I have a great idea for you…

If you’re an author and you’ve heard this before–more than once–raise your hand. Yup, that’s what I thought.

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.”

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5 thoughts on “I have a great idea for you…

  1. I’m nodding as I read this. “I have a great idea for a dog story!” Yeah…I write romance, but I’ll keep it in mind if I go for the shape-shifting pooch. “Mom! Write a story about fighting dragons.” Sure, you just go outline it, and I’ll be right there. Love the enthusiasm. Love the ideas. Just not enough time in the day for all of them. *sigh*

  2. Truthfully I don’t get a lot of that. Most of the people I know just say how cool it is that I actually wrote a book and then got it published, then wrote another. I do have one friend who I work with that makes me laugh with book ideas. When we have a slow afternoon, we’ll discuss far out book plots or characters. I’ve actually had a few that I thought might be kind of interesting, but I have so many stories in my ‘to be written’ file, I doubt I’ll ever get time to write those.

    Fun post šŸ™‚

  3. Had to laugh out loud at this, Sharon, because I’ve had many conversations like this. I think the journalism field breeds I’m-Writing-NonFiction-But-I-Have-A-Novel-In-Me types. And most of them would make wonderful fiction authors…We used to have ‘overheard on the scanner’, rolling on the floor laughing brainstorming sessions about writing a book about things we heard go out on the police scanners.

  4. I fortunately never had someone to ask me to read their stories, but I get ideas thrown at me all the time. Everyone knows I’m a writer and everyone has an idea. In fact, just today as I’m sitting in the dentist chair with endodontist was giving me a root canal he was saying that a great idea for me would be a vampire endodontist. LOL!!!!

  5. What a great post.

    My older sister insists I write a YA. She says I’ll get rich quick. Her reasoning is because of Twilight and Harry Potter. I didn’t bother telling her that it isn’t that easy, but instead I kept my mouth closed and just smiled and nodded.

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