Friday, July 28, 2006

VW#3

The winner for the VW#2 Left Behind Goody Bag is Amanda, who should e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com with your full name and ship-to address.

Virtual Workshop #3:
Writing to Concept


I. What is Concept Writing?

A concept is defined as an idea, thought, notion, scheme or plan. For writers, it's a bit like story shorthand. When we write, we have some concept of what we want to write before we start putting words on the page (extreme organic writers who write off the top of their heads and plan nothing in advance are exceptions.) That concept helps us create, develop and eventually transcribe the story onto paper, and the stronger and clearer they are, the easier it is to do our job.

"Big" or "high" concept books are what we often call fiction and nonfiction works that sell fabulously, or transcend genre, or that have wide-range appeal, or stay on the lists for years, or all of the above. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and Rev. Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life are regularly invoked as examples. I like how Paige Wheeler defines high concept, as "a premise that can be boiled down into one sentence and sets it apart from other stories by its unique hook or angle."

Thinking up a concept for a novel is easy. I have the power to make complete strangers do it spontaneously. All someone has to do is tell them I'm a published author, and like magic that stranger tells me about their own novel concept, usually in under a minute.

Writing a novel to concept is a bit harder. First there's all that dreary writing involved. Big hassle. Then you have to build a story around the concept, and that means expressing it through setting, plot, dialogue, characters, and all that miscellaneous stuff involved in book writing. So many details to keep track of; a real pain. But if you aren't satisfied with simply thinking about being a writer, and talking about being a writer, and planning to be a writer, then learn to write to concept may be the next step.

II. The Concept Game

You must first clearly define your novel concept before you can write to it. This is also good practice for pitching your novel, because you want to offer a novel concept line in your query and submission letters.

If you have trouble with this, trying practicing on other authors' works. One of my favorite teaching games is "Name that Concept." I name a well-known book and have my students put together a novel concept in fifteen words or less off the top of their heads. I give bonus M&Ms to anyone who uses a reference to another story, novel or myth upon which the book is based, i.e. Carrie by Stephen King: "Psychic Cinderella goes psycho at the School Prom."

Well-known novels have slamming concepts, startling concepts, concepts that grab the reader's imagination and won't let go. These are easy to put into words, so my students rarely have a problem playing the game. After we've tagged a dozen or so blockbuster books, I then challenge them to give me concept lines for their own work. Because they're already having fun thinking in concepts, they have an easier time putting theirs into words.

III. Centering the Concept

Very often writers create what seem like wonderful novel concepts, start writing, and end up with three chapters and no idea of what next to write. Here are some of the reasons that happens:

1. Weak concept: the idea doesn't support a novel-length story.
2. Supersize concept: the idea is too big for a single novel.
3. Lost concept: the concept falls by the wayside during the writing and is forgotten.
4. Tangent-squashed concept: the novel deviates from the concept too often to successfully support it.
5. Fuzzy concept: the concept is not defined clearly enough for the writer to translate into the story.

Your novel concept is the center of your book, the story glue, the thing that provides navigation through the plot, colors or touches every character in some way and brings all of the story elements together. If a book was a body, the concept would be the brain, because it runs everything.

One reason I think books like The Da Vinci Code become mega bestsellers is not only the high concept of the novel, but how closely the author sticks to it throughout the story. Everything in Dan Brown's story is tied tightly to the concept, serves it in every chapter, and never once strays from it.

When you outline your novel, the concept should help you make all of the story decisions. When you're writing the novel, the concept should always be in the back of your mind, ready to jumpstart things when you stall. If you find it difficult to keep the concept present in your head, type up the concept and tape it to the top of your monitor, typewriter or legal pad.

