The Anguish of a Good Idea

I’ve been torn of late. I’m building three worlds concurrently, as I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about by now, and I’m not sure where to use what.

They’re sort of in a race. One world pulls forward as the most interesting, then the other, then the other. One is for Pseudie, one for Pseudie to self-publish, and one for Natasha to pitch NY. (I believe in diversification of assets. ;-) )

The decision of which world to use where is killing me.

There’s always the fear that this will be your last great idea, or your best idea. Sometimes this surfaces as “Why waste this great idea now? Why not wait until I’m a better writer?” Others surface in series, where the temptation is to hold back in one book, for fear you won’t be able to top it in the next book.

Every time I shift my focus, the one I’m working on gets better and more interesting. The more practice I have, the better things go.

Ideas and books don’t improve in a steady line. Some will sell well and some won’t. (There is nothing like watching one of your worst books outsell your best book by far…) Each idea and book won’t be better than the last, although we hope it’s more skilled and better crafted.

At some point, you just have to believe in the law of statistics. Keep building, keep writing, keep creating, and eventually, if you write enough, you’ll hit the right idea in the right place at the right time.

If not, there’s always the next idea.

There is an anguish worse than that of a good idea: How I wish I could write faster! Much faster! I think I could be happy with 10K a day…

Do you ever feel torn about what to do with your ideas? Which one to write next? Which one to save?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags:

A Brave New World

I’m in a world-building phase. I don’t know what’s up, but I’ve invented three new worlds in the last couple weeks. I’m loving it. I’m getting a lot of snatches written, but most of it is foundation rather than word-by-word prose.

Nathan Bransford wrote a great post on world-building, “What Makes a Great Setting.” (I suppose it was about setting rather than world-building, but they’re so closely related.) He mentioned three important elements to a good setting: change underway, personality and values, and unfamiliarity.

Sarah Jae-Jones adds to the discussion in her post, “Publishing Phenomenons.” She points out part of the magic that makes Harry Potter:

“I mean, everyone immediately recognized whether or not they were Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin–by the way, I’m RAVENCLAW ALL THE WAY. There’s something about this series that makes you want to crawl into the wizarding world and find your place in it.”

Then things get messy. The main character needs to be firmly and organically rooted in the foundation of the world. If we just stick a character into a world, it doesn’t feel right.

The Reluctant Hero

Nothing is quite so egotistical as a character who thinks he can save the world, but when you’ve got a world with change underway, the main character is likely going to be the cause for the end-of-series world peace.

So often you have the reluctant hero. He can be so humble and true-hearted, like Frodo, that you can’t help but love him (Lord of the Rings). Or she can be thrust into a thick of things to save a sister, and her strength and values and choices can inspire nations (The Hunger Games). Or he can be after a simple thing, like rescuing his lover, and gradually an army builds behind him that changes the power structure of the world (10,000 B.C.).


Somewhere in the world-building, the main character needs motivation to fight for (or against) change. To save a world, you need extreme motivation, but this motivation often starts small, like avenging the death of a friend, a family member, or a village. Saving a loved one. And the steps they take from that small, personal motivation sets them on the path that will later save the world.

The character needs personal stakes in the change of the world, but people are rarely motivated to save themselves as much as they are to save someone else. Somehow, this BIG BAD EPIC THING that’s got change underway in the world must get small and personal, and must do some awful thing to the main character, in order to set the main character on the path of saving the world.

And what makes the main character special? Why do they have the power to change the world, anyways? What personal cost will their power have? What limits?

I’m just thinking out loud. My third world is still building. I love knitting together all these stray bits to make a tight weave of characters, motivation, plot and world.

What do you think about when creating a world for your characters? Where do you start? How do you make it all feel organic?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags: ,

Stories Fighting; Readers

I made a decision. I made a plan. I outlined the stories I’m writing in my thirty-sixth year, with a method to my madness, a plan for my career. And this other story is interfering. What am I supposed to do?

I’m so irritated.

To make matters worse, I feel horribly underqualified to write the story that’s bugging me. The story that’s interfering has nothing to do with what I want to write. For goodness sake, it’s commercial, I guess you’d say, almost on the literary side. I am a genre writer.

I suppose it’s okay if I flit back and forth, but what really irritates me, is that the planned story is not writing. I’ve written a buttload of crap and brainstorming and nothing holy is emerging.

When this happens, I always go back to pseudonym. Her stories write so easily, mostly, kind of. Well, easily in comparison. Why do they write so easily?

There’s an element of escapism, I suppose. And when Glenn’s away, particularly, there’s an element of loneliness seeking company with my characters. There’s always a passion… usually to comfort my character, to make her feel less lonely, empower her, give her her dreams.

When things are flowing, there’s always this big element of love. I feel like my heart is wide open. Just… loving.

I need to love my audience, I suppose. Angie laughed that I’d never written a spy thriller, having been “spyscribbler,” LOL. But the number one problem I had and never resolved, is that I didn’t know my audience, and I couldn’t write blind.

So maybe, instead of searching for my story, I need to search for my readers. I need that touchstone. Even if I’m wrong about my readers, I still need to write to them. I need to love them first.

I don’t know.

What do you do when a story isn’t writing? How do you feel when a story is flowing? What triggers that rush of words, when things are going well, when you get that “writer’s high?” Do you try to get an emotional sort of connection to your readers before you start your story?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags: , , ,

The Importance of Being Arrogant

Nothing good comes from being humble. Not in writing. Sure, it’s socially acceptable, and even moreso for women, I suspect. There is nothing that endears us more than a self-deprecating person. But when one sets pen to paper, one must be a “little god.”*

There’s nothing I love more than strong, arrogant, cocky writing. My best work, which for some odd reason I hardly ever do, is always when I’m at my cockiest.

I’m rarely so. And when I am, I promptly school myself into humility again.

Well, bah-humbug humility. What is this watered-down crap?


What think you?

*If you get that reference, I will think you are the coolest person on the planet.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags: ,

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