Maybe not this idea, maybe not the idea you had before this idea, but at one point, and eventually, and often, you’re going to have an idea that really, truly sucks. You’ll think it’s awesome at first, and you’ll work on it a lot and think about it all the time. You may even start writing it down.
Then one day, you’re laying in bed and everything just clicks. Or, if you’re like me, it unclicks and suddenly you’re doubting everything about this idea. Something just isn’t working, and you’re not sure what, but it makes you doubt the whole thing.
From here, you have two options:
One, you can try to fly with the idea anyway and see if you can’t fix what’s wrong with it, which is something a lot of writers are apt to doing if only because they don’t want to consider the time they’ve spent developing the idea as “wasted” time.
Or, two, you can say “fuck it,” scrap the pieces of the idea you aren’t sure about, and only keep the parts that you really, truly love.
You already know which path I’m going to suggest you take.
It’s really, really frustrating to come up with an idea, spend hours (if not days) developing it, only to realize that something about it isn’t quite working. Even more frustrating is the fact that, usually, it’s not like the entire idea is bad–there are parts of it we really enjoy, parts of it with great potential. It’s hard to imagine scraping an idea when you feel like you’ve already put so much work into it. I get that.
But at the same time, it’s a much more difficult, uphill battle to turn an “okay” idea into something great than it is to take an idea that’s already great and make it even greater.
I’m writing about this today because this is something I’m actually going through myself.
For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably heard that I’m looking at developing a stand-alone novel unrelated to the Martyrs series. I’m thinking of doing this because I believe I have a better shot at getting picked up by an agent if said agent isn’t banking on a brand new author being able to write seven books that sell. I’ve been toying with novel ideas for a while, and a few weeks ago, I thought I had it down.
I spent days doing research, developing characters, and building the world. I have a sprawling web of book ideas on Scapple and the beginnings of my notes in Scrivener. I worked a lot on getting this idea into shape and beginning to build my outline.
But then I just stopped. I lost steam. Something about the project felt wrong.
It took me a while to figure out what it was. I worked through the elements in my head every night as I lay awake in bed (usually awake because Calvin thinks it’s fun to punch me in the ovary or headbutt my cervix which, for me, is very much not fun). I thought about the story all the time, trying to determine exactly what it was that was broken so I could fix it.
And you know what I figured out?
That it wasn’t worth looking for.
I knew two things:
One, that I absolutely loved the characters I’d developed, and
Two, that the plotline and world just didn’t feel right.
So earlier this week, I decided to take the “fuck it” route. I scrapped everything about my original idea except for the characters, and now I’m back to square one in developing the world they live in and the plotline they’ll drive.
Yes, it can be really frustrating to lose all the work you’ve done trying to shine a shitty idea, but when it comes right down to it, the more you brainstorm, the more alternate concepts you look at, the more likely you are to really land on something great, rather than something just “good enough.”