Three reasons why your idea might not be working

Ready to chuck your manuscript? Are you ranting and raving, insisting that your idea is crap and the only thing to do is start all over again?

Calm down, sunshine. Let’s be systematic.


Maybe this is what’s causing you grief:

1 You haven’t spent enough time with your idea.

Ideas rarely, if ever, come fully developed. It takes time and patience to develop an idea.

Don’t be in a hurry. Sloooooow down. Give your idea the attention and nurturing it requires.

It’s easy to spend months, sometimes years, developing an idea.

And don’t forget, part of that development involves mutations. Ideas grow and grow and grow and transform and reinvent themselves. But they don’t do it quickly.

Ideas require time to develop.

2 You are confusing your idea with your story.

Ideas are just that: ideas. Ideas are NOT stories. Never confuse the two.

Here’s a Christmas analogy:

My mother used to make the most sensational Christmas trifles. Now, as was her own mother’s tradition, Mum used to sprinkle her trifles with crushed walnuts.

Crushed walnuts are like ideas. They’re superficial. They add some grit and pepper but underneath? Oh my lord! Underneath that’s where the fun starts.

Underneath there is jelly and custard and whipped cream and swiss roll and strawberry jam AND if you dig deep enough there’s also a puddle of sherry.

Don’t blame the idea before you’ve gone deep enough to find the story.


3 You’re expecting an idea to carry you through.

Yeah, right.

No way, sunshine.

Ideas are lures, that’s all. They’re seductive and fickle. They get you in and then, well then, they shoot through.

And there you are stuck in the mess of your story.


Again, don’t blame the idea, it’s done it’s job. It’s lured you in, got your started. Now it’s time for you to do the real work—to make sense of the world you’ve found yourself in.

Never be surprised if your initial idea completely vanishes at some point in your story. So what? As I said, the idea has done it’s job.

Now it’s up to you.

Take courage, dear one.

Jen xo

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 Life is sweet at the duck pond!



10 Replies to “Three reasons why your idea might not be working”

  1. #1 certainly resonates. I have learnt this the hard way. Putting a WIP away in a drawer and allowing yourself percolating time is so worth it. The novel I’m working on came from a dream about six years ago. I have written different scenes down over the years. It is only this year that I decided that I had enough of a story that I could start writing it as a novel. It is growing, changing and mutating along the way. #2. I want that trifle. It sounds delicious. #3 You do need more than ideas. At least an idea is a starting point.

    I can’t wait to hear what you have to say on the video tomorrow. Thanks again, Jen.

    1. I love that your novel is growing and you’re starting to make sense of it all, Megan. I remember you talking about it at the beginning of the year. So happy for you!

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