I’m sure I’m not the only one to experience this: family, friends and even people you barely know who all have an idea for your next book. We listen politely, nod half-heartedly and agree indifferently, “Yes, that sounds like it would make a wonderful novel.”
And here’s the follow up we never seem to have the heart to deliver: “But I have no interest in writing it because I need to be really emotionally invested and personally connected to devote a year of my life or potentially longer to it and sometimes I can barely find the time and/or motivation to write the stories I am emotionally invested in and personally connected to.”
And here’s the follow up to the follow up that we also never say because it’s inviting trouble that will be revisited on us ten times over: “Why don’t you have a go at writing it?” There’s enough bad writing in the world without knowingly asking for more.
A couple of my recent examples include:
*My little sister sent me something someone had posted on Facebook, a woman blathering on about the mirror world, how perhaps there were people trapped in the mirrors or perhaps they were protecting us by stopping us from going into the mirror world or some such nonsense and that someone should write a book about it. I didn’t respond to the email but the mere fact that my sister sent it to me suggested she thought I should be the one the write this book.
*One of my stepbrothers has apparently had his life savings misappropriated, allegedly by his own brother, and my father has been assisting in compiling a brief of documents for a lawyer who is attempting to assist in getting the money back. It’s a forensic nightmare but my stepmother thinks and has told me several times that it would make a terrific book. Hint, hint, nod, nod, wink, wink.
The honest truth is that these stories may very well make great novels. I just don’t want to write them. I currently have one finished novel awaiting publication, one half-finished novel awaiting completion, two sequels to two different series awaiting development and my next novel already planned. And even if I didn’t, I probably still wouldn’t want to write those stories because I don’t write in the fantasy genre and I’m not sure how I would make a case of simple fraud and theft a must read.
Having said all of this, I must confess that a suggestion from a friend is the only reason my upcoming novel was ever written. We were both reading and watching the success of the Twilight, Hunger Games and Divergent series and she thought I should write something in a similar vein to take advantage of the appetite for this type of young adult/mainstream crossover fiction. She asked if I had any ideas and we workshopped a few, which she vetoed, before I hit on the one that would become Black Spot.
I wrote Black Spot in six months, the quickest I have ever written a book, and although the specific premise for the novel was mine, I never would have written it had it not been for the encouragement of my friend. In fact, the dedication specifically mentions her with the words “without whom this book would never have been written”.
But for all the family, friends and acquaintances of writers out there, don’t take this as an invitation. It’s a rare (extremely rare) exception (barely even an exception) to the rule. We already have more than enough ideas that we don’t have the time or inclination to bring to fruition without you adding to the pile.
And if I haven’t convinced you yet, how about this? Do writers try to tell you how to do your job? No. Then why would you try to tell a writer how to do theirs? As a general rule, writers really only want advice from other writers while they’re writing – which they will solicit themselves – and once they’ve finished writing, they only want advice from people willing to read what they’ve written. Opinions welcome, ideas not.
And the next time a writer is going on and on about a story of theirs you have no interest in, you can listen politely, nod half-heartedly and agree indifferently, “Yes, that sounds like it would make a wonderful novel.” And the circle of the writing life will be complete.