IV. Misconceptions

Some writers seem to take pride in claiming their novels are too complicated to be defined by a novel concept. I always wonder how they compose their query letters. "Dear Editor, I am pleased to offer you the opportunity to enrich your existence by reading my new novel, The Inexplicable Sorrow, Struggling Ovidicus and Cold French Fries in the Melting Wheel of Timex. I won't attempt to condense 250,000 words into a single, vulgar line, so let me merely assure you that it is magnificent, will take several weeks for you to read and adequately ponder, and will sell a ba-zillion copies, provided you offer me an appropriate advance, somewhere in the high six figures. Yours etc., Charle-Dante Wrytah the Third."

Editors simply don't have the time to read 250K word manuscripts to grasp their writers' concepts, or lack thereof. Not being able to relate the novel concept in concise terms implies that you don't know your own work; not the kind of thing you want an editor to think about you. Plus if you wrote the book and you don't know how to properly express the concept, how is the publisher supposed to market it? "Buy this book, we have no freaking clue how to describe it, but we promise it's terrific"?

If your concept isn't working, you don't have to toss it out the window immediately. Work it, hone it, sharpen it, twist it, stretch it, and you may find the changes help get your novel rolling. But if a concept proves completely unwritable, let it go and start over with something new. It's not a wasted effort. You'll find that you learn as much from your failed concepts as you do from the ones that end up in print.

Post your thoughts, comments and questions about writing to concept in comments to this post by midnight EST on Saturday, July 29, 2006, and you'll have a chance at winning today's Left Behind Goody Bag: signed copies of all three of my Darkyn novels If Angels Burn, Private Demon and Dark Need, and unsigned paperback copies of: Closer by Jo Leigh, Last Girl Dancing and I See You by Holly Lisle, Deep Breath by Alison Kent, The Writer's Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes, as well as unsigned hardcover copies of Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helene Fielding and Cover of Night by Linda Howard, all packed in a reversible multi-color tote bag. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send you the goodies; giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Related links:

PBW posts related to novel concepts: Pitch Tools, Wattage, Practice.

60 comments:

  1. Congrats to Amanda! Enjoy your loot!

    Concepts... ahh... I'm one of those evil organic writers and I get to be an extreme organic writer come NaNo time.

    I like the characters to take me on the journey with them, rather than plan it all out. Even the characters sometimes spring fully-blown into my head, ala a fully armoured Athena from Zeus's forehead.

    Of course, without a solid concept, that story ain't goin' nowhar.

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  2. Well, congrats to the Amanda of "Amanda's Rants and Rambles"... bummer it's not me, but great for you! I'll be off to my local BAM Friday to order my HB copy of Afterburn.

    Like Jaye Patrick, I'm scary-organic when it comes to NaNo. Having said that, I am working on a more clear concept than the last year I participated (2004). And by that, I think I mean I need to do some actual plotting along with the concept.

    Otherwise, I might develop sentient dustbunnies just to keep the thing moving along. What the heck, they're already taking over the underside of my bed.

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  3. Huh. I think I've mostly seen this introduced (in general around the web) as what you do after you've written the story -- the 25-word pitch line and all that. After the fact, I think it's a lot more difficult to condense a novel that's become increasingly complicated into 25 words. (Hell, it's hard enough for some writers to condense to a 200 - 500 word query.)

    I may have to try this sometime, when I'm through with the three projects that I'm working on at the moment.

    Thanks. :)

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  4. I have never been very good at outlining a story. It seems so tedious when I try. I do however set a destination in mind, and go from there. Thanks for the info, I will try harder.

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  5. This helps me. A lot. You explain high concept in a way that is easy to understand.

    I feel so smart this week. :)

    Great V.W!

    And congrats, Amanda. Enjoy your awesome goody bag.

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  6. Congrats, Amanda!

    Thanks for the excellent tips on concept writing :)

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  7. Ah, this is well said!
    I find having a Concept h ensures scenes and details assist/promote/support the concept - avoids diffusion.

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  8. This is a very cool post.

    I always thought that concept sort of snuck in. Someone finished writing the first draft of a book and said "hey, lookie at that" and then went back over it to pump in more Concept.

