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September 24, 2011

The Idea Completion Consultant

Judith Greber (aka Gillian Roberts)

Judy Portrait 024

[From Margaret:   Please welcome my good friend Judith. Under her real name she's written four well-received mainstream novels. Using her Gillian Roberts' name, she's the author of the Anthony Award-winning Amanda Pepper series, two mysteries about Marin County detectives, a short-story collection and the how-to: You Can Write a Mystery. Either Judy or Gillian is currently finishing a novel set against the Inquisition in 17th century Mexico.]



This past year, I had the pleasure of spending a month in the sort of sleepy Mexican town we call “unspoiled” as we flock down there to spoil it.  So far, this fishing village is fairly intact with just enough appreciation for tourism to provide non-sleepy-Mexican-town comforts. Nonetheless, it’s the kind of place that makes people ask: “But what do you do there?”

            Well…nothing. I’ve discovered a great talent for doing nothing.  It’s quite enough to begin the day with an hour or two walk in the surf, observing what the tide brought in, talking with the fishermen getting ready to go out, talking with other beach-walkers, talking with each other.

            And of course we brought all the electronic vestiges of the ‘spoiled’ world: music, DVD’s, computers, p-books and e-books, watercolors and cameras. There were friends and family to visit us, the leisurely old-world food shopping: first, to the vegetable and fruit man, then the chicken or fish market. Dining out was either the incredible taco stand set up on the sidewalk on a folding table each night or more traditional restaurants. And always sun, sand and sea.  Also margaritas, of course.

            And, yes, an unfinished manuscript to which the only word added was, ‘manaña.’

            As I said, nothing.

            One thing that had not (yet) reached town was shopping as entertainment.  One overpriced artsy-crafty shop and one lovely clothing store for 20 year olds who wore size 2, and that was that.  Which is why, en route to the butcher, baker and such, I consistently ignored a storefront I passed on my way. One glance at the fading sign sufficed.  Surfing lessons. Souvenirs. Gifts. The town didn’t have interesting shops but it had lots like this, so I walked on by.


            Besides, even if I had been ready to leap on a boogie board, or buy a t-shirt, the store was always closed.

For some reason (perhaps I really did need another cheesy souvenir key-ring?) right before we were leaving, I finally read the sign carefully, and would have given anything for the door to be unlocked and the store opened. It wasn’t the ‘coffee and snacks’ or second-hand clothing exchange that got me. It was the final entry.


            An idea finishing consultant! Who would not be enchanted by the idea? I could think of a million times I would love to dial: 1-800-finish-the-damn-idea.

            “I have this idea,” I’d say. "Actually, half an idea--a premise, and I have no idea where it’s going.  Say…what if when a plane lands, there are three less people on it than boarded?"

"I have this novel I’m writing and I’m not at all sure how it should end."

"I have this great start to a short story but…"

“Finish it for me. Please.” .

I’ve been told that everybody has a 60-page start of a novel moldering in a desk drawer.  An idea finishing consultant (I.F.C. hereafter) could inspire and dictate the remaining 300 pages. Desk drawers across America would be clean again.

This is the new industry—the job that needs creation to end unemployment.  Building a better mousetrap is nothing compared to knowing how to finish our ideas.

You don’t have to be a struggling writer to need an I.F.C.  Too often, I find myself a stranger in a strange room. I know I bustled into the place but… why?  I had an idea, obviously, but now I have no idea. I.F.C. to the rescue again!

The whole world could use a qualified I.F.C. How many ideas are stillborn? Paintings and symphonies unfinished? Crafts, sweaters, home improvements begun enthusiastically and then…can’t remember why we thought that was a good thing to do.  A top I.F.C. could even unstall Congress.

However, the consultant was never in. I assume she had a ginormous list of clients, and she was always out of her office, finishing up ideas.

She might have finished mine. I’ll never know. I had to complete my manuscript the old-fashioned way, myself.

When we return this year, I’ll have an answer to questions about what there is to do there: visit the Idea Finishing Consultant. That alone would be worth the trip.

Am I alone in being in love with the idea of such a service?


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Hi Judith,

I think an IFC is a brilliant idea. I really want to know about the person who runs that service, so please come back and tell us after you find out.

I'm very ready to read your book that is set ". . . against the Inquisition in 17th century Mexico," so if you need an IFC for that, I notice she has her e-mail address and phone number on her ad banner. Just curious if you are in any way including the Jesuit reductions in your story?

Actually I think the reductions were further south than Mexico. I have always found them intriguing and suspect, in that they sounded too good from Jesuit publicity. We had a Jesuit come talk to our seminar on early history of indigenous peoples in the Americas, and he was trying to tell us that conversion was welcomed by the People. Um, well . . . I look forward to your book. Is it a mystery?

