Question: How do you know if it’s a good idea? Should you ever talk to people about your idea for a book?
Answer: Every idea I have is great, but not all of them should be books. As for talking to people about your ideas… yes! I suggest you avoid doing it in bars, at parties, or in the grocery store though, because most of those people won’t understand.
When I think I have a decent idea, I run it past a few trusted friends. Jennifer Sasnett and Arwen Newman usually hear them first. Both are excellent listeners, and they aren’t afraid to ask questions and point out flaws. They also aren’t afraid to tell me when they don’t like something. Arwen, as a teacher, is generally very polite when she doesn’t like something. There’s a long pause before she says “That’s interesting” in this really non-committal tone which makes it clear that it is not at all interesting, but she’s trying not to crush my dream. Jennifer though has never shied away from giving me that look that parents usually reserve for their teenager who has just announced they’re doing the stupidest thing a human has ever done. She is not afraid of using phrases like: complete idiot, that’s dumb, or go home and take your meds. If it can’t pass the A&J tests, it goes no further. But when I get it right – they are both huge cheerleaders for me.
These conversations help me to walk through my premise and figure out if the idea really might work.
Often the conversations trigger something, and I wander down a separate path. It’s a path I wouldn’t have seen or taken without these conversations. Recently, I discussed the idea for a book with Arwen and her sister Allyn. I gave them a basic premise I had developed after asking the three questions and making notes. I know who my heroine and hero are, but I didn’t see where she lived. Her uncle is the county sheriff and she’s been hired as a deputy. She arrives and will have to settle in to the routine. The questions with suggestions came quickly. Often as soon as they ask a question, I see or know something about my person I did not know until they asked. Things in some cases I hadn’t even thought about before.
A represents Arwen or Allyn.
A: Does she live with her uncle and aunt?
Me: Not in their house. My gal lives in a small guest house on their property. A one bedroom sort of place. And there are horses. Not that she rides. She’s more of a motorcycle type.
A: Maybe her aunt is sick and your gal needs to help out.
Me: She’s not sick. Her aunt runs the beauty shop and hears all the gossip. She occasionally shares this with her husband. They make a good team. He knows Billy Ray was murdered but doesn’t know why. She knows Joe Bob’s wife Betty Sue was sneaking around with Billy Ray.
A: Do the aunt and uncle have children?
Me: Yes, two sons who they’ve sent off to college and now they live in the city. They all get along well. There’s no family drama.
A: They sound nice. You aren’t going to kill them off are you?
Me: Why would you even ask that?
A: You have a tendency to kill a lot of people in your books. Will you be blowing something up?
Me: I hadn’t thought about it. I know there’s going to be shooting
This particular book is still a little ways off. I have more questions than answers at this point, but I’m loving the idea so far.
Seek out the people who will ask the good questions and who aren’t afraid to point out that with your lack of brains on any given day, even the zombies wouldn’t bother with you.