Stop the plotting Ferris wheel! I want to get off!

When I started writing, I took the first idea that came to me and ran with it. No stopping me. Not even a bulldozer on full throttle.

  • I didn’t think about the market.
  • I didn’t think about what publishers were looking for.
  • I didn’t make sure my idea wasn’t just a derivative plotline.

And now, I know better.

While revising my current project, I’ve also been dreaming and plotting my next project. Like a Ferris wheel, I’ve been going round and round and round – for three months! Yikes. I’ve completely ditched 2 separate outlines. I’ve looked at a shelved project. But slowly, an idea has transformed and grown into something I can be excited about.

The other ideas weren’t bad, but I wasn’t doing cartwheels around my room with excitement either. And when I brainstormed plot points, not much came. Or not much good came.

So how do I know when I’ve found the right idea?

  • It’s not the first idea. More like the tenth.
  • It’s not based on movies or books I’ve read recently.
  • It’s not based on my mood that day or week.
  • It’s a book I’d love to read.
  • It’s an idea I’m willing to stick with for the next year.
  • Characters appear that fit with the plot. Not cliché either.
  • It’s an idea I’d want to be a debut novel.
  • It’s a genre or character I could continue writing about.

But I know for absolute sure when the plot points come with ease.

Some might say I waited too long. That I could spend forever diddling around with plots and never be happy. And that might be true. But I couldn’t move forward until all the signs were there and I knew in my gut.

How do you know when you’re ready to move forward with an idea?


20 Responses to Stop the plotting Ferris wheel! I want to get off!

  1. Misha October 12, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    Wow I’m glad you got a great idea like that.

    It’s weird how Doorways came to me. I had burned a WiP (yes, physically threw it into a fire) a month before and was trying very hard not to rebound into just another story. After all, that had been (I think) my sixth WiP that I stopped. I knew I needed a keeper.

    Then one day, that fiend Darrion walked into my head. Great character, but no story. Then he started inviting others and soon I had five characters hanging around. Still no story.

    Finally my muse decided to play nice and got them to tell me what was going on… And I nearly fell over. I fell in love with the story instantly.

    And have been battling the beast ever since. 🙂

  2. Carole Anne Carr October 12, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Sounds as though this is going to be a winner! Well worth the wait. Not such a problem with me, writing historical fiction based upon the many enviromental study visits I’ve made over the years with school children. Though I still have to find characters, plot and write the thing! :0) Anyway, happy writing.

  3. Laura Pauling October 12, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Misha – I’m glad they finally decided to tell you what’s going on!

    Carole – I love looking to history for ideas!

  4. Tina Lee October 12, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Very heartening story, Laura. I’m in that searching phase at the moment and it is not quite right yet.

  5. Steve Griffin October 12, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    “It’s not the first idea, more like the tenth” is exactly right. There is definitely something to be said for letting something sit a while and coming back to it later. I know with my novel, the end product looks nothing like the original idea.

    And, I’m with you on trashing multiple outlines. I ditched 3 or 4 before settling on the one I’m currently working with.

    As for how do I know when to move forward with an idea? If I can work through a scene-by-scene outline and have relatively little resistance, I know it’s what I was after (i.e. the story flows well). If I have to struggle through something and force things into place, I generally feel I’m on the wrong path.

    Great post as usual, Laura!

  6. Jackee October 12, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    I research and outline for a long time too! And I guess I start writing when I get so excited about writing the story that I can’t stand to wait to finish the outline completely. I’ve found the best thing to do is run with passion you have for specific scenes or elements in the story. But that’s just me.

    Good luck, Laura and congrats on the new story! :o)

  7. Creepy Query Girl October 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    If i’m honest- I’d say every idea I turn into a novel feels like ‘the one’ until I wake up and look around and realize that it probably isn’t. Oh well- it’s good practice right? This time around, I finished the novel and am going through revisions and I can’t shake this feeling that ‘this is it’. I took the time to actually think about the market, go with an idea and from an angle that hasn’t been done before (to my knowledge). I love your list- its perfect. Great post!

  8. Laura Pauling October 12, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    I think I went through several ideas before this one that I was sure was “it”. But after some outlining and brainstorming, I realized it wasn’t going to happen. At least not at this point in time.

  9. Shannon O'Donnell October 12, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    This is just what I needed to hear. I’ve been stewing and brewing – for what seems like forever – trying to decide on my next project. I’m getting closer, but I just don’t feel like I’ve pinned it down yet. 🙂

  10. Sherrie Petersen October 12, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    I was 50 pages into my last book when I decided to ditch it. I may come back to it at some point since my son claims it was the best thing I’d ever written 🙂

    But this shiny new project, I love it. I know exactly where I’m going with the story. And that makes all the difference in the world.

  11. Bekah October 12, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    Ooh- that’s hard! But I agree that it is something I love and that the characters and plot aren’t cliche. If they are, I don’t see a ton of reasons to continue.

  12. Karen Strong October 12, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    You are so right Laura. You want to pick the right idea that really can stand up to those questions you posed — especially the one about wanting to stick with it for a year or more.

    I’ve learned patience with ideas. I’m thinking about my next book project too and keeping a list of ideas — so far none have passed the test. But I’m sure that one will grab me when the time is right.

    Good luck! 🙂

  13. Jennifer Shirk October 12, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    Well, I brew for a little bit until I just HAVE to write. Sometimes that means it’s not fully plotted. But that’s because I kind of half plot. I generally know what’s going to happen but not exactly. 🙂

  14. Anna October 12, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    You have much more self control than I do! When I have an idea, I tend to jump right in (as long as it doesn’t completely drag me away from another project). Recently I have been at least trying to make some sort of plan before I get too far into the story, but I still like the thrill of just going for it. I guess I’m the writing equivalent of an adrenaline junkie. 🙂

    • Laura October 12, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

      Sherrie – Knowing what’s going to happen makes big difference – even if it ends up changing!

      Shannon – that’s how I felt a couple weeks ago.

      Bekah – That’s the first I check for is cliche or just not big enough.

      Karen – And now that I have the idea, it’s just a matter of execution. The hard part.

      Jennifer and Anna – Whenever I just jump in and write it’s never anything good, so I’ve learned to refrain. Or I’ll do some prewriting.

  15. Julie Musil October 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    Funny you should ask. I got started when my crit partner said, “Just start the thing.” I needed to hear that.

    Good luck with your next book!

  16. Terri Tffany October 12, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    Well after reading your list, I don’t think I am there yet even though I started and wrote a synopsis etc. I think because I don’t know the total plot only the theme.

  17. Susan R. Mills October 12, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    Still hoping for a way to figure it own sooner. As of now, I usually don’t know until I’ve written at least four or five chapters.

  18. Terry Lynn Johnson October 13, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    Wow, your book sounds amazing!
    Personally, if I start researching too much on writing (books like the Fire in Fiction) or think too long on all the advice I read on blogs and forums and the industry, I completely freeze up. How can I ever hope to attain such greatness? But if I just write, the story usually takes itself somewhere I hadn’t thought of. I need to relax if I want to get any writing done.

    • Laura October 13, 2010 at 10:19 am #

      I think it’s amazing how some people need to start writing first. But I can understand because there are definitely some ideas that don’t come until I’ve started writing.

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