Friday, March 25, 2011

An idea is not a book.

A book starts as an idea, yes, of course. But it needs to develop from there with characters and emotional arc and plot points and all of that good stuff. If it doesn't, then all you've got is copy for the jacket flap. Of a book that doesn't exist.

So what happens when you nudge an idea, and nothing comes of it? Do you beat the idea into submission until a stroke of inspiration makes it all clear? Or do you put it aside, indefinitely?

I need to find more balance in life. Or more balance between life and work and writing. It's heartening to read the struggles of other authors on this blog. Not that I want you all to struggle, no, of course not. It's just nice to know that I'm not the only one who has moments of "What am I doing? Why isn't this book coming together? Should I really keep writing it?" It seems I'm in good company.

As of now, the future is unclear. But with writing books, is the future ever entirely clear? When you first set pen to paper, can you be completely certain that you are starting your next book, that it will be all that you dream it can be, that it will be sitting on a bookstore shelf? That hasn't been my experience. All I can do is to keep writing.


  1. Nicely put! I don't struggle with ideas. So far once they hit, everything flows together. But I'll attribute that to my running. I start thinking about my idea and that's when everything seems to get figured out. If I'm stuck with something, I go for a run. Tough crit. Go for a run. :D

  2. I'm reminded of Dory and Nemo... "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim. Swim. Swim."

    Only in our case, it would be... "Just keep writing. Just keep writing..."

    You are definitely not alone in your feelings of uncertainty, but as long as you keep writing your dream can always become reality!

    Erin @ Quitting My Day Job

  3. This was the right post for me at the right time. I have a wonderful idea right now, and I've started writing. But I'm still working out plot details and getting frustrated. I really think that this idea can be something, but it's going to take a lot of work ... And I agree with Stina - some of my best plotting work happens at the gym when I'm on the elliptical!

  4. I find some books are just harder to writer than others. I am writing the book that will never be finished right now. I hope it has a new title someday. :)

  5. I just had a text conversation with a friend this morning over this exact issue. She's several chapters (and a couple of months) in on her latest project and just isn't feeling it. She wants to make herself keep swimming (as Erin said -- and usually this is definitely the best advice), but at what point do you call something impossible and throw in the towel?

    I think writing a novel is like a relationship. You can't always see where you're going, but it's nice to have *some* idea. If you aren't feeling the excitement you think you should, maybe a little time off (a SET time off, nothing random and open) would do the trick. Especially if you're feeling out-of-balance with the rest of your life. Tend to those things, clear them out, then come back and see if the book looks more attractive. Chances are, it will. If not, maybe it's time to say Buh-Bye.

  6. Ah, Alisa, I love the thought of "nudging" an idea. I wish I could do that. It seems so civilized and sane. My experience is more along the "beating into submission" line. Only, really, it's the idea that beats me into submission.