Ideas. We all have them, all the time. Everything starts with an idea. Every book, every song, every painting, every fan film… every work of art and creative expression you can think of.
But how do you have better ideas and more of them? How do you keep having ideas, even if most of the ones you have never get turned into something? Where does an idea come from? What is it that sparks your creativity to come up with an idea for something that doesn’t exist yet? What do you do when it seems you have too many ideas and not enough time to act on them all? I’ve got some ideas about that…
Here’s an example of how my having an idea that led nowhere led to another idea that did.
As writers, we’re always on the lookout for story ideas. Sometimes we get them from within ourselves, sometimes from overheard snatches of dialogue on the street or at work. An idea might come as a result of reading a news story, or an article about the anniversary of something.
UK Copyright Law says an author’s copyright on his work expires 70 years after their death. Since Orwell died in 1950, that means this year, 2020, is the first year when anyone can write another novel about Big Brother, Thought Crime, or Winston Smith. And that was when I had an idea…
If 1984 is out of copyright, then there’s nothing to stop me or anyone else writing another story with the same characters or set in the same world, a sequel or a prequel. You could call it 1985…
I got quite excited by this idea, so much so that my enthusiasm propelled me into knocking up a mock cover. You should always mock up a cover for that book you plan to write. I always do, it’s standard practice for me. If it’s not standard for you, it should be.
You don’t need either skill or training in graphic design, all you need is an eye for what’s eye-catching. When it comes to mocking up your book’s cover, Canva is your best friend. And best of all it’s free!
Hint: Being able to see your book’s cover, having an idea of what the finished product will look like, gives you two advantages over other would-be authors: A] it helps make your book more real to you and B] it helps you focus on getting the thing finished.
Every self-published author knows that the hardest part of being a self-published author isn’t the author-ing, it’s the marketing. Very few natural authors are also natural marketers. Especially when it comes to the ingenuity required by Zero Budget Marketing.
Self-published authors need an understanding of how to make the packaging of their product as clickable as possible. Books sold online don’t just need a great plot and compelling characters. They need clickability, which starts with your cover.
Your book is, don’t forget, a product that has been created in order to be sold and, hopefully, bought by enough people to help make the poor author a bit less poor.
Alas, my idea for a novel called 1985 wasn’t going to be one of them…
In the case of my idea for a sequel to 1984 called 1985, they had. Twice. First Gyorgy Dalos and then Anthony Burgess. Which was really disappointing.
But there’s no such thing as a wasted idea. There are only ideas that you can’t find a way to use or, in the case of my proposed 1985, re-purpose for another project.
Which is what led me to my next idea…
Doing some research on ideas and where they come from and all that, I came across a fascinating blog post by the author and teacher Jessica Able on the concept of Idea Debt. Which, at it’s simplest, is this:
You have Idea Debt when you spend more time thinking about your idea than actually making it.
I’ve certainly had serious Idea Debt in the past, but now I’m in the process of paying those debts off. One word at a time.
Hint: If you want to spend more time actually creating than thinking about creating, write your ideas down. When you write them down, and you see them written down, it brings them into focus. Which means you can start working on them instead of wasting time thinking about how to make instead of actually making them!
There’s something about seeing your idea written down that helps your mind focus on it. It can also help you identify whether an idea is any good or not if you can’t summarise it concisely in a few sentences. That’s why authors are always advised to work on the Elevator Pitch for their story.
Yes, it’s all in your head and you can see it and it’s fantastic and marvellous and all the rest of it. But if you can’t explain it your non-author best friend in a way that makes sense, then what chance do you think your potential readers have?
Writing down your ideas is, I think, a really good idea. I find it leads to you having more ideas, not less. Of course, having better ideas would be better than simply having more ideas, but you need to start where you’re at.
Which is what I did. And where that idea led me is what’s coming next…