29

At the very commencement of my writing "career" (I have virtually zero experience), I have an idea I would like to flesh out and turn into a full story. Being extremely proud of the concepts I have developed, I don't want to ruin the story by attempting to pursue publication it while I am still unexperienced, but I don't want to have to wait too long to actually start writing it.

In general, is it better to start developing/writing ideas (with the goal of publication) as soon as they are had, or to reserve them until one has more experience in order to get the most out of it? What ideas are fine to develop at the start of one's career? Should ideas with large potential be reserved or acted on immediately (considering skill level)?

(PS: This is also my first Writers.SE question so feel free to be as critical as you like!)

  • 13
    Ideas are a dime a dozen. Don't think you're wasting your ideas by using them. When I used to play Warcraft there were these spells I could use to boost my powers. I preferred to keep these on standby and not waste them so I'd have them when I needed them. A wise friend told me "If you never use it, it's always wasted." I carried this pearl of wisdom with me long after I left the game. – corsiKa Jun 3 '16 at 15:31
  • 3
    I thought about this same thing; it occurs to me that the other people here raise a great point about writing what you got. You don't even have to publish it right away, if you're not happy with it. As you get through the book you'll revise it several times. – JaredW82 Jun 3 '16 at 22:50
  • Also, to be a 'good writer', you must also be a 'good reader'. The reason will become more apparent as you write. As you write, you'll find yourself looking different ways to portray and present what you want to say to give the effect you want. As you read, you'll see examples of this in others writings and begin to recognize the nuances of writing that many others take for granted. So, in short, my advice is to write your heart out on your best of ideas and read or re-read your favorite books as well. – JaredW82 Jun 3 '16 at 22:51
34

Use your best ideas. Write them as well as you can.

Yes, your writing will improve with experience.

And your ideas will also improve with experience.

If you reserve your "best ideas" until you're a better writer, then your early stories will exhibit neither your best ideas nor your best writing. Why hamper yourself like that?

Sometimes people love great stories even if the writing is somewhat clumsy. Use your best ideas. Give people a chance to love your story even as you gain writing experience.

Writing your best ideas will keep you motivated, and that will make your writing better. Maybe not as good as it will be, but as good as it can be for now.

Don't worry about wasting a great idea. You will have more great ideas. Plenty of them. There is no need to hold back.

Use your best ideas. Write them as well as you can.

  • 1
    As a reference: Eragon. Fantastic story, but "clumsy" is a great description of the writing: but I, along with thousands of others, am perfectly happy to read it again and again because the concept makes up for the less-than-perfect writing – Jon Story Jun 3 '16 at 12:11
  • 1
    @JonStory I've been trying to figure out why I love Eragon so much despite it being relatively poorly written. I'm stealing that explanation. – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Jun 4 '16 at 21:42
  • It's a great idea and well balanced characters, I think. Most clumsy writers have clumsy characters too, but not in Eragon – Jon Story Jun 4 '16 at 21:44
  • Ideas are not finite. You can't use them up. eubios.info/EJ134/ej134e.htm – Mindwin Nov 27 '18 at 15:23
12

Use your good ideas.

Just don't give away the rights to your creation. Make sure that you can re-use your story and elements.

I've seen countless stories about people who made a wonderful classic early in their career. (I'm talking about creators, and not necessarily writers specifically. Could be writers, game makers, etc.) Then later in life, they decide to repeat their story, updating it to reflect the newer "modern times". Then later in life, Hollywood loves their creation and wants to make a movie using the nostalgia of these old things, and other people are involved in creating the new feature, but the initial creator still gets to authorize this idea and give his or her blessing on the new project.

In other cases, the main character ends up being used as a template for another story. Often I've read about how beloved heroes were just an evolution of the ideas that someone had when they created an earlier character.

You may end up creating another character for the story. Then you might always remember that other character, who may end up being useful for some future work you get involved with.

So, use up your best ideas, and see what works and what doesn't. If it doesn't work, you may be more likely to see an actual problem, instead of blaming your artificial limitation of using less ideal stories. After your creation becomes the most awesome thing ever invented, or after it doesn't, it can still be a good basis for you to be able to draw upon later. And, if you do decide to draw upon your earlier ideas in this way, it will be better if your earlier ideas are more fleshed out. Then you can easily tap into what worked well, or immediately start making changes and head off into a new direction, instead of wasting time much later in life (by learning the lessons that your earlier experience could have taught you).

  • 3
    This answer makes an important point—writers often revisit ideas they explored in earlier work, and use them again with the benefit of more experience and a different perspective. – tsleyson Jun 4 '16 at 3:03
9

Ask yourself: how motivated will you feel writing about a mediocre story? To improve, you need to write—a lot. You won’t enjoy writing if you’re not passionate about your story.

Pick your best idea, the one that sets your creativity ablaze, and write it. Make sure you finish it. If the writing is not good enough for publication, then move on to the next story. Complete another novel. Do that again. You’ll have improved a lot by then. If you still feel passionate about your earlier stories, go back and turn them into something that can be published, either by editing them, or rewriting them entirely. Otherwise, keep going until you strike gold.

Most of the indie publishers I follow who make a comfortable living wrote several unpublished novels before finally producing something they felt was good enough.

