Blogger friend and fellow writer, Alan Orloff, is in the middle of his Diamonds for the Dead World Blog Tour. I am honored and excited to be a stop on this fantastic tour. I'd recommend a visit to Alan’s blog for its entertainment value and for information about the future stops on his World Tour. I, for one, couldn’t resist clicking on a blog called A Million Blogging Monkeys. Now, without further ado, I’ll turn my blog over to Alan.
Thanks, Jane, for inviting me to guest blog. I hope your blog readers enjoy today’s “Ride.”
I think I'm like a lot of writers--I seem to have story ideas oozing from every pore. Unfortunately, like most people, my time is finite. So how do I determine which ideas to spend my precious time on?
Sometimes I wish the ideas got assigned, like high school writing projects. (Give me 1500 words on why Gatsby would have made a good modern-day accountant. And use complete sentences!) At least that way, I could put any doubt about the idea behind me and start cranking out the words.
No, freedom of choice has to rear its ugly head.
Before I run an idea through my gauntlet of criteria, I need to examine my goals. Different goals demand different criteria. If I'm writing for my own enjoyment or if I'm contemplating a short story, I won't care as much about writing something that won't "go anywhere."
But let's say I want to write a novel that (hopefully) will sell to a traditional publisher (and be successful). A worthy goal.
I ask the following questions about each idea. If I get a "yes" at every turn, then the idea stays alive.
Do the characters interest me? I'm going to be spending six months to a year with these people--I want them to be likeable (or, if they're not likeable, at least be interesting). Imagine spending nine months trapped in a dungeon with a blowhard cousin--ugh!
Is the concept/premise/hook clever/engaging/engrossing? Dullness stinks. There, I've said it.
Has it been done before? It has to either be a fresh concept, or a fresh twist on an old concept. Same old/same old might be easy to write, but it won't stand out among the thousands of manuscripts I'll be competing against. I want this thing to sell!
Will it have broad appeal? Again, I want this book to be successful, and the more people who might be interested in it, the better. Why narrow the potential market from the beginning? (Don't worry – if you’re intent on shooting yourself in the foot, there will be plenty of chances to do that later!)
Can I tell the story in 75 - 90K words? Market considerations intercede again.
Is it something I'd like to read? If it isn't, why bother? (Of course, by extension, if I'd like to read it, there must be others out there who would, too. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)
Is it something my agent would like to read/represent? What good is an awesome horror novel sitting on your desk if your agent doesn't really like horror? I ask myself this every day as I look at the awesome horror novel sitting on my desk.
Is the research required “doable”? I'd like to write a book about exploring the depths of the ocean or exploring African jungles. But, well, I can't swim and I'm afraid of lions. Cross those ideas off the list.
Okay. I’ve asked the tough questions and weeded out the weaklings. Of the surviving ideas, how do I choose?
There's only one way.
I go with my gut.
Thank you, Alan. I tend to jump willy-nilly into a writing project, but next time I'm going to take a few minutes and ask myself those questions.
How do you decide on which project you want to tackle next?
Alan Orloff's debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, was published this month by Midnight Ink. The first in his new series, KILLER ROUTINE - A Last Laff Mystery, featuring Channing Hayes, a stand-up comic with a tragic past, will be out Spring 2011 (also from Midnight Ink). For more info, visit http://www.alanorloff.com/
By the way, Diamonds for the Dead is available from your favorite book store and, of course, through Amazon.com.
Thanks for stopping by.
Tags: Linus Pauling, Alan Orloff, Diamonds for the Dead,