I’m at a place where I’m looking for a new novel idea. (Yes, I’m still looking around for a new idea. I’m slow this time, but I think I’ve found an event that is fascinating. Reading background material now.)
One strategy I’m using to find ideas is to re-read old novels from my file drawers. As I read, I’m asking myself two questions about the old novels, trying to decide if I want to spend time revising it.
Do the characters still fascinate you?
When it comes down to it, I love plot. But readers–even readers like me, who love plot–need fascinating characters. I am looking for a spark in the character’s voice, dialogue, interests or passions that I can re-commit to. Is there anything that can carry me through the weeks and months needed to bring this story to the next level?
For instance, at one time, I was fascinated by the Irish/British or Protestant/Catholic conflict in Great Britain and considered writing a YA (Young adult or teen novel) about an Irish teen coming to the U.S. as an exchange student. I have several chapters written, characters created, a plot blocked out. Why was I interested in that conflict and how can I draw upon that research and the characters? Most of all, do the characters still pull at my heartstrings? Of course, I still care that war forces teens into difficult family and cultural situations; but do I have the passion to take up the story of these characters again? I don’t know.
Do you still have enthusiasm for the story?
Passion, enthusiasm, commitment. When do you care enough that you can not, absolutely will not give up on telling a story? Often the stories that scare us are the ones we should write next. Maybe, when you originally started a story, you didn’t have the skills necessary to do a story justice. But you’re at a different place now. Are you ready to tackle it?
On a lighter note, I want to write a series of short humorous chapter books about a certain character. I’m observing kids, writing notes and could write a picture book or two. But I haven’t done enough observation, haven’t caught the character’s interests and passions well enough yet. Maybe I haven’t done that because I’m not passionate enough about meeting the second or third grade reader on the page of a story. Yet.
No, I no longer have a passion for these characters or this story. So, what if you don’t feel attached to any of your characters and you don’t have enthusiasm for any of the stories in your drawer? Not to despair. Tomorrow, we’ll look at how to use those old stories that you don’t want to revise.