Guest Post – The Great Ideas Myth by Kim Slater
Today I am super excited to have the wonderful Kim Slater on Tales with a fab guest post to celebrate the release of A Seven Letter Word.
A Seven Letter Word was released on the 24th March 2016 published by Macmillan Children’s Books and is set to be a fantastic read! I bought my copy the other day and cannot wait to read it!
Today Kim chats about the great ideas myth with a fascinating and inspiring guest post….
*hands over to Kim*
Also check out the bottom of the post for a fab giveaway!
‘My name is Finlay McIntosh. I can see OK, can hear perfectly fine and I can write really, really well. But the thing is, I can’t speak. I’m a st-st-st-stutterer. Hilarious, isn’t it? It’s like the word is there in my mouth, fully formed and then, just as it’s ready to leave my lips . . . POP! It jumps and ricochets and bounces around my gob. Except it isn’t funny at all, because there’s not a thing I can do about it.’
Finlay’s mother vanished two years ago. And ever since then his stutter has become almost unbearable. Bullied at school and ignored by his father, the only way to get out the words which are bouncing around in his head is by writing long letters to his ma which he knows she will never read, and by playing Scrabble online. But when Finlay is befriended by an online Scrabble player called Alex, everything changes. Could it be his mother secretly trying to contact him? Or is there something more sinister going on?
The Great Ideas Myth
Some people seem to have the impression that successful books arrive fully formed: BAM! A powerful character voice, a great hook, a fresh, new idea. Hardly any effort at all – thank you very much.
Maybe it happens this way for some authors, someplace, but I don’t know any.
Bolting together unique characters and weaving an interesting idea into a believable plot is more of a process – a process that thrives if it is cultivated and is part of a system that works personally for you as a writer.
Ever read a book and thought, ‘Darn, I wish I’d thought of that idea’?
Well, maybe you did think of one. But you forgot it again.
Or maybe you nearly did but didn’t have a process that captured it and gave it time to grow.
I find that good writing ideas are just like dreams. You know, when you wake up in the early hours in the middle of a great dream that feels so real and you think, ‘I must remember this in the morning’. That.
Because of course, you hardly ever do remember. Well I don’t, anyway.
Which is why I always record any idea that sparks my interest.
I know some writers who prefer to keep a notebook or even use a portable voice recorder. For me, ideas go straight on to a document on my laptop that I have imaginatively labelled Ideas. And if I’m out somewhere, they go into my iPhone notes to be transferred later.
It doesn’t matter how you capture them, just make sure that you do.
So, what exactly do you class as an idea?
For me it is a seed, something that really sparks my interest. It might be the vaguest plot outline or a specific, detailed incident that I read about or see on the news.
My ideas remain unanchored and without relevance until I have my main character’s voice. The voice always comes first for me but when I’m working with a brand new main character, it’s useful to have a bank of ideas to sieve through, just in case something is in there that could hook up nicely and build the story.
So you have lots of ideas . . . but which ones qualify for that next stage?
I believe time is the test. Once that idea or initial seed is in my notes, I leave it a while to germinate.
When I am ready to bolt an idea to a character or to begin building a plot, I read through my bank of ideas. Is there one that jumps out and gives me that spark of excitement again? If it does, it may well be a keeper.
When I was in the middle of writing the first draft of my second YA novel, ‘A Seven-Letter Word’ (ASLW), a got a really strong character voice and then an idea that just wouldn’t go away. I tried to ignore it and focus on my WIP but it got to the stage where it was interfering in the voice of Finlay, my protagonist.
So one morning, I downed tools on the book and captured the new voice in two or three pages and also wrote a very short outline. Once I’d filed it in my Ideas folder, it left me free to carry on.
About six weeks later when I’d finished writing the first draft of ASLW, I read the sample pages again and the idea felt just as fresh and strong as it had the day I wrote it and I knew for sure it was a keeper.
So sadly or maybe a relief – whichever way you look at it – there is not much of a mystery or myth here. More like a systematic recording and cultivation of random thoughts over time and finally, an experimental pairing of characters and ideas to see which fit together.
And it is trial and error. What works for one writer might not for another.
You have to find out for yourself.
You can but a copy of A Seven Letter Word here or why not visit your local independent bookshop.
About Kim Slater
For many years, I sent my work out to agents and never made it off the slush pile.
But I never stopped writing and at the age of 40, armed with the ‘A’ levels I passed at age 18, I went back to Nottingham Trent University to hone and develop my writing skills. I now have a first-class honours degree in English & Creative Writing and an MA in Creative Writing.
Smart began life as a 3000-word short story for an assignment on my MA module: Writing for Children and Young Adults. When I’d finished writing the story, I felt as if I had something special and it was so well received by my MA critique workshop, that I decided to develop it into a full-length YA novel.
Within months, I had five offers of representation from London literary agents and before graduating from my MA in November 2012, I had a literary agent and a book deal. It was a fairytale…at the end of a very long road!
You can find out more about Kim and her books on her website – www.kimslater.com
Or why not follow Kim on twitter – @kimslater01
I have a spare copy of the fab A Seven Letter Word to giveaway to one lucky winner!
The winner will need to provide me their address to enable me to send out the book!
A huge thank you to Kim for such a fab guest post and to the wonderful Nina Douglas for organising!
Have you read A Seven Letter Word or Smart? Has this post tempted you to go and grab a copy? Where do you store your writing ideas? I would love to hear from you! Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the post or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !
Happy Reading….and playing scrabble!