If you’ve got an idea for a novel, don’t tell me about it: write the bloody thing

This is a short post about a small gripe.

It’s the “I have an idea for a book” comment I’ve heard on and off over the years since I started to write, and more lately after I self-published Return to Desiree Bay.

The scene unfolds along familiar lines. I see a friend or acquaintance, and we ask each other how life is going.

I reply, because I’m in book-marketing mode: “I wrote a novel called Return to Desiree Bay. You can buy it in e-book format or paperback, print on demand.”

Not all the time, but enough to make it gripe-worthy, the reply to my spruik goes something like this: “Oh, I’ve got an idea for a book.”

I respond: “Great. What’s it about?”

A while back, someone who had “an idea for a book” answered my question with: “I can’t tell you what it’s about, you might steal my idea.”


My 90-going-on-91-year-old mother even has an idea, which she described to me in great detail before I’d published my own book.

After she’d finally finished (it took about half-an-hour – fortunately, there was coffee at hand), I said: “Now all you have to do is write the book.” (Is that a mean thing to say to a 90-year-old? Maybe. Just a bit.)

Recently, an acquaintance outlined his/her/their idea for a novel to me. Afterwards, I said, using my most upbeat tone: “You should write it. It’s a brilliant idea.”

That person smiled at me with the light of a saint in their eyes and said: “You can keep it, it’s yours.”

So there you have it. That’s my gripe.

I’m all for the idea. But that’s all it is. Then comes the hard yakka. Hats off to you if you can take that idea from concept to completed novel. It is easier said than done.

I’ve got an idea for a book

Don’t you just ‘love’ it when you tell someone you’ve written a book and they respond with, ‘Yeah? I’ve got an idea for a book’ or ‘Yeah? I hope to write a book one day’.

Do you? Well, go for it. Write your little heart out.

Of course, I’m being flippant. I get the Jimmy Brits when people assume that writing a book is easy as 1-2-3. Like they can pull one out of their bottoms without it hurting.

Believe you me, once they learn that you’ve written a book, they will, in most instances, share their own writing aspirations or those of a friend/relative.

I’ll give you a recent example of a conversation with a friend who asked how my book was coming along. After I answered, she said, ‘My daughter is going to take six months off work to write a book.’

‘Great. Good on her,’ I said.

What I didn’t say was this: Maybe it will take six months. There are those rare authors who can knock out a quality read in less than that. But it’s more likely to take 12 months-plus to type ‘THE END’.

But it’s not really the end.

A first draft is, in many ways, the fun before the hard work starts.

The rewrites are the thing. The editing process can take longer than the writing of the book. I say ‘rewrites’ because it’s unusual for there to only be one edit.

A few years ago, a successful crime fiction writer spoke at a writing workshop I attended. She admitted to having completed more than half a dozen edits before her book was ready for publication. It took five years to get it right. And that was with the help of an agent, editors and sympathetic publisher.

Maybe everyone does have a book in them. Personally, ideas buzz around inside my head like a hive of busy bees.

But so what. These are bees that haven’t yet got down to the labour intensive work of making honey.

The idea is to sit, write, complete. Then add to that ‘repeat’. However many times it takes.

Good luck to everyone who has an idea. And here’s to those who follow through.