A couple of weeks ago I was cleaning out a bunch of computer files. It was supposed to be a ten minute job, unsurprisingly it lasted most of the day.
I found things I had long forgotten, both good and bad, and came to the conclusion if I ever had money to spare one of the first things I’d do is hire an assistant.
Clearly, being organized is not one of my strengths.
Curiously one of the files I came across was a novel that I had written way back in 1992. It was titled, The Cabin. It ran about 75,000 words. Every chapter appeared to its own little story and it seemed to have ended on a cliff hanger. Was part two in the works? I have no idea.
Curious why I called it The Cabin, I ran a search and discovered not one word in the entire novel contained the word cabin. I kind of remember writing it but I have no idea why or where it was going.
I decided to keep it anyway. One of these days I will break it down and try to figure out what in the heck I was trying to do. It’s clear I had an idea at the time, it just didn’t translate all that great into a novel.
Ideas worth keeping
So here’s a question: What makes a great idea and is that idea good enough for full length novel?
I come up with lots of ideas and I’m always writing them down. I’m the guy you see with a notebook and pen in his pocket. I write down everything that pops into my head knowing full well only half will make the cut and some of those that do survive aren’t all great.
But that hasn’t stopped me from trying to create something out of nothing and if you don’t believe me I have a mystery novel titled The Cabin that contains no cabin coming to your town.
A Great Idea
One of the lessons I’ve learned in this world of novel writing is to be honest with my self. The ideas may seem exciting but are they good enough for a novel?
Throughout the years I’ve learned to draw my ideas out. Can I see an ending? A middle or a beginning? But most of all does it feel right? Does it contain a dash of magic that pulls me in to their world?
Years ago I wrote a time travel murder mystery. The idea was great. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love time travel with a spic or two of murder and mystery. But not matter how excited I got the story fell flat.
I remember summer came and I rewrote it. Pleased with my newest version I shared it with a handful of people. Sadly it fell flat again. In the end my newest version was nothing more than pumping air into a flat tire.
Most of would have given up that sinking ship and moved on, which is exactly what I did. But a chance meeting with a brilliant high-school kid pulled the ship to shore. Now I can write. Now I can see it where I went wrong.
What do we do?
So where does that leave you and me and our lists of great ideas? Do we file them away and wait for a rainy day, do we pick one and give it a shot or do we hope we bump into a brilliant kid who can steer us away from the rocky shore?
The answer is yes and no. Trust me, I’m still trying to figure it out.
But the one thing I’ve learned in all these years, if an idea will not go away maybe there’s a reason for it. If this idea follows you like a lost puppy in a storm maybe it’s time to put on the breaks and listen. Clearly it’s trying to tell you something.
In the end take your ideas and give them a long look. Including the bad ones. The results may surprise you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Cabin that needs to be inspected.