I've read many post by authors who've discussed how annoying it is when someone suggests ideas for them to write about. After all, as writers we pride ourselves on not only thinking up the best/ most marketable/ things we know ideas. We all know that at some point we're going to have to love an idea to stick with it for the long haul. Writing, editing, editing, editing, pitching or querying, editing, and then the real work begins with publishing and marketing. If it's not our idea, we may not be 100% invested, right?
I'm here to challenge these arguments. I'm one of the weird ones that don't mind people's suggestions. In fact, I embrace them. Sure, they may not come fully fleshed out or tied into my experiences, but they still have their value.
Why I Keep Others' Ideas
The bottom line for me is that at the end of it all I want to publish my work. The destination is as important as the journey for me. Taking others ideas or suggestions is a wonderful way to get a feel for what type of stories are wanted. Granted, I need to back up the demand with other similar requests or trends in the market, but suggestions almost always come in the form of something that person wants to read.
Another great use of other people's suggestions when they find out I'm a writer is for brainstorming sessions. As mentioned above, I may not be invested in their suggestions. However, if I write that scrap of an idea down or include it in brainstorming sessions later on, it may just morph into a brilliant idea or fit perfectly into a story I'm already engaged in.
How I Protect Myself
Now some of you might be saying, "But Emily, what about creative ownership?" It's true that keeping these ideas can be a short walk to a long problem later down the line. Which is why I keep a detailed notation on each idea that I'm offered. Knowing who suggested it, when they did so, and any contact info is important to protect against issues later. I don't want legal action cluttering up the already difficult publication process.
So far, I've only used family stories with the okay from my in-laws, so I'm safe there. If in future I was ever to truly utilize the dozens of story snippets I have in a file on my computer, I'd be sure to contact that person and get written permission to actually go there. This eliminates any issues later down the line, and I like to think the person would be honored that I've still been thinking about their suggestion. Instant fans via a shameless marketing ploy? Maybe. I don't mind if they don't.
At the end of the day, I'm honored that people want to share in my journey. I think of those suggestions as interest in who I am as a writer, the expertise I have in the field, and respect for what I do.
Do you find other people's suggestions for story lines annoying or do you embrace them?
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