Thursday, September 1, 2011

More of an Idea Rat

I posted a while back about keeping it simple. In my experience, the most effective story that was the easiest to write and that went over best with those that mattered was the one where I focused on a simple concept, easy to explain, easy to relate.

Then we talked about Rebecca Black and Phil Collins and I referenced the little logline exercise provided by agents Rachel, Nathan, and Natalie. Remember that? KISS? Here's the link in case you're curious (link).

But what if you have a really complex idea? One that can't be summed up in one sentence? At least not satisfactorily. And what if you think it's pretty good.

Source
I suppose you could argue that no books can be satisfactorily summed up in one sentence. There are always subplots and characters who if left out, change the tone or whatever.

On my back burner is a little MS JRM keeps bugging me to finish. It's at 15K words with many, many notes. I had to make a separate file of notes because it's a complex idea. I'm not even confident I can pull it off successfully.

So what to do? Ditch it? Maybe I could start and then see how much frosting I have if it flops...

Just kidding, I don't believe in icing together something that's not working. But I also don't believe in spending tons of time on an MS that isn't going anywhere. I'm not that old yet, and I've got two little ladies I'm taking time away from to do this.

What do you guys do with complicated ideas? Wait until they feel simple? Keep writing til they get simple?

Maybe I'm overthinking it.

I'm out of the revision cave (again), so I hope to be around more now. Have a super holiday weekend, reader- and writer-friends! Til Monday~ <3

26 comments:

Carolyn Abiad said...

I write and write and write and then condense/cut tons, but that is not my ideal method. My ideal is to sit down and work out a detailed synopsis and simplify that into a sharp idea. Then I go write and write and write and end up in a tangent. See the difference? Me neither. It's complicated. ;)

Laura Pauling said...

That's so tough. I def. think we need to put thought into projects before spending a year on them. I would think even the most complicated storylines can be reduced to one line - esp. if there is a big hook. Good luck deciding!

Kelly said...

I really think it is tough to sum up 50,000+ word book into one sentence. I know it is done. But the one liners seem more of a hook or a teaser. I like reading a paragraph synopsis before reading a book.
Good luck with the complex story. I'd try working at it some more, but if it's still difficult, and you have another story idea, maybe a change would be good and you can go back to it.

Jessica Bell said...

I flesh out the key points in the story that make it complicated so it's a little clearer in my head :o)

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm horrible about book blurbs and sum up sentences. I wish I could do it better.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I write them until they become simple. :) Also, if you think the idea is too challenging for you, you should ABSOLUTELY do it. If you think it just doesn't have the appeal (for you, for readers) then don't waste your time with it.

(p.s. I know it's not that simple, but I'm more of an idea rat. LOL!)

Hart Johnson said...

My earlier ideas were more complicated that my more recent ideas and I wrote them anyway (heck, you've read Legacy). I keep thinking there is a way to boil down the description so it sounds easier than it is... if that makes sense.

I happen to believe simple to describe ideas are easier to SELL--especially if they are fresh new ideas but still easy to describe. I don't know that makes them better books. But it probably does mean more success. I decided a while back though, that I wouldn't give up on my more complicated stories--I am just waiting until my name is enough to sell.

Old Kitty said...

I like the idea of writing until the complex idea becomes simple!! I think that's a great route to take!! Good luck with your idea!! Yay for you! Take care
x

Matthew MacNish said...

You can probably guess my answer. My idea was so complex it took nearly half a million words to get it across. Most of them were unnecessary, but it's taken a long time to pare that down to 300,000, and then now to 150,000.

I'm still working on it. I suppose it depends on how good you think the idea is. IMHO complex ones are often the best.

Summer Ross said...

complicated might stay complicated- i say randomly keep writing on it, eventually what needs said will get there.

RaShelle said...

Hi Leigh, I agree with Hart. The easy ideas are easy to sell. Complex is fun though, too. I'm a go with your gut kind of girl, so I say: Do what feels right! You're awesome!!

Jennie Bailey said...

