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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Author Insight: Choosing An Idea

How do you know which ideas are worth spending time on?

"My agent kindly points that out for me. :-) But even before I share anything with him, the idea has to fill me with butterflies and dread and wake me up in the middle of the night. If it doesn't, I know it's not the right story for me to tell (or the right time to tell it). That's usually a pretty good indicator for me." - Sarah Ockler, author of Bittersweet

"The ones that come back!  Some ideas, even though you don't write them down, or ignore them, or shove them aside, just elbow their way to the front of your head again and again -- and every time they come back, you get more and more emotionally invested, thinking about them.

My friend Rob Clark, who draws comics, calls this the Writer's Filing Cabinet.  Your head knows the good stuff, and it keeps it safe for you.  Which is handy, because so many times the best stuff shows up when you're washing dishes, or in the shower, or have two armloads of groceries…" - Leah Bobet, author of Above.

"I’m super duper stubborn. Once I start on something, even if it’s not going where I want it to, I will find a way to use it somewhere. If there’s a storyline I’ve spent time on it, I’ll guarantee you it will end up in a book, in my stand-up act, or in a screenplay. I just can’t let go." - Aaron Karo, author of Lexapros & Cons.

"You don’t.  (Which is to say, I don’t.  Other people might have a viable system, and if they do, I wish they’d tell me.) That’s what revision is for." - Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began.

"I’ve recently come around to the idea that there are no bad ideas, and that any idea can be a good one if you find the story to match it. But the ideas I pursue are the ones that don’t leave me alone—the stories that fill my head with new characters and new plot twists long after I’ve stood up from my computer.  It’s hard to explain, but every once in a while, if you’re lucky, you stumble onto an idea for a book and you just think, 'That’s cool. I want to write that.'  And then you do." - Robin Wasserman, author of The Book of Blood and Shadow.

"Honestly, I don't. I've wasted lots of time on ideas that probably weren't worth spending time on. I'm not the most decisive person I know (that's a bit of an understatement.) So, I have solicited the opinions of others when I'm not sure what I should work on next." - Alissa Grosso, author of Ferocity Summer.

"The ideas worth spending time on are the ones that I have to spend time on. The damned things don't go away. For months, maybe here and there for years they'll just keep popping up asking if it's their turn yet. The good ones eventually run out of patience and ask if it's their turn while holding kerosene and a match." - Kendare Blake, author of Girl of Nightmares. 

"I’m a big believer in writing the ideas that actually have a chance of becoming published novels and making money. I’ve been a starving artist, and I don’t like it. I like food." - Jennifer Bosworth, author of Struck

"When the emotional toll of writing is high. I know I’m on to something when putting it on paper feels a little exhausting and scary, when reading what I’ve put there comes as a sort of relief. It tells me I’ve written something that is honest for me." - Meg Medina, author of The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind.

"I don’t. I tend to just dive in and see if I feel like I should keep writing. If I make it to the end, it was a good story. (Or it could be after several rounds of revisions.)" - Cat Patrick, author of Revived.

"If I can't stop thinking about the characters or a scene, I know something is there. If it seems 'meh' to me, I put it away for awhile. 'Meh' can often be overcome by time, though." - Gwen Hayes, author of Dreaming Awake.

"You don’t. That’s what rejections are for." - Nina Malkin, author of Swear.

Find out Thursday how the rest of the authors know which ideas are worth spending time on. 
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  1. Fab post, I always think it's interesting to see how authors select the idea they eventually turn into stories!

  2. It's always a delight to be able to ‘attend’ a reading and hear the author’s views on character and motivation to write the story-well, of course it's better in person but for those of us not in your state it’s great second choice.