For the past few days, my mind has been churning over the subject of concept, or ideas. My friend Kiersten actually wrote a post on the matter today, and it got me thinking.
Her stance is: work is what it all boils down to. Good, old fashioned hard work. And who am I to disagree? Indeed, I think few of us writers who are savvy enough to be reading/writing blogs are so deluded as to think that an idea alone will bring success. Work is a given. Good, old fashioned hard work.
However, I’m pushing the issue a little harder. Let’s really get down to nitty gritties. No easy, quick answers. Also, this post honestly isn’t a masked plea for encouragement, so (as much as I appreciate you, truly) there’s no need to interpret my remarks that way. What I really want is a fresh, hard thinking discussion.
By reading agent blogs, books on writing, and various other sources, I found that most editors/agents are looking for two simple things.
Ideally, they want both, but if a submission shines in one or the other, it’s probably enough.
Now, I’m going to make a perhaps harsh assessment. I’m going to say that nearly everyone reading this is relatively new to this field (and by new, I mean that we haven’t been steadily working on our craft for ten years+.) Now because of this, I’m going to assume that none of us have reached a “brilliant” level of writing skill yet. I know I haven’t.
So what’s left? Concept.
“But hard work,” you are saying. “With hard work you can get both!” Well, of course. Remember, I stated very clearly at the beginning of this post that work is vital. But, who says I’m not working hard? I’m here to tell you I am. I work late into the night most days. When I can’t be at the computer I’m constantly thinking about, making notes about my stories in my Moleskine. I’m working. HARD.
Guess what? There are THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of aspiring writers out there who are working their butts off as well.
So what sets a story apart? Concept.
Somehow, I just can’t find a reasonable way to dismiss this argument. To me, a great concept, the kind that make people say, “Oh!” is the thing that can push us over the edge. A great concept is what gives your story that X Factor.
That’s really the key. That X Factor. A story can be good. Very good, even. And you can work until your fingers bleed to make it great. But like I said, there are THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of writers out there, all doing the same thing. Without a great concept, you might just be spinning your wheels.
So, my concluding question is this. Is there something sacred about a completed novel? Does writing the words “The End” commit you to seeing the editing/revision process all the way through? All the way to the acceptable 100 query rejections? Or should we look at each novel as a learning experience? Should we take what we need to take from it, and wait until we really have something great to put our all into?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. I really don’t. This is just what has been spinning around in my mind lately. I truly would love to hear what you think.