A while ago, Jessica over at BookEnds LLC asked this question:
Are you willing to write anything to build a publishing career or would you prefer to develop your own ideas and wait it out if necessary?
It's an interesting question. I'm not in that position at the moment, but I don't know what I'd say if that opportunity presented itself. Would I write anything? No. Probably not. But would I reject an idea because it came from a publisher or editor as opposed to springing from my own head like Athena sprang from Zeus's? No. I wouldn't.
In short, it seems to me like it would depend on the idea and how strictly controlled the idea needed to be. I read an article in The New Yorker, for example, about how Alloy Publishing develops books.* I don't know if that process would work for me. It seems like there's a LOT of input from other people at a very early stage, and in my current process, that's not how I like to work. If I were a different kind of writer--an outliner, for example--this type of process might be a dream for me. A very, very lucrative dream.** :)
But if Agent Ted or an editor came to me and said "hey, Jay, what if you write a book about X?" Well, that I could definitely do. As I know from my experience in fan fiction, I can write a story from someone else's idea, no problem. In some ways, it can be more fun than writing a story from your own ideas, just because someone else has had the initial spark. In fan fiction, for example, we would do challenges where someone would throw out a couple of words and a plot constraint and then the author would have to write a story containing all those things. Some of my best fan fiction came from those prompts, in part, I think, because they were things that I would never think of on my own.
It's one of those situations, as Jessica points out, that is unique to the writer. For some writers, the idea of such a collaboration is anathema and would kill them. For others of us, it depends on the situation. I can't say that I would sell my soul to get published, but I would certainly write for hire. Isn't that what I'm doing anyways? :)
* You need a subscription to The New Yorker to read the whole article, but you can get the gist of what I'm saying from the summary.
** Alloy's developed the Gossip Girl series, for one, and The Vampire Diaries, for another.