Storytime, baby writers: Once, on a “date,” I told a man I wanted to be a writer. I hadn’t written a word in years. I mentioned it offhand, trying on the identity. At the time that felt like enough.
This man, who lived in a tool shed, was as much a writer as I was. Upon realizing we were kindred spirits, he immediately launched into a full account of his unwritten epic fantasy, Pigboy. It was about a pigboy named Pigboy, who was like a shepherd, but for pigs. There was a wandering princess. She said, “You can’t lead my army. You’re just a pigboy.” They made love. Did he lead that army? You bet your ass Pigboy did.
He took an hour and a half to tell me this story. At the end he asked, “What do you think?” I said what I’d probably say now: it was derivative, but so’s everything. It’d come down to execution on the page. I then–delicately!–asked him if he noticed I was miserably bored the entire time he was talking. He had!
In my defense, he was really hot.
If you think it’s awfully cruel I’m telling you this story before he ever got a chance, remember: 1) I am way better at telling it than he was, 2) he was hot, but not 90-minutes-wall-to-wall-Pigboy-recap hot 3) he hadn’t written a word of it. A decade later, he still hasn’t. You can’t copyright half-assed, unexecuted ideas. I wrote it, here, now. It’s mine.
Learn from my pettiness: there is only one thing that makes you a writer, and that’s writing. Don’t tell me about the book. Write the book, write the pitch, sell the book. The book will have ideas and themes. The only time anyone will ask you about themes in your own book will be on NPR after it’s published. If you have to talk about your book–and you never, ever have to before it’s 100% done (so don’t)–forefront plot. Be concise.
The book is all there is. Write the book.