Once you have an idea of your own, how do you know whether it is good enough to craft into a compelling story?
Let’s have a play with your idea.
* Let the idea – and any characters that come from the idea – dance around inside your head for a few days to see if they become ‘sticky’, a description used by Marie Phillips, author of Gods Behaving Badly. Don’t feel you have to write down your thoughts immediately; play around with them until they are ready to be told, demanding to be let out of your head and on to paper.
* Take time to notice what happens to your idea. Does it grow? Do more ideas, action, characters and plot development stick to the original idea? Take an hour now to sit down with the idea to see what happens when you make some notes about it.
* If it grows and continues to grow every time you spend time with the idea, then it’s as good a sign as any that you might be on to a winner.
* Let your idea grow in your head; let it hang around with you – on the bus, at work, while you work. See what attaches to the idea. Is it growing? Do you get lost in it, to the point where you feel you are creating a world inhabited by people doing something out of the ordinary?
* Picture your character getting up in the morning, dressing, speaking. Imagine his or her opinions so that, as you write, you already have a strong sense of how they will react to any scene or action that you conjure up.
* If, on the other hand, it’s not a sticky and you hit lots of dead ends, perhaps the idea won’t grow or isn’t ready yet and may not work for a book at the moment. Before you bin it altogether, though, remember that every idea arises for a reason, so try blogging or writing a short piece to see if anything further comes of it. Are you satisfied at the end of the blog that you’ve exhausted the idea, or do you still have more to say? Does the blog spark further ideas on the theme?
* If it is ‘sticky’ – still interesting to you – there’s a good chance others might like it, too. Flesh out a one- or twopage outline of the idea. Put doubt aside. This is easier said than done, I know, but now is the time to give it a fair chance, unfettered by your inner critic.
Marie Phillips, author ‘If one idea isn’t sticking, try putting it together with another idea and see if they stick together. The Table of Less Valued Knights, my second novel, came from two different story ideas, neither of which fully came alive until I tried combining them.’