I was asked a couple of questions in the last week.
The first about where you can get ideas from if you’re struggling for this.
And the second about how I know whether I have an idea good enough, or substantial enough, to sustain a book.
The first question I couldn’t offer much help with, as I never really struggle with ideas. I’m constantly being inspired and have more ideas than I could write in this lifetime. All I can suggest is to keep reading and try to think about how you would do the story differently. Same with any TV or films you watch, just absorb them and think of all the ways you would change the plot and have the characters do different things. Then when you have spun-off those characters into a whole other story, circle back and make them your own characters.
Or else try some automatic writing. Put pen to paper with as clear as head as you can, and then just start scribbling words and you never know where things will go. You don’t know where or when inspiration will strike, but you must be open to it.
The second question I can probably offer more useful advice on, particularly as it feeds back into the subject of writing fast.
Simply put, there is no better way to road-test an idea to see if it works than writing it.
If you’re dipping into your novel at a stately place, you can leap ahead to future chapters, spend time reworking earlier parts before you finish and put any narrative problems you might fear ahead safely onto the back-burner. Actually, in my describing of it, this sounds a lovely way to work and if I had my own Caribbean island, maybe that’s exactly what I’d do.
However, if you’re trying to get out a few books a year, that isn’t really an option. Instead you get one you’re excited about, pin it on the target board ahead and charge at it as hard and as quickly as you can. Absolutely there will be problems in the idea, but if you’re writing about an hour a day – a thousand words a day or whatever – then you will soon hit those problems and you will soon be forced to overcome them. But if you’re exited enough about your idea then of course you’ll overcome them, you’ll think through them, work around them, steamroll them.
Try it, what’s the worst than can happen?
If after three days or a week of writing you hit a wall and realise you’ve written all you want to write about that idea, then you probably don’t have a novel there. It’s probably a short story, in which case write it as a short story.
If after two weeks you hit the wall, then maybe what you have is a novella.
While if you get to the end of a month and you estimate you’ve got something like 40,000/50,000 words, then of course a lot of what’s there is salvageable. Maybe take a step back and then charge at it afresh, as obviously you have something good there.
Keep writing and keep writing fast and you will soon weed out the insubstantial ideas from the good ones. You will soon know what is going to work at a book length, a novella length, a short story length.
You just have to keep writing!
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free! A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!