What makes a good idea?

I witnessed a discussion on the topic at Dysprosium in London where it was said that you could have a poorly written book on a great idea and you’d get a success and a greatly written book on a bad idea would fall on its face. There was also the reverse suggested, that the quality of the book is the driver not just the idea.

So what’s correct? Follow the fashion or just write what you want to write?

I’ve written one novel, almost completed the second, and a collection of short stories, and the driving force behind me picking the topic I have is nothing to do with any consideration of what is likely to be the popular topic. I wrote what I wanted to write. I wrote the book I wanted to read. I wrote the book that held the story that lit my mind alive with wonder. I’d like to think that I’d managed to create a good narrative but that is out of my hands to decide.

If I’d decided that I wanted to be a writer and tried an almost paint by numbers approach to what I was going to write, picking a topic etc. based purely on what may or may not be popular at the time, I doubt very much that I’d have had quite the same results.

Or would I?

I started out with the knowledge that I wanted to write a story including certain points, Dragons being the main one, Wales another, and off I went bolting ideas together as I researched until I’d created something which went on to become The Circle of Fire. Hours of pouring over details on the interweb and leafing through reference books galore followed by the relentless tapping of keys eventually resulted in the book coming together and forming part one of the series. I’d made my own choice concerning the topic then got down to the grunt work.

As far as I can see, the only difference between writing the book I did and trying to go after the popular topic of the day (sparkling vampires?) was the initial idea. From then on, the research and writing would have been structurally the same. It would be nothing but every same step to take.

So why shouldn’t everyone be able to focus their ideas on the positive ideas of the day, always enabling a relative ‘hit’? If the idea is already strong, it’s just down to the ability of the writer to weave a new tale.

And for me, I think that would be the issue.

If the topic is something you find to be mind-bendingly dull, you may not be able to create the kind of story that would be well received. All the hard work could just become that little bit harder. Each word would add at least three letters worth of dead weight in your head and they could all just lay there, inert. Element X, that hint of imagination, of  sorcery, is absent and Frankenstein’s monster of a book just lays there on the slab, immobile.

Certainly there are a great many books which come about thanks to the authors desire to follow the zeitgeist, to create their own version of what’s out and about, but it was the most child-like wonder which started me off. The desire to tell a specific story, not solely to be published. I had to write my story rather than a version of someone elses.

As it stands, I think it’s possible to agree with both sides, follow the trends or strike out on your own, but, as I start out learning what I’m doing, I’ll stay with the twinkle of inspiration and go from there.

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