In no particular order:
#1. My friend's daughter (son/dog/ canary) just had her/his/its first novel published. Note- First of all, if the author's loved ones had to pay for copies at Staples the product may look like a book but does not count as "published". If she/he/it was picked up by a publisher, well super! Good for her/him/it! I hope my mother's daughter has her book published someday too.
#2. How many contests have you lost? How many agents/ editors have turned you down so far? Note- May I ask you how many times you've been divorced/ fired/ sued?
#3. When I finish my novel/ autobiography/ cook book I'll give your name to my agent. Note- Make that offer after you've written something and procured an agent- you'll be my *bestest* friend ever.
#4. Stephenie Meyer.../ the housewife who wrote Twilight... Note- Just don't even mention that person unless you are able to deal with copious amounts of vomit on, or near, your person.
#5. I'd love to read your manuscript. Note- Honestly, unless you are an English teacher, a devout reader, or another writer, you really don't want to get involved. I take criticism well but I had to learn how. This is not a process in which you want to become entangled.
#6. No it's good, really. Note- see above. I get plenty of useless feedback ("not for me thanks" etc.) Please just give me something I can change. It's also a good idea to avoid statements like "I hate your main character she's a self centered bitch." Really, that's worse than useless and just plain mean.
#7. How long did it take you to write/edit/ try to sell your manuscript? Note- A very long time.
#8. I have a great idea for a story- can I borrow your research on agents and the publishing world in general? Note- I spend hours, nay, days every week researching and keeping up with the biz. Bite me. Also it's 'may' not 'can' and I won't even get into the 'borrow' thing.
#9 When did you finish/ why haven't you finished your next manuscript? Note- Please also leave out the word 'slacker' even as a joke.
#10. I'm sure you'll get published someday- after all my friend's daughter (son/dog/canary) was published within a month of finishing her/his/its manuscript.
#11. I know how you feel. Note- Actually, with regard to this, you probably don't. If you honestly do then come on over and let's crack open a box of white Zinfandel and commiserate. We are both seriously misunderstood and could use the socialization.
#12. It must be nice to stay home all day and write/ do nothing/ play on the computer.
# 13. Hurry up and finish the next book! I can't wait to see what happens next! Note- I'm working on it- be patient. You actually probably should say this to a writer- it's things like this that make one feel useful.
# 14. You are so sensitive/ you take everything personally. Note- learning to take even the least constructive criticism with grace is a skill and it takes time to learn. Writing is a very personal thing and statements like "your main character is a total bitch and I hate her" hurt because that *is* personal. Now if you say something like "you need to work on your comma usage" well that should be met with a swift nod and a "thank you." If it isn't, then pointing out the sensitivity of the recipient will only incense them further. I have made this mistake and it usually ends up with me being on the receiving end of something like"your main character is a total bitch and I hate her."
# 15. How much money do writers make? Note- Dude, how much money do you make? I can, and will, tell you that *this* writer makes the big old goose egg. When I'm rich you'll know.