Monday, January 10, 2011

Where do ideas come from?

Where do ideas come from?

I like to say I get them in a little store out in West Texas somewhere near Marfa.

I wish.

So where do they come from?

No writer knows. Every writer though has many, many ideas. They come when you’re in the shower, when walking the dog, on the drive to work. Ideas are everywhere. So when someone—and they will if they haven’t already—upon learning you’re a writer says they have A GREAT IDEA FOR YOU, A SURE MILLION SELLER IDEA FOR YOU, and all they want is 50% of the profits when you write the book based on their idea, you can either:
a. laugh in their face
b. explain to them that ideas are the EASY part
c. call all your friends over and laugh in their face
d. laugh silently to youself but try to explain to them that ideas are the EASY part.
e. Pretend you suddenly notice how late it is and run away.

Ideas are the easy part but an idea that actually works for a novel is not so easy. Most ideas aren’t enough. I would say no idea by itself is enough. The novelist Patrick Ness says he waits to write a novel until he has an idea that is strong enough to attract other ideas. I like this notion that you start with one idea and others are attracted to it. Another way of looking at it is that ideas grow off of it, and together they help you fill out the first idea.

One idea isn’t enough. You’ll get to page two or ten or twenty with one idea and then the story will die. You need to be able to attract more ideas, or add other ideas to that idea to develop your story into something substantial enough to become a novel.

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