Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nanowrimo Prep:: Your Best Idea

Okay! How did everyone do on their idea lists?

So now that you have this – hopefully – vast list of ideas, how do you choose THE idea for your next (or first) book?

Obviously, if this is a contracted book, you talk it over with your editor. If it’s a spec book, you talk it over with your agent. Absolutely mandatory.

But that’s a whole other post. Today I’m dealing with choosing an idea for a spec book, not necessarily contracted. And how to fine-tune ideas before you talk to your agent, and/or how to decide if you DON’T have an agent.

There are lots of methods. It happens differently for me every time. But here’s the bottom line:

You already know which is your best idea.

Oh, come on, of course you do. You KNOW. Either you already know and you know you know, or you already know and you are pretending you don’t know.

If you already know, and you know you know, great! We’ll get to you in the next post. But let me deal with the others today.

For those of you who say you really, really DON’T know, many shrinks would put it to you this way: What story idea would you be working on if you DID know which was the right one?

Answer that question without talking yourself out of it, and that’s the one.

I am a big believer in this. But if your connection with your intuition or your Higher Power or however you want to put it has been a little off lately, or maybe for all of your life, try one or all of these exercises to coax it out.

- Meditate.

- Just before you fall asleep at night, ask yourself what story to write, and see what you dream, and/or what you wake up thinking in the morning. Keep a pad or tape recorder beside the bed so you can write or talk as soon as you wake up.

- Ask yourself the question in the shower or while swimming or running or working out.

- Spend a whole day free-form writing and see what comes out.

- Write a logline for each of your promising ideas and run them all by at least three people you trust and see what lights them up. If you don’t know how to write a logline, we’ll get to it in the next two posts.

- Set aside a day (you know, one of those 24 hour things I’ve heard so much about), and brainstorm index cards and see if your story takes off. And if you don’t know how to work with index cards, that also will be one of the next two posts.

- Pay attention to signs. Even if you don’t believe it, spend a day or two acting as if you believe the Universe is talking to you all the time, and it will tell you your best story idea if you listen – to songs, to random bits of conversation, to newspaper articles on precisely the topic you’re thinking about writing about, to the movies that come up on TV that night, to e mails or Facebook postings that come out of nowhere. If you’re going to be a writer you’d better get comfortable with synchronicity because you’re crazy if you think you can write a book without it.

The way I really know what to write is when the entire world around me is giving me clues. Like when I keep getting into random conversations with strangers that turn out to be exactly what my book is about. Like when I am on a plane writing a scene about rum, and I walk off the plane and the first thing I see on the causeway is a rum bar (I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a rum bar). Like when I am having no luck Googling the specific information I need on rumrunning during Prohibition and that night the History Channel has an hour special on rumrunning during Prohibition. Like when I meet a person on the street or see someone on television and realize THAT’S one of my main characters that I had been struggling to define. Like I decide to set a story in the Bahamas and suddenly get two offers of pretty much free trips to the Bahamas. And no, I'm not kidding, It works.

So if you need a little time to get that divine nod, go ahead and take it. Listen to what your subconscious, or the universe, or the elves, or WHATEVER is telling you, and report back if you feel like it. And then we'll really get down to work.

- Alex


Halloween is coming and that means I’m doing all kinds of events, as usual. This weekend:

-- Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 10:30 am (PST): Suspense Radio interview

I’m talking to John Raab of Suspense Magazine on Suspense Radio; John’s also interviewing the marvelously funny and talented Paul Levine at 10 am.


Sunday, October 2, I’m signing at the West Hollywood Book Fair, and teaching a FREE Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshop from 12:30-2:00 pm.

-- West Hollywood Library & West Hollywood Park
647 N. San Vicente Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA

FREE Admission & FREE Parking


Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.

- Smashwords (includes pdf and online viewing)

- Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amaxon DE (Eur. 2.40)

- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

- Amazon/Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amazon DE


Previous Nanowrimo Prep posts:

- Do You Know What Your Next Book Is?

- First, You Need an Idea


Sandy Wright said...

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. One of my novel characters says,"There's no such thing as coincidence, only synchronicity." You just have to be open to it.

Jenni Legate said...

Shoot - sometimes I feel like I see ideas everywhere, and other times I really have to work for them. I've been kicking a lot around in my mind lately, but nothing really grabbed me. But brainstorming ideas with my husband this morning over coffee, I think I have one I can get really excited about! I want to write something that draws on my unique background growing up overseas, yet deals with a modern problem, and I think, by Jove, I've got it!!

I'm past the halfway mark in your Screenwriting Tricks for Authors book, still getting so much out of it, and using your techniques, I am going to plow ahead and see what happens. Thank you so much, Alex, for being so open about your own processes in writing. It's a real gift.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

My feelings exactly, Sandy. I don't know where I'd be without synchronicity. Certainly not any kind of writer.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Yay, Jenni! I could feel you were on the verge of a breakthrough, it's in everything you post.

Drawing on your overseas background is definitely the way to go. We want to have those experiences, it's why we read.

Teri-K said...

I know this is an older post, but I just found this series, and I wanted to comment on how I know what to write next.
I've learned that I'm very good at talking myself out of things, and I over-think. So, when I'm stuck I sit down and freewrite, starting with the phrase, "If I could write about anything I wanted to I would write about..."
Works every time for me, and I get great ideas this way. Somehow it's giving myself permission to be honest.