Behind The Book with Kelley Armstrong



The Idea Well

“Where do you get your ideas?” is probably the most common question writers are asked—and the most dreaded.   We understand people’s curiosity.  To them, the idea is the crux of storytelling.  If you have a good one, you’re well on your way to publication.  Well, not exactly…but that’s another blog.

If we as writers dislike the question, it’s because it’s too big.  Where do we get our ideas?  Everywhere!  If we’ve been writing long enough, the real question is not where we find them, but where we find the time to turn all the ideas we do have into stories.

This month saw the release of one of the ideas that has been floating in my “idea well” for years.  It first appeared while I was writing my second novel, Stolen.  That book had a plot thread that gave me an idea for another.  But this new story required a teenage narrator, and that wouldn’t fly with my readers, who expect adult characters.  So I dropped it into the idea well.

It kept floating to the top.  I considered doing it with an adult narrator, but there was no getting around the fact that it needed to be a teen—the story is about a special group of supernaturals first coming into their powers, and in my universe that takes place with puberty.

My adult series is very adult.  If books got the same rating systems as movies, it would get an R and a slew of warning labels.  But being fantasy, it also appeals to readers younger than I care to think about while I’m writing them.  The more I heard from teenage readers, the more insistently that old idea kept bobbing to the top of the well.

I discussed it with my agent.  She was all for the idea of writing a young adult novel.  The problem was that one I mentioned earlier–finding the time.  As I toyed with the story, outlining and character-building, my agent was contacted by a couple of editors wondering whether I’d ever considered writing young adult.  Apparently, they thought I had a good voice for it (whether that’s a compliment or not…I haven’t yet decided.)  But having editors interested in seeing the very book I’m speculatively plotting is a darn good incentive to write it!

I found the time by doing the first draft as a NaNoWriMo project.  I finished it, and realized the plot needed work—like a total overhaul, keeping only the main ideas.  I redid the outline, rewrote the first act, and gave it to my agent.  It sold as a trilogy, and the first book (The Summoning) came out earlier this month.

The idea well is deep.  And many of those ideas are tossed in, never to return, stagnating at the bottom as something that seemed interesting, but never really good enough to dig out again.  Then there are those that won’t stay down, that keep popping up saying “what about me?” refusing to sink even when we insist we don’t have the time for them.  Taking one out and bringing it to life is a wonderful experience, all the more wonderful because it clears a little room in the well for more.

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Kelley has a super cool website chock full of goodies for readers and writers alike. Check it out!