Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"I've got a book idea to run by you!"

A sentence many writers have heard, and many look at with contempt. That's where the majority of writers and I differ. While most scribes loathe having people tell them what to write or let them know their great idea, I choose a different route. I embrace the suggestions, no matter how absurd or out of my wheelhouse they are. Will I write them? Probably not. Will all these ideas conglomerate in my mind to produce a story I actually consider writing? Perhaps.

The sentence alone is enough to set a writer off or send chills of disgust up their spines. For those unaware, it goes a little something like this:

"I've got an idea for the next bestseller!" 

"You should really write this/that/the other thing!"

"Do you wanna write a book for me??!!??!"

Some people are capable of writing pretty much anything people tell them. Those people sometimes have very nice careers as ghostwriters. Although I don't think I could manage ghostwriting, I do consider myself to be a part of the group that can put almost any idea into book form. Will it be the best thing I've ever written? Hell no. Will it even be good at all? I don't know...maybe...? The point is, I consider myself part of a group many writers aren't a part of. Many authors out there struggle to get a great idea in their head, and struggle even harder to turn that idea into words on a page. Thus brings up the conflict with telling writers what they should write.

I do not by any means speak for all authors or even the majority when I say I welcome people's book suggestions. Please, if you're thinking of telling your writer friend what they should be writing, either smack yourself in the face or send that idea my way, whichever is preferable to you (please, don't everyone smack themselves at once). A lot of people struggle for a long time to be able to write their story, much less put it out there to either agents/publishers or to the reading public. To many, it's akin to telling an accountant what numbers they should punch into their calculator or telling a banker you've got a million dollars in the bank when you've really got closer to $12. In short, IT'S ANNOYING.

Despite everything I've just said, if you've got that idea in you that you're so sure is going to be the next Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc. then by all means give me an ear full about it. I've gotten ideas from people, be them friends or strangers, so often that my responses have come down to a science. The most likely outcome is that i'll either say "interesting" and log the idea away in the far reaches of my brain, or i'll poke so many holes in the plot that the whole thing falls apart. That being said, every once and a while I come across someone who gives me an idea that lights up my imaginary brain bulb.

What do I do with the stories that actually manage to click something on in my mind? Thus far, I have published exactly zero of them, and only ever written one. But Mitch, why let an idea you like brew in your mind? Why not let it out??? Well, several reasons. For one, I don't feel all that comfortable taking someone else's idea, writing it, and selling it. In most worlds, that's called plagiarism. Secondly, if I publish that book and it becomes a bestseller, guess who's probably gonna come a'knockin with empty pockets and a sad, puppy-dog face. Exactly. Writing someone else's idea for them, then selling it as yours is quite an issue. That's not to say those good ideas will go to waste.

Over time, the good ideas people have fed me have come together in my mind and melded into one big, confused blob labeled "OMG, YOU SHOULD WRITE THIS BOOK!" As time goes on, the ideas blend further together and eventually an plot comes out so widely different than when it went in. Romance stories become paranormal thrillers, crime novels become YA fantasy, self-help books become bloody historical war fiction (don't ask). The idea blob is the whole reason I'm able to write pretty much anything, because I can meld it with past ideas (of which I've had thousands) I've had and turn a so-so idea I got at 3 AM into my next passion project. 

So far, only one manuscript based on a good suggestion has ever come out of the idea blob. It went in as a romance about two gray aliens and came out as an LGBT new adult novel based in a world where nobody sees color. It may end up seeing the world someday. After all, a close friend was the one who made the suggestion, and I'm far more willing to write ideas given to me by friends/family than by strangers, and my cover designer made me an awesome ebook cover for it already.

In short, many writers will cringe and hiss at you like a cornered cat if you tell them what they should write or that million-dollar idea you've got. You can vent those ideas to me and i'll take them in with open ears. There's about a 99.99% chance it won't ever even get written by me, but I'll hear it out. Whether the plot falls apart, it sparks inspiration for a totally different project, or lands in the idea blob, i'll at least listen. Although, your great idea for the next famous spy series will most likely end up as a heartfelt story about a boy and his dog if it falls under my pen. 

If you've got that idea brewing inside you, dying to get out, it'd just be easier to write it yourself. It may come out like complete crap, but at least it's out. From there, rewrite if you don't like it, put it in your own idea blob and let it come out as something new, rewrite again. That's what happened when I let my first novel out in my freshman year of high school. Now I've got 17 published novels and more on the way, with the quality going up with every word I put down.

To the writers out there, my suggestion would be to listen to the people like I do. Feel free to disregard all the ideas afterwards, but you never know what could happen. Don't go out plagiarizing, even if the person claims they want to give the idea to you, but at the same time don't blow them off either. You never know what could happen when you open your ears to the people and let things into your (hopefully existent) idea blob. Will the super spy become the boy and his dog? Will the love-hungry heiress become London's best assassin? If you don't listen, you'll never find out what your mind can do.

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