I’m toying with an idea for a new novel. This is always a sticky part of the writing process for me, because I have a hard time knowing whether my ideas are any good or whether, once I start writing, they’ll go into auto-destruct. That said, I have started to recognize a few indications that an idea might have wings.
1. I haven’t seen many recent books on the same topic. Obviously, I don’t want to waste my time writing something that’s been overdone. So I just say no to another book about vampires or angels, unless I’ve got a completely new spin on it. The idea I’ve been tinkering with lately hasn’t been addressed at all, that I’m aware of, which is a good sign.
2. The idea scares me a little. Every time I write a novel, I go in thinking, “I can’t possibly write about that!” Which means that when I actual do write it, I’m taking a risk – and risky books are usually the books worth reading. The idea I have right now feels really risky to me – another indication that I should probably go ahead and write it.
3. Just thinking about the idea causes explosions of plot and character possibilities in my brain. Some novel premises sound great, but they’re just that: premises. They sit there on the page, looking pretty, but they don’t get my creative juices flowing in terms of what twists and turns a plot might take or what characters might inhabit the story. I don’t yet have a fully-formed plot to go with my idea, but I can definitely see the possibilities.
4. I can state the premise in one sentence. This is a biggie. Sometimes I get ideas so convoluted that they require a paragraph’s worth of explanation. I know an idea is good when it’s simple and clear: My book will be about a _____ (girl/boy/vampire) who wants ________ (to find her father/to win the spelling bee/to suck neck) but can’t because (her mother won’t tell her who he is/he’s dyslexic/he’s allergic to blood.) And no, none of these are my current idea (whew!), but yes, I can describe my potential new novel in one sentence.
I’m still not completely sure that my idea will fly, but so far it’s passing the test. How about you? How do you determine whether a writing idea is worth pursuing?