Thursday, January 19, 2012

When an idea is just an idea

This week, Lucky 13ers have been discussing when it’s time to abandon an idea. It’s hard, agonizing really, when you realize your story just isn’t working. The first novel I tried to write barely got past 5,000 words. I had an idea I thought would make a fantastic book. Yes, fantastic.

I would “write what I know.” We’ve all heard that particular piece of advice and I could do that! I have three boys. Our family lives just outside of town, while not technically “the country”, it’s pretty close. And these three boys are a walking mess. More days than not – they leave the house looking like normal children only to return covered in mud, shoeless and carrying unknown items found in the woods. (And sometimes these items are alive!)
Oldest son, middle son and a cousin, who may or may not be allowed to come back over.

How great –a Middle Grade adventure story starring three boys growing up in the country. I mean, look at all the real life material I had to pull from. Just documenting what my boys got into every day would be the best MG boys’ adventure book out there. This book would write itself. Right?
No, it didn’t.

Not at all.

I started out with a great setting, introduced my main characters and had them get into a few scrapes and misadventures. And then…I had nothing. Even some of the funnier situations I wrote about was not enough. There was no meat in this story.
All the cute (and not so cute) things my boys did was cute (or not so cute) to me. And only me. Because I’m their mother.   

And while I’m not knocking the “write what you know” advice, I have to add a little something to it. “Make sure it has a plot and would actually be interesting to other people!”  
There are times when an idea for a fantastic story is just that - an idea. And while I enjoy what each new day brings with my boys, it’s not the riveting, roller-coaster, white-knuckle stuff great novels are made of.

Thank goodness.     

Ashley Elston lives in Shreveport, Louisiana with her husband and three sons. Her debut YA novel, THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING, will be published by Disney Hyperion in Winter 2013. You can find Ashley at her blog or on Twitter.


  1. Love the photo! I'm guessing you hosed them off before they came inside?

  2. Love this post and love this blog idea! Totes awesome!

    <3 jordan