Friday, February 26, 2010

Highlights of Life the Universe & Everything (Friday)

Friday, February 12
How to Become an Idea Factory. If writers get asked one question more than any other it is, “Where do you get all your ideas?”

One comment that I heard from panelists repeatedly was that they let their ideas stew around in their heads. The good ideas will eventually turn into stories, and the bad ones just kind of go away. I heard comments similar to this from two, maybe three different authors.

All good stories start with a question. What if… In the How to Write a Story That Rocks presentation last night, John Brown stated that you need to come up with a problem that the hero has to face.

Also, you can fuse together two or more unrelated story ideas into a new story. For instance, James Dashner’s Mazerunner book is essentially Ender’s Game plus Lord of the Flies. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is basically, what if the dark overlord won the epic war, plus Ocean’s Eleven.

Once you can do any of these things, the only difference between you and a bestselling author is learning to pick which ideas are good and which are not.

I heard Brandon Sanderson mention an anecdote from another bestselling author. A fan approached the man and said, I have a great idea. I’ll tell you, and we can publish a novel and split the profit. The author said, “Ideas for me are a dime a dozen, and I’ve already got way more than I can use. I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you learn how to write, then when you become a bestselling author come see me again. I’ll give you one of my ideas and then you go write the book and we’ll split the profits.

I thought that was a clever repost.

In summary, for an author that is well-published, it really isn’t about coming up with a good idea. Good ideas are everywhere, it’s really a matter of being able to recognize them and turn them into a story.

Brandon Sanderson said when he was in the 4th grade he learned to play the trumpet. When he got to high school he joined an ensemble band and tried to learn jazz. He was really good at trumpet, but he just couldn’t get jazz. His teacher said jazz was a different skill. It comes from the heart, not from notes on a page.

As a writer, coming up with ideas is much the same thing. Being able to write, even being able to write well is more of a skill than anything else. The real art in writing, then, is in learning to bring out the soul.

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