Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Developing an Idea

Every book begins with an idea. So often we talk about how to write a book, but we don’t look at the development of the actual idea.

Before you begin writing, it’s helpful to make sure your idea is fully developed and thought out. Is it marketable? Are there similar books out there already?  

Stage 1

I have a document I call ‘Possible Proposals’ where I put all my crazy and good ideas into one place.

For each idea, I write:

1.      The title, genre and category. Example: GILDED, fantasy, YA

2.      Tagline: One Girl. One Destiny. All Defiance.   

3.      Pitch: A girl with a black belt and a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows discovers an ancient Korean god has been kidnapping the first-born daughters of her family for generations. And she’s next.

4.      Synopsis: Here I write about three paragraphs that explains the general idea of the story. It’s a lot like a query.

Now I have my ideas all laid out. I’m excited about them, but I can’t decide which one to write next. This is when I move to Stage 2:

Stage 2

1.      I go to Amazon and Publisher’s Marketplace to check if this idea has already been published. If it’s too similar to what is already out there, I know my idea will instantly be at a disadvantage. My idea must be fresh, new and enticing to an editor.

2.      Thankfully, I have awesome crit partners. I rely on them to tell me THE TRUTH. If you don’t have these kind of peeps, go find them. They’re hard to find, but they exist. I send them my ‘Possible Proposal’ document and they give me the low down. They tell me which ideas are good, which are crap and which have possibilities.

3.      They will also offer suggestions on how to refine and make my ideas better.

4.      I listen and make adjustments.

Stage 3

1.      I’m lucky I have a supportive agent who will read my crazy idea list and give me more input. He sees my ideas from a different perspective than my crit partners and I would.

2.      He looks at the market, takes my career into consideration and gives me advice accordingly. Once again, I listen and make adjustments.

3.      You may also have an editor who is willing to brainstorm ideas with you. This is huge because they know what their house is buying, what their editorial list needs, what kind of projects they are willing to read over and over again, as well as what’s selling.

At this point, I take the idea I feel is the strongest and the one I’m most excited to write. (Because essentially, your story will flop if you as the writer aren’t passionate about it.)

I plot out the story. Check out this video for ideas.
And then I WRITE.

What tips do you have for developing your ideas?


Christina Farley's debut YA, GILDED, releases spring 2014 by Skyscape/ Amazon Children's Publishing. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC. She blogs and vlogs about writing and traveling, and is often found procrastinating on Twitter


  1. These are great suggestions, Christina. I love that your agent gives you input before you start writing. That seems like such a help because you don't want to invest in writing a book he/she isn't interested in selling.

  2. Natalie- Thanks. And yes, you are absolutely right. Writing a book is a huge investment and it's nice to get feedback on it before you start the massive project.

  3. LOVE this method and will be using it in the future! It's such good advice to look for similar titles~ one of my CPs tells me that she once had a premise she was SO excited about and had written a decent amount on when her husband informed her that she was, in fact, writing Kristin Cashore's GRACELING. CP was heartbroken (though very happy for Kristin and her fab book :)).

    Tweeting this post!

  4. This is a great method! I have a document called 'Great Expectations' where I jot down genre/paragraph summary/occasional tagline/date of the idea/source of the idea. Then I leave it, because I'm usually supposed to be working on something else. I love coming back to this document, and I plan to rely on it most heavily if I ever run out of things to write, haha. :)

    1. Melody, that's awesome. What a great idea.

  5. Jess- Wow, that is such a tough story but a reality in the writing world!

    Melody- I love the name of your document! So cool.

  6. I actually found similar titles to mine, but the books turned out to have nothing in common...
    These days, PBs require really fresh ideas. I still think that when it comes to longer stories, it's the way they're told more than the idea/hook of them. But you may be closer to the preferred way to work than I am.

  7. Mirka- excellent point. It's good to not just look at the titles but the concepts.


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