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Sarah Hoyt

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March 19, 2013 - 2:00 pm
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Writing A Novel In Thirteen Weeks:

If you’re going to write a novel, you have, of course, to start with an idea. Just like if you’re going to make a shepherd’s pie, first you have to catch your shepherd.

One of the questions I always get — in every panel, in every interview, at every con — is: “How do you get your ideas?”

The normal answer is: “I get them from [insert random, remote/small town].”  I use: “Hays, Kansas. But it will cost you a dime, and you have to send a SASE.”

The sad thing is that I could possibly sell ideas and never reach a point where I have none to sell. Like with everything else, ideas are something you train yourself to have, and once you start having them, you have them all the time. You’ll be Standing On the Corner, Minding your  Own Business (the infamous SOCMOB that guarantees you’ll be jumped by “two bad dudes”) when an idea will jump out of  a nearby dumpster, and there you have it.

For instance, the other day in my blog comments, commenter CACS mistyped “High School Cemetery” instead of “High School Chemistry,” and there was immediately a boarding school for vampires (children with special needs) in my head.

So, was that idea enough to write a novel?

Probably not, because it doesn’t interest me enough – but what you also have to understand is that the boarding school for vampires is not an idea for a story. It is an idea for a setting. I still don’t have an idea – and it is the idea that determines whether it’s a novel, a short story, or just a passing, throw-away detail in another story.

Let me explain: What you have there has no characters, no conflict, no… story. It’s at best a spark of a story, even if for a fantasy reader (or writer) it comes freighted with all sorts of implied problems like “do they have classes at night?”  “What do they do for the cafeteria — a blood bank?”  etc.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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Please continue,with my busy days i have little time for complete thoughts.I have devolved into an at home janitor who carries around a notebook,catching partial sentences only,and distractions scatter thoughts.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The universe I want to write stories in/about is about 400 years in the future. There is one huge back-story problem: Mid-to-Late 21st century genetic engineering creates telepaths, more or less by accident. By the late 25th century this is all normalized. How to get from here to there is a huge hole. Seems like a perfect thing for a 13 week challenge (not to mention excellent practice since I've only written vignettes, so far).

So, here's the idea: Some relatively widely desired trait (is red hair too obvious?) has the side effect of making the children engineered to have it telepathic at puberty. These children are spread around through time (it does take 14 or so years to notice) and space (mostly rich countries where parents can afford to genetically engineer their children). Some government agency (is the CIA too obvious?) notices and begins scooping up the kids, who will be the protagonists (or perhaps the protagonist should be an attorney or a reporter). By the end of things, they need to be not-all-dead and telepathy is not a sentence to an internment camp or a secret government lab.

I suppose an outline to clear up who the story is about is the next order of business...

BTW: The hardest thing for me (other than finishing anything) is naming characters.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Protagonist problem solved: Big brother saves little sister.

Method of resolution solved: Business leaders start bring telepaths to meetings, creating a market for honesty and reliability.

Important side note: It's hard to exploit a telepath when any other one can be "told" or "overhear" what's going on without the normals, who would be doing the exploiting, knowing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I decided to go with red-heads. Here are some interesting factoids (yay! Intertubes!):
a) about 1% of births are currently IVF.
b) the birth rate is currently about 13/1000.
c) red-heads are about 3% of the population.
d) about 3 times that number use red hair dye (I assume mostly women)

Given all that, about 5,000 births per year are potential "red hair" genetic engineering IVF customers (esp by 2050). Much higher than I expected - and makes for a much better story (how to work in that this number is not insanely high is another question).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've got an idea for an agency that can be hired to chase and harass someone to make them believe they are a victim in the center of some conspiracy and must run for their life (only to be revealed, in the end, that a friend paid for it to bring excitement to the protagonists life).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Total Recallish!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for writing these. It's something of a comfort to know that some of the ideas I have are really close to being actual "ideas." And the ones that aren't, well, they're close. Now to do something with them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What wonderful advice. Thank you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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