Finding Your Idea (and hanging onto it!)

Happy July! (Am I the only one who feels like it’s really weird to be saying that already? Like, isn’t it still February?)

So, I’ve made the decision to try and do a little more maintenance on my YouTube channel that’s existed for over a year now. Oh, you didn’t know I had a YouTube channel? HOW DARE YOU. Just kidding–I had only posted two videos before today! And I can’t guarantee that I’m going to do an awesome job at posting regularly from now on, but, I’ve decided that I at least want to try to make a better effort to use the channel!

That’s why today I uploaded the first of a series of videos where I break down all of the burning authorly questions I’ve heard over the past year, which are all the same questions I had before I found Blaze Publishing. I love when people ask me about balancing writing and full-time work, or how to come up with ideas, or how to get into the world of publishing. After all, it really wasn’t long ago that I was the one doing all the asking instead of just some of it! Now, I won’t claim to know everything–I still have a world of growing and learning to do–but it turns out that after a full year in the publishing game, I can actually answer a good amount of these questions and draw from experiences. So today, in honor of Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 kicking off, I decided to chat a little bit about how to find an idea (and hang onto it!)

Now here’s something else I want to acknowledge: not everybody has the time or the desire to watch a 16-minute video! If you do, have at it and enjoy! But if not, I wanted to break my information into more snackable advice below. Here’s what I’ve learned about the challenge of committing to a story:

  • Every writer faces it, and it comes in different forms. We either 1) Have a folder full of half-developed ideas that we’ve started and abandoned because we’re afraid it sucks, or because something more interesting came along, or 2) We just don’t know where to start.
  • It’s not going to come as a single, powerful eureka moment that you’re going to remain enthusiastic about forever. That exciting million-dollar idea that hit you on the freeway will become familiar to you, and you may grow bored or frustrated for a short time while a bigger, shinier idea calls out to you. Jot down a few notes about that new idea, and then come back to your project. You will thank yourself when you finish the manuscript, and that other idea will be waiting for you when you’re ready!
  • In the case of THE CARVER, I found that it helped me to have a sort of accountability partner, someone who cheered me on until my passion for the book could stand on its own.
  • Make your fingers move! If you’re stuck, write “I’m stuck” over and over again until new ideas emerge. If you’re worried that those new ideas are lame, it’s okay! Write them anyway. As they say, you can’t edit a blank page. Just get something on paper 🙂
  • If you get bored, play with the manuscript itself. Reformat. Use Comic Sans. Insert pictures from your Pinterest board. It’s your manuscript and you can do whatever you want with it until you start submitting queries. Making it look new can put the spark back into your drive.
  • Be willing to read. Discover what kind of reader you are and what kind of stories you enjoy reading. Analyze your favorite books and writers and emulate what you love about their craft. I myself am a sucker for strong descriptions, well-placed humor, and a certain ratio of emotion to action.
  • Books I can recommend (especially for finding an idea):
    • Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer
    • Your First Novel by Laura Whitcomb and Anne Rittenberg
    • The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood
    • 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto

Inevitably, I’ll think of more to say after I post this, but until then, I think this is a pretty robust list of the elements that have worked for me. Maybe they’ll work for you too! But every mind is a little different. If you’re trying to start a writing project, play around with these ideas! If you find that something different works for you, I’d love to hear about it. As I said earlier, I’m still learning every day!

I do have a few more videos planned about work/life balance, the challenges and joys of writing a trilogy, thoughts on editing and revising, and getting into the publishing game! If you want to see any other topics, I’m happy to hear suggestions! Comment or email me at authorjakedevlin@gmail.com.

If you’re participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, I’m wishing you all the best, and hoping you have a fun and relaxing 4th of July!

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