Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Beauty of a Bad Idea

Bad ideas have a bad reputation.

As writers, we don't want bad ideas. We're always searching for that elusive good idea. Whether it be a solution to a plotting issue, or the premise of the next international bestseller. And it's absofabulonderful (yes, I make up my own words) when those genius ideas come to us all on their own.


But most of the time we have to seek them out. Search for them. Expend a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and maybe even sleep and food and sanity to get them. 


And in my experience, I've found that the best way to get to something good is to consider a whole lot of something bad


Anyone who's ever suffered through had the privilege of participating in one of my (in)famous brainstorming sessions knows that I'm kind of notorious for spewing out massive amounts of abhorrently craptastic ideas in rapid succession. But the thing is--I know they're horrible. I fully expect them to not be the solution at all. (In fact, I usually hope they aren't, because they're so ridiculously awful it's horrifying to think of a book actually including them). And that's exactly why I do it.


Why?


Because when you have to think about why an idea won't work, it usually makes it easier to figure out what will work. The more you come up with reasons why a suggestion doesn't fit with your characters or your plot or you just hate hate hate it, the more you start to narrow down what you're actually looking for. And once you have that direction, you can almost always follow it to a solution that actually works.


It works for me anyway. So far I've never had a brainstorming session end without us having come up with a real, working plan. Bonus: we have a lot of fun laughing at and rejecting all the atrocious ideas we've put on the table.

So I say embrace bad ideas! Don't write them, of course--that would be shudderworthy. But don't be afraid to throw them out there and think about them. Because you never know when something bad will lead to something good.

And who knows? Maybe the next international bestseller will be that ninja-zombie-unicorn book you realized you just had to write. Hey, it could happen. I bet no one would've thought sparkly vampires would be a phenomenon ten years ago. ;)

What about you guys? How do you come up with your ideas?

28 comments:

  1. I find that it takes a lot of thinking to make any idea work, whether it comes as a well-rounded concept that I know kids will like, or just a fragment that I'm not sure about. The more time I spend thinking about an idea, the more likely it is to develop into something I want to write about.

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  2. Like you, I go through variations of bad ideas until I stumble across one I love. Sometimes, I even outline a bit and think I'll actually write the bad idea, but something usually doesn't right. But the great idea is not usually the first or second!

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  3. Absofabulonderful post Shannon! Love that new word you invented :) And I agree. Bad ideas can become good ideas with some blood, sweat and tears.

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  4. Yeah, I go through bad ideas too or things that just don't work. I rely on my critique partners to help me figure out how to make them right. Or to convince me to pitch them. I'm trying to get better at deleting things.

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  5. I completely agree with your process. Really. I've experienced this. I've written some rather 'crappy' (your words...lol) ideas on index cards and was amazed at the good ideas that came from them. ";-0

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  6. I usually stumble on them. My current wip was inspired by an article in Kid's Sports Illustrated and a tv reality show. But they are completely opposite topics so no one else will have possibly thought of the same story. :D

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  7. I agree, it's almost like critiquing. When you've spent enough time looking for and analysing the bad, it makes it easier to know what's good and why.

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  8. GREAT post! It ties right in with my experience. I get bad ideas all the time, but until I consider them and (shudder) sometimes even write them, I can't get past them. Once they're out, I can look at them from all angles, figure out what is and isn't working, and then I know where I really want to go with something.

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  9. Haha, I never thought about doing this. But I'm definitely going to brainstorm all those bad ideas today--I've thought of a ton over the years :) Thanks for the advice!

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  10. YEs! Good ideas can definitely come from baaaad ones! I have notebooks full of poems, ideas, started stories, and it's fun to look back at them or change them into something that works!
    Craptastic!

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  11. So true! It's just like finding the value in reading a BAD book -- once you know why you think it's bad, you learn what you think is good.

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  12. I write my bad ideas down till i get something good

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  13. I keep a file with story ideas in it. However, the ones that have a glimmer of anything at all, I let roll around in my head and ponder them until I'm ready to write them out. :)
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

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  14. Hey! Ninja-zombie-unicorn was going to be the theme of my next book! What? You think that's a bad idea?!

    Awesome post, #1. :-)

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  15. Ha! I have this same problem, the first idea I come up with is usually cliche and predictable. Once I've got that out of my system, I'm free to think up new ideas.

    Great post!

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  16. So true! The process makes that diamond in the rough even more amazing when it's finally found :) Awesome post!
    An added bonus is that my crit partner gets to laugh at some of my more "spechul" ideas...

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  17. LOL, love this post. I daydream a lot but sometimes something completely random will spark an idea. I have more than one notebook, several post-it notes, and an odd napkin assortment with some great ideas...and some really bad ones.haha

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  18. I love your reasoning. It does give me a jumping off point:)

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  19. Brainstorming is a great idea! I'm going to have to try it next time. Usually when I get an idea I start writing and by pg 30 I can tell if it's a bad idea or not. Your way sounds easier! (and a lot less work!)

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  20. Great post! Just thinking or daydreaming can fuel the creative juices. And I love to visit the land of "What if..."

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  21. You know, that actually made sense in a backwards sort of way. Interesting the way your mind works! :)

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  22. What a wonderful post. I needed to hear this today. I'm going to embrace my bad ideas!
    Making Life a Work of Art!

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  23. This is such an awesome post that came at a great time. I'm brainstorming for my WiP right now, and many of the "great" ideas are born out of the bad ones.

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  24. Great suggestion!! And so true. I've definitely had some bad ones that have led to some great ones ;o)

    Fab post! Hope all is well ;o)

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  25. I blogged about ideas this week, and touched on brainstorming a little. I have a ball brainstorming. One of my best friends has (her words, not mine) the brain of an eight year old, and we descend into awesome MG immaturity. Somewhere in the fits of giggles and wild hand gestures ("No, bigger than the MOON!"), we'll pause, stare at each other, and realise we just hit something that's got something to it. Love those moments!

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  26. This is how I feel about reading bad books. lol.

    Nice post.

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  27. I love brainstorming, but you're right I don't do it nearly enough, or the right way - i.e. wading through the bad ideas to get to the good one. Thanks for the reminder! :)

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