Marketing for Romance Writers Magazine July, 2018 Volume # 1, Issue # 7 | Page 17

JUNE , 2018


The major misconception about story ideas has to do with what they can and cannot accomplish . Let me illustrate with a cocktail party , or family barbecue , or writers ‘ event — scenario . The Author , maybe you or me , stands at edge of the crowd to maximize observation potential . We ‘ re eavesdroppers and surveillance experts after all . We know , as Nora Ephron said , that everything is copy , so we ‘ re always on the lookout for glimpses of story fodder .
Since we are also savvy Authors , our glasses contain sparkling water , diet cola , tonic with lime or something equally nonalcoholic . We know that keeping the head clear is essential to keeping the perception sharp and the memory intact for later note-taking . We are further aware that every foray into the world holds the possibility for sighting a publishing pro , and we must be ever ready to do some sober impressing . Like I said , we ‘ re savvy .
Meanwhile , a fellow partier sidles over to you , but is unfortunately anything but a publishing professional . In fact , this guy or gal is a civilian , as in not a publishing person at all , and especially not an Author . Soon he or she discovers that you however are the real thing , an actual bona fide Author in the flesh . At which point , your new-found companion from the non-pub world suggests some variation on the following .
― I ‘ ve got a terrific idea for a novel . Bestseller for sure . How ‘ s about I tell you
my idea , you write the story , and then we split the take fifty-fifty ?‖
More than one misconception is in play here . First off , this non-practitioner of the writing arts completely underestimates the writing process . Legendary sportswriter Red Smith once famously said , ― There ‘ s nothing to writing . All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein .‖ Of course , your sidekick with the bestseller idea , who has now glommed onto you like an overboard sailor in search of a port in a storm , knows nothing about the bloodletting aspect of a writer ‘ s work . Worse yet , he does not understand that an idea is not a story .
An idea is only a kernel . That kernel may possess the potential to grow into the next Nora King , Mary Higgins , or Grisham opus , or it may not . Either way , tons of nurture , strain , frustration , doubt and , ah yes , bloodletting must be applied between the planting of that seed kernel and its sometimes quite long-distant future harvest . A clever idea may be a jumping off place , but , without the sweat equity required , the storyteller is in for a hard fall and a lean crop .
Let me make very clear that not only non-writers are susceptible here . I have myself experienced the exhilaration of a Technicolor idea strike . Here ‘ s how that phenomenon generally goes . A story concept , or maybe just the flash of a scene , appears unexpectedly out of the blue , like lightning in the mind . And , in that instant , I am immediately certain something entirely new and previously unimagined has been revealed .
― This is it ,‖ I cry out in creative ecstasy between heart palpitations . ― This is the story I have to write .‖
The problem is that I don ‘ t really have a story . I only have an idea , and an idea is only a beginning . A story , particularly in the commercial publishing arena where so many of us practice our craft , requires a plot with a beginning , a middle and an end . At best , my dazzling epiphany of inspiration will get me through the opening scene , maybe even the first chapter . Sadly , on the other hand , without a lot more work , the story tumbles downhill from there .
Any editor worth her blue pencil will see straight through the Technicolor bit to the lackluster follow-up . Even if she is impressed by the story ‘ s start , she ‘ ll have figured out the truth long before the probably nonexistent finish . Which did , in fact , happen to me with the proposal for a suspense novel tentatively titled Live Burial . I must admit I was as blindingly dazzled by that title inspiration as I had been by the initial idea strike . Until my then-agent leveled her critique straight at me .
― Sorry , Alice ,‖ she said , and she actually did look sorrowful . ― You ‘ ve got no second act .‖