The Great Idea *

Ahem. Picture if you can the scene. Individual –who has never read any of my books – approaches me and says: “I’ve heard you’re an author. I’ve got this great idea for a story. You write it and we’ll split the money!”

At which point Dave gets arrested for attempting to push the head which held this ‘great idea’ through the nearest brick wall. It’s a squeezing process, (rather like dealing with a sponge or a mop) to get the wonderful ‘great idea’ out, so I can seize it, and run away with it and write it. Because, naturally, we authors are like that. We never ever have ideas of our own, more than we could write in this lifetime and several more.

No, of course it’s not that this is something that non-writers have done to me more times than I care to count (I have learned to wear shoes on these social occasions, which is bad, because it severely curtails my counting skillz). These non-writers often seem to be non-readers too. The ‘great idea’ is inevitably something they’ve seen in a movie, which they think would be soooo brilliant if you did in space. With Gerbils. And Will Smith. No, it is not that it keeps happening, it’s that I am a bad man.

Oh, and because it is such a great idea, and sooo brilliant and unique, they often think ‘split’ means something like 75% or even, yes, 90% for them. Because writing is sooo easy that any jackass (or even someone as stupid as me) could do it, and I’m incredibly lucky to get this generous offer.

In younger days I still tried to point out that I had come across far more badly written books with brilliant ideas in them, where the author just didn’t have the skill to make a cracking brilliant idea or concept into an entertaining story with the sort of appeal to sell millions of copies, than the inverse. Indeed, a bit of research will show that a fair number of runaway bestsellers are about as original as my Japanese camera. My Nikon may not have the originality of a Leica or Hasselblad. Nikon may have borrowed freely from the lens technology of Zeiss or whoever… It’s still a remarkably good camera.

These days – because the law is just so un-understanding about justifiable head-through-wall pushing — I ask what numbers they think such a story would sell.

This usually gets a startled silence. And then my amusement begins. Their idea of the value of their ‘Great Idea’ usually ranges between Harry Potter and The Da Vinci code (and they have no idea how many copies those sold). I seriously even had someone tell me ‘a couple of hundred million copies’. I make no attempt to correct this, but merely ask my next question: “So how much do you think we’d earn per copy?”

Which usually gets an even more startled look, and maybe the dawnings of suspicion (not always, but sometimes). Almost always I’ve got variants on: “Well, you should know.”

At which point I say that, yes, I do, but as they’re proposing a business venture, I’d like to know what they think an author earns per book. Sometimes they need to be urged somewhat to guess. It’s always interesting to hear what they think we get per book. And besides I think I’m doing a public service. Readers (and non-readers) tend to ‘blame’ authors for the price of books. It is the greedy authors who push the prices up, dontcherknow? Nothing to do with the guys who take 92-94% of the income on the US price of a paperback, or, in Australia, because my Royalty is calculated on the US cover price, not the AU$20-25 here… the people who take up to 98.32% of the income.

When I have had a good laugh, and filled them in on the royalty rates (which I’ve had people outright refuse to believe, and call me a liar. Because as everyone knows, authors all have snorkels so they don’t drown in the caviar) I offer my counter-proposal (because, trust me on this, telling them sales numbers from the world of reality, is going to be less successful than telling an ardent young socialist that no, it won’t work better this time.). Because they’re sure it will sell squillions of copies, and it’s only fair they get the lion’s share of the proceeds of their ‘great idea’ even at 42 cents or whatever a copy, that’s still a large fortune. Even if it’s only a paltry million paperback copies (before the naturally inevitable movie is sold) that’s still $420 000. I’ll ghost-write it for 50 Grand up front. They keep all the rights and get all the credit. And get to fight off the vast herd of slavering publishers who will naturally be eagerly clamoring to publish it once they get even a whiff of the ‘great idea’.

I must admit the one downcast soul who looked at me with hurt puppy eyes and said: “But I haven’t got 50 Grand.” – and was seriously contemplating taking out a second mortgage, did demolish my cynicism, and I tried exceptionally hard to explain the reality to him, and that, no I wasn’t actually prepared to write it, and no, it probably would not sell to a publisher, let alone sell many copies, and that even bestsellers with track records and all the push and marketing in the world didn’t. I didn’t have the heart to tell him his great idea wasn’t new, and stunk on ice. I told him that he could write it himself, and publish it on Kindle, or even, if he wasn’t up to it, hire a perfectly competent ghost writer for a couple of thousand. I think he did that, and it vanished without a trace.

But most of possessors of ‘great ideas’ back off at this point, and inform you in hurt or injured tones, that they were offering you a wonderful, never-to-be repeated opportunity to become rich and famous, FAR beyond your ability, but if you didn’t want to accept their generosity… well, if you dared use even a hint of their great idea… you were planning to steal it, weren’t you? Take it all and give them nothing…

This is probably not the best time to try your Grimly Fiendish cackle, or even do Shylock hand-rubbing imitations. Be strong, authors, be strong.

Be better than me.

And if you can’t, try to keep from laughing sooner than I do.

Look, story ideas, plot twists, etc. etc… are something most authors have in spades, if not steam-shovel-loads. It’s probably one of the main reasons many of us thought we’d like to write. And ideas are not copyright. If you’re worried about that wicked caviar-swimming author stealing your great idea… don’t tell them. It’s massively unlikely and, to be honest, even the best ideas are not unique (one of my early novels has a Sir Terry Pratchett theme/idea to it… It is bottom-drawered forever, simply because everyone would assume it was at best fan-fic, if not outright plagiarism. Only… I wrote it years before Sir Terry. And he did NOT steal it from me, or anyone else. It was a great idea… he just translated that into a story FAR better than I ever could. C’est la vie.).

The hard part isn’t the idea. It’s making that idea into a great story, and then selling that story.

*The Great Idea ™ is the unalienable property of the Good Idea Fairy, the civilian cousin of the Emperor Mong. So don’t think you can own it. It, however, can own you.


      1. Yes, in casual conversation, I took a different approach than you, they were a friend, and explained the fundamental principles of story telling. Outlined that originality is in the process, and that all authors stand on the shoulders of those who came before them.

        It was an interesting evening with wine and food, but not something one could do with strangers, if only because it would be too tiring.

        1. I’ve done that with people I get along with, and offered help, support and advice. But it’s ‘at a social gathering’ ones that kill me. Not one has actually READ one of my books. But I’m not JK Rowlng so must NEED their idea and will be deperately grateful for the offer… ;-/

  1. I can recall an in-person writer’s group, many years ago. One of our regular members was a woman who claimed that she was writing a book, but would never share any of it for critique or even discuss it at all, because of her idea that was so wonderful that she could risk it being stolen.

    For years she would show up every week and talk about how much she had gotten done on the book and how close it was to being finished, but never what it was.

    She dropped some hints–it was SF and kind of like both Star Trek and Star Wars (universes that always struck me as quite incompatible, but that’s just me) and there was romance in it, and the female main character was all kinds of wonderful.

    I have no idea if she ever finished the book, or even if she ever wrote anything at all. But she was convinced that nothing mattered except her “idea” and that alone would make her rich.


    It was sad, really.

    1. Yeah. I’ve met a couple of those too. Paranoid that EVERYONE – especially me – would steal their precious ideas. Because ours were plainly so inferior…

      1. I used to think people like that were just paranoid. Unfortunately, it does sometimes (infrequently but notoriously) happen in the world of Hollywood. There have also been a few cases in the world of Big Publishing cocktail parties.

        1. But of course, those cases usually involve outright plagiarism. Just stealing ideas would be frustrating, but difficult/stupid to prove; and the product would be pretty different from the original idea.

          Stealing ideas in academia, OTOH, is a real problem. Nobody wants to write a book and then find out that somebody else has just written the same stuff about the same subject, using the same pieces of evidence.

  2. When I dreamed of being a writer as a kid it looked impossibly difficult to me. How would anyone ever remember and keep track of everything in a book they were writing? How would they have so much figured out in advance? How did the authors know so much about space, horses, Regency England, whatever? I didn’t know the details of any of that stuff (except the horses). How on earth do people think it’s easy?

    Now I know it’s do-able, but it seems passing strange to think that people think an idea is of the same or greater value than knowledge of craft and technique, plotting, and dialogue, not to mention the actual work involved.

    1. “I have an idea of an invention that will change the world.”

      It is probably a matter of the stories we tell. It isn’t easy to communicate the amount of work that goes into success, except to those who have done it. Add on that many stories are told about a single success, and overlook the string of failures whose lessons and work informed the success.

  3. I think creativity is probably a matter of degree, not kind. I am sure creativity is trained to specific types of problems and mediums of art. Your first idea is probably a bad one, and if that is all you ever come up with, you probably overvalue it because of rarity and that it is yours. The more usable and profitable ideas are visible once you’ve had dozens. If you stop looking after the first, you are potentially missing several profitable ideas that will take a lot of work, and tons of ideas that won’t work, or will net losses.

  4. On a vastly smaller scale, my wife was once asked by a friend of hers, “We need a flyer for a church affair, could your husband just put one together? It shouldn’t take much time.”
    I told my wife, “Tell her sure, but she has to be at my side during the whole process.”

    Her friend showed up at the agreed upon time, we did the flyer, and when the design was done and printed her friend told me that she now knows what she was asking took a large amount of work and skill to do, and she thanked me profusely. More importantly she never asked for any design work ever again.

      1. Too many years ago, I was working in DP where one of the users thought a major change to a report involved “just pushing a few buttons”. 😉

      2. I am nothing more than a very rank amateur at animation and that his pure Godzilla nope. (Side note: Thanks for the computer recommendation a while back. Getting the new system set up, hopefully this weekend, then comes the long ‘reinstalling a bunch of things that were on the drive lost in the move.’.)

        1. what recommendation? the off-lease HP? yeah… i have parts laying around since i have upgraded mine several times since i got them.

            1. I have a z400 and z600, both at this point are basically maxed out on RAM and hex core processors etc…

    1. In my field, it’s “can you look at this document for me?” What they really mean is “can you tell me it’s ok?” They do not want to hear it’s not ok.

    2. “We need a little filler piece. Say, environmental history of early 18th century China, 20 pages. Can you have it by the end of the month?”

      Suuuuuurrrrrreeee, I can. You going to pay for transportation, interpreters and translators, and can you let me know which part of China?

      “But you’re a historian, right?”

    3. Or when the small-company salesman gets carried away and promises the new feature in a couple of weeks, without checking with engineering — because “it’s just a small matter of software…”

      1. They go gaga over the ability to change an onscreen color in five minutes and assume that anything less conspicuous must be quicker.

    4. My own personal “are you really good at Photoshop?” test is to give a picture of a smiling kid and ask them to remove the braces. It’s a deceptive test, because even if you have small bits of metal to clone out, the teeth won’t look right, because the metal reflects enough blue tones onto the ivory of the teeth to make them look dead without the metal there. It’s the sort of thing that could take an experienced user half an hour to do WITH access to a gallery of smiles.

      But then, I’m snarky like that.

      (Of course, the best way to use Photoshop is to photograph in such a way that you’re not needing it. And that’s why if I ever write a book on Photoshop, one of the chapters would be entitled “Beat the Photographer.”)

        1. You’re allowed to claim to be good at something as long as you’re not using it as an excuse to quarrel about pricing. “My kid is good at Photoshop” is not the same thing as “[whoever] is able to do the specific task needed to make a studio-grade photo look perfect.”

          I was also called into work a couple of weeks back (I’m an at-will employee, a definite advantage to working for a small family company.) My principal task that time was basically evaluating the retouching company’s work, and sending back anything that had been overdone, which was unfortunately more than half of the work. When the expression is subtly changed because you’ve smoothed out half the shadows, that’s no good. I was able to get the rest of them through the whole process of color-correction and printing, which got me a very pleased compliment from the post-production manager and a comment that I had a real talent (read: “learned skill*”) for the work.

          *I have had to color-correct on uncalibrated monitors, to the point where we were working on freakishly fluorescent people. I have had to color-correct 200 portraits in an eight-hour period because of my own stupid mistake. I’ve had to rescue very under-exposed low-quality images. Nothing trains quite so well as a pressing deadline!

  5. What strikes me as weird are those people with a GREAT IDEA that will make a GREAT SCIENCE FICTION MASTERPIECE but when you hear/read their idea it is clear that they haven’t read Science Fiction. 😦

    1. “But it is set on a space station…” “He falls in love with an alien, so it has to be sci-fi!” Riiiiight.

    2. More often, it is something any well-read fan knows was done 30-40 years ago. Or worse, when I know it was done 30-40 years ago

      1. What’s worse is when some mainstream literary writer does this, and gets lots of praise for timidly going where the Golden Age already went many times.

      2. Or it’s from a subconscious memory. I was in a workshop where one person told us all about his fantastic idea. We SF types all winced, but did not say out loud “To Serve Man. You probably saw it on The Twilight Zone.”

      1. Avatar as a New Idea.

        Poul Anderson did it better in “Call Me Joe”.

        Of course, the “civilized man going native and help his new tribe against his old people” isn’t new by any means.

                1. my avatar theory:

                  Eywa is the ship’s AI, the big hoops are the last remnants of their crashed ship’s frame, that’s why they are so perfectly shaped. Hence why the Na’vi have only four limbs instead of the six of anything else on the planet. They are a non-native species that was genetically engineered to fit into the environment.

                  Avatar II: 15 minutes long. The humans that are capable of accelerating a ship to 0.7 c (according to the Avatar wiki) attach an engine to a random rock in the asteroid field nearby and drop a rock the size of a VW on Eywa moving at somewhere around 25,000 mph. The End.

                  1. As the asteroid approach, the Battle Station Eywa completely awoke and destroyed the asteroid.

                    Then it located the human spaceship and destroyed it.

                    Battle Station Eywa went back in stand-by mode.

                    Note, of course it could be written that Battle Station Eywa first accessed the human spaceship computer (before destroying the spaceship), to located Earth and sent a hyper-missile to destroy Earth. 😈

        1. It was a pretty standard western plot, not just Dances with Wolves. Damaged warvet comes to town, for job and helps locals (of various flavors depending on the story) against the railroad/Rancher Baron/Whatever was coming through in bad ways not good. They even had the Cavalry coming over the Hill to Save The Day.

          1. I dunno. I went to see the graphics that I heard so much about – regretted seeing it in 3D. On the graphics front, which I was interested in, I wasn’t disappointed. The story on the other hand, was … eh. Couldn’t really relate to the characters.

  6. “I’ve heard you’re an author. I’ve got this great idea for a story. You write it and we’ll split the money!”

    Yes, because the hard part of a book is the idea. The easy part is the typing.

    But Dave, what are these “social occasions” of which you speak? I’ve heard that people attend such things. People are idiots! It is best to avoid them. ~:D

  7. Another one I’ve heard used to effect “At three books a year, I’ve got a queue 20 years long, and that’s not counting any sequels. ‘Fraid you’ll have to wait.”

    1. Yeah. I’ve said this. Without the you’ll have to wait part. Just I’ll be dead before I finish them, and more keep piling up.