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  9. Concept I don't seem to have trouble with, but trying to frame that concept into one sentence...I fight it all the time. *~* The original concept I start out with, which prompts the story, seems so...well, trivial. I mean, my MindWalker series grew out of the concept of "telepathic, vampiric kinkajous" (still my favorite way of describing it *-*). If you don't know what a kinkajou is, though, it's kind of a blank - and "small, cute, bear/monkey/cat-like mammal" just doesn't have a ring.

    I think my problem is I try to be too descriptive when someone asks for the concept. I'm always afraid if I chop it down to a handful of words, no one will understand, and they won't be interested. I hadn't tried linking it to another mythos, though, so I think I'll try that - see where it leads me. *-*

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  10. Bridget Medora8:55 AM

    Thanks for this beautiful post, PBW. Especially for the high concept discussion -- that's the one thing that's always gotten me. I think now maybe I get it. =)

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  11. Catherine H.9:10 AM

    When I get stuck on what to write or how to do something (dialogue, moving a character from point A to point B, etc), I usually go to a book I have liked and try to figure out how the author did what I am trying to do.

    Never really thought about doing that with concepts though... What a neat idea!

    Thanks!

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  12. I make outlines, but I haven't tried writing a brief, concise concept statement before I write a story. Maybe it will help me stay on track. Worth a shot. Thanks for the workshops this week.

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  13. Alison9:24 AM

    Hi. Firstly I'd just like to say that I just discovered this blog a couple of days ago, and it's fascinating. So much useful information, so thanks for that. Now...

    ' I like how Paige Wheeler defines high concept, as "a premise that can be boiled down into one sentence and sets it apart from other stories by its unique hook or angle."'

    Interesting, but I'm not sure I would agree witht the idea of 'high concept'.

    What's the unique hook or angle about the Harry Potter books or the Davinci code? IMO Harry Potter is popular because of the depth of the world. While she clearly knows her plot and it's tightly written, I would dispute that there's anything particularly original about the basic concept.

    An orphan finds out he has magical powers and must go to a school to learn magic where he finds out he is the only one who can defeat the Dark Lord? Mmm.... Maybe it's because I read lots of fantasy, but there's nothing terribly original about this. What sets it apart is the way it's written, the depth of the world and the characters, and surely those factors have nothing to do with the concept?

    Same with the DaVinci code. The hero is searching for something, a holy grail of sorts, and he has to solve a variety of clues and puzzles before he can find it and defeat the bad guy.

    Maybe I'm missing the point.

    Anyway, I'd definitely agree that working closely to a concept makes the story stronger and more coherent. It's something so simple, although it can be hard, I guess, seeing the wood for the trees and all that.

    I will stop rambling now.

    Ali

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  14. I have a sort-of concept developed for my current WIP, but after reading this I'm going to be able to really redefine it. Thanks for all of these awesome workshops, PBW.

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  15. I have a new novel concept every day. And I swear they're all fantastic. Must finish writing.....

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  16. You know how sometimes you have one of those AH-HA! moments? Well this sentence was ah 'ah-ha' moment and made it all so clear to me: If a book was a body, the concept would be the brain, because it runs everything.

    Thanks PBW!

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  17. Amazingly enough, I do have a concept for my current book.

    I might be wrong but I think Deb Dixon's GMC has a section on the concept. I think she calls it the 25-word pitch or something like that--I've not read the book, but that's what I remember a writer pal telling me.

    I think it does a wonderful job of keeping you on track. I pretty much threw everything AND the sink--plot-wise--at my first book. It's not happening with this book.

    I think if I ever decide to start writing a series, I will write a concept thing for it too. I think it'll help, since I know that I tend to wander. That's how

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  18. The biggest challenge I find when trying to do this is finding a balance between a stripped down, pithy line about the concept and something that still holds the flavor of what is original about my concept. After all, a great many story concepts have already been told, but it is how each individual writer tackles the idea that makes it original.

