Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'll Make A Note Of That

Since I started telling people that I’m a writer, I constantly hear things like, ‘you should write a story about this’, or ‘this would be a good thing for your book’. I do my best to smile and nod and remind myself that most people have no idea what it takes to write a book. If I asked the average Jo on the street what a story arc was he’d probably say it had something to do with Noah and the world flooding.

Unfortunately, this month I’ve had to bite my tongue a lot (I may have permanent teeth indents). It seems like everyone I meet is handing out free advice to what will make my story better. I love that their excited for me and want to see the story go a certain way, but what they don’t understand is that the story is what it is. The characters do and say things because that’s the way they are in my head and I have no way of changing that (except when my editor tells me to, but that’s a whole other post).

A few years back I attended a seminar on customer service for my day job. The speaker gave us this line to use whenever we had a customer make some crazy suggestion as to how our business should be run. She said tell the customer ‘I’ll make a note of that’. In other words, you’re telling them you will take their suggestion to heart, but you’re not committing to actually change anything. For my work life this line has been invaluable and I find myself using it more and more in my writing life as well. It’s better than telling someone to go write their own (fill in the blank) book.

So what about you? Do you get people giving you crazy ideas for your stories, or am I just the lucky one? My favorite suggestion to date is when someone said I should make my teenage characters older, like in college. Um, it’s YA, not NA, and definitely not OA!


  1. I've never gotten comments like that. But I'm at the beginning of the journey. (trying to get agented).

    My only related thing was when I was talking to an old friend about critiqing other writer's novels and how it's cool if they put you in the acknowledgements, and she kinda said, oh, I can't wait to see my name in yours. I just smiled. Unless the story is based off something she/we did in grade school thru collee, it probably won't happen.

    Maybe I'll have to write a story based off our history, just to get her name in. :)

    1. I'm working on my acknowledgements right now and I'm trying to keep it to the people that really helped with this novel, but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by not including them :/

      Good luck with finding an agent! Did you enter our query contest?

  2. I always hear stuff like that-- but especially, "I have this idea and you could write it for me." Ummmm NO. I'm not going to write your book for you. HA

  3. I've made the mistake of incorporating too much critique advice--something that was posted online--and ended up with a really bland writing sample that the voice had been sucked out. Since then, I've taken comments to heart, but change what I think will work, or else I save multiple versions and test it out with people I trust.

    @Azia: someone in my writing group just told me about how people will say to her they have an idea for HER to write. I'd never heard of that! As if writing a book is something that takes an afternoon, and we're all just willing to do incorporate everyone's ideas for them. Weird!

  4. The worst is my husband. His ideas are good, don't get me wrong, but they are not good for my current project. You'd think it would be easier to respond to him because, let's face it, I'm not really going to hurt his feelings, but at the same time, I like that he is showing an interest in my project. Lately I've started saying, "that's a great idea for a future book, but I would have to rework the entire plot to incorporate it into this one." That usually works. For people I am less close to, I often stick to "that's an interesting idea," or the always popular smile and nod.

  5. Funny blog Laura. You should write a book about it.
    ~Just Jill