Friday, August 5, 2011

Pet Peeve: Words Have Weight

"Word have weight." 
                                 ---Holly Lisle

Today I am going to talk about a pet peeve of mine. Since most of my readers are also writers, I am going to be preaching to the choir on this one, but I figure some of you might not have thought about things this way. If you have, well then join me in the comments section and we can complain about it. :D
Today I read a funny article on about subjects people love to talk about, but most people don't want to hear about. Number one on the list was your book/script/screenplay. I rather enjoyed the article, especially since Daniel O'Brian made the caveat that most writers like to talk to other writers about their ideas. And most of the time, if you have a book or something to show for your efforts, "normal" "non-writer" people usually like to hear about your book because you have something to show for it.

I am going to add to that statement and say in my experience, even IF you have a book to show for your efforts, most people don't want to listen to you breathlessly talking about your space adventure cowboy romance between a sentient tree and a hamster. Short, interesting pitch sentences, yes. When my co-workers ask about what I am writing, I use that as an opportunity to practice my pitching skills. 

"It's a retelling of Snow White on a tundra, about an exorcist who promises her mother on her deathbed that she'll stop a demon summoning before the winter solstice, but she winds up discovering her mother's secret life in the cult." (that's the basic plot of my book, The Heart's Remains, in case I haven't mentioned it before).

See, that was short and sweet. I can gauge how interesting the story is (to some people) by their reaction. I can also choose to include different details to see what people seem to respond best to. When they ask for more information, I expound, but I usually don't go on at length about my book. 

I think a lot of people like the idea that you're a writer more than actually hearing about your book in detail. We're interested because it's our book, but most people really couldn't care.

I used to ramble on and on and on. It wasn't pretty. I would deluge the hapless sap who asked me about my book with details. "It's about this girl who's mother is sick from an unknown illness, and right before she dies she tells Sera, the main character, about a demon summoning that a secret cult is doing, and Sera promises to stop them, but then she finds out it's hard to find proof of the cult, and she gets sick herself, and she has a twin sister, and her friend gets possessed, and...."

To most people it's just a bunch of details. It doesn't make sense to them. 

But that's not my pet peeve. I have made my peace that 99% of the population is not rabidly excited about my book ideas.

In the comments section a lot of people disagreed with the author's statement that you need to have tangible results, like half a book, in order for most people to be interested in your book/film. Lots of people said that ideas were just as good, if not better, because you can see where the book is going.
I've also seen this basic sentiment prevalent on forums everywhere and in real life. How many people have you met that say they had a book idea? And it's going to be the best thing since Twilight/The Da Vinci Code/The Bible. Yet they have nothing to show for the idea.

I am not saying these people are lazy posers and need to write that idea down. Not everyone is a writer, after all. It's a lot of work. It's just really annoying to me when people act like having an idea is the same exact thing as actually writing a book.

I know I should be more understanding. They don't know, because they haven't written the book yet. They don't actually know how hard it is to get from the beginning to the end, and then to edit the sucker within an inch of it's life, and then...

The other thing these people don't seem to understand is words have weight.  Having an idea is great. It's the first step. But anyone who's ever had an idea and then wrote that out into a book knows that no idea remains completely intact from when you first had it. The words you're writing have weight. Even if you have an idea come to you and everything is laid out perfectly, and you write the book and barely a thing changes, the book still feels different than your idea. There's layers to it. Nuances and subtleties that you didn't conceive of intially.

That's okay. Normal. What's supposed to happen. But that's why I get annoyed when people try to compare having an idea to writing a book. It's not as easy as simply jotting the idea on paper and selling it for millions of dollars.  

If it was, everyone would have a book out there.

So there. That's my rant. I'll stop foaming at the mouth.

So what do you guys think? Am I nuts? Or does that burn your biscuits too?


  1. First, stay away from My addiction almost killed me. (no, seriously.)

    Second, I do dislike this conversation:

    "So, what do you do in your spare time?"

    "I write."

    "Oh, I wish I had the time to waste on that. I always wanted to write something."

    me: "DEEP SCOWL."

    Yesterday I had to meet with my insurance agent, and I wasn't in the mood for it. After I said, "I write." He said, "I had this idea in college for a whole new kind of shorthand. It would make note taking so much easier."

    I said, "Yeah, it's called 'text-speak' these days. You missed the boat."

    The look on his face was fairly priceless. I guess my point is, don't have an idea then complain you didn't do anything about it. I had a full time job and two kids, but I still managed to write books.

  2. Yes, Cracked is rather addictive. I've severely limited my daily intake or I'd never get anything else done.

    I do hate that conversation, and you hit the nail on the head. Sometimes those people act like they've better things to do than write, but they could be better than you if they didn't.

    Okay, sure. Some people's priorities are different than mine, but I don't act superior simply because I don't watch as much TV as they do.

  3. What always irks me is when someone tells me this "really great idea for a book" they have, as if the idea was the gold, not the book, not the sweat of labor in creating the book. Ideas are a dime a dozen, if that. I always tell them, "So, go write it!" Because I sure as heck am unlikely to want to write their "great idea."

  4. YES! I get that a lot too. Or people telling me their life stories should be a book because it's just so crazy.

    Neil Gaiman has a funny essay about people telling him that they have a great idea.