I’ve heard other authors reply with quips (“Oh, you know, Target — they have everything”) or, alternately, try to give an explanation that is somewhat coherent at first but, despite sincere effort, still ends up sounding like a James Joyce-esque stream-of-consciousness ramble, i.e., “Well, see, I was watching this episode of The Vampire Diaries one night when I thought about how the town, Mystic Falls, reminded me of this place my grandfather told me about when I was ten…not the town where he grew up, but this other one he visited, only it didn’t have ghosts, vampires or witches in it…anyway, there was this ring in the episode and it had special properties, but in the town in my grandfather’s story it was a bracelet, and I wanted to write something where the bracelet and the town have a long history, but more with a time-travel sort of aspect to it, maybe tied to the clock in the middle of town…you know, like the clocktower in Back to the Future, only there wouldn’t be a Delorean or, really, any other kind of car involved…”).
You see how this can get convoluted pretty quickly.
Well, truthfully, I sound almost exactly like that every time I try to explain to anybody how I came up with the premise for According to Jane, A Summer in Europe , my latest work-in-progress or any of my other books, LOL. For me, at least, the idea for a novel rarely comes from just one source, and the components that make up the characters, plot, setting, etc., are always some bizarre amalgamation of elements and experiences.
Because of that, it’s not really one idea, it’s more like collecting an interesting handful of pieces belonging to a complicated jigsaw puzzle — one I’ll need slowly put together (and discover more pieces for) as I’m writing the manuscript. After a couple of weeks, I might have a sense of the boundaries/edges of the final picture and some of the colors and images contained within it, but I don’t know what it’s really going to look like for a long time…and I couldn’t be more clueless in explaining where, when, why and how I picked up all the pieces for the story at hand.
But here’s the thing: Even though I realize this is the way the writing process works for me, and even though I know by now (after having completed about a dozen contemporary romance or women’s fiction manuscripts) that I simply won’t be able to see the project as a whole until after I finish the first draft, my mind remains boggled by the sheer number of puzzle pieces out there just waiting to be snapped into place by somebody…somewhere.
This is particularly overwhelming to me this week because I finally finished the novel I’ve been working on for two years (hallelujah!) and am getting ready to select a new idea for my next book. There are SO MANY potential ideas, though…I truly don’t know where to begin!! It’s like someone dumped the contents of 17 different puzzle boxes onto the floor of my office, laughed demonically while mixing them up and said, “Have fun putting one of these together!”
So, I’m trying to narrow my choices, decide which type of story I want to tell and in which specific genre. I’m asking myself over and over again, “What’s calling to me now? What am I burning to write about?” and then pausing to listen carefully in hopes that I’ll hear a clear response.
All I can say for sure is that, right now, I still don’t know where the next big idea I have will come from…just that waiting for it is exciting (and a little scary) because there’s such a world of possibility out there.
I’d love to know — what was a book you read that you felt had an especially cool premise? For me, I thought The Time Traveler’s Wife was a pretty creative story idea…
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend .