The Right Idea? Run (with It), Dummy! (Mary Strand)

This month, our blog topic is how we know when a book idea is right for us.

Short answer: experience and intuition.

But mostly intuition.

In truth, I’m not the “average” person to answer this question, because I rely heavily on my intuition and other psychic (woo-woo) abilities in every aspect of my life.  If I don’t, I pay for it.  When I’m deciding whether to use a particular book idea (or, for example, whether to eat food in the fridge, regardless of the expiration date), my gut will scream the answer at me.  And, hoo boy, it really screams.

I’m lucky.  My intuition (or gut instinct) keeps me on a short leash, thanks to a rude but longstanding disrespect for how much I can handle.  Unlike many writers, who may have a million book ideas jostling for traction in their heads at any given moment, I usually have just one.  Max, two.

Interestingly, although I have only one or two book ideas in my head on any given day, I have a GAZILLION thoughts (on half a gazillion topics) in my head ALL THE TIME.  If you’ve ever seen a rugby scrum, my brain is like that, only bigger, muddier, far more chaotic, and seemingly on acid.

The only exception: when I’m writing.

That’s why I love my book world.  One book idea.  One book to work on.  And during the hours I’m literally working on it — butt in chair, hands on keyboard — I’m relatively free of other, distracting thoughts.

I have no idea how or why this is true, but I love it.  Bliss.

When a book idea comes to me, I simply KNOW — via intuition or gut check — that it’s right.  If it is, it’ll let me write it pretty easily.  If my gut says (or, actually, screams) that an idea isn’t right, and I try to write the book anyway, it’s a disaster.  I’ve done this twice.  One book I’ll eventually rewrite, now that I know how to make the idea work.  The other one?  Lesson learned.

I usually take my gut’s advice.  My whole life is like that scene in Bull Durham when the pitcher, Nuke LaLoosh, is so in love with his fastball that he refuses to take the advice of his catcher, Crash Davis, and throw a variety of pitches.  Crash finally teaches him the hard way: by tipping off the batter that Nuke is going to throw a fastball, which allows the batter to hit a home run.
Incidentally, my gut also screams when I don’t take full advantage of all the gifts I’m given — including book ideas — much like Crash Davis after the batter slams the home run and then pauses to watch it fly out of the park:  I give you a gift, you're gonna stand here and show up my pitcher? RUN, DUMMY!”

So, basically, my gut is like a smart but demanding (and sometimes horribly annoying) catcher, telling me which pitches to throw ... or stories to write.  My only task: get out of my own way and write the damn book.

I ignore that command at my peril.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at


  1. I like the idea of Kevin Costner buried inside you, screaming advice LOL!

    1. It is SO difficult to reply appropriately to that! ha ha!


Post a Comment