Your Story Ideas Aren’t Enough

10 Mar

The other day I was on Twitter and saw someone tweet out something along the lines of, “YOUR STORY IDEA DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING,” and I about had a heart attack, because WHAT.

I mean, of course ideas matter. In fact, I’m one of those authors that keep lists and lists of ideas, because I believe they all matter. (At least to me. And that’s enough.) But I have to confess… That tweet gave me a heart attack, because she was right. Just because story ideas matter doesn’t mean they are enough. 

Don’t throw away your ideas yet. Stick with me. (In fact, extra tip: never throw away your ideas. You never know when something you drafted ten years ago will click with you.)

Now don’t panic.

Ideas are HARD to come up with. So many ideas have been done before a million different ways that it often feels impossible to put a fresh spin on anything. So I get it. When you have an idea that actually feels fresh—one that you are passionate about—that idea absolutely feels like enough, and to have someone blatantly tell you that it isn’t enough before ever giving you a shot is extremely disheartening. But it’s not meant to be disheartening. It’s meant to remind you of one, important truth: Having the idea is only the beginning. So keep these three aspects in mind when you’re feeling discouraged about your brainstorming:

1. Everyone has ideas. Millions of them.

But so what? How many of those millions of ideas actually get down on paper? How many of those ideas go forgotten in a desk drawer for decades? Who cares how many millions of ideas have been done before? Let’s concentrate on the millions of ideas and voices that haven’t been done before instead. Let’s concentrate on the fact that your idea is your idea and no one else’s. Your voice will make that idea new, your plan will unfold like no one else’s plan, and that in itself will make it unique. Do not get bogged down by the fact that everyone has a story. Let that inspire you to come up with as many ideas as you want to. Create a list. Keep that list. One day, any or all of them could become something huge in your heart (and then on paper)! Just because an idea feels flat one day doesn’t mean that it won’t click next year or the year after that. Sometimes ideas need a lot of time to fully form. Sometimes ideas need a little push.

2. PUSH that idea

Granted, because there are so many amazing writers who come before us, we all know that our ideas have to bring something new to the table. Your road trip story might be awesome, but it also needs to stand out. One thing I like to do when I’m drafting is to ask myself what I can do to push the story. Heck, get a friend involved. Ask them what they would do to make the story crazier or how to get the stakes higher. Truly ask yourself what the most unique aspect of your story is, and then take that aspect and pushhhhhh it. Don’t be afraid to get a little crazy, especially in the drafting stage. Have fun. Make mistakes. Start over. Try again. You might find an idea within an idea within an idea that becomes the book you decide to write. Just remember to actually write.

3. WRITE that idea

I think the main reason this person on Twitter said what she said wasn’t because she was saying ideas don’t matter. They do. Instead, I believe she was trying to remind everyone that if all you do is sit around and daydream about writing some story idea you had, you won’t get anywhere. You actually have to sit down and write. A few years ago, one of my friends learned this lesson. One day, he sat across from me at a café I used to write at and declared that being a writer can’t be that hard. (He’d watched me do it after all, and he had tons of ideas.) So I told him that if he wrote a book, I would be happy to beta read and help him. Less than a month later, he texted me a hilarious, heartfelt apology, because, though he had sat down and written six chapters, he was stuck and what he had wasn’t consistent or legible (his description, not mine). In fact, he never let me read what he came up with, because he decided right then and there that writing wasn’t for him. At least not yet. But what he was going through was perfectly normal for a writer. You have to make mistakes. Major ones. My friend had been playing around with his idea for years before he sat down, but once he sat down, writing wasn’t what he expected. Does that mean he should’ve quit? I don’t think so. (Unless he truly realized he doesn’t enjoy writing.) But one thing remains true. You can plan, plan, plan all you want, but writing a great book requires more than a great idea. It requires practice and patience and passion.

So sit down and try. Write those ideas, change your ideas, practice with your ideas, and one day, publish your ideas. But don’t listen to those that say your ideas don’t matter, because of course they matter. They matter to you, and that has to come first and foremost before your ideas can also matter to others. Pursue as many ideas as you want to. Experiment. Have fun. Find something you’re passionate about, because this is part of the publishing journey, and your ideas are the foundation you will write upon.