    As an example, the novel I'm working on now is a basic chase story, a couple running for their lives from a killer out for revenge. Ho-hum. But if I add a few details (I hope) it becomes more original:

    A husband and wife P.I. duo struggle to save their marriage while running from an aging hit man who blames them for his daughter's death.

    It's 25 words, which might be too long. I've played with this a hundred different ways. I've had shorter versions that didn't express as much about the characters, and longer versions that were probably too convoluted in my effort to make them sound original.

    So I guess that's the real trick: Make it short while still expressing something original. That's hard, man.

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  19. Cherie J10:45 AM

    Congrats Amanda! Wow! You really make concept so clear and so much easier to understand. Thank you! I am so glad I found this blog just recently.

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  20. Congrats to Amanda!

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  21. Have you ever had a concept that morphed into something new during the course of writing? And if so, did you watch it happen and make adjustments, or did you get to the end and realize you hadn't written quite the book you'd thought?

    Thanks again for these workshops. I think/hope they're going to help me deal with structural issues.

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  22. I agree with Heather... you make high concept easier to understand. I always knew practicing writing those pitch lines would come in handy some day.

    Congrats to Amanda, and thank you for providing these workshops, PBW!

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  23. PBW, thanks for drawing my name. Can't wait for my goodies! Thanks to everyone else for the congrats.

    I loved this entry and it's helped me with a problem I'm having right now. I had a concept but my characters highjacked the story and so it's veered away from where I originally thought it would go. Now I have some ideas about how to go back and redefine so I fall under a strong concept and not a weak or fuzzy one.

    Thanks again.

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  24. I found Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel to be extremely helpful in walking me through concept and premise and challenging me to understand what I am doing. I've actually read it twice, at two different stages of my writing experience, and, of course, have connected with different aspects each time. I'm not a huge fan of workbooks, but his really goes hand in hand with the book. I used it during the brainstorming stage so that I could try to write a more impactful, cogent story from the start. Now that I'm on page 50, some things have changed and some have not. But it has provided me with much groundwork in advance, which I hope will keep me from writing into too many dead ends.

    Love your workshops. So helpful.

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  25. Concept creation at the start. What a novel concept ;-)

    I've been retrofitting my concepts after the 1st draft. I must admit, it's proving problematic at this point.

    Thanks for the V.W. it's been very helpful.

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  26. Tina S.1:44 PM

    Thank you for posting this (and the other workshops this week). I’ve always had trouble clearly defining novel concepts, and my own concepts tend to be of the fuzzy variety. I’ll have to try my hand at your “Name that Concept” game to help me learn to define and pick out concept in novels.

    This may seem like a silly question, but how do you deal with concept statements for series novels? Would you do an overall series concept, and then a separate more broken down concept for each book?

    -- Tina

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  27. Wow, that really simplifies things quite a bit. Thank you so much for your insight. The exercise in which you use well-known novels sounds like an excellent tool. Thanks again!

    Congrats to Amanda as well!

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  28. When you have a concept for a book do you know right away if that concept will be a single book, a series of books or a 500 page story or a 200 page story?

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  29. April D.2:13 PM

    Thank you PBW, for the high concept workshop. Just what I needed for my WIP before outlining.

    Congratulations to Amanada for winning the goodies. Christmas in July!

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  30. It's interesting that you should post this now, because just a couple of days ago Marfisk and I went hunting into the FM archives for the post you started several years ago on the hot premise. I was trying to remember all the bits you said went into a solid one. When I finally found that thread, I printed out that bit so I wouldn't lose it again! Thanks for posting.

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  31. When reading this, it suddenly occurred to me that what's been bothering me with my current WIP strays from the original concept in such a way that it feels I am writing two different, overlapping novels. Now I have to figure out what to do about it.

    Thanks for all these workshops!

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  32. Anonymous3:23 PM

    This is so helpful! I have a terrible time getting from concept to story and your reasons in section III have undoubtably clarified some things. It's too bad that my concepts have all 5 problems at once!!

    Pam

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  33. Whoa this just bullseyed me on my current problem.

    I hava suspense element in my story which I'm not pulling tight enough and although I'm a religious outliner, I didn't pick up on my problem until a few chapters into it. Defining the concept may save it. Thanks!

    Congrats Amanda!

    I had a friend with a kinkajou. That thing would tear up your arm like a tasmanian devil on speed.

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  34. I never really separated the "concept" from the "outline" before. I guess I figured that the outline showed what my plan for the book was, and so was all I needed. But a concept sentence would be a good way to make sure that the outline stays on track.

    Thanks for the tip!
    ~Nicole

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  35. How about when you're writing a series - does the series have a concept, and then each book in the series has its own concept in addition to that?

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  36. I have a question that follows from Zoe's. Is the series concept a static thing or can it change to some degree as the series evolves? I'm guessing the answer is that it can grow as the series does. Okay, that's what I want the answer to be. *G*

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  37. EllenO9:03 PM

    PBW said Very often writers create what seem like wonderful novel concepts, start writing, and end up with three chapters and no idea of what next to write.

    Or in my case I start writing a short story for a contest and get about three paragraphs...

    Another educational post..thanks PBW !

    EllenO

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  38. Very often writers create what seem like wonderful novel concepts, start writing, and end up with three chapters and no idea of what next to write

    Gee. This sounds like me. Which is why I'm trying to train myself to plot more. I've got to admire those who plot out so clearly and stick to it through out the writing process.

    ugh.

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  39. I haven't much considered the concept of my story, at least not calling it by that name. Hmm. I'm going to look at that before I start my rewrites so I can strengthen it. Thanks for the discussion!

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  40. Andi wrote: If you don't know what a kinkajou is, though, it's kind of a blank - and "small, cute, bear/monkey/cat-like mammal" just doesn't have a ring.

    I didn't know what a kinkajou is until I clicked on your link (and that's an amazing critter page, what great info!) but I understand the dilemma. I have a recurring character that is a highly intelligent poetry-loving larval-stage rock-burrowing alien life form that secretes pink ooze, weighs about three hundred tons and stinks to high heaven. Hopefully I'll never make Squish a protagonist. :)

    Concepts sometimes work better without knowledge-specific words. You might think about coining a term for your story's kinkajous ala H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy.

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  41. Hmm... I think I'll have to re-evaluate the concept of the story I'm writing. Not that the concept is off. But as a writer, I think I'm putting the concept forth as it should. Thanks for posting about this. :)

    BTW, I received "Secret Society Girl" today. Thanks! I started reading it, and I'm enjoying it so far. :)

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  42. Concept has always confused me a little but your post is enlightening. I like the idea of doing a concept first rather than after because all during the writing I'd be thinking about the one sentence concept. I'm off to write a concept sentence for my current WIP. I've completed the first draft but thinking of the concept while I'm editing will be helpful.

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  43. I'm pretty good at writing the concept, even for novels not yet written. It is usually where I start. :) It is great. Keeps you focused when trying to get to the end.

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  44. One of the things I've had to learn was to write to concept. My first (and so far only, but that will change) sale was pure writing-to-concept.

    Here's a question: when you come up with a book, do you typically start with the concept, then produce the plot? Or do you start with a plot (or plot ideas) and create the concept from that?

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  45. Zillin10:09 AM

    Before:
    After accidentally killing a patient, a healer-mage becomes wrapped up with an exile's quest for vengeance. (Insert history of exile, everyone's backstories, post-stories, and two gallons magical system and theory here.)

    After:
    Two exiles team up to rescue their brethren from twisted magics. (Get thee gone, ye leeching backstories! Avast!)

    Thank you, PBW!

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  46. You know what the best thing about having a 25-word concept is? When somebody asks what your book is about, you can tell them. I spent most of my childhood going, "Well, there's a dragon, and...it's kind of suspense, I guess, I mean adventure, there's a swordfight, and this guy...um, it's just a book."

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  47. I am enjoying all these posts . Great info. For me the concept issue really hit home. I've had difficulty with all my past WIP's in doing this. However my recent one came easily. (The concept not the writing)Maybe you just need a good handle on the idea.

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  48. And here I've just been outlining...and I'm not very good at sticking my outline either(but that's another story from last year's NaNoWriMo) Maybe incorporating the concept will help. Thanks for posting these workshops. They are great food for thought.

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  49. This is very interesting. After reading about concepts, I began looking at some books from a different perspective, I mean, not only enjoying them, but sort of analizing them, if that makes sense.

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  50. PBW said ...

    "One reason I think books like The Da Vinci Code become mega bestsellers is not only the high concept of the novel, but how closely the author sticks to it throughout the story. Everything in Dan Brown's story is tied tightly to the concept, serves it in every chapter, and never once strays from it."

    This was an "aha" moment for me. I'm editing my first novel (and writing my third) but struggling with why my first book feels so scattered. This really helped me see what the problem is. Thanks!

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  51. Alison wrote: What's the unique hook or angle about the Harry Potter books or the Davinci code?

    My take: Harry Potter's appeal really caters to the imagined or real inadequacies that most folks feel in childhood by offering a sympathetic protagonist who qualifies as terribly abused, neglected and deprived yet whose attendance at a secret school for young magic practitioners satisfies the parallel or resultant real childhood need to be secretly special, valued and empowered while in direct contradiction to the accepted values of parents, teachers and society. The HP books have always reminded me of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I think of as the quintessential "Young Frog Prince Endures Magical Trials to Win Fabulous Powers and Future" children's novel.

    As for The Da Vinci Code, it's a treasure-seeking, religiously-shocking, truth chaser novel, a "Raiders of the Lost Art" with a Jesus Jr. end twist.

    Whatever we personally think of these novels' concepts, they resonated with enough readers around the world to make their authors very, very wealthy -- maybe that's the real definition of "high concept." :)

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  52. Megan wrote: Have you ever had a concept that morphed into something new during the course of writing? And if so, did you watch it happen and make adjustments, or did you get to the end and realize you hadn't written quite the book you'd thought?

    I've had that happen during the outline process, but I sell my work before I actually write it, so I can't really deviate from plan once I have the book under contract.

    No matter how carefully I outline and plan, though, the book in my head is always a little different than the book on paper. I don't think we can ever capture the vision of the story perfectly on the page; we just have to do the best that we can.

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  53. Tina wrote: This may seem like a silly question, but how do you deal with concept statements for series novels? Would you do an overall series concept, and then a separate more broken down concept for each book?

    There are no silly questions. :)

    For pitching my series, I use two concepts: the series concept, which is how I initially pitch the books, and standalone concepts for each book, usually two or three at a time as I'm selling installments of the series to a publisher. When you do this, the series books should all remain true to the series concept, so you don't want conflicting concepts, i.e.

    Series concept: Four elderly bridge-playing friends solve mysteries while dealing with assisted living and aging issues.

    Book three concept: Physical therapist has erotic affair with bridge-playing grandmother with bad hip on cruise ship.

    There's nothing wrong with the standalone concept of book three if it were a single title, but a June-December erotica/shipboard romance novel wouldn't work for me in this series. Unless Bad Hip Granny finds the boyfriend drowned in his whirlpool, and the three friends are also on the ship and have to help her solve the murder, etc. I'd probably still have a problem with an erotic story stuck in the middle of a non-erotic mystery series -- better to make it a spin-off and separate it from the rest of the books, I think.

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  54. Maureen wrote: When you have a concept for a book do you know right away if that concept will be a single book, a series of books or a 500 page story or a 200 page story?

    Generally speaking, yes. This is something that comes with experience, I think; after you've written enough books you know how much mileage you can get out of a concept, how you want to explore it, and what length book you can get out of it.

    When I'm not sure, I will test drive concepts by writing short stories to get a feel for the characters, the world-building, how I like writing them, etc.

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  55. Valerie wrote: It's interesting that you should post this now, because just a couple of days ago Marfisk and I went hunting into the FM archives for the post you started several years ago on the hot premise.

    Some great responses on that post, if I remember correctly. It's always an education to throw out an idea and then see how different writers run with it (which is why FM is such a cool writing community.)

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  56. Zoe wrote: How about when you're writing a series - does the series have a concept, and then each book in the series has its own concept in addition to that?

    See my answer to Tina above, and one more thought on series concepts versus standalone concepts for series novels: not all series writers are the same, so keep in mind that this is my approach.

    Also, when writing a series concept, you really don't need more than the common denominators and/or shared universe aspects. For example, if you write a series of paranormal novels about Regency werewolves, and each book tells the story of a Regency werewolf but has nothing else in common with the others except the time period, then your series concept should focus on Regency and werewolves, with a standalone conflict that relates, ties into or otherwise connects to both elements.

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  57. Darlene wrote: Is the series concept a static thing or can it change to some degree as the series evolves? I'm guessing the answer is that it can grow as the series does. Okay, that's what I want the answer to be. *G*

    Yes, no, maybe -- or all of the above.

    Much depends on the evolution involved, and the readers' reaction to it. Extreme changes to the series concept risk alienating the established readership (imagine if J.K. Rowling had killed off Harry Potter in book three.) If you're going to mess with what has worked well in the past, be prepared to take some knocks for it.

    There are writers who consciously or unconsciously chose to stay at one point in their writing career, and their books become interchangeable. Not my thing, but if you have readers who love your slightly overweight henpecking spectacled romantic female protagonists, and they put you on the Times every time you write a book featuring one of them, then you're doing what works.

    Some evolution will happen simply because no author ever stays the same writer; we grow and change. Some of us are more into becoming better writers so we actually seek to evolve.

    Change in any established series is risky, but it's also often necessary. It's really your call as a writer; one of those ten thousand decisions you have to make when you get caught up writing series novels.

    And while some readers would like us to write the same book over and over, I think the majority get bored and are happy to go along on the ride with us -- as long as we don't kill our Harrys. :)

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  58. Tempest wrote: BTW, I received "Secret Society Girl" today. Thanks! I started reading it, and I'm enjoying it so far.

    Glad to hear it, thanks, Tempest -- and if you have a chance, do let the author know what you think of the book. Getting feedback from readers is one of the big thrills of the rookie year. :)

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  59. Dean wrote: Here's a question: when you come up with a book, do you typically start with the concept, then produce the plot? Or do you start with a plot (or plot ideas) and create the concept from that?

    I build the concept along with the protagonist, which for me is always the starting point of creating any novel idea (other writers do the same thing with setting, genre themes and plots to great effect so there is no single right way to do this, in my opinion.) I like the concept to illustrate the characters versus playing puppet master to them so I have to get into the characters' heads a bit before I can really compose the novel concept. I've read too many novels with a magnificent concept and poor follow-through, and I think it might come from writers who are struck by the brilliant novel concept first. They seem to be blind to everything else but the concept, often resulting in poor characterizations, 2-D worlds, lousy plotting, etc (you'll see this a lot in derivative fiction.)

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  60. (repeating this from VW#1 & #2) My thanks to everyone who participated in this workshop, and please feel free to continue posting comments. I'm going to move on down the VW line and catch up with other questions; if you have one about this workshop please stop by PBW on Fridays when I do open Q&A and we can discuss it then.

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