If The First Idea Fits—Wear It

Wedding season is upon us. With it brings anniversaries, and for me, memories of my wedding. One of my fondest memories is shopping for a gown. I spent countless hours combing through bridal magazines and designer websites, and then the day came to visit a bridal parlor. I hunted through the racks for my dream dress until I found one that embodied my vision.

Trying on the first dress was wondrous. I looked in the mirror and couldn’t believe what I saw—a real bride! I loved the dress at first sight. But I quickly doubted my selection. I tried on several more gowns to find ‘the one’, yet left the shop empty-handed. What followed were grueling weeks of searching bridal boutiques. I left each store more discouraged than the last. Finally, I returned to the first shop and tried on the very first gown. Awe swept over me as I swooshed the satin skirt. This had been my wedding dress all along. So why had I doubted myself?

Okay, here’s where I talk about writing. I’ve heard some say that a writer’s first idea should be discarded. We should go deeper, thinking bigger, push ourselves to aim higher. But like the very first dress, sometimes our inner editor overlooks the initial spark that prompted a story. We forget the rush of excitement that accompanies an idea we know is worth considering. We recognize the value of the idea because it didn’t come to us overnight. We stewed over ‘the one’ for weeks, months, even years before it fully formed in our minds. Yet that precious idea can be heaped under worries of how best to tell the story, how this new work compares to our last work, and whether agents/editors will like it as much as we do. The best writing advice I have ever received is to follow my gut. While suffering through grueling revisions, a wise critique partner will advise me to return to the heart of my story. This leads me to rediscover the initial awe that led me to ‘try on’ an idea.

Your first idea may not be the best. You may need revisions. Lots of them. But the heart of your story—why you chose to tell this story—should remain pure. Paulo Coehlo said, “Listen to your heart. It knows everything.” We understand our stories better than we think we do. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the process. Sometimes we have to try on a few hundred wrong sentences (or pages) to find the perfect fit.

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Emily R. King is a reader of everything and a writer of fantasy. Born in Canada and raised in the U.S., she’s perfected the use of eh and y’all and uses both interchangeably. Shark advocate, consumer of gummy bears, and an islander at heart, Emily’s greatest interests are her four children. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Marlene Stringer of Stringer Literary. You can find this happy feminist in pink shoes yammering away at getbusywriting.blogspot.com and @Emily_R_King on Twitter.

11 thoughts on “If The First Idea Fits—Wear It

  1. That's a lovely way of looking at it. I think the advice to discard your first (and second and third…) idea is about getting past the cliches that most readily come to mind. Does every wise mentor, for example, have to be an elderly bearded man? No, but that is likely what first comes to mind through endless exposure to the cliche. That is probably great advice for the surface detail layering onto your story, but it is important to stay true to its heart.

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  2. Exactly. Not every idea 'fits right'. Tweaking characters and getting rid of cliches is a necessary part of revisions. But we can revise the heart of our story right out if we aren't careful.

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  3. Great post! I definitely overthink myself alot. =) But I did recently go w/my gut on a writing dilemma recently (it's gonna be my next IWSG post…kind of nervous about it, eep!) and I'm really glad I did.

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  4. This statement ” But the heart of your story—why you chose to tell this story—should remain pure.” says it all. No matter what swirls around it, heart of the story should stay strong.

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