Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Weeding out Ideas, 5 Ways to Get Started by Fran Shaff

© Marta Stephens 2008 all rights reserved

Aside from cross promoting our works, one of the wonderful benefits about networking are the people we meet along the way and the path where they may lead us. One of my favorite things to do is to read what those in my network are posting. Fran Shaff is one of the many talents whose blogs I enjoy reading. She’s offered countless great pieces of advice for writers and I'm very pleased to have her permission to reprint one of her recent posts here in MURDER BY 4.

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Writers sometimes find themselves with tons of ideas for new novels. In my opinion, better to have too many ideas than not enough.

When we writers are blessed with the "burden" of more ideas than we can handle, it is up to us to choose which ideas we'll develop and which we'll set aside.

So how does a writer determine which premises should be turned into books? A number of factors enter into this decision. Below I've mentioned five specific factors.

1. Is your premise appropriate to the genre in which you wish to write?
Readers of the various genres expect certain kinds of books when they choose a genre or sub genre for their reading enjoyment. Publishers know this. The writer who wants to write a love story in which the hero dies, should not expect to be published in the Romance Genre where it is required that all endings are happy ones. His premise with the sad ending would be better suited to mainstream fiction or perhaps mystery, sci fi or horror if the rest of his story fit into of those genres.

2. Does the premise have broad appeal?
Reader appeal may be due to the characters or the plot or both. The narrower the focus of the story, the fewer the readers.

3. Is the idea high concept?
A story that is high concept also has broad appeal. If terrorists invade an international summit where the fate of the world is at stake, or if a hurricane is moving in on the site of the summer Olympics, the idea is high concept, has broad appeal and fits into the next question as well because these ideas rouse readers' interest. A well-developed plot and compelling characters will hold reader interest throughout this high-concept storyline.

4. Are the stakes high?
As I said above, this is part of the high concept, broad appeal test for a premise.

5. Will the premise sustain the length of the novel which you intend to write?
To answer this question a writer needs to consider novel length according to the requirements of the target publisher, the problems that are bound to arise as the hero pursues his goal, and his own interest in his storyline as well as his competence in the knowledge required to develop the story in a way that makes it completely authentic to the reader.

If writers run their ideas through the above "weeding out" process and perhaps through some tests which they have developed on their own through their experiences, they will likely find it a bit easier to decide which ideas they'd like to develop and which they'd like to leave in notebooks in drawers.

Good luck with choosing your ideas, writers. And, readers, we hope you have a great time with the novel you've chosen to read this week.

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Fran Shaff is the author of more than a dozen published sweet romance and young peoples' novels. She has also had short stories published in such places as WOMAN'S WORLD magazine, and the Amazon Shorts program at Look for her Award-Winning Article about Orphan Trains in RAILROADING THE PLAINS a book featuring the papers from the 39th Annual Dakota Conference published by The Center for Western Studies in Sioux Falls, SD.Awards Fran has won for her fiction and non-fiction writing include: 2007 EPPIE nomination for young peoples' literature, WRITE TOUCH READERS Award, MORE THAN MAGIC Award, HERBER W. BLAKELY Award, and more than a half dozen other awards and acknowledgments for her outstanding writing.


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I'm delighted that Fran agreed to this reprint, Marta. Excellent points, all. Fran, it's an honor to have you here on MB4. Hope you'll join us again!

Marta Stephens said...

Makes you want to go back and check these off your WIP, doesn't it? It does me.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...


Kim Smith said...

WELL SAID~! I personally have tossed a ton of ideas just because they wouldn't carry through a whole book, keeping the action and suspense going throughout.