“You Should Write . . . “

I get that a lot. I’d say on average, about once a week someone comes up with a great idea for a novel that I should write.

OK, first let’s do the arithmetic (I never use the popular expression: let’s do the math. How insulting to real math. If it doesn’t involve at least Algebra, you can’t say “Let’s do the math.” Or if you do, I’m going to make fun of you). Let’s say I average 2 books a year. That’s probably a little optimistic, but it makes the arithmetic easier.  And I get 52 suggestions a year of something I “just have to write.” If I write for another 10 years, that’s 500 books left unwritten.

Not only that, for 10 years I NEVER get to pick my own book.

Wait, it gets worse. Nobody except for my insightful writing partner SusanH, EVER suggest that I “just have to write” a book that isn’t serious. OK, that’s not fair (not to mention a lot of negatives in one sentence). Several people have suggested that one of my characters just HAS to have their own story. And by and large, none of those books would be serious. In fact, that’s SusanH’s suggestion: that Oswald, the snarky, resourceful little squire in The Adventures of Sir Kay has to have his own story. But she wants it to be a romance.

But last weeks encounter is more typical. My little miniature Schnauzer of almost 13 years, Destiny, died last week. Yeah, it sucks when the family pet dies. But she just decided that she’d had enough, and quit eating and drinking Tuesday, and on Thursday afternoon died peacefully. So I respect her decision, same way I would a person’s, and it’s OK.

On Sunday, somebody told me, “She was such a sweet little dog. You just have to write her story into your next novel.”

Um. Have you ever actually read what I write? It may not fall under the official category of “humor,” but there’s a comic thread throughout. Somehow I don’t see writing my dead pet’s story as conducive to a comic thread.

“Oh, but you’d be great at it.”

That’s invariably the follow-up line. I’d be great at it.

“Why is that?” I always wonder and occasionally ask if I’m feeling cranky. I’ve never been remotely successful at writing a serious novel. The last time I crashed and burned on a book’s false start, it was because the novel was becoming so serious it stopped being fun to write. That was back between Strange Bedfellows and Avalon, S.C. Fortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time in it.  Three or four weeks, maybe. Still, that’s three or four weeks of my writing life gone.

So here’s my new stance. I going to either say, “Thanks, I’ll get right on that,” and then promptly forget about it and assume they will too.


I’m going to come back with, “No, you should write that book. Sounds just like you. You’d be great at it. Hey, NaNoWriMo is coming up soon (well, November is less than a year away, so that qualifies, right?). I’ll remind you come October what it is that you’ll be writing about.”

I haven’t actually tried that approach yet. But I’m doing it next time. Promise.



9 thoughts on ““You Should Write . . . “

  1. Don’t get uppity–people are just trying to be nice & complimenting you in thinking that you are actually capable of writing around their idea! Your 2nd thought–you should write that book, you’d be great at it–pays back their kindness in having faith in you!

  2. Interesting. I don’t get that too much from people. And as odd as this may sound, this blog made me think of when Neil Gaiman said:

    “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch. This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now.”

    Here’s the link to the whole blog. http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html

    And no, it’s not the same, but it came to mind because evidently Mr. Martin wasn’t writing fast enough for a reader.
    Then another author I enjoy on and off, Brent Weeks blogged about it: http://www.scifinow.co.uk/blog/18492/brent-weeks-opinion-column-george-rr-martin-is-not-your-bitch/

    Hmm… I’m digressing.

    So, Rusty the next time someone does this to you. If he’s a lawyer, recommend a case he should take.
    A doctor, recommend a new type of surgery. No, nevermind. Here’s what you do:

    Ask them for a detailed 50,000 word outline and tell them you’ll be glad to use that as the basis of the book they want you to write.

    When you get it, take it to Office Depot. Spend less than ten dollars having it spiral bound, then return it to the author.

    • Love “George RR Martin is not your bitch.”

      Makes me think of Toni Morrison’s advice:
      If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

      I thought she was being encouraging to writers, not snarky to readers. But now considering the pressure on Messrs. Martin/Gaiman, Weeks, and Rhoads (something I only imagine in my wildest dreams), I’m not so sure.

  3. You said, “But she wants it to be a romance.” Just to set the record straight, romances can be quite humorous. Often unintentionally, more’s the pity. But Oswald and Lisle in the 21st century under the tutelage of Rick and Sabrina would no more be a romance than Arnie and Annie, Walter and Amy/Morgan/Tignoire, Rick and Sabrina, or Sir Kay/Elaine/Morgan/both(?). And after all, what’s an adventure without a little romance?

    My only suggestion would ever be, “Write what gets you up in the morning.”

    As for your response to suggestions, you could always quote our esteemed friend Rob to his late great beloved: “Write your own damn book.” That became the name of their memoir writers’ group.

  4. My reaction to people who come to me with any idea (whether it’s about a story idea or things I should include in my business or even how to run the government) is to take the approach that it’s theirs and they should run with it. If the idea is important to them, they would be the best person to make it come to life because they have the passion for it. They would be the only person who could be successful with it.

    I think it was Orson Scott Card that said that there is no shortage of story ideas, only of those willing to sit down and write them. I don’t remember the exact quote but that is pretty much what I got from what he said.

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