Ideas, Stories, and Submissions

I recently read an article that compared writers to baseball players. Not for much, just talking about a different thought of success.

We write stories and we submit them to magazines. Once we start getting an acceptance or two – we start thinking every idea we have can be turned into a┬ásaleable┬ástory, especially after completing an MFA program.

The point is that baseball players have a batting average. Some stories are just better than others. What if we did think about it as writing a .200? Of every five ideas, we finish a short story. Of every five finished stories, one is a gem.

It’s definitely an interesting theory. I know some of my stories touch the reader more than others. I also know some stories I read from other writers make me feel more than others.

Demanding Attention

Not always, but often stories ideas originate from places writers can’t describe. We’re just walking along one day when it hits us, that something about that flowerbed looks fishy, and wondering why, and all of a sudden we’ve locked ourselves in our offices and you won’t see us again until we’re done.

Sometimes they sneak up slowly, weaving in and out of our thoughts. Others hit us over the head and don’t go away until we put them down on paper. (or type on screen, as we’re evolving to the computer age.)

Still, I often hear or see(in written form) people asking, “How do you get your ideas?”

Of famous authors, I think it’s because people want to know how to write the best-sellers. It isnt’ the idea, so much, as the delivery.

When people ask it of me, I figure it’s because I’m just a bit off-the-wall with my approach to things. I also guess they’re trying to understand my way of thinking.

It makes me laugh to think back to high school and remember when one of my classmates told me, “You just think wrong!” That might be one of my greatest strengths in my writing career. The wrongness isn’t the issue; it was a difference in the way I approached ideas. I enjoy writing to prompts to twist them to fit my purposes and come up with something completely off where others head with the same idea. I also like things to be unexpected – like in a short story I wrote where the Spider isn’t the monster but the protector.

Ideas are things of beauty, but even the best idea won’t be a best-seller if you can’t deliver it. I like to write the ideas down, put them in a slush pile, and look over them from time to time. Sometimes something sparks later, but often I don’t do much with them because of the new ones demanding my time and attention.

The best answer I can give is ideas come from living. The delivery takes work and often isn’t finished at the end of the first draft. Like everything worth doing, the passion the writer brings for the project is what tempers the idea into the product on bookstore shelves – and it is extremely rare that the author is the only pair of eyes to revise it.(Except, perhaps, for the self-publishing industry.)