What’s the big idea?

by limebirdvanessa

As writers, we regularly come up with new ideas for stories and things we would like to write about. We note the ideas down using our preferred noting method, and at some point the idea will probably end up in a piece of our writing somewhere. This production line of ideas usually works rather well. However, very occasionally we are struck by an amazingly brilliant genius idea. An idea to end all ideas. An idea that is so fantastically great that we never actually use it anywhere. Why? Because we don’t want to waste it. We don’t want to waste the idea on one of our everyday run-of-the-mill writing projects because we know that this idea is destined for great things. So we sit and wait for the perfect opportunity to present itself.

Perhaps one day somebody will recognise our talent and will pay us a vast amount of money to spend a year on a tropical island, doing nothing but writing our novel. That’s the type of opportunity that our big idea is waiting for. Not the short story writing contest that we are thinking of entering next month. Oh no, that contest is not worthy of our great idea – why on earth would we want to use our most brilliant idea on a silly little short story contest when we have plenty of perfectly good mediocre ideas that we can use instead?

I am currently sitting on three such ideas:

– The first is something which actually happened to my grandmother. I have known it could be the basis of a great story for many years. It could be written as a factual memoir type article, or turned into a short story, but I haven’t wanted to waste the idea on either of those. I can picture it as a wonderful novel, except that there currently isn’t enough there for a novel, and I haven’t had the time to develop that. This one has been waiting for the tropical island offer.

– The second is an idea for a film. I’m convinced that it could be a major Hollywood blockbuster. However, I’m not confident that my screenwriting skills are good enough to really do it justice, and I’m scared to attempt it in case I waste the idea on a merely average screenplay. This one is waiting for the moment that Stephen Spielberg will knock on my front door and say “Hey Vanessa, this may sound crazy but I had a dream last night that you have an amazing idea for a blockbuster movie. Please let it be true”.

– The third is just an opening line. I have no story around it, just this great opening line. Would you like to know when I came up with this opening line? 1993. That’s right, I’ve been holding back this opening line for almost 20 years. Every so often I think about it, and rub my hands together in gleeful anticipation of the great opportunity that I will have to use it, which is no doubt just around the corner. I don’t know what type of opportunity it will be, but boy, it’s going to be a good’n.

The madness of this situation struck me about a week ago. I realised how stubborn I was being, that I would rather take these ideas to the grave than risk using them on something that might not live up to the promise of the original ideas. So I have taken the plunge. I have started writing the grandmother tale into a short story, and I have in mind a magazine that I will submit it to if I feel it’s good enough.

I therefore urge you to join me, fellow writers. If you have been sitting on any brilliant ideas, afraid to use them in case you waste them – just dig them out, dust them down, and use them. On something. On anything. Just write them up. You’re not committing to doing anything with them, you’re just testing them out. If nothing else, it will help you to be clearer about the potential for the ideas. There is no wastage, if you don’t like what you produce, you can bin it, and the idea is still there to use on something else instead. But you may just create something wonderful.

Or perhaps I’m the only one who is frightened of wasting their best ideas?


34 Responses to “What’s the big idea?”

  1. Love this post Vanessa! Yeah, I’ve had this idea in my head for a kid’s book for ages and I was going to use it for Nano, then I was going to use it again… and I’ve still been hesitant. However, this post has made me think I need to stop beating round the bush and actually put pen to paper… But then again, I’m scared it’s not going to live up to my expectations. Eep! OK, I WILL do this! Maybe tomorrow..

  2. Yes – fabulous advice. I think many of us are sitting on similar ideas…and waiting. And, we too, will have our light bulb moments when we realise as you did that the time to start is NOW. It might not happen today for all of us but your post will keep haunting and take us one step closer πŸ™‚ Thank you.
    P.S. I was sure Spielberg was dropping by my front door, too. Perhaps he got lost!

    • Oh dear, I hope I won’t be haunting people too much, still, if it kicks people into action then it can’t be too bad a thing. If Stephen (as I like to call him) drops by your front door first, do remember to send him my way next, thanks πŸ™‚

      • Yes, I’ll sweeten him up with afternoon tea and point him in your direction πŸ™‚ and don’t worry about the haunting – it’s a good thing. We all know it deep down but when someone says(types) it out loud then we have to take a step forward πŸ™‚

  3. Oh I’m definitely there with you! I have a children’s story that I once developed into a short script that I have always wanted to further develop into a children’s show I suppose, or short children’s books. I don’t know… and I have that story about my grandparent’s house that I can never seem to figure how to put into words. Good luck on your story and your submission!