As Dale said, you’ll get more ideas, better ones most likely. Don’t ruin it for yourself by working on something that doesn’t interest you.

6

In any creative discipline you should absolutely work to the best of your ability at every stage of your career as your previous works are both your way to show the world what you are capable of and a platform for you to build on.

Similarly 'ideas' are often a bit overrated, creativity is not so much about having brilliant flashes of inspiration so much as the, skill, knowledge and experience to properly articulate, evaluate and refine them. Ideas are cheap, it's the ability to turn them into a finished work which is important.

Also an idea isn't destroyed once you have used it, many writers and artists have repeatedly returned to the same themes throughout their careers and why would you even bother going through all the effort of writing and refining something that you think is based on a second or third rate concept when you know you have something that you think is more interesting ?

In any case my experience is that really good ideas come from actually going through the process and discovering the fine detail of the possibilities, challenges and limitations of a particular process so the way to get new ideas is to thoroughly test your current ones. It is entirely possible that you may discover that what you thought was a brilliant idea was not really what you wanted to say at all but you only find that out by testing it.

3

FWIW, here's my personal story that can perhaps serve as a teaching point in relation to the question:

  • I wrote my first fiction when I was 6 yrs old - a 2-paragraph Donald Duck mystery
  • I began writing short stories when I was 13-14
  • I won a small local award for a short story I wrote when I was 18
  • I began writing novels at that time, fully expecting to be published immediately (seriously, I thought the Oscar for best adapted screenplay awaited just around the corner). When that didn't happen, I wondered how on earth could those amazing ideas be ignored.
  • At the age of 25 (having been - rightfully - ignored), I got published by a pretty well-known publishing house. I then realized what "backstabbing" really means (a story for another day).
  • I stopped writing fiction. I started studying Literature. Fast-forward to the present day (a good decade later), I have a PhD in English Literature.
  • Last year I began writing fiction again. In this past year I have written three (3) 70.000-word novels, which are hands down the best darn things I've ever written (including my latest one, the best ever, written in 2 weeks).
  • I seriously doubt I'll want to dirty my hands with publishers again, but you never know, we'll see.

Bottom line:

Writing fiction is a tool to create a reality better than the one you live in right now. Never write for anyone other than yourself. Never. Don't try to control your creativity with things such as saving an idea for later, or what publishers/agents/audiences will think or want. Write only what you like. As your experience grows (both in terms of writing but mainly in terms of life experience), ten years down the road you will laugh at the things you're writing now. That's part of the process.

  • I know a few professional writers who'd probably be out of a job with this approach ;) – Michael B Jun 4 '16 at 9:17
  • It's easy to make money, very easy (and I'm not talking solely about writing now). I, on the other hand, prefer to enjoy myself, have a life, and sleep at nights. As I said, I seriously doubt I'll want to dirty my hands again in that field. But, of course, it's all subjective. If someone wants to do it, all the power to them. – user16555 Jun 4 '16 at 16:16
1

Carpe Diem. it could summarize it all.

Use your best ideas, while you're still enthusiastic about it, it will give you the enregy to write it down (and writing takes a lot of energy) You will evolve, as a writer and as a person, so trust your future self to find other great ideas !

Carpe. Diem !

1

Use your best ideas! Ideas are there to be used. Write the best story that you can now, that will give you the best foundation to write more good things on.

There are many famous books where I read a throw-away detail and wished that had been its own book. But I enjoyed the book more for having those details in.

Sometimes the idea you're in love with is strong enough to drive a good book even if you're less experienced in other ways.

However, that said, there actually are quite a lot of other reasons why you might leave an idea until later. Sometimes you want to write an idea you love, but actually another idea is better suited to your current strengths. You may want to write a series, but practically, think you'll learn more from writing short stories first. Maybe those short stories naturally fit in the same universe, maybe they don't. Maybe you have an idea that needs a lot of research, and it's better to get started on an idea you can write right now.

So, write the idea which you think will make the best writing you can do right now, but it might not be the best idea out of all the ones you have.

And finally, don't focus too much on how good the idea is. What's good about the idea isn't just what's in the idea, it's usually much more about the other ideas it brings to life in you. To you, an idea sings with possibility, to someone else it lies limp. The best idea is one that serves effectively as a seed for you to grow a story around, but the core of the finished story often occurs to you later, so don't rely too much on the original idea being perfect.

0

Use them, before someone else does.

If you want to do a "remix" later, you probably won't accuse yourself of plagiarism.

0

It depends. If you're actually planning to publish that idea anywhere else than Wattpad, you might want to wait. No one is going to write a book to be published on his first try, no matter how talented he is. The first book you write might seem amazing to you at the moment, but look at it again one year later, after much more writing experience, and you're probably going to think something like "how the hell did I write something so bad?" It's normal.

But on the other hand, you should write something you really, really like. And if you have a great idea, you might want to just go along with it. It happened with me. I had a story idea in my head for several years when I finally thought it was fleshed out enough to give it a try. After starting several books and giving up, I had faith I would finish that one, because I was so interested in it. Maybe the only way you'll finish your first story is writing that idea. You'd be surprised how many writers give up in their first few attempts to write a book. Maybe you can write that story the best you can, and later re-write the first couple chapters and edit the rest, when you have more experience.

It's up to you.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.