What a Novel Idea #atozchallenge


I hear this one fairly frequently from some of my younger authors: I have an idea, but I’m not sure if it’s a novel or a short story or what.

To which I always reply, “Just start writing and let’s see what you’ve got.”

It’s an idea not unlike the permission we often have to give ourselves to puke on the page in our first draft. Just shut up and write.

But the question these folks are really asking me is a little bit more complex, and that’s “Is this plot too thin to sustain a novel?” And the answer to that is… well, I can’t give you, my blog readers, a definitive answer, because it depends. Sometimes, clients come to me with more simplistic plots and no intention to add subplots. Maybe they are really writing a novella, not a novel, which tend to be leaner not only in length but in complexity.

And sometimes, they go the other way, and the first draft comes out to be 200,000 words long and they don’t know where to start cutting. And it’s not 200k of fluff or backstory, either. It’s that the plots are that convoluted. With the rise in popularity of a certain set of novels (nope, not looking at anyone in particular here. Is that sixth book done yet, Mr. Martin?), a set of writers is attracted to that sort of long, convoluted story. In fact, the High Fantasy genre (which, for the record, I love) is full of complex novels.

So how do you know if your idea is any good before you sit down and pound out thousands of words that just might lead you nowhere? What do you do if you’re one of the people who is looking for a guaranteed return on the time you’re going to invest on a project?

Well, you make an outline. Decide how the story’s going to play out. Know whose point of view you’ll be in, what the plot twists are, who the characters are. You take the time to plan out your idea or vision.

But if that’s too much trouble?

Then, with all due respect, maybe this isn’t the project for you. I can’t tell you the number of manuscripts I’ve read that have been simply amazing and incredible, but have failed to find their audience.

All I know for certain is that if you have an idea and you want to see it come to light, you have to put in the time. That holds for non-fiction, as well.

This gets into the “Life is a journey, not a destination” maxim, and I’ll let you ponder that one as you decide what sort of journey you’d like to take. But why not take this one?


1 Comment

  1. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

    April 17, 2017 7:15 am

    For me, sometimes one idea isn’t enough for a story. Sometimes I have to mix several ideas together to create a novel-length story.
    Sandra Ulbrich Almazan, Science Fiction/Fantasy Author

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