If you ask a writer what the most unwelcome words in the English language, you would expect him to say, “We’re sorry, but your work doesn’t suit our needs.” This is truly a hated phrase, one which no writer enjoys hearing (or more likely, reading), but when you have been in this life for a while (i.e., after your first submission), you come to realize it is part of the job. If you can’t deal with it, you bail for something less stressful, like bomb disposal.
Every writer lives in fear, however, of a different phrase, two sentences whose utterance can inspire panic and desperation in the greatest, the most stalwart, and the ones who couldn’t run away fast enough. I refer, of course, to:
“I have this idea for a story. How about you write it, and we’ll split the profits?”
(Pause for shrieks of agony from writers.)
How do you deal with this? How do you tell this well-meaning but incredibly naïve hopeful (who may range from a complete stranger to your brother-in-law) that you would rather read slush for a living at a for-the-love unicorn-slash fanzine than accept his offer?
First, let’s examine why this is such a terrible idea. There are two main reasons: (1) Most the writers have more ideas than they know what to do with. (I have notebooks full, myself.) They don’t need your ideas. (2) Your ideas are your ideas. You want to see them written down because they resonate with you. They will not resonate with others the same way. So if your idea is so great, if it sets you on fire, write it yourself. (Note: Certain celebutantes with too much money and no self-esteem have tried to make it acceptable to hire a ghost writer and then put their own names on the cover. Really? You can’t be bothered/brave enough to put your own work on display?)
These days, if you have an idea for a story or a novel, you can write it and publish it yourself. It won’t even cost you anything. So why would anyone ask someone else to do this for him? Why would anyone ask another writer to put in hundreds of hours hunched over a laptop, spend days researching agents, dispatch dozens of queries and submissions, and endure months of waiting only to find that, “We’re sorry, but your work doesn’t suit our needs”?
Say, I have this idea for a story. You want to write it and we can split the profits?