People are constantly coming to me with ideas for books. Sometimes they want me to write the book, other times they want to write it (but inevitably don’t have the time) At first I’d listen to their ideas and give them feedback on their storyline, eager to share the wealth of knowledge I’d accrued by being in this business.
Once a co-worker, upon hearing that I was a published author, told me in detail, down to the names of the characters, what her book would be about if she ever wrote it. The plot was a classic secret baby/category story. Those tend to sell well and I could see she was really excited and energetic about her story. I thought about her plot for a few days and came back to her with my ideas, explaining why it wouldn’t work at the place she began her story and why the beginning needed to start basically in the middle of her plot. The light in her eyes slowly dimmed and her smile slowly faded. I felt like the worlds biggest heel. This was her story and she wasn’t a writer. She knew nothing about critiques or plot or pacing yet for her, these characters were real and I was messing with them. I shut up and told her I thought her plot was wonderful and I hoped she wrote it.
To this day I still feel like a heel.
My husband is a police officer. Many of his co-workers approach me with story ideas–all true crime or mystery. They know I write romance but to them a book is a book. I can easily write a mystery as a romance. When I try to explain that the writing styles are different and I studied romance books for years before I actually sat down and wrote one and I wouldn’t have the first inkling of how to write a mystery, their eyes glaze over. So I end up nodding and making agreeable noises.
One time someone came to me with a book idea. Non-fiction. Humor. More of a…erm…bathroom book. He said he had it all written but he needed someone to look it over. I agreed, half expecting him to never send it to me. Well he did. So I read it and, yes, it was funny and, yes, I could see it selling in a niche market. But it was written more like a college term paper (which made sense since he was highly educated). So I turned on my track changes and went to work. I sent the manuscript back to him. And never heard another word. More than likely it’s sitting in some drawer, a forgotten dream while he’s moved on to the next dream. Though a small part of me hopes I didn’t discourage him with all the red marks I sent back.
People still keep coming to me with their stories. Mainly they want me to write them. I’ve learned to nod and smile and let them tell me all about it then agree with them that yes, indeed, that would make a wonderful story, but no, sadly I don’t have the time to write it because I have a lot of my own stories I need to write. Sometimes I add on, “But why don’t you write it?”
Inevitably they back away, hands raised as if to ward me off. “Oh, no. I couldn’t. I don’t have time.”