  8. In fairness, there are some Big 5 published/pushed authors who would benefit from even a “Great Idea”.

    If anybody manages to track down and slay the Good Idea Fairy, I’ll contribute to the reward and laud them as a hero.
    I’m pretty sure it lives on Pinterest.

    1. The Good Idea Fairy is an elusive lass. Mong at least turns up with military precision. You could entrap him, but that usually turns into biter bit….

  9. Way back when I wrote short humor for Mens’ magazines I used to get all my ideas from a PO box in Philadelphia. Sadly I seem to have misplaced that address.
    And again long ago I do recall that Spider Robinson did a stint at book reviews for one of the SF mags. He requested that anyone sending him an unsolicited manuscript for a sure best selling collaboration please refrain from attaching the pages with clips or staples as the metal collected in the bottom of his wood stove and made cleanouts more difficult.

  10. I am convinced that bad ideas are necessary for good stories. “I am going to work hard and save my money and retire to a condo in Miami Beach” is a pretty good idea, but it would make for a really boring story.

    “Let’s go poke around in the sub-basement of that abandoned mental hospital where people keep disappearing!” on the other hand, is a terrible idea, but the opening to a much more interesting story.

    1. “I worked hard, saved my money and retired to a condo in Miami Beach, but then the aliens invaded”. 😉

      1. …or moved to the condo in Miami Beach, just in time for the hurricane to hit?

        …moved to the condo in Miami Beach, and then my neighbor’s niece was kidnapped? And my neighbor turns out to be a retired (fill in the blank badass), and now he’s using me as the innocent cover story / driver?

        Yeah, if it’s not the protagonist’s own bad decisions, then it definitely has to be that he or she’s run afoul of other people’s bad decisions.

      2. ‘but then the aliens invaded’… and no one noticed, except the icecream vendor who thought them sitting on their purchases was a bit odd. But he assumed they came from Canada…

      3. Ex-Communion by Leslie Fish

        “Even a man who pays his bills and watches TV by night
        Can meet a flying saucer when the sun is shining bright.
        The random hand of Murphy strikes where too much order grows,
        And what the cosmic dice may roll you Heaven only knows.

        Never forget that you could die tomorrow,
        Never forget the Bomb could fall today!
        Never forget the sky can break,
        Never forget the earth can shake,
        And leave you homeless, jobless, broke,
        And floating in the Bay!”

  11. If you need some ideas for a story, I’ve heard there’s a shopping-cart wrangler at a Target store in Georgia who might have some.
    Seriously. Back in my early Internet days, I encountered an individual who was convinced he had provided the inspiration for every Hollywood movie he’d ever liked from The Bad News Bears on. As to how the occult process of idea transfer worked, he claimed he had been a part of acting groups who were given rough outlines of scenes to act out and the writers took notes of the kids’ improvisations, which became the eventual script. Later, Hollywood writers would call him in the middle of the night and ask for ideas. He even claimed credit for Sailor Moon, saying he had met the officially credited creator when she was an exchange student in the US, which for some reason is a detail omitted from her usual biographies. Besides the fact that the studios must owe this guy an awful lot of money for single-handedly dreaming up dozens of hit movies over the years, why doesn’t he get any screen credit? He said there are actually two sets of credits, the one you see on the screen that doesn’t mention him and a secret one held by the studios that does. However, he does get an unofficial credit in that his name is usually mentioned somewhere in the script (his last name is a common English word).
    You’d think no one could be as deluded as this guy seemed to be and it had to be a put-on, but I got a very troubling sense that he was sincere. My own contact with Hollywood has been slight, but I once did some free-lance translating for a Disney division, and I was at least paid for the work and got 1099 tax forms at the end of the year. This guy couldn’t explain why he was so willingly making millions of dollars for other people without being paid anything or having a 1099 to show for it. He didn’t know what a 1099 tax form even was when I asked him about it. Other people were not nearly so kind and were challenging his delusions in far more vehement terms, or else mocking him without mercy. The last I heard of him, he was writing poems about how someday the studios’ secret credits would come out and he would have his day of glory.
    He never answered the question of why Hollywood writers even needed him. Couldn’t they think of their own ideas instead of stealing them from an unknown nobody from nowhere?