    • I’m so glad that other people are with me on this! This isn’t something that I had discussed with anyone else, so I was half wondering if everyone would stare blankly at me (if it’s possible to do that through blog comments!) and just say “Don’t be ridiculous Vanessa, why would we not use our best ideas?”.

  4. Sounds like dangerous thinking… flooding the gates of the poor publishers with a glut of shining stars they have to publish and make movies out of. Cooking up a conspiracy are you?

    • That’s a very good point – I’ve shot myself in the foot here haven’t I! I should have released my good ideas first and had them snapped up by eager publishers/film producers before encouraging others to do the same. Now mine are just going to be lost amongst all the others. Sigh.

  5. Great post. I’m similar — though last year I finally started the novel I’d had in my head for ten years!

  6. In general, any idea burning hot in my convoluted mind will find its way into a story, but then I already have something like six novels down on paper.

  7. I’ve been told that the only bad idea is an idea gone to waste; in a writer’s case, that’s one not shared.

    I sympathize with holding back for the right moment…but we have to make our own moments. So, good on you, Vanessa! Make the world sit up and take notice!

    • That’s true, it might as well be a bad idea if you’re not going to do anything with it. The problem is, the longer you leave it, the more you worry about wasting it. As you say, eventually you realise that have to make your own moments.

  8. I am sooooo jealous! Not just 1 idea, but 3! Lol

    I think I’m too hard on myself, I don’t consider my ideas that brilliant to be honest. Some are rubbish and some are good, so I admire you for recognising your fantastic ones.

    Good luck πŸ™‚


    • Haha, it does rather sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet doesn’t it! I think we all have confidence in different areas, I tend to have confidence that my ideas are good, but then I don’t have confidence in my abilities to write them up well, so that’s why I’m afraid to tackle the best ones. I just saw on your site that you’re in Kent – me too! Good luck with your writing too x

      • *waves to the neighbour* πŸ˜‰ lol

        No no no, I think it’s brilliant that you an recognise your great ideas, and trumpet blowing is excellent (so long as you don’t don’t constantly lol). My problem is that I don’t do it enough…..I think I should πŸ™‚


  9. This sounds oh so familiar! A wonderful post that can mirror each and everyone of us. πŸ™‚

  10. A good gentle, but succinct “kick in the pants” for all of us. πŸ˜‰

  11. How interesting. Well, my current novel that I’m querying actually started out as a short story in college. After a few years of puttering around, I came back to it (for no reason in particular) and thought that I could really turn it into a bigger story. But in some ways I think I spoiled myself because now, when I get ideas, I don’t want to “waste” them on short stories–I want to turn them into novels! So, I have a lot of those story ideas which I could be working on but I don’t because I think I could do something bigger and better with them, lol

    I really appreciate your encouragement. It is high time I take one of those ideas out and see what, at the very least, I can do with it.

    • I think yours is a good example there of how using an idea doesn’t waste it – just because you’ve used the idea in a short story, it doesn’t mean it can’t then be used for a novel later. People have been rehashing other people’s ideas for years, so I don’t know why we don’t realise we can do it with our own more often!

  12. Please, do something with your ideas. I have experience with seeing someone I admire very much who has a brilliant idea they have not worked on. It’s been about 20 years for him as with your third idea. Please use them, for my sake. It breaks my heart to think of brilliant ideas never being used.

  13. I think that I’m lucky that I am concentrating mainly on my science fiction at the moment. Science fiction has a long and illustrious history of short stories and anthologies of short fiction. So I don’t feel that I am “wasting” an idea if it goes into a short story, it just becomes another part of my collection.

    • Excellent, no wastage on the sci fi front then. I don’t think I’ve ever written any science fiction myself – perhaps because I’m not a huge fan of it, but maybe I should challenge myself and give it a go some time!

  14. I have ideas like that. Its nuts because I really should just use them, it else I’ll lose them. That would be so much worse than just not liking I what I wrote.
    I think I will join you!
    …when the baby crazy dues down. πŸ™‚


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