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.