  12. I rather liked Larry Correia’s response to those (from memory):

    “Tell you what. How about I give you one of the six dozen ideas that I don’t have time to use, you write the book, and you can keep ALL the money?”

        1. I just like to tell authors what a great anime their book would make. (After being mangled by the anime machine.)

          It’s funnier when it is both obviously wrongbad, and obviously true.

  13. I wonder how many trunk novels/short stories involve fans offering a “great idea” to an author.

    Lots of directions to go with that — Have the author snap and do horrible things to the fan; have the “fan” be an actual muse and the “great idea” gets stuck in the author’s head and grows into his masterpiece; the “fan” is actually a time-traveler from the future…

    1. Okay, here’s my take:

      Writer at a small, indie horror convention. He’s new, just sold a couple of books, and is eager to interact with fans. A guy comes up to him and they get the talking, and the author is flattered that this fan seems to really like his work. The fan tells him, “I’ve got a great idea” and proceeds to give him a story about a serial killer.

      The author thinks it over, and uses a couple of the scenes from the fan’s story, more or less as the fan explains it. Author publishes the book, and shortly thereafter the FBI shows up on his doorstep.

      It seems that the killings that the fan outlined were real killings, and there was information in the descriptions that only the killer would know.

  14. Let’s see:
    – One gets good at something by doing a lot of it.
    – you’re trying to sell this great idea to a good writer, because you wouldn’t want it corrupted by being written by a not-so-good one
    – so the writer you’re trying to sell to has written a lot of stuff
    – each of the things he’s written required an idea from the writer
    – so he’s had a LOT of ideas, most of which were good enough to sell
    – and you think he’s just run dry of good ideas, so has time to write yours?
    Hmm… does not compute.

  15. at least they’re acknowledging that his writing is a skill that has real value. As I said, it’s the people who have never read a thing I have written, who believe that writers are interchangeable, and that they’re doing me a vast favor really get up my nose. The ones who have read my books and think their idea written by me would be great… well, still no thanks, but at least that’s respect and value for my ability. I’ve even had one or two say ‘I’d just love you to write about xyz.’ – that’s different.

    1. That’s way too specific to be useful as a law. Laws should be universally applicable (to the group, of course; can’t have useful laws about genetic male pregnancies yet). My solution to the student loan issue is simple: Make ’em dischargeable in bankruptcy again. Major short-term pain as the lenders reel back all of their current loose standards, and screaming from people who can’t get loans (some of whom would indeed be very deserving people), but it would dry up the funds stream. Maybe colleges would start scaling back their tuition again.

      1. _partially_ dischargable, I think, else why would it not become a meme for most students to start their “adult” life with one mulligan behind them? (At least, until there were no more lenders).

        Also, I like the idea that if the student can show they reasonably depended upon the school’s representation of employability & income potential for the selection of their major course of study, said school would be partially on the hook to the lender if the student, having successfully fulfilled the requirements for graduation in that major, were to be unable to obtain employment in that or a closely allied field within X years. Schools would certainly pare down their propaganda – and some need to!

        1. I’m fine with it being fully dischargeable, since it was that way until the mid-80s or thereabouts and it was almost unheard of for student loans to be discharged that way. If they’re only partially forgiven, it’s not going to be enough incentive for lenders to do what they need to do.

  16. I suppose I have been lucky so far … no one has ever pitched me their notion for a great book…
    HF … the orphan children/authors…

  17. in a moment of insanity — seriously, I don’t know what I was thinking. I think it was because I though Dan and I could collaborate on thrillers, and wanted a starting point to discuss ideas from — so I bought 102 powerful, gripping and intriguing ideas for thriller writers.
    What I expected was nuts and bolts, like “A plague can right now be made that’s like this” or “do you know that nuclear weapons can be small enough to fit in–”

    What I got… Oh, dear Lord… is crap. Straight, outright, stupid crap.

    one of the “ideas” is “spurned lover” and the possibilities he gives are: sabotaging her career; throwing bricks through her windows; setting her car on fire; causing mysterious accidents.

