The Biggest Occupational Hazard of Being a Writer!

thoughtful pen mineToday I’m writing about the biggest occupational hazard of being a writer.  No, I’m not talking about writer’s bottom! Although that is a hazard, I have to say. Especially when combined with Easter and all the chocolate I’ve recently consumed!

But today I’m talking about the other HUGE occupational hazard. I mean that moment when someone you’ve just met asks what you do and you tell them you’re a writer and they say…  “I’ve got a good idea for a book/story/novel you could write.” Then they tell you what it is – in full technicolour detail and – if you’re still awake – they add those immortal words. “Maybe you could write it and we could share the profits.”

“Maybe,” you say, nodding politely.

Which got me to thinking what percentage of a story is ‘the idea’ and what is hard graft. Just supposing you were going to split it like this. Would it be 20 per cent idea and 80 per cent hard graft of doing the actual writing? Or would it be 50/50 or would it be even a smaller percentage for the idea, say 10 per cent? Or would it be idea 70 per cent and writing 30 per cent?

I think this might well depend on individual writers. For me the idea is about 20 per cent of the whole product. Most of the work is in the writing. So if I was going to pay for ideas – supposing there was a handy little ideas shop somewhere I think the most I’d pay for a £100 story idea would be £20. Actually, having just written that down I think it would be more like £10.00.  Although I might be prepared to pay more for an actual plot. One that had an end. And if it had a brilliant twist ending. I might pay a fraction more.

One of my novelist friends did actually give me a complete short story plot the other day which worked superbly, thank you Nancy. Just in case you happen to be reading this blog. My ramblings are not aimed at you.

So my questions today are:

  1. How much would you pay for an idea?
  2. What percentage of the finished product is idea and what is the actual writing?

While I’m on, I’m running a course soon. How to Write and Sell Short Stories is on 28th May in Bournemouth.  £45.00 I suspect there will be a few ideas floating around there! Please do email me for details if you’re interested in that one. Max numbers 12. I think there are 4 places left.

Bye for now.

Della x

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13 Responses to The Biggest Occupational Hazard of Being a Writer!

  1. Very good ideas are worth a lot, but they’re no good without the hard graft of writing and editing.
    We need both. One without the other is like straying into nightmare country.

  2. Alan Williams says:

    No idea, no story. But as I often begin a story based on say a song title, I might not have an inkling where it leads to. That’s the joy of doing the story. If I used someone else’s ideas I’d feel cheated and the story wouldn’t be mine. So to answer your thoughtful question, Della, I wouldn’t pay anything. All ideas have already been used before I’ve heard. It’s what you do with them that’s unique.
    Q2 depends on the length and type of story. With a heavily based characterisation piece the idea is minimal, with a plot based story the idea (or more usually a melange of blended ideas) might be 90%. Unless you include the idea of your MC character or the idea of writing it in 1st person etc. Gets complicated, doesn’t it?

  3. I think I would pay for their idea with a bottle of wine or two. It show’s willing but stops you getting into awkward contracts. I would say 2% is the idea, and the rest is the hard graft in turning the idea into a saleable story.

  4. Shelley says:

    I think I’d go for 10% idea and 90% hard graft. Once I start typing (even if I have a handy plot outline) the characters take over and shoot off in their own direction. Does this mean that the new ‘OMG why are is my mc suddenly doing that?’ idea was mine or the character’s? Oh, you’ve started something now, Della! 😉

  5. Della Galton says:

    Yes, good point, Alan. I hardly ever have a plot. Just the merest snippet of an idea. it would be nice to have plots but maybe not quite as exciting.
    Shelley, oh it was definitely the characters!

  6. Alex Gazzola says:

    I want to say ‘Nothing and … nothing’! Like an acorn and an oak, an idea is to some extent subsumed by a story / article. Ideas are everywhere … and there’s no copyright in ideas …. but, but … if something landed in my lap and it was irresistible, and for sale, I wonder whether I would pay good money for it. Does beg the question of contracts and terms and conditions though …

    • Della Galton says:

      Yes, a minefield Alex. I think I might pay for ideas. On some days I certainly would. But probably on those days when they are not forthcoming, neither would the writing be forthcoming. It’s a tough one.

  7. It’s so interesting how many people first ask, “how’s your writing” then they follow up with the “oh I have a story” so typical for a writer to experience! I’m glad you brought some found memories to mind as I read your blog. The questions you bring up are intriguing. How would I split the profit…hmmm…I totally have no idea. But I sure as heck don’t think 50/50 is the option. People don’t realize the hard work of jotting things down on paper. Or realizing how much we writers think about different plots. But any who…great blog this is defiantly worth a pin on Pintrest. 🙂

  8. I replied to your tweet about the toolbox book as I thought you were talking about that. Never mind. I’m a no and no. Tons of people say the same thing, or ‘Can’t you ask J K Rowling how she got her stories to be mega.’ Or similar!!! Everyone has a story, the hard work is in how you put it down, as you know. Wish I was on hols at the end of May and I’d be there for definite. Have a great day. xx

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