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Conceiving

I was recently reading an extensive piece about people having trouble conceiving babies, and it made me think that one of the things I like best is helping a client conceive and shape a book concept. Over the years I have helped a number develop their preliminary ideas into books that have done very well.

Last week, one of our clients was in for an “ideas” lunch and though we had kind of a vague idea of what he should do and when at the beginning of the meeting, by the time it was over we had helped him come up with a really strong concept which he is now pursuing.  In doing this, we all took into account his credentials, his platform, and the audience he wanted to reach.

And that same day, I reached out to another new author and suggested a book concept and how he might approach it.  When I returned from my weekend away last night, I had the proposal ready for my edits.  Exciting to actually see it right there!

I wonder how you like to develop your book ideas.  What are the steps you take? Do you talk your ideas over with anyone to help develop them? What do you think about as you are going through the process?  What is your success rate?

2 Responses to Conceiving

  1. Tami Veldura says:

    Most of my ideas start with a conflict, a phrase, a tone of voice, something small that I notice. I carry that thing around with me for however long it takes for it to connect with something substantial enough to really dig into. Sometimes the spark lights up right away, other times I’ll carry it around for weeks or- in one particular case, years.

    Once I think I’ve got something I can work with I wait around for the right kind of inspiration to dig into it. I have so many of these sparks floating around at different completion stages that finding one to work on is hardly a problem. If I’m hit with inspiration I’ll just start writing, braindump everything I can come up with into a document for picking apart and refining a solid plot once I have too many related thoughts to work with. I can then pick out some of the strongest ones and weave those into my new narrative.

    I don’t have anything published by the big six but I’ve been writing for years, fanfiction and original works. I’ve finished a good number of different lengths, I’ll ballpark it at 20%. Very few have actually been left abandoned, maybe 5% or so. The remainder are all in various stages of completion/generation with intent to finish.

  2. DBurks says:

    My story ideas always start with a character. Once I decide the particulars of his mind, heart and past experience the story follows. Dramatic tension is easy since I already know the character’s qualities, good and bad, and I can supply actions that force the character to respond in ways that display his particular qualities. Success is when the reader can say, ‘I understand this character even though he is completely different from anyone in my past experience.’ The most fun in writing is to create a character who is broad and deep and authentic. When my test readers demand to know more about the character in another story then I have succeeded. Failure is creating a flat bland character who is predictable. I am ashamed at the time I have wasted over the years reading critically acclaimed books whose characters were cardboard cartoons and not real people. The second most fun in writing is creating a scene that completely surrounds the reader with details that are accepted as genuine no matter how exotic and foreign.

    As a story is developed I measure its pace and rhythm so that the characters are exposed in an orderly manner to keep the reader engaged and to coax them along to the next chapter with the expectation that something fascinating is just about to happen. I know it is an idiosyncrasy, but I believe prose needs a subtle background structure much like heroic poetry. Surprises should occur in character and plot rather than in the framework of the story. I stole the idea from Pearl Buck. I think I have read all of her books, and I have been impressed that every three pages exactly some event is presented that is a surprise. Some are small surprises, but at regular intervals something unexpected occurs.

    Going through the process I always keep first in mind: How can I give the reader a true appreciation of a complex character. The bits I edit out are those which distract attention or fail to move the story along. My characters always begin with someone I know slightly. It is easier to construct a character if I can visualize a person first and then add new aspects to complete them. For the same reason I name secondary characters usually for someone I have known as a convenient way to mark them. In the final draft they get original names.

    I never talk over ideas except with my dogs, but I do use a few test readers with each new chapter. I purposely chose test readers who are vastly different from one another in age and background. Mostly they help spot phrases that are unclear or confusing scenes. Their biggest service is to tell me if the characters are believable. They range in age from 14 to 85. Only three have a college education, and one of them just barely made it out of high school. He usually reads only comic books and the newspaper, but he is the most sensitive about picking up uneven sentences and lack of clarity in description. My best test readers are the third battalion, Seventh US Marine Regiment. They get very bored in Afghanistan, and they are very free with their comments. I am happy to keep them supplied with a novel entertainment.

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