    Another “Perhaps your villain could endanger someone by posting something on the internet.”

    These are not ideas for writers. They’re barely ideas for crossing the street. But he’s selling these, because he has “so many ideas.” Head>desk.

    1. Back more than a dozen years ago, a friend of mine who ran a gaming company got permission from Robert Asprin to do a version of “dragon poker.” The way he came up with, in order to make it reasonably playable, was to have a separate deck of cards that the players had in addition to their standard poker cards. Each player had to play one each round, and they weren’t all favorable to the player. He solicited a bunch of ideas from people and gave them to me a night or two before he needed them (since I was doing the card backs.) And he said he needed a few more.

      Well, most of the cards were, to put it bluntly, boring. “If a player is wearing shoes that lace, this happens.” “The player facing north gets this advantage.” I glared at them for a bit and then put my improv training to use. I made up cards that had to do with the personalities of the characters in the series. (The Aahz card enabled the person who played it to only put in half the monetary amount into the pot; the Skeeve card had the next round played completely blind, with the cards face down.) I put in completely weird cards, like the one that gave an advantage to the player who could convincingly define the phrase “larboard foretopmast studding sail boom.” (A legacy of a book that put it in as though it were obvious what it meant.)

      When I started getting punchy, I made up game-breaking cards, like the one that reversed the order of the winning cards (2 on top!) and the one that reversed the order of winning hands (from pair high.) I’d more than doubled the number of cards by the end.

      The game went over well, and Mr. Asprin reportedly liked it. Never got past the publisher to make it official, though, and it was only at that one convention.

  18. As a non-writer, if I ever thought I had said Great Idea… I might pitch it, but instead of “split the profits” I’d probably ask for something like a mention when you’re thanking your publisher and family and so on.

    1. A mention if the writer feels like it. Ideas are cheap. Passing them between writers is always a lossy process, and different receiving writers will do wildly different things fleshing them out.

      Though I guess there is a difference between a “Wouldn’t it be cool if” and Dave Drake’s outlines finished by other authors. The former isn’t necessarily possible to keep track of, and the latter would clearly deserve credit and maybe more.

    2. As another non-writer — I’d just be grateful, in similar case, to get an early copy (e.g. eARC) to read and see my “great idea” worked into a real story by the author. Maybe a little more if I’d done serious research to help build a believable storyline.

  19. I was once asked by a fellow author, who shall remain nameless, about re-using a plot line I had used in Mistress of the Waves. I am not sure I deserve to be asked, in that the idea was not that original, but happily agreed. He made a truly fine use of it.

  20. Dorothy Sayers put this scenario into her book, Gaudy Night, where Harriet Vane is the author of mysteries. Some old acquaintance spends lots of time trying to explain an idea to her and she finally gets trapped and has to listen. Harriet ends by saying that she took delight in telling this person that the idea had already been used by XYZ in such and such book. So, a perennial problem… ; )

  21. I’ve known a number of writers. EVERY SINGLE ONE of them has stories like this. It boggles me, because if I thought any of my plot ideas were worth a damn, I’d be writing them. Seems that my attitude is more rare than I would think.

    I do a number of hand crafts. Some of the things I make I sell. It’s great when you name a price and someone tells you “I’ll just learn how to do that and make one myself!” My answer is always “go for it! Of course, I’ve been doing this for many years, so it may take you a while.” They are rarely impressed, but I never hear from them again either, so it’s good with me.

    Talent is nice, but any skill takes practice. And more practice. It boggles me that there are so many people in the world who don’t seem to understand that.

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