Once I put the former Novel 2 in a drawer for the foreseeable future, I’ve been without a solid idea for a novel. That concerned me, as did the fact that I also haven’t been writing much in the way of short fiction this year. (Though I have been editing various projects.)
Truth be told, I’m still concerned. However, in the six weeks since I set aside that novel, potential ideas have slowly but surely dragged themselves into the more accessible segments of my imagination. These few concepts, while still broad are nonetheless more defined than anything I had earlier in the year. That’s not to say I’ve found my next long project for certain. These sketches, like any, may in fact go nowhere. Yet the fact that a few concepts have obtained the most basic of general shapes is at least a small relief from my concerns over productivity. I’d like some more ideas and possibilities, and hopefully with time they will arrive as well. I suspect my mind may have needed some time to step away from producing for a while, in order to ruminate, observe and speculate. If that’s true, it needs even more time to do so, I think.
Something else that has happened during this, for lack of a better term, creativity slow-down, is my reaction to the ideas that show up. Never one to write anything and everything that popped into my mind, I have nevertheless sometimes pursued a concept in fiction before it was “ripe” if you will. Some concepts never become ripe, while others require more thought. More marinating. Some even require specific questions be considered by the author. During these six weeks, I have found myself more willing to examine these infant fiction concepts at arm’s length for a bit. I found myself more able to ask such questions as:
“Is this a concept that speaks to me personally, or is it just a concept I’d like to see someone out there tackle?”
“Is this idea simply a rehash or something I’ve already done? Is it simply a formulaic piece wrapped in something shiny for the moment?”
“Are there other aspects to this idea that could be added to give it more dimensions?”
“Does this idea offer the possibility of a process I will enjoy, as opposed to a single notion I like to ponder over and over?”
“What is the prime component of this potential idea that appeals to me most? Why did I not reject it right away? Can and entire narrative that I will enjoy be spun from those components?”
In case you were wondering, I’ve not yet answered these questions, (and several others) in regards to these potential fiction concepts. It will require more pondering. However, the fact that I’m asking these questions on a more consistent basis earlier in the game indicates a slight shift from how I have operated in the past. Never harebrained with my fiction, I have tended to explore a concept in an outline first, which then makes me feel obligated to start a first draft, and so on. Based on my pleasant and unpleasant previous writing experiences, I’m test driving ideas for a little longer than my average.
Perhaps my mind needed some time away from new concepts for a while in order to ask the proper questions about the new ideas.
How do you decide if an idea is ripe for you to pursue in writing fiction?