Years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Highlights Foundation Workshop at Chautaqua in New York. While there, I was extremely fortunate to have Patricia Lee Gauch, author of more than thirty books and former Vice President of Philomel books as my mentor. If you ever have the opportunity to listen to this woman speak, go! She is absolutely amazing.
While there, Patti gave a powerful address that stuck with me. I think about her words often. And I can hear her voice in my head, pushing me, challenging me to do better.
Basically, she told us to go crazy.
This is perfect to keep in mind with NaNoWriMo right around the corner.
Push your ideas! Don’t play it safe! Get in there and make big things happen!
Think about some of your favorite books.
What is it you love about them? I doubt anyone would ever answer that with, “I love how the author wrote a book that was KIND OF exciting.”
NO! We don’t want to read books with ideas that are okay, stories that work but have been done a gazillion and ten times.
We want crazy awesome books full of crazy awesome ideas and concepts and characters and settings and problems.
Now what are some practical ways to do this? To “go crazy” with your writing?
#1: Don’t settle
You have to create characters, build a world and come up with all kinds of problems and solutions. Not to mention a killer opening and a satisfying ending. Don’t settle for the first idea that comes along.
Maybe you think you have the perfect idea. Maybe you think it’s crazy enough. But is there a way to push it further? Brainstorm different possibilities. Stretch your mind. Thing bigger. Better. Crazier. (You saw that coming, right?)
It might be useful to ask for help brainstorming bigger ideas with your writing group or a critique partner. You can always go back to the original idea if you don’t find anything you like better.
#3: Use Unrelated Ideas
Try taking two or more completely unrelated ideas and create a story with both of them.
#4: Choose the Worst Thing
What’s the worst thing that can happen to your characters? Where’s the worst place to make your characters live? Who are the worst people for your characters to have in their lives? What are the worst fears your characters could have?
#5: Make a Movie Trailer (at least, in your head!)
Imagine your book has been made into a movie. What would the movie trailer be like? What are the great, big, exciting moments that would pull people in and make them feel like they HAVE to see it? Are there explosions? Dramatic entrances? Catastrophes? Car chases? (Ok. I love a good car chase scene.) If you can’t think of any big moments, well, then maybe you haven’t gone crazy enough.
Erin Shakespear writes middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. With six kids, her days are full of quirky creatures, magic, strange adventures, and…loads of diapers. She also likes to dabble at photography, sewing, jewelry-making, and pretending she’s a grand artist. She is the southern Utah coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. And, yes, her life is kind of crazy.