Friday, June 26, 2009

Thanks, but No Thanks

Toni Andrews is the author of the Mercy Hollings series. Her newest book, Cry Mercy, was published this month by Mira.

No offense.

I don’t want to write your story.

If you’ve seen the tale on my website, you know that I came to writing late in life. The blush has far from worn off—I’m still thrilled every time I get fan mail or someone comes up to me at a book store and says “I love your novels.” I still take my books down from the shelf and run my fingers over the smooth covers and sniff the binders.

I live in Connecticut. Those of you who are from other parts of the world may be picturing rolling lawns and stately homes full of people with PhDs sipping white Merlot. Yes, those places exist in Connecticut. But where I live, it’s a firmly blue-collar area. Local restaurants serve chicken wings and pizza and not much else. Red Sox vs. Yankees arguments are more common than literary discussions.

Don’t get me wrong—I love it here. But when I go down to the local bar and grill and someone finds out that I write books for a living, I often get one of three reactions:

Disbelief (Yes, but what do you really do?).

Shock and awe, followed by an admission of not having read a book since high school.

A sudden, feverish look in the eyes, followed by a request for my business card.

It’s the third one I have to watch out for. I’ve learned to ask, with as much subtlety as possible, why they want it. Because, often as not, it’s because they have a book idea for me.

These fall into two categories (I love lists. Can you tell?):

He, his uncle, or his next door neighbor has such an amazing personal story that if I will just write it down, the book will be a GUARANTEED NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. Sorry to shout. It’s just that they always use those exact words. Always.

He himself has an idea that’s a GUARANTEED NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER but he doesn’t have the skill or patience to write it, and he wants me to “help” him.

Occasionally there’s a third option, particularly if the venue is a bar and even more particularly if the party concerned has got what my Uncle Avery used to refer to as “a snoot-full.” This is the person who proceeds to drunkenly spew out said GUARANTEED NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER’s plot, and then becomes paranoid that I am going to run home, write it down, send it in, and become a gazillionaire.

Like most writers I know, I have folders and folders, both real and virtual, full of my own book ideas. I’ve written them on the backs of envelopes I found under the seat of my car, in the margins of magazine pages ripped from ancient copies moldering in waiting rooms and in countless notebooks.

I’ll never get the chance to write all these books, even if I live to be 150. Because I’ll always be getting more ideas.

If you have a book idea that’s a GUA (I stopped myself this time.) just dying to be written, then I think you should write it yourself. And I’m not being snotty here—I mean it.

It’s not as hard to write a book as you think. After all, I did it.

Walk into a big bookstore and take a look around. Some human being wrote every one of those books. They weren’t all (trust me on this one) geniuses. And you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you can stroll over to the writing section of that store and find books that will tell you how to structure a plot, create believable characters, write sparkling dialogue, and even how to get it published afterward.

Hey, I know. I credit my published status to the first book I picked up when I made the decision to write my story down: Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger, a book I highly recommend.

So, sorry, I don’t want to write your book—not because it wouldn’t be amazing. It’s just that I’m busy working on my own. As for your book:

Write it.

I mean it.

Start today.

Toni Andrews

Toni's web site:
Where to send your Self Addressed Stamped Envelope to get a signed book plate for your copy:
Toni's Blog:
Toni's TV show:
Cry Mercy Trailer:
Book Rx, Toni's "Book Doctor" service:


  1. Thanks for another great part of your Blog Book Tour, Toni!
    It's a really nice way to get to know you a bit.
    And thanks for answering some of my questions on some previous VLogs. I have become a constant follower :D

    Regards and greetings,


  2. Hi ;)
    Excellent Blog as always.
    Thank you for sharing. And thank you for deciding to write, following through on that decision, and creating such realistic characters.
    Love From Canada

  3. Re: blue-collar in Connecticut. After returning from Desert Storm I spent two weeks in Connecticut with Vern McIlwain, my tank commander. Remember walking into his 'old' bar with him. I thought it funny at the time that having grown up in the South I didn't know what to expect from 'real' Yankees. What I found was the same- well what you call blue-collar and what I would call 'Rednecks'- the only difference I could tell being the accent.

