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Write It!

It happened again the other day. A woman phoned and told me she had a wonderful plot for a book. Not only that, but it was the story of her life. And she was willing to let me write it.

I'd need to add plot points, she said. I'd get hints about those in the large box of scribblings that she'd deliver to my house ASAP. She wasn't sure how to construct the story, and I should add the dialogue. That wouldn't be too hard - she'd read my books and I seem to have a knack for it.

Of course, she'd want a cut of the royalties. She'd be happy with, oh, 80 percent. Right about then, I smelled something burning on the stove and escaped.

When writers get such phone calls, we wish we earned a living some other way.

"Why is that?" asked my friend Sasha, who thinks the writing life is so glamorous that I should find joy in jotting down my shopping list.

"Because someone else's story is not my story," I replied. (Not to mention that if I do all the work, I'm entitled to more than 20 percent of the income derived.)

"Hmmm," Sasha said thoughtfully. But she didn't really get it.

Here's the thing: I am a writer. One of the things writers do is think up plots and dialogue. The reason we do this is – WE CAN'T HELP IT. When you're a writer, you can't turn off the plot or the words in your head. And there is no cure, either. Plots and made-up conversations twitch at our brains the way tics twitch at some people's eyelids.

So with words flashing through our brains as though from weird alien strobe lights, illuminating corners of our minds and confusing us with complexities which we struggle to understand because we must – absolutely must – commit it all to paper so an editor will buy it, and there's not enough time in the day to get it all done, WHY WOULD WE WANT TO WRITE THE STORY OF YOUR LIFE?

You guessed it. We wouldn't. Also, strange as it may seem, we support ourselves with what we write. Other people sell soap. We sell words and ideas. Twenty percent of the take isn't going to cut it.

So, I humbly suggest that you write your own story. You may have been born a middle-eastern princess, fled the harem to marry a cosmonaut, divorced him after you discovered the Lost Continent of Atlantis, and given birth to Elvis's posthumous love child. That's great, but why give it to someone else? It's your story. The world is waiting for your talent, your brilliance, and your unique style. Self-publishing options make it possible for anyone to become an author, so go for it!

And you can keep all the money you earn instead of paying me 20 percent.

I will be happy to read your finished book. Just send me the link, and I'll be as delighted as anyone that you made it as a writer.

Happy writing to you! I think I smell something burning on the stove. And that's a good sign. It means I've paid the electric bill this month with what I've earned from writing.  Read More 
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