Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No, I won't write your book

The individual who clicked through to my blog yesterday morning after entering, "FIND SOMEONE TO WRITE MY BOOK" in MSN's search engine was barking up the wrong tree. Ordinarily, I'd have just smiled and moved on, but last week and the week before that, I received e-mails from two other people who were looking for the same thing: someone to take their Great Ideas and make books out of them. I figured three such requests in three weeks was a trend worth blogging about.

Those of you who don't write romance might be surprised to learn how close-knit this community is. We're pulled together by a national organization, Romance Writers of America, and by myriad local and online chapters of that group. We attend various romance-writing conferences and we participate in online writers' communities, and many of us subscribe to private e-mail lists. I'm on several such lists: the largest is for published authors writing under the big Harlequin umbrella and the smallest is for Steeple Hill authors. We turn to our lists (some call them "loops") for amusement and encouragement, but their primary purpose is to share information. So if you do something good or bad to a romance writer, be assured that news will be all over the internet by sundown.

Before I received that first I've-got-a-great-idea-and-I-just-need-you-to-write-it-for-me message a couple of weeks ago, I had already heard about and seen the full text of the e-mail, courtesy of my list friends, who were both amused and annoyed by the poorly-written form letter. Obviously, someone was working her way through a directory of romance authors, throwing her whole pot of spaghetti at the wall to see if any of the strands would stick.

The second please-write-my-book e-mail was from a different person, but offered the same deal: I have a great idea. All I need you to do is write the story.

Oh, is that all? Sure, I'll dash off that little thing the next time I have a free weekend, how does that sound? And you and I will split the royalties, natch.

Right. In your dreams.

No published author worth her salt is going to give you a piece of her action. The authors I know are proud of the work they do, and they don't want or need "helpers" giving them story ideas. Although nonwriters often assume that writers worry about running out of story ideas, in fact the imagination is like a muscle; it becomes stronger with regular exercise. So a working author is not running out of ideas. More than likely, her ideas are coming so thick and fast that they're distracting her from her current project. That's why you'll often hear of an author working on two or three writing projects simultaneously.

Writing a salable novel takes a whole lot more than an idea. Ideas are the easy part, and I don't know any romance author who wants help in that area. We want to write our own stories, not yours.

If you're looking for a ghostwriter for a nonfiction book, say so. There are writers who enjoy doing that sort of thing and who are good at it and who will deserve every penny (and perhaps even more) that they'll make off the project. But don't offer your story idea to a romance writer. That's like "helping" a CPA prepare a tax return by sharpening her pencil. Believe me, she can do that all by herself.


J. Mark Bertrand said...

Why can't they write their own novels? I'll bet I know: they don't have time. :)

Robin Bayne said...

Well said, Brenda. I get offers not only to write novels with someone's great ideas, but offers to write their life stories as well. Because they are so fascinating.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Brenda, ya' mean ya' couldn't pop out a novel by dinner and still have the time to make a roast and clean the house! Sheesh!!!

Just remember it takes all kind and some of them are fodder for blogging! See they did come in handy after all:-)

Brenda Coulter said...

You really have to wonder what goes through people's heads, don't you?

Beth said...

People at church do this to me all the time. I don't know why I can never think of a polite response. I usually just kind of gape at the person for a moment and go "thanks, I'll give you a call next time I need an idea."

TS said...

So Brenda, what is your point? Spill it. don't hold it in. Exactly how do you feel on this? Don't be so vague. Are you hesitating just a little. you have to make up your mind ont this.
btw -- I'm a writer, and i haven't had an idea in years. Golly, I just wouldn't have a clue what to write after I finish the next fifteen book plots I have in the hopper. I'm sorry here comes an idea, no I was wrong there were three ideas there. Now I have got 18 books in the hopper.


Brenda Coulter said...

Marvin, you always make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

i think you should have been more open to the idea!!!!!!!! not everyone is a good or great writer. I think you need to open your heart a bit and you just might learn something from someone other than a professor!!! btw, have a nice day

Brenda Coulter said...

Sorry, Anonymous, but writing is a skill that can be learned, so I don't feel sorry for anyone who can't do it well. I didn't used to be very good at writing, either!

Why should I do all of the work so that someone else can get her name on a book? Anyone who wants to be published should WORK for it, just as I and all other serious writers do.

Kristi Ambrose said...

I'll write their book. I have written many a books for people.

Maya McInerney said...

It seems you're a little sensitive Brenda. There are no rules when asking someone for help; especially from one more experienced in the field. Suggestions or requests are never meant to offend. They are merely vocal steps toward furthering someone elses feelings or knowledge. In any occupation, one will encounter endless meetings with seemingly 'insensitive' people that will always think they know more and try to help or think they could know more and ask you to help. If we could all learn to be more polite and graceful when refusing or accepting opinions, the world would be a much better place.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brenda,
I have been doing some research, as I am a writer and author of several books. I came across your blog and clicked on it. Writing this now, I realize the only reason I clicked on it, was the title of your blog; "No I won't write your book for you". I have a feeling my words will simply bounce off the computer screen, hit you in the head, and disappear into the plume of smoke forming around you from it coming out of your ears. Your "blog" was rude and mean, and I do mean, "mean". I have had many people approach me to write their story. Not once, over 25 years and thousands of requests like the ones you rec'd, have I ever thought negatively about this request. People who do not have the skill/talent to write, but have a story they want to tell, are merely scared and don't know where to start. So, they ask for help. They ask for someone to write their story. Did the people who wrote you state "I don't have time, and thought you would"? If so, then I understand your frustration. My gut tells me that is not what they said. They were looking to "you", Brenda, to write their story. You should have been flattered. Your response shows the horribly mean place your mind goes to, and I find myself wondering "and you write romance?" And those who replied applauding you, you should all feel ashamed. But you won't because you responded with such hatred and mean words, that you must be either an ego maniac, or a narcissist. I never blog, I never even read blogs, but this one really grabbed me, and I had to read on. I'm saddened to think you and the others who responded with such harsh words, are part of our writing community. These blogs were written years ago, and they affected me so much, that I wrote in response, regardless. I feel very sorry for those who wrote to you, and those who most likely still do, and get a response like this which stays on the internet for the world to see, forever.

Perhaps you should start writing horrors?

ps since you seem to concentrate on grammar,punctuation,etc., of the blogs or letters written, I purposely went about mine in a way that I know will be the only thing you comment on.

Brenda Coulter said...

Did the people who wrote you state "I don't have time, and thought you would"? If so, then I understand your frustration.

Yes. That is exactly what they say. They don't have time to do the outlining and organizing, they don't have time to fuss over wording and grammar and proofreading and so on. They just want to give me their ideas and then sit back while I do all of the work. But as I said in the post, ideas are the easy part.

Steven, you think I'm a meanie, and yet there's a decidedly antagonistic tone in your own remarks. I wonder if you realize that.