Finding and Expanding a New Idea

Okay, back to the business. I need product to sell. From previous posts (and a lot of thinking) I know it needs the following qualities:

* New project
* Project must be ready for release somewhere between January to March 2011
* Novella length (17,500 to 40,000 words)

We talked before about an Idea File. Knowing the above qualities, I opened up the Idea File to see if anything might provide inspiration.

The Idea File did its job well.

An idea has been lurking around for years. I’m from Alaska, and I love it and miss it dearly. The scenery and people are truly inspirational.

I also love science fiction. Not necessarily what is published out there now, but the potential of what it could be. The kinds of books I want to write. Inspirational, adventurous, entertaining, with wonderful characters and a sense of wonder.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to somehow bring those two things together? Yes, a great idea, but not a simple thing to create. “Alaska Science Fiction” has been lurking in the Idea File for years, but nothing happened.

This is typical of some ideas. They need time to stew and grow. For the Muse to bat them around in the hidden recesses of your mind for a while. Then all of a sudden the idea will pop up and declare that it’s ready to go to the ball (and then demand glass slippers).

Some people find this difficult to deal with. They want the idea to come at the moment the first seeds appear. My advice is to take a deep breath, accept it, and then keep it in front of you. Look at it from time to time and play the ‘what if’ game. See if anything sticks.

This is what happened to this idea in April.

I had:

Science Fiction

To me, science fiction often includes aliens. From that came a mental vision of a spaceship hidden under the snow. I didn’t know why it was there, or what they were doing, but I knew it was there.


The big breakthrough came two weeks later at a Chinese buffet during which Mother Hen (a mystery writer) and I drank copious amounts of fantastic Chinese tea. I described the basic idea and that I thought it might be ready to be developed. She recalled reading a story published in the 1950’s called “The Strangest Tale Ever Told”. I recalled reading it when I was really young at the local public library. (LINK)

And the story started to flow.

Over tea, up popped the idea of some of the Native Alaskan tales coming to life in an explainable manner. Of aliens, spaceships and inter-galactic conflicts. Of new arrivals to a small Alaskan town in the middle of winter, finding Alaska not at all what they expected. And definitely not boring.

A problem very quickly arose. There was too much inspiration, too many ideas to stuff into one book, especially a novella. As a long-time writer, I nkow this can be the kiss of death for books (as well as a sign of a newbie writer). This was a dilemna. How could I sort through all this to pick only a few things to touch on in the novella?

The answer became obvious. This planning wasn’t just for one novella. It was for a series of novellas.

Oh, and the name?

Turns out Mother Hen had an answer to that. You see, we’ve started collaboration on a Family Adventure Science Fiction Mystery series (try to sell that genre. Hah!). We brought in a lot of characters and ideas from a mystery series she’d started planning decades before. The setting she’d developed no longer applied, as our story is set on the imaginary human colony world of Kalowna (SP?), and not Alaska, as she’d originally planned.

(And yes, she accuses me of corrupting her to the dark side of science fiction. Hehe)

Aname was sitting there unused. A perfect name. Not only for the town but for the series.

Welcome “Salmon Run” into the world!

The above experience showcases three tools that can be of great use to a writer.

1. Be patient with ideas. Some of them need the time to grow into something usable.

2. Talking out an idea with another writer can be a great way to expand an idea.

3. Be flexible. Don’t be defensive with the idea, but allow the conversation to bounce back and forth. Even when brainstorming alone, give yourself the option of going down unexpected paths. True, many will lead to deadends that are useless to the project, but some may reveal nuggets of gold that will make the project worth doing.

Pick out the ideas that give you a story really worth telling, that excite you to the tips of your toes. Have fun! I know I will be.

“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

If you find this information useful or interesting, please encourage others to come on by and visit.

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Finding and Expanding a New Idea

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