Thursday, April 07, 2011

Old Ideas New Again

Okay so how many of you have done it? How many of you have tried at one point or another to take that old idea you had, maybe you even wrote a couple of chapters, and tried to brush it off and see if it still had some life.

I do this occasionally but not often with great success. One book I know I did this with was Suspect Lover. I pulled it apart, put it back together and thought it really worked. But when it finally came out it wasn’t reviewed all that well - why? Reviewers said it was disjointed. Hmmmm? Could it be the pulling apart and putting back together wasn’t so transparent to the reader?

And let’s face it. The main reason those old ideas didn’t work was because they weren’t that good. And here I’m using “good” to mean “sellable”. We have lots of great ideas. But we’re professional writers or aspiring professional writers so it isn’t enough to have a great idea – you need to be able to sell it.

I wrote a freakin’ A great book. It’s funny, suspenseful, heartbreaking and uplifting. It’s a great sports movie in book form. At least in my opinion. But it’s about a woman golfer. Yep. A woman golfer so amazing she qualifies for the Masters. A lot of agents who read it said basically the same thing. Love it. Can’t sell it.

Tweaking and reworking to come up with something new sounds good, but if at its heart its flawed (like an idea about a female golfer) then you could be spinning your wheels and wasting time.

I hear this a lot with new authors. They write that first book and it’s such a huge thing for them that they will do everything to hold on to it. Changing it and altering it trying to please the next person in line – which I think in some ways can ruin your story because you’re moving away from what this was in your head.

It’s a story about a female golfer, but maybe if I instead make her an actress it will work. It won’t. Who this character is, is built on all of the experiences I created for her. Plugging out the essence of her and switching it with something else I think would make for a lesser character and a lesser story.

On the flipside, I am considering going back to two characters who I loved and giving them a new plot. I originally intended them for a romantic suspense but never really loved the suspense element. It was a bit too hokey. But I realize maybe I can just focus on who these two people are and what their issues are as a couple. Granted – I still need to give them a plot to move the story but it makes me realize something interesting.

I can’t go back and make Reilly Carr (my favorite heroine name) anything else then what she is, but I can’t take these two people and who they are at their core and just send them on a different adventure. At least I hope.

8 comments:

Eileen said...

LOL, Steph! I recently looked at an old proposal that I really loved that got shot down before I ever even wrote a page. Sadly it wasn't as layered and deep as I remember it being, which doesn't mean I couldn't make it that way, I suppose.

I like your idea of changing the adventure. I think those of us who write character-driven fiction are lucky that way. For instance, I can see Camille from The Doctor's Deadly Affair being a fabulous character in a host of adventure.

BTW, I loved loved loved that book. It was awesome!

Maureen McGowan said...

What you describe newbie writers doing is exactly what I did with my first book. Actually finishing a novel was such a HUGE thing for me, that I couldn't conceive of just putting it in a drawer -- not without a struggle. So I rewrote and changed the title and resubmitted a few times.

I do know a few people who that worked for... both with Harlequin and with "bigger" books... but I do think one of the first things we have to learn, if we want a career in this business, is when to move on.

On the other hand... I do think it's also possible to discard a book too quickly, without considering revisions enough.

But depends on the type of revisions. Changing a heroine from a PRO golfer to an actress might be too big a change. :)

Sinead M said...

Steph, once upon a time I too had a woman golfer book, but Molly shot it down... so I never went any further with it..

I had an idea I wrote twice, different cast of characters, but same concept and it didn't work either time.

but it can be so hard to move on when you love something and want so badly to see it suceed.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, and I'm currently sifting through my unsold manuscripts and false starts mining them for new ideas. But I don't anticipate any rewriting... more re-working ideas into better, stronger ideas. That's my hope, anyway.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Eileen - thanks!

And oh Sinead... not you too! Thank goodness Molly shot you down before you wasted MONTHS and MONTHS like I did.

Maureen - I hear you that sometimes too we just drop thing. It's hard to know when to fight for an idea.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I feel like everytime I finish a book I've hit the bottom of the well in terms of ideas. Especially since I'm fishing in the same contemporary romance well for every single book.

I'm getting ready to put together some proposals and I'm looking at an old idea I had before Flipside up and died, but I'm not very good at going back.

I agree with Eileen - Camille could totally be a reoccuring character....

Molly O'Keefe said...

Did I really shoot that down, Sinead? I think it was the idea of you doing a golf book without anyone having to kill someone, or dying a terrible death. Was the golfer the grim reaper?

Maureen McGowan said...

Golf clubs make awesome weapons.

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