Ideas are the beginning of something great.


22 Responses to “Your Story Ideas Aren’t Enough”

  1. The Story Reading Ape March 10, 2018 at 4:14 am #

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog.

  2. Tom Gould March 10, 2018 at 5:02 am #

    Sometimes forcing an idea can be a bad approach because it can make the idea go stale. You have to try and let things go with the flow and like you said, leave and revisit it later if you get stuck.

  3. allan hudson March 10, 2018 at 6:01 am #

    Good article.

  4. claire plaisted March 10, 2018 at 6:19 am #

    Reblogged this on Plaisted Publishing House and commented:
    Your Story Ideas aren’t Enough

  5. pvcann March 11, 2018 at 4:29 am #

    Encouraging and helpful

    • Shannon A Thompson March 11, 2018 at 7:57 am #

      So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  6. Don Massenzio March 11, 2018 at 6:56 am #

    Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this insightful post from Shannon A. Thompson’s blog on why your story ideas aren’t enough.

  7. roughwighting March 11, 2018 at 7:01 am #

    Being a pantser more than a plotster, I totally agree with this post! If I stop and think of my ideas, and then THINK of how I’ll make them into a story, I’ve got nothing. Nada. But if I just start with the germ of an idea and create a sentence, making it a kind of prompt, and then just …. W R I T E … well then, I’ve got a written story. First draft, yes, but it’s down and it’s written and I can worry about the second draft afterwards. You’ve just put a fire under my writing pen. Thanks.

    • Shannon A Thompson March 11, 2018 at 7:58 am #

      I’m so happy to hear that! Thank you for sharing your story. I hope your current project is quite the fire. 😉

      • roughwighting March 11, 2018 at 2:35 pm #

        I’ve got the extinguisher near by, just in case I need it. 🙂

  8. Steve Boseley March 11, 2018 at 10:19 am #

    Reblogged this on Steve Boseley and commented:
    Writing is working. Having an idea is just the start…

  9. Eric Klingenberg March 11, 2018 at 4:19 pm #

    I like keep,lists of ideas I’m writing what I hope will be the first boom of a series but keep King ideas for other books not contacted with this one. It can be very annoying.

  10. Let's CUT the Crap! March 11, 2018 at 7:22 pm #

    A.m.e.n. to that. Sigh. 🙂

  11. Terry Tyler March 12, 2018 at 2:30 am #

    Too many people think that all it takes to write a novel is having an idea. I review so many that read like first drafts – writing a publishable novel takes hard graft, writing when you don’t feel like it, and redrafting so much you can no longer stand the sight of the wretched thing!

    Some people these days are passing their ideas on to writers who they pay to actually DO that work, so they can add ‘author’ to their social media bios. Or there are others, like a friend of mine, who has had this great idea, done lots of research, but finally decided she doesn’t have the talent to write the novel. She does – what she doesn’t have is the commitment/time. A bit like your chap in the cafe, and yes, what this very good article is all about!! 🙂

  12. Writer_Princess March 12, 2018 at 7:26 am #

    At least you are still writing. That means you’ve found a way that works. And who cares if it’s not as much as you wrote before. It’s still impressive. You should be proud of yourself.


  13. Jason Case March 17, 2018 at 1:21 pm #

    Decent Article including that you shouldn’t remain with a occupation if it’s in your control.

    I recall that Andre Agassi a famous Pro tennis player hated Tennis except he is a great tennis player and made a high amount of money so it’s unsurprising before he retired that was his paying occupation as a Adult.

    I would add persistence to the patience, passion, and practice for what it requires to write a great book, or a movie, Manga, Comic book, etc.

    Having a great idea for a story is useless if the person doesn’t write it on paper, and write the story.
    It’s like thinking of a idea for a painting that could be great but not drawing and painting the Painting, and then attempting to sell the Painting.

    Or thinking of a great invention but the person doesn’t draw the invention, create the invention, test the invention, and remove the flaws.

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