I’ve been asked this no less than seven times in the last month—that’s what I get for meeting new people. *smile* Everyone seemed to be looking for something different from my answer but time and again that one question led to three others for each of them.
One: How do you come up with ideas?
I never know how to answer about the ideas because not matter what I say it’s not what the person asking seems to expect. My ideas come from everywhere all day long without cessation. Very often an entire story can be born from nothing more than a phrase I hear or one I come up with in response to a conversation I had, overheard, read or imagined. The novel I have on submission right now began with nothing more than the last line of the first chapter; seventeen words birthed 100K and that’s my normal.
Two: How do you know the ideas are any good?
This one is easier—you don’t. Most of us bounce ideas off of fellow writers, significant others, friends, family, strangers, pets, the other people in our heads, whoever we can get to listen. Others of us just write it down, work it out and hope for the best. I’m in the middle. I don’t bounce my ideas before I write them because I feel IDEAS are all good. If it occurred to you it occurred to someone else who’ll want to read about it, so ideas aren’t the issue. EXECUTION of an idea is what needs to be rockstar and there’s no way to know if you’ve hit on it until readers tell you that you have.
Some indicators are enthusiastic betas, interested agents/editors, excited publishers and six(plus) figure advances, but in the end if you build it and they don’t come you didn’t get it right. Most ideas are valid but execution is something you learn and it’s ultimately readers that tell you when you’ve graduated or if you still need to be schooled.
Three: How do you get published?
Short answer: if you find out let me know. Longer answer: persistence and patience.
For me writing is living between three states: wishing I was writing, writing, and waiting. Wishing is the longest state and I’m working on making that significantly shorter. Writing is…writing, I don’t have words to describe the process for me that wouldn’t worry very official looking people in white lab coats so I’ll leave it there. Waiting, well waiting is eternal.
Technically even the wishing phase is a waiting phase and the writing phase is a type of waiting to be done and move on, but the “waiting” waiting phase is evil. I have control over the first two, but that point of hitting send or walking away from the post office put all my hard work into a cycle that is out of my hands. As a control-freak this is not my best state-of-being, I hate it, but I’ve found something interesting. I’d rather be waiting than not.
I’d rather have something out there and live in a constant state of “what if” every time I check email or hear the phone ring, than be in the insolated state of “still writing” where no one knows what I’m working on and no eyes have seen fruit of my labors but me. I LOVE to talk about books and authors I’m into and to have something as intimate as my own characters be something I can’t share—it feels wrong. It makes betas my favorite people but it’s not enough in that my betas can’t make a final decision on my work. (The control freak in my wanting an answer)
The perfect writing state is one or two things out on submission, something else out with betas and a current work growing under may hands as my fingers fly over the keyboard. Occupying as much of the last two states as possible is my happy place. It’s also my anxious place, my mildly obsessive-compulsive place, and my what-do-you-think-she-meant-by-that place, but a happy place all the same.
So what’s it like being a writer? It’s a lot of waiting and on some secret, (sick), level enjoying the wait because it means you’re in the game.