At lunch time today I went to my local Waterstones to see what their selection of "How to Write Comedy"* books was like. Someone beat me to the very small Creative Writing bookcase so I hovered behind her and waited for her to make her selection. Her fingers fluttered over the spines and I watched as she selected a book, read the blurb on the back, replaced it and selected another. After a couple of minutes she realised I was standing patiently behind her and turned round. I smiled.
"Are you a writer?" she asked.
Um, I thought. Am I am?
"I've just finished writing a novel," I said.
"How was it?"
Um. Wow - we could be here for some time if I go into detail, I thought.
"Tough," I said. "I wrote it in just under four months. I'm still editing it."
She looked impressed, but slightly crestfallen.
"I haven't got the time or money to do a creative writing course," she said.
"You don't need to - I just read a few of these books," I said, waving a hand towards the bookshelf.
What I imagined would be a five second conversation turned into a five minute conversation about the different books available, what she was going to write, what she needed to learn, what kind of book she'd find helpful and the different websites I thought were useful.
"So what's your book about?" she asked after she'd scribbled down a couple of URLs.
I paused. "It's a supernatural romantic comedy."
She looked at me expectantly but words failed me (whenever I tell people who my book is about they give me an incredulous look. For those that haven't read the synopsis it involves death, the living dead, ghosts, trainspotters, goths, nerds, love, hope and a twenty-one day task).
"It's..." I said. "It's..." (I really need to work on my sales patter)
The girl saved me. "Are you a full time writer then?" she asked.
I shook my head. "No, I've got a full time job. I write in the evenings and weekends."
"What's your name?"
And then there was another pause, when I really should have asked her her name but instead my brain was going "I'm not even a published author and I'm giving writing advice to total strangers. Who the hell do I think I am?"
"Thanks for your advice, Cally," the girl said, waving the book I thought was the best fit for what she wanted. "I'll get this one I think."
I really hope she finds the book useful and that she gets lots of advice from the website I recommended and that she does write her book. Me? I feel really flattered that someone listened to my advice, but also a bit of fraud.
* I ended up buying a book on how to write fantasy and science fiction because all the comedy books were aimed at people wanting to become stand-up comics (a thought that makes me quake). I know, I know. Science Fiction? Fingers...pies...too many...I just can't help myself!