Pair that up with a Come Up With the Freaking Idea in the First Place service and you'd have pure gold.

Oh. oh! Sign me up!

Or maybe we should all go into that business. It's probably a growth industry, right?

Thanks for being our guest, Judith.

I started having an idea for a comment, but then...

Judy! Well, how very fun to find you here this morning!!!

Don't you love the way this shop front is painted? And I cannot wait for you to get back and get us the whole story; I can only imagine your mind going down all sorts of avenues with this whole thing. And I have to say - I envy your time in this wonderful little town.


Jerry--thank you for the first laugh of the day! Reine, your question made my heart stop for a blink or two. I've got thousands (literally) pages of notes, I read at least 50 books on everything I could find--and I'd never heard of the Jesuit Reductions till this morning. I was so happy then to read (bless Wikipedia) that it was a South American phenomenon, starting in Paraguay. The entry said the Jesuit Reductions are alternately described as either "jungle utopias or theocratic regimes of horror." Makes me sorry they weren't in Mexico--they would make great story material...
I promise to find out more this coming winter if possible. Meantime, I did try the url and got one of those warning messages I'm too timid to challenge. I hope she's (why am I sure it's a woman?) still in business.
And ah, yes...a come up with the freaking idea consultant. Brilliant, Undine.
The book is a mystery...or so I hope.

Yes! Yes! Too true!

My 60 pages is a screenplay, which means it's only 22 pages, because of the spacing. It's brilliant. It's commercial. It has heart.

If only it had a middle and an ending.

In fact, I usually have an ending, but what I really need is a Large Middle Consultant. Although, this being L.A., that sounds more like a personal trainer armed with a lot of abdominal exercises.

I've learned being unemplo...a...freelancing for the past 4 years that a "consultant" fee does not have to be reported as income.
So if she is just a "consultant" for a fishing manufacturer named Ideal that would be pocket margarita money, no?
As a costumer some of us are leaning toward that direction. Hold the needle in your left hand (unless you are left handed) then put the thread though the little hole that's called the eye. Tie a knot in the two ends and so forth.
Or she could consult you on how to fish for complements.
Sounds like you have a mystery to solve.

When I get to the middle book sag as I call it, I usually kill another character, but with this book, I'm running out of characters; so I really do need Harley's LMC or else Undine's "Come up with the freaking idea consultant."

Thanks for guesting, Judy!

Cottage industry indeed! I picture a bunch of writers, tons of caffeine, a round table, and ideas thrown every which way until something sticks. If it works for t.v...right? (Or maybe not...)

Xena, don't be fooled. If you get a consulting fee that is reported to the IRS as an expense by the payee, the IRS will most definitely expect you to report that as income. They cross-check that sort of thing.

My mother could teach a class on how to fish for compliments!

Hi Judith,

The history and psychology of lived religion, particularly including its impact on the indigenous peoples of the Americas, is my area of expertise. But I often find great holes in my knowledge. I also screw up a lot. So as a sideline I am considering Idea Finishing! Or was that Idea Fishing?

Idea finishing for fun and/or profit -- I like it! At a certain point in life, one begins to appreciate the friends who can finish a sentence when the words go into hiding. Perhaps project-finishing would be a good sideline as well. I keep a list for when I call "Borrow Bob" to do general fixing up.
As for taxes, I am too afraid to skip any steps in that area. I've found that even if others can get away with it, I am almost certain to be busted. (or perhaps I'm just chicken . . . oh, but no, chickens are not allowed in St. Peters, so that can't be me).

I'm really excited and love all the additional suggestions. I feel a bit like Ford must have when he thought of the assembly line. Of course, this wasn't my own idea, but idea stealing is a whole 'bother matter. Besides, you're all so full of ideas, complete ideas--I think we've got something going here. Maybe we could consolidate and have divisions: Idea Starters, Big loose Middle strengthener and Completers. Tailor your consultants to your needs. I can see the ads now. We need a name--or would that be the job of a different consultant?

Judith!! Lovely to see you hear, m'dear, and of course you'd come bringing a brilliant gift for the whole house.

Personally, I could use an Ass Kicker. Could there be a place for that job? An Ass Kicker could jar all sorts of things lose, including ideas.

"See you HERE!"

I served as family Ass Kicker for four decades. Now that everyone has grown up and gone on to kick their own rear ends, I find myself at loose, er, ends. Anyone interested in a semi-retired, pro Ass Kicker, let me know!

Karen, you,re hired . . .except your foot and my ass are geographically challenged.


I will trade semi-pro ass kicking for idea finishing! Any time :)

Welcome, Judith.What a lovely blog.
I'm in the middle of a rewrite for my May title and clueless. If only I could find you IFC.
Is it easier to finish other people's ideas rather than create your own?

Thank you all (especially Margaret) for letting me play here today! It was great fun!

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