Questions About Writing #7: Will You Write It For Me?

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This one pops up every once in a while—in fact, it happened again not long ago. Someone emailed me saying, I’ve worked out this great idea for a story. Would you like to write it for me?

Well, actually, no. I wouldn’t.

The polite explanation of why I wouldn’t, to which I always refer correspondents, is on my web site at http://www.starrigger.net/advice2.htm.

It used to surprise me when people did this. I’m not surprised anymore, but I still find it very odd that someone who has an idea he or she is proud of or finds compelling would even want to turn it over to a complete stranger—even if the stranger were willing. Of course, most people who propose this think they’ll hand the idea to you, you’ll do all the work, and then split the vast earnings fifty-fifty. Right. (Of course, they probably also guess that writing is a lucrative business. Anyone want to take a second guess?)

Like most writers, I have files full of ideas for stories, things I might get to someday if inspiration strikes, and if I live long enough. Given that writing is very hard work, and very iffy in terms of financial payback, why would I want to take time away from my own stories to write yours?

Unless you’re offering to front the money, of course. And that’s why writers are willing to set aside some time to do things like write movie novelizations or spin-off novels (set in the same universe as a movie or TV show). It’s because there’s a certain amount of guaranteed income, because it’s fun if you enjoyed the original, and because it’s almost certain to sell well and be really good advertising for your own books. It’s not like everyone who reads your Star Wars or Star Trek (or Galactica) novel is going to run right out and buy your other books—but some of them will. And you’ve gained a lot of visibility.

But back to he-who-would-have-his-story-written… my bottom-line response is, don’t you want to write it yourself? It’s your idea, your passion. Don’t just talk about it, get in there and do it! Give it your voice, your personality. That’s what writing is all about. Yes?

0 Responses

  1. Harry
    | Reply

    Believe it or not: in business people sell their ideas alone for thousands or millions of dollars all the time! Often incomplete ideas too. I guess there are few ideas that work in business but many that could be equally successful in literature and supply and demand places their asking prices at opposite ends of the spectrum… from worthless to priceless it seems.

    Congrats on finishing BSG and on your daughter’s work. Sounds like there will be another published Carver in the near future (if there isn’t already).

    Harry

  2. tsmacro
    | Reply

    Glad to hear you got to do BSG. I’ve been a fan since 1978 or 79, whichever year it came out. I’ll definitely be looking for it when it comes out. And hey I wouldn’t mind reading your daughter’s work also if such a thing is possible.

  3. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    I was not a fan of the original BSG, but found the remake very interesting. I particularly enjoyed the acting.

    Re Julia’s story, once the contest is over, maybe she’ll consent to putting it up on my web site.

    Jeff

  4. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Re ideas in the literary marketplace, I suppose what you say is true, Harry. My main point, though, is that coming up with the idea is such a small part of the work of writing that it’s absurd to think that the idea is worth half whatever the finished story brings in. Of course, there are some really great ideas–Niven’s Ringworld, for example–but most of the ideas I have seen float by are at best overused and at worst painful cliches. And even Ringworld would have been just a curiosity without Niven’s superb execution of the idea.

  5. tsmacro
    | Reply

    Well you have to realize when the original BSG came out I was something like 11, so I was much easier to impress. And now I look back on it w/ a certain sense of nostalgia. Sure it was kind of goofy and of course bad science, but it had it’s charm that I still enjoy. The new BSG is a complete makeover and I feel that’s why it works, it probably wouldn’t have done so well if they just tried to re-make the original and i’m glad they didn’t.

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