We are taught as creators to guard our ideas closely lest they be stolen by other creators hoping to profit from them. I suppose there are some professions where this could be an issue, but I have my doubts about it being an issue for writers. Because I don't think our issue is that we don't have enough ideas. It's that we have too many.
Personal experience has taught me that those who are not writers are not familiar with this phenomenon. For years now both my father and my boyfriend's father have been reminding me about their idea for the plot of a book. Each of them have one idea that they are quite taken with. They're good enough ideas, but they're not my ideas, and so those are probably not books I'll ever write. This is why I'm skeptical about there being any real authors out there who go around stealing the ideas of other authors.
The challenge of writing a book is not in coming up with an idea, the challenge is settling on one of the many ideas floating around in your head, and then being able to stick with that idea and follow it through to writing an entire manuscript while trying not to get distracted by all the new ideas that are constantly coming into your head.
Like many writers, I keep a computer file of all my ideas. Mine is a Scrivener file with a gazillion or so virtual notecards pinned to a virtual bulletin board. The vast majority of those ideas will never be anything more than an idea hashed out on a virtual notecard. What determines, which of those ideas become actual books?
For me, it's the ideas that won't leave me alone. When over and over again, I find the same idea taking up headspace, I know it's an idea that I need to pursue. Sometimes this happens years after an idea first occurred to me.
I don't think this is a sign that all those other ideas scratched down on those virtual notecards, are worthless, though I'll admit when going back and reading through those old notes, there are some that stump me. "What does this even mean?" I've found myself asking as I read through an old note. The indecipherable notes and the ones that don't continue to haunt me probably aren't worth focusing on. Those ideas apparently don't grab me the way the ideas that won't leave me alone do, and that's important.
It can take a long time to write a book and a certain amount of persistence on the part of the author, and if the book's premise doesn't totally grab you, it's going to make it that much more difficult to see the idea through to the end.
So, if you're a writer wondering what you should work on next it's probably not going to be an idea you stole from another writer or an idea that was generously given to you by a well-meaning friend or relative. It's that one idea out of all those zillions of ideas in your head that keeps coming back to you again and again.
To date Alissa Grosso has turned six of her ideas into full-fledged novels, but she's got a gazillion more where those came from. Find out more about her and her books at alissagrosso.com.