• establish if it has the potential to become a novel

What idea is the best? Which is the most promising? Which is most likely to work as a book?

All very important questions at this stage.

So far, you have a collection of ideas. You’ve invested very little time in then. One week at most.

But if you’re going to take this idea further and develop it into a story, then outline it, then write the thing, we’re talking a serious time and energy investment.

Many people take well over a year to complete a book, especially their first, when they’re learning the ropes. Life can also get in the way and delay this process.

And trust me, as most writers know, once you’ve started writing a book and you know the characters and have invested enough…it’s almost impossible to walk away. You can’t just discard that story like it means nothing to you – it means the world.

And so choosing the most promising idea from your bunch is so important.

But there is good news – this next part can be applied to some/all of your ideas and not take too much time. So don’t sweat it just yet!

Does my idea have the potential to become a whole novel?

Well, this is the 1 million dollar question, isn’t it?

And who knows the answer? Well, at this stage, no-one does!

But that doesn’t mean we can’t identify the main elements that are needed within your idea to make it something we can scale up towards becoming a novel.

So what are the key things to look for:

  • main character
  • with a clear aim/goal/want
  • and an emotional need
  • and/or a flaw/fear to overcome
  • world/setting (ideally with inherent conflict)
  • forces of antagonism that will cause conflict
  • theme/lesson for our main character

Those are good for a start. You may have all, some or none of these in your head already. That’s alright if not.

But here’s where you need to work those brains again – CAN you put some/all of these elements into your story idea?

For example, let’s take your astronaut and martian example (or surfer/merperson).

We have:

  • main character – YES! (astronaut/martian or surfer/merperson)
  • with a clear aim/goal/want – to be together
  • and an emotional need – both need to learn to accept they cannot be together (sorry spoilers!)
  • and/or a flaw/fear to overcome – well, the gill/lung thing or similar breathing difficulties for the astronaut on Mars
  • world/setting (ideally with inherent conflict) – we’ve used the geographics of the world to create the conflict – the water or martian air are the conflict created by the world/setting
  • forces of antagonism that will cause conflict – we could start adding a villain/antagonistic force here like some kind of scientific group that wants to study the merperson/martian, think Splash! But the opportunities here are quite abundant because we’ve chosen an idea full of inherent conflict
  • theme/lesson for our main character – so I guess we’re looking at a theme of frustrated love, or a romantic tragedy of sorts, where our characters have to accept they can’t be together forever, as hoped. It’s an acceptance.

So, not too bad, really! I just picked that as a random idea but it actually worked out okay and I think there’s definitely enough in that one to write a whole story on it! As I say the first one sounds a lot lie Splash, but if we add our twist from last lesson, and make it an astronaut and martian, then we have that fresh take on an old story. Which is what is so often looked for!

It’s time to work!

So, have a look at those ideas – which ones stand out, in terms of our list of key things we’re looking for?

Put a tick next to those ideas. Then pick the one you’re most excited about and put it to the test – can you write something for each of the elements, like I’ve done in the example above?

If yes, then you’re ready for the next stage – to develop that idea. (and don’t stop with one – you can do a few and see which one starts peaking it’s head above the parapet).

But don’t throw away your idea list just yet – get a word document called IDEAS and put them all in there. In a year, or two, when you need an idea, you can revisit these, and also keep adding to them in the meantime.