Monday, July 13, 2009

What bugs me (and what doesn't)

Today, TV comedy writer Ken Levine blogs about the strangers who pitch sitcom ideas everywhere he goes (it even happened while he was planning his grandmother's funeral). This happens to novelists, too, though the conversation usually goes something like this ...

BUSTER: So you write novels, huh? You should follow me around for a few days. Boy, I've got stories to tell.

ME: I'll bet you do. Now about those insects on the back porch--do you think they could be termites?

BUSTER: You know what you should do?

ME: Insecticide? Terminix?

BUSTER: You should go on Oprah.

The conversation usually goes downhill from there, with Buster pitching an idea that's not really an idea at all. I end the conversation by telling him he could hire someone to write his story, though it's pretty expensive. This is met by stunned silence, as Buster simply can't believe I'm not chomping at the golden opportunity to spend the next two years of my life writing his book and thus sharing in the riches of the magnificent, sure-fire bestseller he's presenting.

I'll admit I'm not terribly bothered by this conversation. Everyone believes they have a book inside them, and if they only had a little more time or a little more skill they'd be sitting on Oprah's couch telling their story to the world.

On the other hand, people who think they can write a book without having any skill at all--or worse, without ever having read one--make me want to reach for the fly swatter.


nancorbett said...

Ellen, My novel hasn't been published, but I know what you mean here. For years, I've supplemented my income with a small tech writing business. You wouldn't believe (well, maybe you would) how many people post to freelance writing sites that they want someone to ghostwrite their memoirs, offering to share the royalties once the jewel is published. Sometimes, I place a bid to do the work for $50,000 plus royalties to kind of make a point.

SusanD said...

Ellen, WORD!

Ellen said...

Nancy ... that's the way to get the point across! People really don't get it, alas.

Susan ... How've you been?

Ladyauthor2b said...

This happened to me recently when I attended a barbecue to meet up with a dear girlfriend I hadn't talked to in awhile. She brought up the fact that I actually published a book, with a sequel. Next thing I know, this guy is telling me about how his parents met, in this lackluster town, and how it would make a terrific story... if only someone would put it together. He had no clue about the work involved and looked at me with such hope. It was difficult getting away from the conversation. I felt somewhat like a heel for not wanting to jump in to help him, but we both know all the hard work it takes to get a novel done. And the work is still there in marketing even afterwards. I can't get passionate about someone else's ideas when I have to be passionate about my own.

Long winded here, but in short, I quite agree with what you went through. Will you lend me the flyswatter? It's thick here in Texas.

Chriss Hill

Maryanne said...

oh I hear you! when we first moved to Savannah, every bug guy or repairman who came through the door wanted to write a novel ("I just don't know where to start")--or had a wife who did and wanted me to introduce her to my editor.