Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ideas

Many aspiring writers have this belief that there is an idea out there. Not just an idea--THE Idea. The Idea that, if they just found it, would be the key to everything. Things would magically fall into place. Agents would call, sobbing, begging to represent them. Publishers would trip over themselves to buy it.

The Idea is everything. Find it, and you are set.

I hate to be the one to tell you, but Flash? It was my Idea. The day I finished the first draft, I remember going to the bookstore, looking at the YA section, and barely being able to breathe. I was going to be there. Flash was going to take me. I had finally, finally found the magical portal into my dreams.

It took longer than it should have (after all, MAGIC, people!), but I got a fabulous agent. This was it. I had made it. I was going to be an author, all because I found The Idea.

Guess what? Flash didn't sell.

Let me repeat: FLASH DID NOT SELL.

But you know what I did in the meantime? I wrote another book. Oh, scratch that--I wrote three other books. And then, having realized that Flash was never as good as it could have been, I picked just one of those books. It wasn't The Idea, it was An Idea. And it had potential, but it wasn't there yet. So you know what I did with that Idea?

I worked my freaking butt off.

I edited it. I sent it to friends. I finally let myself accept advice and was willing to make major cuts and changes. I lucked into a wonderful friendship with Stephanie, who is the kindest, gentlest, most ruthless editor I've ever known. I learned. I improved. And I worked, worked, worked, worked. I stayed up late. I took it on vacation. I spent time I could have been relaxing or SLEEPING on edits. I set aside a first draft of another book that I very much wanted to finish. When my eyes blurred so much I couldn't focus on the words, I read it out loud to myself to make sure I wasn't skimming.

And you know what? When Paranormalcy went out to editors, I wasn't terrified. Well, okay, I was terrified, but none of it was quality related. I knew--and know--that I was sending out the best possible manuscript, and that if it didn't sell, it wouldn't be because I hadn't done the work. It was An Idea that I carefully and painstakingly crafted into The Idea.

So here's the point. You really want to be a writer? Your Idea isn't going to sell. Your WORK is going to sell.

Get back to work.

25 comments:

Whirlochre said...

It's like a friendly phantom hand has just flitted through the ether from SoCal and spanked me on the bum.

Either that or I left the back door open and next door's dog has wandered in demanding some fuss...

Kiersten said...

Plus, it would hurt Hot Stuff's feelings if I was wandering around the ether, smacking other men's butts.

Natalie said...

This is so true. Take it from a person who's had a lot of good ideas that she thought would make it just because they were good ideas.

Of course a good idea is important, but that will never exempt you from work. Mine have only made more work for me.

Marsha Sigman said...

Great post, Kiersten. Its so true, there is not a gimmick to writing. Its all about the work...although having a good idea does help.

DJ FOX said...

Good post! Agree. And execution matters just as much as an idea. There are tons of the same "idea" floating out there, but the execution makes it stand out, and that takes work!

Marybeth Poppins said...

wow...did I ever need to hear that today.

I've been going back and forth on what to do with my MS. I KNOW it's a good idea I just don't know how to make it work and make it better.

I think I just need to stop thinking about it and DO it...UGH

Renee Collins said...

A timely post, indeed.

Many good points. I think no one disagrees that work is important. However, you can't discredit the importance of the idea.

Someone can slave over a mediocre idea, but success will still be very, very difficult to achieve. Much more difficult than if they had channeled their work into a better idea.

To me, the big question is, when do you let go?

Hmm . . . as you know, I've been thinking a lot about this. I might write a post on my take on the subject.

Lindsay Price said...

Oh the idea that is going to solve all our problems....

What I get all the time is 'give me the play that's going to win a competition.' I can do that, I have plays like that, but the play isn't going to win, the work that YOU put into the play is what will make it win-worthy or not. Instant gratification....

But I can't lie. I think about THE IDEA too. A little fantasy when the work is getting one down.

Kiersten said...

Good points all. I think this is fairly universal. And it's true, Ren, that you could slave over a mediocre idea forever, and it is really hard to decide when to let go. But on the other hand, it doesn't matter how many good ideas you have if you never put the work in to perfect them.

writtenwyrdd said...

Great points. The idea isn't the big important thing, it's the writing, the final product people have to read. Best of luck getting Paranormalcy published, though. Might not happen until you get another one published, but I bet it happens. :)

Natalie said...

Can you please compare this to trying to fine "the one" in dating? I just think it could be hilarious.

moonrat said...

good girl; good post.

Little Brother said...

From a woman's perspective:

No guy is ever going to truly be "The Guy". There are lots of great guys, but you're going to have to put tons of work into him, changing and "editing" him. You have to be willing to make major changes in his life. However, this is where the similarities end, because with guys, if something goes wrong it's their fault.

Anthony said...

You and Ken Kiser sort of channel each other in a serendipitous kind of way. I tried to write about that on my blog but think my analogy did not work.

I tell people that a book is less of an idea with words and more of a project with multiple people beyond the writer-reader relationship.

It's great to have posts like this to point at and say, "there ya go."

I would now like to take a moment and point out you have 108 followers.

Give it to us straight up: How does that make you feel before you press the submit button on your posts?

He he he.

T. Anne said...

Thanx, I needed to hear that. I try to make my work sparkle throughout my manuscript. The idea is the mode of transport but we have to make it move or the premiss is useless.

Carrie Harris said...

Heck yeah! I don't understand the One and Only Idea phenomenon. By all means, write that book that screams at you. But while you're waiting, do another, and another, and another if that's what it takes.

That whole eggs in one basket thing is a cliche for a reason, right? :)

sylvia said...

Slave driver. :(

DebraLSchubert said...

I have nothing more than a vague idea when I start out. In my book (pun intended), the writing is where it's at, not in the "one, brilliant idea." Sitting my butt down and doing the work, day after day, whether I feel like it or not, is where the magic happens. Love this post, Kiersten.;-)

Stephanie Perkins said...

You deserve everything that's coming, girl. You worked HARD, and you have an amazing story to show for it. I am so proud of you.

I feel lucky (and thankful) for your friendship, too.

Megs said...

Isn't that the truth with most things! :) Congrats on the hard work!

Kiersten said...

Little Brother: HA. You are funny. I like you.

The rest of you are also funny and I like all of you, but you probably don't have as cool of hair as he does. Regardless, I've enjoyed your comments. It seems we are in agreement--ideas are peachy keen, but will get you nowhere without work.

See how smart you all are? Why do I even bother typing these posts out?

Kiersten said...

Oh, also, Anthony. To answer your question, well, it hasn't really changed my regular string of nonsense punctuated by the occasional (and really, I mean occasional) useful bit. So I don't really feel any more pressure than I did when I had five followers.

But it does make me happy, for some strange reason.

Anthony said...

I would be nervous and chew my nails. Om nom nom nom nom ow!

Jessie Oliveros said...

Yes, I am always falling in love with The Idea and getting distracted from the current The Idea. Thanks for the reminder.

Kristan said...

Wow. Just fave-d this one too. AMAZING pep talk / reality check. I may have to quote (and link, of course!) this on my blog too.