It happened again.
I went to a party, struck up a conversation with a very nice guy, and when he found out I was a writer, he said the inevitable: “Really? I have a great idea for a book.”
I wish I had a pen for every time someone said that same sentence to me. I would never run out of ink again. Anyone can come up with a “great” idea. Most of the time, that idea has already been done. And if it hasn’t, a variation of it has. Listen up…your idea is not genius.
The genius lies in how you construct your idea. In other words…how you implement that idea into a story.
Let’s take an example…an easy one. Harry Potter. Boy has a special gift. Only he can destroy the enemy. In the end, he wins.
That plot has been around for centuries. (David and Goliath, anyone?) But J.K. Rowling masterfully creates an entire hidden world of witches and wizards around it. And she sprinkles mythology throughout…bringing the familiar into the fold.
The other part I love about people who want to let me know they have a “great” idea for a book…most of the time they add, “Tell you what. I’ll give you my idea, you can write it, and we’ll split the profit.”
Really? You will come up with an idea…maybe spend ten minutes on it…then I can spend the next two years crafting it into a publishable book…and we can split the money 50/50? How lucky for me I bumped into you!
I suppose we could make a deal. If you build houses, how about I design one, hand you the picture, you build it, and then we split the profit after it sells? Or, wait, how about this? If you own a restaurant, I’ll mention what should be on the menu, you make sure the chefs make those meals, and we will split the profit!
Sounds silly? Then how about this? Instead of sharing your “great” idea with me, you spend the next ten years learning how to write a book, then write the dang thing yourself.
Ninety-five percent of those people with “great” ideas won’t even try. Four percent will give up before they finish the story. But one percent will make a go of it. And perhaps a handful of those people will succeed.
But a full 100% will understand…writing is demanding. Having an idea is only a fraction of the work involved. Making that idea work throughout the entire novel and finding a satisfying conclusion involves patience, research, and many hours of sitting at a computer screen praying loose ends can be tied up and readers will find the story plausible.
So when people tell me they have a “great” idea for a book and maybe they should have me write it (and split the profits), I tell them that I have more than enough ideas in my head, thank you very much. But that if they truly believe in their idea, then they should sit down and start writing that book.
It’s not going to write itself.