Mark Terry

Friday, August 17, 2007

Too Many Damn Ideas

August 17, 2007

Supposedly the biggest question writers get asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?"
Honestly, I haven't been asked that too much. People seem more inclined to share THEIR great idea for a fantastic book they're sure will be an instant bestseller, sell to the movies and become a blockbuster film made by Stephen Spielberg, all I gotta do is promise, PROMISE, to split things 50/50 after I write the book.
Ideas are the least of my problems these days. As I'm wrapping up the fourth Derek Stillwater novel, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, I've got two or three ideas for more Stillwater novels. But since SHADOWS isn't scheduled (optimistically) for publication until November 2008, a date I suspect will shift because the third book, ANGELS FALLING, got moved from Feb. 2008 to May 2008, I'm sifting around for another project to write.
The one I'm probably going to work on, and which I already have 50 pages or so written, is an espionage novel that takes place primarily in Beijing.
I'm also dabbling with a tech thriller that takes place mostly in Antarctica, a political thriller that takes place in Washington, D.C., and a supernatural police procedural (yeah, odd, huh?) that takes place in Detroit. There's also an older unfinished Detroit police procedural that I keep taking out and looking at and wondering if too much water has gone under THAT bridge. Let it be said that I'm doing here what David Morrell wrote about once, called "test borings." His mentor said he'd try out ideas and called them "test borings." David went on about how they were like drilling, looking for oil and his mentor gave him a "look" and said, "No, I just want to see if they're boring."
What I do is write a few pages and see if the story takes off for me, if I'm eager to get back to it, if when I do get back to it I actually work on it or I just stare at the blank page going, "Uh, now what?"
My agent is also marketing another thriller and a children's fantasy novel. I probably wouldn't write a spec follow-up to the thriller, but I've considered writing the second book in the kids' series just for fun. And maybe I will.
And today, while walking Frodo, I was puzzling over why, given the potential money involved, I've never given writing a feature screenplay a second shot (Probably because the first shot was a disaster, but that was abouat 15 years ago. I've learned a few things since then). And I've had the notion of writing a spec TV script for "Bones" just because, well, I like "Bones" and I wouldn't mind writing for the show and, well, you've got to fill up the time somehow, right?
There's also a young adult story idea I've got that's pretty good and my oldest son thinks I should write it. And then yesterday, I pulled the USA Today out of the mailbox and on the cover was a little thing drawing attention to an article on the front page of the Features section about a bestselling YA novel (that knocked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows off the #1 spot) about vampires.
And I thought, "Why is it always vampires? Why not werewolves?"
And as I walked from my mailbox to my living room my brain conjured up a title, "I, Wolf," and a first line: "My mom and dad don't know I'm a werewolf."
You see? Where do you get your ideas is not a good question. The real question is, Which ones are good for me?
Mark Terry


Anonymous Jim Hall said...

Wow I think I would like to read all of those novels.

6:24 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

And who knows, Jim, maybe someday I'll write ALL of them. If I live long enough. :)

6:45 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

I agree with Jim. :-) When I first started writing, ideas were everywhere. I literally must have come up a hundred ideas worth keeping in the first two years.

It may sound weird, but I kinda turned off that thinking for a few years. I'd just go in my file and pick one. Now I kinda just alternate. Leak ideas on, then leak ideas off.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

My oldest son, who wants to be a writer... well, IS a writer, is always throwing ideas at me. "Dad, what do you think of this..."

Almost all are great. But I knew that it's execution. Even great execution of a so-so idea can be successful, and bad execution of a great idea won't be.

Every now and then that's my response, although I try to be gentle about it. He's 13, after all. "Almost all of your ideas are great, Ian. It's what you do with them that matters."

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Definitely, having to many ideas and not enough time to write them all is my problem. I've always wished I could make a living writing because writing full time I could get to a few of the ideas that have piled up over the years! Some, I find, do go stale, but that still leaves shelves and shelves full.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

I think ideas are EVERYWHERE! There are too many ideas and I have random pages scattered all over the place. I think the real question should be When do you find the time to write it all?
And how did you do this before you quit your day job?
Sign me,
too exhausted to write...

7:24 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I tended to be more focused when I only had an hour or so to write each day, so whatever my big project was, that got my initial time. When I added in nonfiction, it was deadline oriented, but I just didn't have the time to say, Well, the journal needs editing, my column for ADVANCE is due in a week, I'm 183 pages into a novel... I think I'll try writing something like a novel about flesh eating vampires!

8:52 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Ooooo, love Vampires! Caridad Pinero has a good vamp series out with Harlequin's Nocturn line.
I'm working on destroying the world now with noxious gasses...
Has your personal life ever made you so crazy you couldn't write?
Work and kids and fear of shoulder surgery in the near future are driving me crazy now and although I don't believe in writer's block its just not flowing.
How do you get past this stuff?

1:08 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I've tended to use writing as an escape from life--until writing became my dayjob. But stressful periods can definitely mess up your creativity, that's for sure.

8:37 AM  

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