I get a text message that seems all the world to be some sort of scam. A guy saying his name is Mark texts: “I got a great idea for a book but I can’t write good, you wanna help?”
I ignore the text and keep going. The phone rings, the caller is Mark Smith, and I let Robokiller handle it. Mark leaves a message, “Hey boy, call me, I got a great idea for a book. You gonna love this shit.”
Then I get a call from a friend who admits she gave Mark my number. Mark is into science fiction and has started trying to write.
Sorry, no. I’m the last person on earth a new writer ought to talk to about beginning writing. They need someone who has been in the education field, not someone who just writes.
“I’ll buy you lunch if you just talk to him, okay?”
Will give writing advice for food.
I call Mark and it takes a good five minutes to get him to shut up long enough to have a conversation. Most of my questions about what he’s done, and how he’s gotten to this point are answered with, “I ain’t worried about that shit, just listen to me.” And then he goes on with the narrative of his story which isn’t at all science fiction.
Mark’s Great American Novel is the story of an CIA spy who has to get into Russia to stop a nuclear bomb from going off that will destroy all life on earth. The Russians have built this device, and are going to set it off in Russian, then blame the Americans. The Russian will then attack the Americans and move into their country and live happily ever after.
Mark sees no plot holes. Of course, he doesn’t know what a plot hole is.
After another five minutes of nonstop jabbering, Mark finally answers two questions I find pertinent; one, how much has he written in regards to this story, two, how much has he written in his lifetime? The answer to both questions is zero. I ask Mark what books he has read. Incredibly, Mark doesn’t read, and he has never written anything. Ever.
He tells me the spy is going to rescue Maren Morris from the Russian and he’s going to get Maren Morris to play Maren Morris in the movie. I have no idea who this person is.
“Write the first chapter,” I tell Mark. “And email it to me. I’ll make some suggestions and we will go from there.”
“I ain’t writing shit, that’s your job, you’re the writer,” Mark says as if it’s a given I’ve bought into this thing. He then goes into the scene where the hero of the story kills one hundred guards using nothing but a broken bottle.
“Is this a cartoon?” I ask.
First off, Mark, no one is going to do the writing for you. It’s the hard part. A narrative, no matter how compelling, is the easy part. Everyone has an idea. Ideas are easy. It’s telling the idea that makes it work, or not work, or give the reader the idea that someone has worked hard to make it work.
Mark pauses. For the first time, I think I have actually reached him.
“You ain’t stealing my idea, boy.”
And I hang up, block his number, and call my friend, who swears she had no idea he was that bad. She didn’t actually know him. Mark is a friend of a friend.
For what it’s worth, I will help anyone, anyone at all, who wants to write. But you have to be a reader, and you have to have tried already. You have to have horrible writing you’ve done before you can say you’ve begun.
Then, you write some more.