Is Your Idea Novel-Worthy?

Photo credit: qisur on Flickr
When it comes to ideas for a novel, there are many different approaches that writers take. Whether it's keeping a notebook or box full of snippets of ideas that are written down regardless of how much sense they make or how ridiculous they are, or storing ideas away in your mind while working on a WIP, every writer has his own method of idea keeping.

Many writers will eventually find that they have more ideas than they know what to do with. Their idea box is overflowing with scraps of paper begging to be remembered or their brains are bursting at the seams with stories that could be interesting to pursue.

But how do you know if any of those ideas are novel-worthy?

I came across this tweet the other day via @4KidLit that I thought summed it up particularly well:


It really is that simple.

Writers will encounter thousands of ideas within a lifetime—snippets of an image, fragments of a character, a haunting scene, interesting line of dialogue or intriguing thought—and no one has enough time to turn every idea into a novel. But the truth is, not every idea has enough substance to be turned into a fully plotted story, and that's ok.

Because the ideas that are novel worthy demand to be written. While other ideas fade with time, a novel-worthy idea will haunt you day and night. Rather than disappearing with time, it'll grow and develop into something complex, something that can't be ignored, something that has to be written.

Those are the ideas that you need to pursue.

Writing a novel is tough. It takes months, even years to turn a first draft into a polished, readable story and throughout that time if you aren't passionate about your idea, the novel will never reach completion. Writing a novel is an exhausting thing, which is why those other ideas, those non-novel-worthy ones will fade with time. Because if the idea hasn't fully captivated the writer, there's little chance it'll contain the spark it needs to captivate the reader.

So next time you're unsure whether or not your latest idea is novel worthy, give it some time. You'll know it's right when the idea refuses to leave you alone.

Writers: how do you tell if an idea is novel worthy? 

28 comments:

Southpaw said...

That makes sense. There is always that one idea that keeps creeping back, hunting us with new paths and ideas until it's formed and ready to be written. I guess we have to keep weeding until we see that one weed that keeps coming back! LOL

Susankayequinn said...

Awesome. I have an idea that's been dogging me since LAST SUMMER, but I keep thinking that no one will want to read it but me. Maybe I'll have to write it anyway and find out. :)

Ava Jae said...

I like that! Keep weeding until that one weed keeps coming back. Very appropriate analogy. :)

Laura Marcella said...

This is how I know a book needs to be written, too. If I can't get the idea out of my head, I better get it down on paper and see what comes of it!

Ava Jae said...

If you're still thinking about it nearly a year later, I'd say give it a try and see what happens. You never know! :)

Ava Jae said...

Exactly! When you start to translate the idea onto the page, you usually get a pretty good feel right away as to whether or not it's a strong enough idea to last an entire book. 

J. A. Bennett said...

For me, yes if the idea stays with me, it is novel worthy. But I do need write them down to remember them all, lol!

Ava Jae said...

Where do you keep your ideas? A little box? A notebook?

Brigid Gorry-Hines said...

I totally agree! Some ideas just stick with me no matter how long I let them sit around in my head. A lot of my ideas are fleeting and don't really have a place anywhere, but the best ones keep occurring to me over and over until I have no choice but to acknowledge them. :) 

Rhiannon Paille said...

Hey Ava! Yeah for me it was exactly like Brian Keene's statement. I had an idea that stayed with me for six years. It's finally published, with two more in the series written and on the way. It's been a ride. 

yesenia said...

But what do you do if the idea never comes? Or if it does, but there are parts missing?? 

Author Steven said...

I needed this. See I have about five series ideas that I ever intend to write and the first one I'm working on has caused me a lot of trouble with its plot but I can't go a day without thinking about it. It's in the plotting stages now (with the other four series eagerly awaiting me to finish this one)...It's given me trouble and I'd tried to put it down but found that I physically could not go onto the others without writing it first. It wants to be written! Anyway, I'm still powering through this huge idea and trying to plot it all out...lets hope I have a breakthrough when I'm on vacation this spring break. Inspiration always comes on vacations for me. :) Nice article!

~Author Steven

Colin Kerr said...

That's a marvelous nugget of wisdom. If I can get a generic version to sound catchy enough, I'm going to start saying it as a mantra.

If it doesn't hold your attention, let it slide.

Ava Jae said...

Exactly! It's pretty amazing how our brains sift the ideas we get along the way. 

Ava Jae said...

Hey Rhiannon! I thought Brain Keene's statement was particularly fitting, all things considered, and it sounds like what you experienced was a perfect example of it. :)

Ava Jae said...

To the first part, sometimes we have to be proactive and search for ideas, in which case there are various brainstorming techniques and sources of inspiration that we can reach to. To the second part, very rarely (in my experience) does an idea just appear fully formed. It takes a lot of molding, plotting, writing and rewriting to discover the full intricacies and potential of any idea. 

Alackerm said...

I totally agree. Sometimes great ideas will hound for years before I'm ready to write them but they never go away. :)

Angela

Author Steven said...

What are different brainstorming techniques because I sometimes have issues thinking up interesting plot points within my series itself. :)

Laurapauling said...

If it stays with me that's definitely a sign. But once I sit down and start writing out scene ideas that's when I know if it's worth pursuing. I gage by my excitement level.

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Steven! It definitely sounds like you're experiencing the variety of idea that demands to be written (unfortunately, as you're discovering, just because the idea wants to be written doesn't mean it'll spill all it's secrets to you so easily). I wish you the best as you plot out your idea! 

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Colin! I like that mantra. You could also do something along the lines of "Don't write what doesn't demand to be written," or something like that. 

Ava Jae said...

And those ideas that stay with you for years are certainly the ones I'm referring to. :)

Ava Jae said...

I'm exactly the same way. Writing the idea is the final test for me. I never know for sure if it's going to stick until I've started writing it, so I consider the first chapter or so a trial run. If I become more excited during that time, it's a keeper. If I become distracted by something else, then not so much. 

Ava Jae said...

I actually wrote a post on Brainstorming wayyyy back when. I don't remember if I shared this one with you already...but if I didn't, excuse the hyper-ness of the post. It would appear I ate an entire bag of sugar before writing it, or something (I don't recall doing so, but I was evidently very excitable that day. Ehem). 

Andi-Roo said...

This makes me feel better about the three stories I've been tossing around in the back of my mind literally FOR YEARS now. One is outlined & has a great first chapter. Another I started but shortly rejected because I just couldn't get it right, but since it keeps pestering me I intend to dig it back out some day. The third, my current WIP, is with me every moment of every day, & although it's no outlined in any way whatsoever, I have a solid first chapter & am quite excited to see where it goes. Thanks for the validation --- I feel so much less koo-koo now, lolz! :)

Ava Jae said...

Sounds like you've got a lot of exciting work ahead of you (I especially love what you said about your current WIP--it's fantastic when that happens, isn't it?). I wish you the best with your WIPs!

ArkAngel said...

Gosh I needed to read this. There's this idea I've had for six months. I've left it alone so I can give it time to grow and to see if it was long-lasting, but it still nags at me. When I finish my current WIP, I'm going to butcher that idea and stitch it back together, Victor-style.

Ava Jae said...

So glad to hear you found this post helpful! I'd say six months is more than enough time to see if it sticks with you. Best of luck with both of your WIPs! :)

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