Where Do Ideas Come From?

12 Jul

I once had someone approach me with a ‘good idea’ for a book who told me that she would ‘give’ me the good idea if I wrote the book and split the profits with her.

I declined. And tried not to laugh in her face.

Coming up with good ideas is the easy part of writing—at least for me and, I suspect, for lots of other writers. In fact, good ideas aren’t really part of writing at all. Writing is about putting your ass in the chair and words on the page.

I have tons of ideas. They come to me while I’m washing dishes, taking a shower, or pulling weeds. I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to turn into stories. The difficulty is in making those ideas into a coherent whole and sustaining the passion and thrill of a good idea through an entire book.

I’m not saying that a good idea isn’t important. I just finished reading The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. One of the many ideas that structures that book is ‘What if the Mongols conquered England?’ Pretty crazy idea. And what Brook does with it is even crazier. She populates her conquered England with amazing details, a totally hot hero, and a half-Mongol heroine. Also, there are zombies. And sex that would be perfectly at home in erotic romance. Me-ow!

But Brook holds this all together with a compelling plot, excellent pacing, and a budding romance that—to put it mildly—faces some challenges. The Iron Duke is a great book not just because of its great ideas, but because Brook is a talented writer who pulls it all together through hard work, an intriguing plot, and characters that readers care about. (I reviewed it on my own blog.)

So, have a good idea? Great! Put your ass in a chair and start writing.

2 Responses to “Where Do Ideas Come From?”

  1. judimello July 12, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Aw! I was about to say, I’ll trade ideas for monies 😉 Dang, now, I have to pull that chair and plop right into it 😉 !!!! Whines… 😉 :p (Until the idea takes a life of its own and fingers fly on the keyboard)

  2. shannonemmel July 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    AMEN, sister!

    I will NEVER forget a local writer’s conference I went to over 15 years ago and during a presention by friend & author, Joan Johnston, she said almost the exact same thing:

    “Coming up with a great story isn’t the problem, that’s the easy part. The hard part, and what makes the difference between an “aspiring author” and a PUBLISHED author, is sitting your ass in the chair and actually WRITING the damned bookand not stopping until you get to ‘The End’!”

    I also had to laugh about someone offering you an “idea” for a book and so graciously allowing YOU to write it…and then splitting the $$$ with you. OMG! Every single author I know, (and there’s a LOT of them), has experienced the exact same scenario.

    It seems to be a global phenomenon, this offering of “ideas” from those who just don’t get it…don’t understand that there’s only about, what… 7-13 actual storylines/plots and every story ever written is one or a combination of those plots.

    It’s not the story, nor the idea that makes it great, it is in the TELLING of that story. It is the author’s unique voice and style and above all, determination to see it through to the final page that takes an ordinary idea and transforms it into an extraordinary tale that strikes a cord with the reader.

    Of course, my personal reponse to the “offer of a great idea” is something like this…and completely true!

    “I have more ideas and stories and characters floating around in my head than I’ll ever be able to write. So as much as I appreciate it, the best person to write your story…is YOU.”

    Then I politley direct them to local and regional writer’s conferences (where sooner or later they will learn aspiring writer’s etiquette, and things like NOT passing their manuscripts under the toilet stall to an editor). I also refer them to step by step books on how to write and sell your book, (like Marilyn Campbell’s, “From Concept to Contract: How to Write and Sell Your Book”.)

    Then, with any luck, my cell phone will ring and give me the opportunity make a gracefull exit…


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