The other day I went to the post office and found a thick envelope in the box, with a return address of someone I didn't know. When I opened it, I found a 21-page handwritten outline for a Longarm novel, plus a 12-page handwritten letter explaining the background of the story. That's as far as I read. I set the package aside immediately and haven't looked at it since. I don't intend to.
This isn't the first time I've had someone try to give me a story idea, but it hasn't happened in quite a while. I know the fellow who wrote it had the best of intentions. He's a fan of the series, he came up with what he thought was a good idea, and he went to the trouble of writing it down, as well as finding out that I'm one of the authors. For those reasons, I feel kind of bad that I've been ignoring it and will continue to do so.
Because I just can't afford to allow even the appearance of having swiped something from somebody. It could get me in trouble legally, and it could get me in trouble with my publisher, and I don't want either of those things to happen. On top of that, I like coming up with ideas for my books. That's part of the fun of it. Don't get me wrong, Livia gives me plots all the time and I'm very grateful for that, and if a fellow pro I've known for years were to say to me, "Hey, you ought to do a book about so-and-so," I might do it if the idea appealed to me. I think those are very different situations from someone I don't know sending me an unsolicited book outline. If that sounds elitist, I'm sorry, but that's the way I feel and I'll bet a lot of other professional writers do, too.
So if the person who sent me that Longarm outline is reading this, I appreciate the effort you put into it, but I won't be reading it. Maybe you should try to write a Western novel of your own. It won't be easy to sell in today's market, but you never know what might happen. That's one of the great things about being a writer.
EQMM 75th-Anniversary Symposium Part 2
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