Keep writing until it all comes together! Complex stories are the best. Laini Taylor is a great example of that with her MG novels. She has a YA coming out that I hear is just as meaty. I can't wait to get my hands on that. I'm all with you on not spending time on an MS that isn't going to go anywhere. That's why my first draft goes into the hands of my teens so that I know right away if it will interest them. If not, it goes into a drawer - might rethink it later if they liked any aspect of it, but probably not. I say you go back to that MS and work through your notes! JRM wouldn't steer you wrong! Have a great weekend!

Carol Riggs said...

I think you just haven't messed with it long enough. ...Or maybe you just need to let it set until your subconscious mulls it over--or until you've grown enough as a writer to tackle it. Or maybe you'll find a way to simplify it! Pick one. LOL

Theresa Milstein said...

One sentence is hard. I guess look for the essence. What one idea do you want to put forward? What's the hook?

Beth Revis and a panel of authors were asked to come up with six lines to describe their books. She said, "I can do it in four: Murder mystery in space." Yes, that's true. It's more than that. But it gives you an idea. It sounds intriguing.

Jemi Fraser said...

I just finished reading the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Apparently he had the idea, but put it on hold for years because he loved the idea, but knew he didn't have the skill for it at the time. Your dilemma reminds me of this! So, you're on the way to being the next Neil Gaiman :)

Michelle Merrill said...

I'm not sure my brain can get too complex. I'm having a hard time making my current WIP come out right...and I don't think it's that in depth. Okay, so maybe I'm changing an idea completely, but it's still somewhat simple. And it's KEEELING me :) I want to be done with revisions so bad!

I say keep writing notes on it until it feels right. Then go ahead. I also don't think it's worth spending time on if it's just going to get you nowhere. That said, though, sometimes I don't get the complete picture or idea until I've started writing the manuscript :) Good luck!

Angela Felsted said...

My problem is, I LOVE complicated ideas, not so much that I'm willing to shoot myself in the foot. But there are some people who do really well with them, like mystery writers, or that author of The Westing Game. I really liked that book.

Talli Roland said...

Hmmm... I guess since I write for particular genre and audience, I always chuck out anything that doesn't fit into that. Well, I don't chuck it out, but I file it away into 'other'!

Ella said...

I think this is where I am struggling. All the books I want to write are so complicated, so many disjointed lives. I fear the story can't be told in one book and I would rather it would be.
I think you should make a deadline for it and then give it a go. Crunch time could amp you and let you get to the heart of the MS. <3 555 xXx

Janet Johnson said...

I remember your KISS post, which I thought was excellent.

I don't know, if you never try on that complicated idea, you never know. I guess you have to choose and hope you don't regret your choice.

LTM said...

@Laura--argh, thanks. This story is on my mind right now, but I've been distracted from it by more urgent MSs. Maybe when I have more time. Whenever that might be! :o) <3

@Summer--right. Because I can always edit it down. I need to keep stewing on this one. :o) <3

Lydia K said...

Welcome back to the light of day!

Sometimes my ideas never get that simple. I just work them out until they streamline themselves a bit.

M Pax said...

Keep the blurb simpler & enticing, then let the story unfold. I enjoy complicated. :D I'll go for a complicated story over a simple one every time.

Pk Hrezo said...

I like complicated too... as long as you can find a way out of the story. Don't paint yourself into a corner kinda thing.
I say go for it. You'll never know til you write it and then you can decide if it's worth revising for publication or not. I have more trouble with story ideas nagging at me so I have to write them to get them to leave me alone... then of course I get attached and want to slave over them to get them right.... until the next idea nags at me and becomes my main squeeze. Then suddenly all the other previous stories come into perspective and I can see them for what they really are.

LTM said...

@PK--that's kind of where I am now with a story nagging at me. But at the same time, I have two other things to be thinking about, so I can somewhat ignore it. For now... :D <3

Kari Marie said...

I tend to overcomplicate my plots. So I should probably keep my mouth shut (but I'm not good at that either). I have a couple of stories like this on the back burner and every once in a while I take them out and hammer out more details. I created spreadsheets of key plot points and subplots, etc. I don't feel confident enough to write them yet. Hopefully someday. :)