The title of this post is a little misleading. I plan to write a novel soon and am in the planning stage, yet I seem to keep delaying starting just in case I come up with an idea that improves it.
It seems when I look at my idea it all seems rather dull and lifeless. It's a good idea, it's just I have known the idea for over a year! I keep adding threads and complications but its like I am waiting for something to make me go 'wow'. It seems to easy to criticize the idea when it is only an idea--I sometimes think I ought to start and then it will have more substance...
Anyone else get this '...wait you might come up with something that will improve it further...' malaise?
Well, generally, I think of little things as I go along---the major things usually being beyond my power to change. Just this morning, I decided the planet my story is on has a nine-day week and a three-day weekend. I stuck it in this morning. (Wishful thinking, I suppose.)
If you've had the big idea for over a year, without doing substantial writing on it, maybe you've just gotten sick of it. I've certainly had that happen with unfinished ideas.
Of course, some stories I've finished have had gestation periods of five to ten years before I've written anything down. Personally I prefer the ideas that come more quickly, they seem more fun to write...
The thing is, a novel doesn't depend on an idea.
A good idea can help with sales, it's true. You hear of a book about an artificial planet built like a ring that completely encircles its sun, and (if that's the kind of idea that appeals to you) you think, "Cool! I want to read that one." But that doesn't mean that the book itself is any better, or even nearly as good, as one about a white trash boy and his black companion floating down the Mississippi, which sounds about as dull as you can get.
It's not the idea that makes it good. It's the characters and the storytelling.
Funny, Skadder, I'm the opposite. Maybe it's because I generally start with the characters rather than an world building or plot idea, I always start righting before I have any clue what an idea is or even generally what it's about. Maybe that's why I don't much like worldbuilding--I have to stop writing the novel itself to do it since I get my original scene/character idea written then have to figure all the other stuff out. LOL
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Iíll get a decent idea and toss it around for a while (in mental development). But I have to start writing for the idea to fully develop. Once you begin to make your character live you see more clearly how they would react and then you begin to have more passion for said character. Once youíre really into the characters the story can start telling itself.
Makes me think of some of the fake biographies that have been published in the last couple of years. When the author gets busted, they always say that they just got carried away with the character. That must be because they just started writing and the character became so strong that it became an alter ego. A made up person who had, his or her own, fake, but very believable, story to tell.
Thatís how it works for me anyway.
[This message has been edited by tnwilz (edited March 08, 2008).]
I was thinking about this and I think what you're running into is the difference in writing a short story and writing a novel. In writing a short story (on the rare occasion I do that peculiar activity) I come up with an idea and write the story king of "in the heat of passion" -- so to speak. *grins*
A novel rarely works like that. Sure you may come up with a character or idea you love but it takes time and evolves and goes through these strange sea changes in the course of thinking and writing about it. What I end up with at the end never has much resemblence to what I expect to end up with.
The thing is that is part of the process (at least for me) and I suggest just going with it. Don't worry about coming up with better ideas. You don't have to wait for those to write. They'll come even more so as you're writing.
[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited March 10, 2008).]
Bell (Plot and Structure) suggests writing a promotional summary such as you would use to shop your book, or put on the dustjacket, to generate some enthusiasm for yourself. If the summary sounds exciting, maybe you can get excited about it again.
He also suggests writing some fictional reviews for yourself such as would go on the dustcover. "Mrs Brown makes a blockbuster debut, bringing her world and characters to life yadda yadda yadda.."
I can see the first technique working on me, but not the second one. Whatever works!
I think the different ways people start books is fascinating, as I teach creative writing I get to see a lot of young minds struggling to find their own styles. I also have a lot of friends and family members who have shifted from prolific readers to wannabe writers.
For example my brother is really into world building, he can write you an encyclopedia on a world he created, but then never write anything much because he can't think of a main character.
On the other hand my largest peice of work started very much like this:
'There is a boy sitting on the grass with a stone. The boy wants to turn the stone from a solid to a liquid.'
And the description of this boy sitting on the grass and failing to turn the stone from a solid into a liquid was the first bit written. Where he got magick from, where he got the spell from, where he lived, who he knew, why he was important... all this came after the writing had begun, and all of it changed (except maybe who he knew, but those characters changed as the story changed) and it turned out this boy was not even the main character, he just knew the main character. And he never actually turned the stone from a solid into a liquid, though thirty chapters later he worked out how he could have done it.
Therefore I suggest write, everything might change, but that is part of the fun.
Yikes, how I'd love to take my characters and run with them right now! I've just finished the revision of my sculpting how-to book and it's nearly ready to go off to the publisher. What a PAIN - but it's a steady, reliable seller and the first edition is sold out, so I need it!!
An idea isn't worth much until it comes alive, IMO. And you can't make it come alive until you inhabit that idea with people (that's an odd way to say it, but it makes some kind of sense to me - then again, I've been stuck in nonfiction mode for a while, argh!) You've probably spent so much time planning, you're locked into a straightjacket kinda thing. Lose some of the detail of your plans, so you're down to a "situation" (your original idea) and give your characters the freedom to LIVE rather than following a strictly set path. Add your characters, turn them loose and watch what happens. Start writing as you follow their exploits, and you'll have a lot more fun with it. That's what I do, anyway. It may not work for you, but it's a lot of fun for me.
I'd LOVE to be writing something original right now, but I have to start the revisions on my second novel. I can't seem to revise and write original stuff at the same time - my brain just doesn't have that many channels, I guess!
Be careful that you don't think your story out of existence. I once got a great idea for a mainstream literary type novel that would not go away even though I quit doing any writing when I graduated from university. The idea blossomed fully formed and I kept thinking about the backstory of my characters and the history of my setting and coming up with plot twists to complicate my MC's life. I planned to write it when I had settled into my career and even told the whole story orally to my friend when we were forced by circumstance to walk 20 miles of back roads. Well, it is 14 years later and I have only a loose outline and one chapter written. By contrast I have almost 40k written of a new novel that began as the smallest bit of a story idea. but that "great idea" just seems stale when I go to look at it again. Another friend (a published author) suggested that I may have ruined the writing experience by actually telling the whole story out loud. She said that I may have no urge to write the story because I had already written it in my head. I feel that because it spent so much time echoing around my head that it can't help but sound trite or cliched to me.
So if you have an idea, run with it. I may still go back to my great idea but if the past is any indication...