I have a relationship with every book I write, complete with engagement (selling it), wedding day (publication day), and exhausting late-night fights (first draft first edits). The inspiration for each book is the moment-our-eyes-met-across-the-crowded-dancefloor: the moment I knew this story was the one for me. For The Regulars, I’d been thinking loosely about something to do with beauty. One night, I was home alone working on edits for Parched, and the idea of a purple potion that turns you beautiful popped into my head. Hm, I thought, That's interesting. I muted The West Wing (sometimes I edit with a familiar well-loved TV show running in the background), and gave the idea my full attention. A scene started playing in my head: three or four girls (wasn’t sure how old), at someone’s home. A potion introduced, mockery made, grounding the scene: this is the real world, one where “magic potions” don’t exist. Unexpected transformation: gross and visceral, not a Disney one. Unexpected results, it works… and someone comes home, forcing the girls to lie to an authority figure as they grapple with the impossible magic change… and the inherent possibilites. The scene ended, and I knew immediately it was a strong enough concept to become a novel. It was the easiest and the clearest inspiration I’ve experienced. I relayed the idea to my Mum and my agent, and they both said, go for it.
Sometimes the line between Mr/Ms Right and Mr/Ms Right Now can be blurry. How do you know an idea is good enough to start exploring?
- It doesn’t leave you alone. Your mind keeps returning to it, turning it over, touching every surface. You have a crush on your idea.
- It matters to you. You might not know the themes yet, but the story or its world is important to you. Instinctively, you know this book will explore something you feel passionate about.
- You would read this book. If someone pitched you this idea, you’d be into it. It is enticing, even though it doesn’t exist yet.
- It’s different. While it falls into the wheelhouse of a genre you’re familiar with (it’s very challenging to write a genre you don’t already read), there’s something about your idea that’s fresh, that turns a cliché on its head, that hasn’t been done before. Your idea is unique.
Pro Tip: Make an idea feel unique and different by subverting our expectations. Change a character’s race, gender, ability or sexuality and see how that shakes things up. Give someone a weird, unexpected hobby, mash two genres together and see what happens. Be weird.