    One thing that stood out was a trip to the 'grinder's shop. I remember asking if he had to get something sharpened. Turned out it was a hoagie ..

  4. Edward, after you got your grinder, did you stop by the packey to get some beer to go with it?

  5. Great blog entry, Toni!

    I get a kick out of people telling me their desire to write a novel. And I always, always tell them to go for it!

    I'm not the person to do it for them because I have my own passions and dreams to achieve...just like they do.

    It truly is one of those "just do it" things. And I'm such a "who cares if you don't think you know the 'correct' way", a "work your butt off and learn all you can about achieving your particular dreams", a "distinguish your dreams from your reality by going for the gusto and putting your time, energy and resources into turning those goals into achievements".

    So "just do it"!

    It's all a matter of "how bad do you really want it"...whatever that "it" is...

    Sexy, Sassy, Smart Wishes --- D. D. Scott

  6. Toni,

    I get a kick out of the number of people who tell me they can't write. To me, writing seems as natural as breathing--more on days when the pollen count is high.

    When will Beg for Mercy be rerun so I might start this series right?


  7. Thanks, Axisor. Beg for Mercy is not officially "Out of Print," but, rather, "Out of Stock." Which means the publisher can print more copies if they want to. I'm just having a hard time getting their attention.

    If you want to help me out, go to and write them an email, saying you'd buy it if they reprinted it.

    In the meantime, my feelings won't be hurt if you find a used copy. Try

  8. Great blog post! Every published author has heard this plea. Usually it's ended with, "We can split the proceeds."

    Yes, the best advice to all aspiring authors is write, write, write.


  9. I am an aspiring author myself, and I find it inspiring to read published authors' blogs. I hope to one day count among you, but if not, them I'm still spending time following my passion, which is writing... So regardless of whether I am published or not, I could never consider it wasted time! :)

  10. Toni,
    Thanks for the humorous take on reactions from the neighbors; it had me smiling and laughing a bit. I've encouraged several people to 'write their story' when I see a good seed in what they share. But most of the time, they reply with 'Oh, I'm not a writer; I'm too busy with my kids; my grammar is lousy."
    Writing a book takes discipline, time, and energy.
    Thanks for taking the time and energy to keep in touch on your tour.

  11. Hysterical blog and right on the nosy, Ms. Toni Andrews.

    As I've often had to say: having an idea is great, but being able to tie your idea to action is different and better. It reminds me of people confusing having a good and vivid imagination with being a good writer. One, the imagination, is a sub-particle of the the other, the writing well.

    Everyone loves sharing their imagination with you, but they seldom want to do or even understand that imagination and ideas alone can't do the job.

  12. This is so true! When people find out I'm editing my first novel, a lot of them say "Wow, I've always wanted to write a book." I tell them to go for it! You never know until you try, and you may discover a new passion!

  13. Truer words, and all that! Some well intentioned friends keep pushing me to write the life story of a mother/brother/friend, but I resist. I'd rather live my life than try to capture someone else's.

  14. You of the things I like about your writing is it sounds like you're's almost like carrying on a conversation with you. I'm not sure if that makes any sense or not.

    On another note...I lived in Springfield VT for most of 2006 and we go back there at least twice a year to visit. I always love driving through Connecticut and would love to live there one day. After so many years with my Yankee's way to hot and way too in Savannah GA. :o)

    Best wishes and much success!
    ~ Katherine ~

  15. so honest and so to the point i love it! I can't wait to get my paws on a book of whole literary world is opening does that occasionally...very excited ;)

  16. Most girls hope a request for a business card might mean a potential date in the future...

    Great blog :-)

  17. And there are those who say they have an idea and will get around to writing a book about it some day, as if it were really easy to do. Maybe for some it is, but for many, there's lots of work involved.

    Morgan Mandel

  18. Sorry to be so late with the update. The winner of the copy of Cry Mercy is Axisor.

    Please send me your mailing address through the contact link on my website and I'll make sure you get your copy.