Once upon a time, there was an aspiring author that had a great idea for a novel. They wrote a storyboard, started working on character sketches, and slowly, the story started taking shape. Then one day, they told one of their friends they were in the early stages of writing a book. Their friend was naturally intrigued and asked what the book was about. Our author, beaming with pride, gushed about his great concept going into great detail before finally stalling out and looking to his friend expectantly.
This is, unfortunately, where things start to fall apart for our author. See, what our author thought was the story of the century, to his friend, was.. well, to put it mildly, perhaps a little bland. Of course, he would never say such a thing responding with a modest, if not friendly. “oh, that sounds… cool.”.
Disheartened by this lack of enthusiasm, our author decides to change the entire novel; he scraps the whole idea and asks around to his close friends, “What do you think would be an interesting book” answers range from dragons to robots and everything in between. One of his friends even suggests an instructional manual. Armed with his newfound ideas, our author sits down and sifts through the list and emerges with an idea why not merge a bunch of them together “an instructional manual on how to assemble robot dragons!” so he starts to research robots 101.
Now, if the above idea sounds really neat to you, then awesome; I look forward to seeing your book on the shelves and perhaps assembling a robot dragon of my own. However, for our author, this was far from the truth. With no experience in electronics and certainly no passion for the topic, his writing journey quickly came to a grinding halt.
Our author fell for what many aspiring writers do, whether it’s a friend or inspiration from the latest craze. Many authors tread outside of their comfort zone. Instead of writing about something they are familiar with and like, they struggle to write something they have no passion for and quickly run out of ideas and eventually steam.
While not every idea is made the same, the only thing worse than a book with a lousy plot is the book that never gets written. So how can you avoid the same fate as our author and make the book you want to make?
First, don’t get shot down on the first opinion you get back, often times the books I enjoy reading are much different from those of my peers and the same holds true for topics I am invested in. Chances are, any one particular person you ask about your novel isn’t going to be invested as you are. Whenever I do any kind of writing, I always ask for feedback from a variety of different people, friends, family, and sometimes the general public.
Having said that, it’s easy to become overly attached to a bad story concept, especially after having spent a good deal of time developing it into a narrative. This is known as the sunken cost fallacy, and while it may be hard to let go of an idea if you’re serious about your writing being consumed by a wider audience, it is critical to get comfortable with failing early and moving forward. The best way I have found to fail fast with a story idea is to draft a teaser version of the story and discuss it with a few close friends. You’ll want to find a variety of people to ask and gauge their responses.
But perhaps you’re struggling to find your next great idea. One of the first things you can try doing is reading and using ideas from other novels and stories you’ve read. There are even entire online communities where you can get inspiration. Just be sure to give proper credit if you do decide to use a writing prompt, and absolutely do not plagiarize (Grammarly has a built-in plagiarism checker if you want to be sure)
Writing should be a fun, and rewarding experience for you, and therefore it is imperative that the work you’re producing be something that you’re passionate about. Otherwise, burnout and yet another crumbled page are sure to be your future.