"Where do you get your ideas?" I'm sitting at a book group, with my hands around the paper cup of tea. The scent of it along with the smell of books and wet wool make for a cozy experience.
This isn't the first time that I've been asked this question. With books titled things like Epidemic people often wonder if I've had experience as a nurse (I haven't) or after reading Subversion, ask if I've ever really led a secret life as a vigilante (I can't tell you that). :)
The idea for Shadow in the Woods though, came about in a very normal way. It all started with an article that I wrote for a magazine. The topic? Ecotherapy. You can read the blog article on ecotherapy for more background information.
While ecotherapy is a fascinating topic, I never imagined it being made into a book ... not at the time anyway.
That is how the best ideas start though, through a small kernel of information. I can usually tell if an idea is a good one, because I can't stop thinking about. The idea for Epidemic came to me while sitting in a pandemic emergency response training at the local hospital.
There I was, doodling in my notebook when I thought, "what if?" What if this really did happen here, in this rural town in Vermont? And what if the reason wasn't because of a natural turn of events, but something more sinister? (Cue the creepy music or just watch this for more details.)
"So, how do you know when an idea is a good one?"
That's a good question. I guess for me, it's when the idea just has to be written. I have lots of ideas (lots and lots--the movement in my brain resembles popcorn most days) but not all of them could or should be made into books.
But when I come across an idea that just won't leave me be, that's when I sit up and pay attention. And sometimes it takes some false starts to get going. I wrote the first draft of what I'm calling "The Creepy Doll Book," and I'm not sure it will ever be published. Maybe. Hopefully. But it needs a lot of work and re-writing to make it really good.
One method that writers use is to write a short story first, before delving into a full-length novel. That's a great idea. Another is to write just a chapter or two (not necessarily at the beginning) of a book and gauge how you feel about it. Do you love it and want to keep going? Do you lose interest after that one or two chapters is written?
Novellas would be another way to "test the waters" and see if your full-length book idea has merit. I haven't yet written one but would like to.
Think about it this way: when you are looking for a book to read, don't you often pick it up (or look at the preview online) and read a few pages or a chapter to see if you'll like it? The same can be true in novel writing. Authors can always start small and see where it goes. Or jump in with both feet like I do ... and then prepare yourself for a lot of editing!
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