Writing Can Be Murder

January 3, 2007

Are ideas valuable?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 2:52 pm

Recently we were at a party. A man said to me, “I have a great idea for a book.”

 (No one has ever told me they’ve got a mediocre idea for a book.)

 I said, “Please don’t tell me, because I wouldn’t want you to sue me one day down the road for stealing your idea.”

(People never heed this plea. They’ve just GOT to tell me their brilliant ideas.)

 I thought but didn’t say, “Hell, I’ve got a dozen or so ideas for books floating around my head at the moment, but ideas are a dime a dozen. The only thing of value are manuscripts.”

 He said, “I’m never going to write it. You can use it if you want.”

He told me his idea. It was actually a  pretty good as a premise, highly marketable. Not an idea that I’d have any interest in developing, but I’m sure someone would. Heck, I’d wager that somewhere in the world somebody else is already working on this idea.

 To him, his idea was great, but he didn’t value it enough to expand it into a book or story or article.  Somebody else with the same idea may be at this very moment slaving over a manuscript.

I don’t think my ideas are particularly valuable. They’re like intentions, if I don’t follow through with action, they’re useless to me.

I loved the idea of Nowhere to Hide. I fell in love with Alex and Wolf, I was intrigued by The Six, I wanted to understand The Trust. The ideas behind Nowhere to Hide were valuable to me. I wrote the book. I introduced the world to the characters and their story.  To me, it was the writing process itself that was valuable, not the idea.

 So my question is this: are your ideas valuable? Are they so precious that you horde them? Or do you think they’re as common as sunshine on a summer day? 

Footnote: Just posted this “brilliant idea” on Jennifer Colgan’s blog (www.jennifercolgan.com )

“Uniqueness can be found in perspective and brushstrokes.”



  1. You know, it’s funny, the ideas that I’ve had and thought ‘Wow, this is a gold mine story! I’ve got a real winner here.” Are usually the ones that turn up on the shelf at Borders the very next day. This happens to me with titles a lot too. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a lightning strike – Egads! What a perfect title for a book! The plot begins to form and I jump out of bed to jot some notes. By morning I’m thinking, this is so great, I’ve got to get right to work on it, but let me do a Google search first…and then it’s over. Someone else has already come up with that very title and much the same plot. So why hoard the good ones? Chances are they’re already taken.

    Comment by Jennifer Colgan — January 4, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

  2. That’s happened to me too and it can be disheartening or really funny if the book doesn’t resemble what you had envisioned for it at all!

    Comment by jenniferelbaum — January 4, 2007 @ 7:57 pm

  3. LOL, I once had what I thought was a brilliant idea for a pen name. I don’t really want a pen name, but I loved this one so much I wanted to use it anyway. I googled it just in case and found it’s already in use, by a well known author whom I’ve definitely heard of. I guess that’s why the pen name sounded so right!

    Comment by immi — January 5, 2007 @ 7:43 am

  4. immi — but wasn’t rewarding to know that you were right about the name being brilliant?! 🙂

    Comment by jenniferelbaum — January 5, 2007 @ 10:30 am

  5. LOL, well I guess so!

    Comment by immi — January 6, 2007 @ 4:36 pm

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