You Know You’re A Novelist When…

- by Barbara Keiler


You know you’re a novelist when:

  • The characters you’re writing about seem more real to you (and often more interesting) than the people sitting around your dinner table.
  • You think reading the thesaurus is fun.
  • You refuse to quit smoking, drinking bourbon, bingeing on M&M’s or [insert bad habit here] because you believe that if you quit, you’ll never be able to write again, and your novels are more important than your health.
  • Your idea of dressing for work is swapping the sweats you sleep in for the sweats you write in.
  • You consider going to the movies “research.”
  • You bring a laptop with you to Little League games so you can get some writing done between innings.
  • You see nothing unusual about receiving fifty emails a day.
  • You ask inappropriate questions of people you’ve just met.  (“You’re a physician?  That’s great, because I was wondering, if someone got stabbed in the back, where exactly would the knife have to enter his body so he wouldn’t bleed to death?”)
  • You care more about how you look in your dust-jacket photo than how you looked in your wedding pictures.
  • You use hotel stationery to jot down story ideas that come to you while you’re on vacation.
  • You receive a phone call informing you that your daughter vomited in the middle of her third-grade gym class, and you tell the school nurse, “I’ll pick her up as soon as I finish this chapter.”
  • The working title of your current project is The Book From Hell (which, ironically, was also the working title of your previous project, and the one before that.)
  • You listen to Mark Cohn singing “Walking in Memphis” five times a day because his voice sounds kind of like the way you imagine your hero’s voice sounding.
  • The word “revisions” causes you to break into a cold sweat.
  • You arrive at the supermarket with absolutely no memory of having driven there, because you were puzzling out a plot point during the drive.
  • You own four different books listing names for babies.
  • You occasionally find yourself thinking that flipping burgers in a fast-food restaurant must be more fun than what you’re doing.
  • You use the word “Alphie” to refer to a portable word processor, not a movie starring Michael Caine or Jude Law.
  • You spend hours engaged in an internal debate over whether “hadn’t” works better than “had not” in a particular sentence.  And then, once you decide to go with “hadn’t,” you wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “I should change it back to ‘had not.'”
  • You get tennis elbow not from playing tennis but from overusing your mouse.
  • Calamity strikes-a fender-bender, a flood, a scary diagnosis, a love affair gone sour-and you react by saying, “I’ll get a book out of it.”
  • You believe all reviewers are insane, except for the ones who give your books five stars.
  • You accompany every blog post you write with the cover art for your next novel in the faint, feeble hope that people will remember you’ve got a book coming out soon and that (oh, please, oh, please!) they’ll buy it, and that (really, if it isn’t asking too much) they’ll like it.


  1. Ha! So very true. Thanks for the smile.

  2. Barbara: I laughed OUT LOUD over your article! All my books are titled THE BOOK FROM HELL! As for personal grooming, I consider it a major accomplishment if I’m out of my pajamas by noon! Thanks for making my day! Charlotte Hughes

  3. This is awesome. You’ve covered just about everything.

  4. I agree with Margaret…you did cover EVERYTHING! I have been a novelist most of my life, I just haven’t been published. I live the Novelists Life – the research, the characters that seem more real than the humans I interact with, and disecting the favorite old movies to see what made them work… (especially while I am unemployed and have more time to devote to writing)

    I write because I prefer MY World to the REAL World. Hopefully I will get my first rejection notice this fall (or acceptance!). Thank you for the humor and letting me know that I am not WEIRD (as my family is inclined to think)! Sincerely, Deb

  5. I was needing to know what is the websites to go to invest in one of the fema trailers?