Last week, I sat down with a notebook and began doodling ideas. This is the part I love the best. I get to use the list of twenty, the could/might/must and should list, all four of my story paragraph formats...not to mention the draft storyboard that I put on a page in a notebook and write really, really small -- sometimes in shorthand -- so only I can read it. :) It's like having a wonderful secret.
But the thing about the beginning of a project is that when we land on an idea that tickles our fancy, it's like the traffic light turns green. Our engines rev and we fly through the intersection into the street.
If we're lucky, we'll soon hit another red light though.
Well, usually the tickle-your-fancy idea is more of a concept. I'm going to write a book about a woman who marries her dead husband's brother...Great scene ideas pop into our heads and we do a could/might/must and should list. We might even do a list of twenty to come up with rich conflicts. (Although marrying your dead husband's brother, I think, already comes with some built in conflicts! LOL). We probably even do one of the one-paragraph story summaries, just to make sure we have a complete story.
But here's the interesting thing about ideas. If you give yourself a week (or a month if you're luckily working on another project and can spare the time) when you come back to that idea, you won't just see the flaws you missed [in your enthusiasm] you will also find ways to deepen the story.
In fact, you could write up a question for a list of twenty...How can I deepen this idea?
Right now, your nose is wrinkling. Why do you have to deepen your idea? Seriously, Susan, are you always going to make us work so hard?
Yes. Because when I say deepen I don't mean that you have to look at your idea and think of ways to make it more serious...I want you to think of ways to make the story richer. If it's funny, can it be funnier? Are you missing opportunities? Are you missing the obvious about the conflict? Have you asked yourself, "How can I make this story great?" and then... "How can I make this story exceptional?"
There are millions of good books out there. Probably at least a million great ones. But exceptional? Not so much.
A book can be exceptional because the idea is just blow-readers-away wonderful. But more often than not it's execution that lifts a book from great to exceptional. So you say, Um, Susan...we're talking about ideas here, not execution...
But the thing is SCENES are part of both planning and execution. And we sometimes forget to dig deeper when doing our could/might/must and should list. We should take seriously the task of thinking through our scenes because those scenes make or break your execution.
So dig deeper. Think harder. Ask yourself...How can I make this story exceptional?