at dawn watching the sun rise over the Caribbean. Just the basics!

But does this make me, morally speaking, a bad writer or a bad person?

“Cocktails at Dawn”

Dear Cocktails at Dawn,

You may have gone into the wrong industry for wanting to live the yacht life of luxury. Many authors struggle for several books before catching their wave, if they catch it at all. Have you considered becoming a sugar baby?

In all seriousness, write and publish that book for whatever motivation got you there! Maybe even start writing a book about a lady of leisure who left her deadbeat husband when she became a famous author. It’s all about manifesting our dreams!

You aren’t a bad person; keep dreaming, keep writing, and build your dream!

My husband is always talking about the book he’s writing, and this has been going on for over 2 years now. It was exciting to start with, thinking he might be a big success some day, but now it’s just boring. He always tells me how many words he wrote that day, and then some plot or character idea he has and I don’t really understand. The book he’s writing is about some kind of global catastrophe (I mean he could just turn on the TV for that, right?) and the struggle to survive afterwards.

How do I tell him (nicely) that I’m just not that interested?

“Lost Interest in Mad Max”

Dear LIMM,

Welcome to the life as the significant other of a writer. Unfortunately, this is your life now. Writing, especially the first book, is a Rollercoaster. Some days you’re a champion about to conquer the world and publish the next great piece of American literature, the next we are crying in the corner clutching a bottle of bourbon knowing we are meant to fail.

You have to decide if you love him enough to be along for the ride. Weigh your pros and cons much like you would an intervention. If he is still thriving in life, going to work and loving you, is it truly that bad? Give him a pat on the back and nod and smile like he does when you talk about your hobbies. If he’s gone F. Scott Fitgerald and is drinking in his office and stealing your diary…. well still hold on because look where he got in literary history.

With my most polite smile and nod,

I’ve been writing since I was 18 (I’m 26 now) and my book is called ‘Crash Landing.’ I’ve written 45,000 words. I’m liking this more than any other of the books I’ve tried, failed, succeeded in finishing. It’s about a young woman like me (her name is Cassie) running away from horrible parents/school/friends to live in DC (which is where I now work in a not for profit). It’s a little like that ‘Inventing Anna’ show on Netflix.

Problem is Cassie finds a boyfriend in DC (Chase) and my real-world boyfriend (I’ll call him Steve) is either going to think I want someone like Chase who is much more extrovert and fun and hot (there are sex scenes) than he is. Or Steve will think I based Chase on him, which would also be super-awkward. And Chase dumps Cassie too.

Steve has been asking to read what I’ve written. Lots of times. I keep saying it’s a draft but, you know, I have to show him sometime. What do I do?

“Fictional vs Real Boyfriends”

Dear FVRB,

Let’s start with the obvious question, did you write it using him as a model? Or is it written about a fantasy guy? If either are the case, I recommend being honest with him. “Hey honey, I started writing this when I was 18, this was what I thought was hot back then. You are my reality now and you are who I want” or “Honey? Of course the best parts of this character were based on you. I love you and want to immortalize you in this project. However, I had to make some changes for the character to work with the plot line”

We all get inspired by people we’ve known or met in our lives, this is pretty standard. The key is making sure it’s not complete plagiarism of who they are as a person; hints but never exact replicas unless it’s a biography or non-fiction.

As a writer you want to be with someone who supports your craft and understands the nuances. If he’s upset about it, he may not be your person for this path. Best of luck to holding on to him and your book!

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