Here is what writing is like for me: I come up with an idea that I really like – yes, the story starts in Salem, on Halloween weekend! And the main character has a weird run-in with a creepy old witch lady…yeah, yeah, this sounds good. So I write and write and then when I go back and revise, Salem and that witch lady prove unnecessary. And the character’s past isn’t quite right. And her friends, who I like a lot, also aren’t quite right. And her secrets are interesting but need to be developed. And that big reveal that takes place on page 80? That should happen on page 5.
Also, a word on IDEAS. Ideas are terrific, yes. It’s very exciting and inspiring to come up with a really great idea. But ideas are a penny a pushcart. What’s worth something is actually ACTING on that idea and writing it down. Yes, J.K. Rowling came up with a great idea: a boy who goes to magic school (not that she was the first to come up with this idea) but we wouldn’t be so jazzed about it if she hadn’t WRITTEN IT DOWN in a way that was compelling and interesting. To be honest, when I first heard about Twilight I thought “She can’t write about a vampire falling in love with a human girl, that’s so Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That’s been done.” But guess what: who cares if it’s been done? As long as the story is going to be told again in a completely different way, you can make it new and fresh. You can make it your own.
So, yes, ideas are great. But don’t get too hung up on your ideas. Right now, a penguin is mulling over an idea that could, if written, win a Pulitzer prize. But if it’s never written, what’s the use?
A review of The King’s Rose on the Damsels in Regress blog: