June 22nd, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
Old Ideas and New Projects

I was intrigued by HelenKay’s post yesterday, and not just because she’s going to write four books in six months (HelenKay, please tell me your secret!). I’m not a writer who gets bombarded with new ideas all the time, but neither am I one who worries that the ideas won’t come. Ideas come at a steady rate. Sometimes just when I need them, other times when I’m in the middle of something else.

Some can be jumped upon right away, while others need to marinate in the back of my mind for weeks or months or even years. Some probably needed more marinade than they were given, which is why, sometimes, my ideas are DOA and never turn into books at all (my agent still occasionally asks me about a stalled proposal I declared unworkable back in 2009).

This spring, I published a YA dystopian short story that started life as a book idea for a now-defunct line of romantic suspense novels… in 2003. The new project I started this week is an unrecognizable iteration of an idea I’ve been brainstorming for more than a year, and the manuscript I recently turned in to my publisher is a riff on one that I first thought of in 2005.

I don’t throw anything away. I have no idea what might be tangled in the flotsam and jetsam of my subconscious, and what might emerge, years or months later and be oddly perfect for what I need to write next.

Or sometimes an idea jumps up and grabs me by the throat, pushing aside whatever project I “decided” was next. (My first published book, Secret Society Girl, worked like this. I got the idea in mid-January and pushed it off while I finished another manuscript –but not too long, since I had a proposal by March and sold it in April.) This is fine… as long as I’m not under contract. Unlike HelenKay, I’m not a fast writer, and not nearly as fast as I was seven years ago.

I admit that since ideas have always been there, I haven’t given much thought to what would happen if the “well” dried up all of a sudden. I think that would probably signal a deeper problem with my life — maybe I’m not getting out enough or there’s something else sapping all my creative energies (I did NOT have a lot of ideas while dealing with a newborn!). I worry a lot more about my ability to bring my ideas to fruition than about having them in the first place. After all, every writer knows the most common question, “Where do you get your ideas?” is answered with “Ideas are the easy part.”

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