Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Glimmering of a New Idea

By Sariah S. Wilson

I don’t normally take naps. I can’t take naps. If I am foolish enough to succumb to mid-afternoon weariness, I ALWAYS pay for it later because if I nap it’s impossible for me to fall asleep that night. I have a sister who could easily sleep 16 hours a day and still function normally. I take one 30-minute nap and I’ll be up until 3:00 in the morning, which at my age is no longer fun.

A few weeks ago I gave in. I took a nap that lasted for several hours. Which kept me up late that night. Which turned out to be a good thing.

But before I get to that - the problem with the national publishing industry these days is that there are too many books. That’s good - lots and lots of variety for all differing kinds of tastes - but bad for the consumer as well. When you walk into a massive store like Barnes & Noble, it can be, quite frankly, overwhelming. There are too many selections. The reader doesn’t know how to find the authors that they might love.

And the authors don’t know how to find the readers. The only publicity that works in selling a book is, as I’ve said repeatedly, word of mouth, which no one knows how to manufacture.

Thus, the stakes are raised. Not only do you have to write a darn good book, but you have to have a hook. Something to make your book stand out from all the others. Something that a marketing department of a publisher can get behind and be excited about. Because all other things being equal, it is the marketing/publicity/budget departments who will decide whether or not you get published.

You have the seemingly impossible task of finding a way to be totally different than what’s out there, but not too different.

I read quite a few agent blogs, and some of them have taken to posting the query letters they’re getting. It’s been very eye opening to me to see them critique the queries, and to see that sometimes really well written queries and opening chapters will be returned with a form rejection because there’s nothing special or different about them - to the agents the stories seem very run of the mill. Some of them even show that they have five or six stories in their inbox that all sound exactly alike (i.e., hero finds out he’s adopted, searches for his birth family and on his journey “finds himself,” since it turns out his real self was hiding out in Boise all along).

I’ve been looking for an idea for the national market that would fulfill this requirement - something that would spark and be enough to catch an agent’s interest that wouldn’t seem tired or like something they just read five minutes ago.

I think I have it, thanks to my inability to sleep.

Because of the nap I was, of course, up late that night and I ran across an old episode of “Charmed.” I started watching it because this episode had Cole (and how I used to love Phoebe and Cole) and while paying scant attention to the plot, I noticed their mythical Demon of the Week. I started to mull around a way to play with the legend. I had an experience I’ve never had before - the hero and heroine jumped into my mind, their internal and external conflicts immediately apparent. I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. again, but this time, it was because I couldn’t write the ideas down fast enough.

I haven’t started the story yet. I’m almost afraid to. I don’t think I can capture on paper what I have in my head. I’ve been dancing around the idea, trying to find a starting point.

But I know I have to start soon. If Stephen King’s theory is correct (and I think it is) these ideas are just out there floating around and if I take too long, somebody else will grab it. Which stresses me out.

Which makes me want to nap.


At 9/10/2006 12:08 AM, Blogger The Frog said...

Personally, I'm of the opinion that any story inspired by some element of Charmed is definitely worth buying. I suggest you get writing so I can read it. ;)

At 9/10/2006 12:45 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Charmed? I've never seen Charmed! (Of course, I've never seen 24 either, but I hesitate to mention it in this crowd.) Sigh. Obviously my biggest problem is that I read too many books and don't watch enough TV . . .

Sounds like a charming idea, Sariah. You go, girl!

And to what honor do we owe the Frog's reappearance in our blog -- twice now in a single week?

At 9/11/2006 2:04 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Darn it, Sariah, you just totally gave away the plot for my next book! See, he finds out he's been adopted . . .

At 9/11/2006 2:18 PM, Blogger Steven said...

Ah, yes. The idea bombs. I'm well familiar with the phenomenon. Perhaps too much so, actually. I've got about 20 ideas outlined and ready to go whenever I actually finish what I'm working on right now. Yes, 20. That's not too many, is it?


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