One thing I’m really good at as an author: coming up with ideas. Like many writers, I have several notebooks filled with smatterings of thoughts, pieces of dialogue, notes on characters. Not to mention assorted doodles, observations, and moments I felt the need to record at the time.
One thing I’m not so good at: knowing if those ideas can actually fly. It’s sometimes hard to figure out if my ideas — which always seem brilliant when I think of them — can be fleshed out into something book-worthy or should remain hidden away in a notebook, never seeing the light of day.
So I’ve devised a sort of “test” for my ideas — questions I ask myself before I start a WIP — to help discern the good ideas from the not-so-good.
1. I start by asking if the idea is compelling? Do I have a solid plot in mind, with a central conflict, change, and a resolution or outcome?
2. Does something happen? Do the stakes rise as the plot unfolds?
3. Is the idea getting under my skin? Am I thinking about the story while I’m driving or out walking? Am I worrying about the characters? Do I care about them, and do I care what happens to them?
5. Will the idea appeal to my intended audience? Has it been done before, and if so, am I bringing a fresh take?
6. Am I taking a risk with this story? Both for my characters and for myself as a writer.
7. Can I describe the story in one sentence? How would I pitch it?
8. And lastly, am I in love with it? Is the idea tugging at my heart? Do I tear up when I think of a particularly poignant scene? Do I get angry at a certain character for his or her actions? Am I not only imagining the story, but do I “feel” it as well?
If I can answer positively to all of the above, I know I’ve got something. Do you have questions you ask yourself before you begin to write? Share them in the comments!
Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days (Wendy Lamb Books 2014) and Calli Be Gold (Wendy Lamb Books 2011). Find her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.