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.



We’ve had a hell of a weekend at Dysprosium in London. A huge extravaganza of all things wordy and we had an absolute blast.

Trader stands, author panels and a gathering of all manner of people who wanted to immerse themselves in the fun and games of their favourite books and characters.

This was our second convention of the year and very different to the first.

We were first and foremost going for the chance to meet Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files and The Codex Alera series, and listen to what he had to say about the writing world he inhabits.

The usual convention atmosphere of inclusion was certainly in place and everyone we spoke with was more than happy to chat and mingle. The convention allowed us to grab arm fulls of books which now we’ll have to try and find the time to actually read, a Hitchhikers Guide inspired teddy bear and I even managed to pick up a Dragon topped swagger stick – perfect for my author persona.

But, unlike every other convention I’ve attended, I was able to start looking at what was taking place with my author persona very much to the fore.

Listening to the likes of Jim Butcher, Charlie Stross, Sam Stone and Danie Ware talk about the details surrounding their genres, their planning and so many other nuggets of information, allowed me to look beyond the details of what I’ve been doing so far. Now I was starting to examine the reality of what I’d have to do when I step behind the table selling my books at one of these events.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak with one of the authors who was attending and running a launch for her latest novel. We discussed some of the more functional bits and pieces about what needs to take place at an event like that. Francesca Barbini was launching her latest book (check them out) and we did have a good chat about all kinds of things. She’s also involved in The Sci-fi & Fantasy Network and she and her partner even interviewed me about my book for the network. I’m going to send them a signed copy of my book for a giveaway.

All in all, this was a great convention which not only allowed us to investigate all the details of our fandom but it also gave me so very much more. As I’ve said previously, everyone really should give these events a try.

Right then, off to get my business cards ordered.