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This Writing Life: An Abundance of Ideas

29 July, 2010

There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to generating fiction ideas. One, which seems to be shared by most professional writers, is that they are overwhelmed with new ideas, meaning both that they’re not interested in being given ideas by other people (in the vein of “I have this really cool idea. I’ll let you write it if you give me half the profits” anyway). The other side of this is that they’re not concerned about giving away ideas – why worry about it when you’ve got a hundred more clamouring for that brain space?

The other school are at the opposite end of the spectrum. These writers believe that ideas are sacred and so precious that they can never give them away. Perhaps they have one brilliant idea in their WIP, one that they don’t want to tell anyone about in case someone steals it from them.

Now, this is where I’ve got a little bit of an admission to make. There’s part of me that feels the same as that second school, even though it seems ridiculous. Occasionally I find that a fantastic idea of mine ends up in someone else’s book – not because they’ve stolen it, because that would be impossible, but because they’ve simply had a similar idea to mine. And, I’ll admit, sometimes that has really annoyed me.

Today though, something has brought home to me just how cheap ideas are: I’ve been looking back through my computer files of unfinished novels. I have dozens of them, and I mean dozens quite literally. File after file of a few thousand words, some even 20k, all stemming from great ideas that I’ve had. More ideas than I could work with in a decade, and they seem to be growing at an exponential rate.

So, ideas. Not really all that precious at all, because it’s what you do with them that really counts.

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2 Comments
  1. 29 July, 2010 2:05 pm

    in fact there’s no copyright on ideas, only the execution of said ideas! 😉 There’s no copyright on titles either, that’s why you have many songs/movies/books with the same title and completely different stories…
    Don’t worry about the idea being stolen, every story has already been told anyway, it’s the “what if” or variation you make it that makes it yours! 🙂

    • Amy permalink*
      29 July, 2010 4:01 pm

      That’s a good point about copyright and ideas – and about every story already having been told. It certainly takes the stress out of trying to come up with something ‘original’! Better to just relax and enjoy telling the story.

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