I’m really excited to be participating in Quan William’s blog tour today for his new novel, Godmode. It looks a lot different from what I usually read, but it’s got me curious, in a I need to know what’s going to happen kind of way. Today I’ve got some information about him and his book, plus he was kind enough to write a guest post for me to share with you all on what to do with all those story ideas that you’ve set aside. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of those, so it should be a very useful article to read.
Quan Williams was born and raised in Flint, MI, and has always had a love for stories. He honed his writing craft at the University of Michigan, where he studied creative writing under the tutelage of novelists Jonis Agee (Strange Angels, South of Resurrection) and Tish O’Dowd Ezekiel (Floaters). He also found time to write and illustrate three comic books and work as an entertainment journalist for the Michigan Daily Newspaper for three years.
Since graduating, Quan has jumped at every opportunity to bring his wild ideas to life. He wrote the short story “That Weird Kid” which was published by the web magazine Storiesthatlift.com, before writing the young adult novel The Leopard Man. He wrote and illustrated two webcomics, one of which (The Seizure) was collected and published as a trade paperback. He also wrote the business/family melodrama Double Entry.
Elijah wakes up in a cage, and can barely remember anything about himself or his situation. He fights his way alone to escape a building full of bizarre and deadly monsters, while learning disturbing truths about himself. Once he finds the way out, he has to pass it up and keep fighting to rescue his wife and child from his nemesis.
Picking Through the Remnants: Choosing Old Material to Recycle
by Quan Williams
Like most writers, I have gotten a lot of story ideas. We get bombarded daily by “what if” questions that are begging to be answered in our own particular style, with our own particular voices. It would be foolish not to record these ideas. Even if you cannot utilize an idea now, it is something you very well might want to revisit at a later date.
Sometimes, that “later date” actually arrives. I was in the midst of promoting my sci-fi horror novel “Godmode” and I had gotten the itch to start writing a new story. Problem was, I didn’t have any new ideas to explore at the time, not that I wanted the hassle of building on an idea from scratch anyway. So I picked up my old archive of unused ideas and undeveloped concepts and thumbed through them to see if there was anything that struck me at the time. It is always good to keep some kind of record of your unused ideas, whether it be some kind of database, or a journal, or a folder of notes, or something. I have folders of unfinished comic books in storage, as well as CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs full of stored ideas and unfinished manuscripts. It was my unfinished comics that game me inspiration this time, and I decided to adapt one of them into a series of novels.
Some of my best projects have come from recycled ideas. All of my webcomics were continuations of ideas I had come up with back in my college days, and the current stories I am working on now are ideas I had ten years ago but never did anything with.
Sometimes an idea you come up with can be literally ahead of its time, so it might need to sit and percolate for a while as you mature as a writer and as a person. Once you’ve built up skill and confidence in your craft, and acquired more knowledge and wisdom, then perhaps you might be ready to tackle that idea and give it the attention it deserves. This was the case with the book I’m working on now, an urban high fantasy epic with very deep political and socioeconomic themes. When I first drew up this story as a four-issue comic book series back in the year 2000, I was only scratching the surface of what I could do with this story. But 14 years later, I’ve grown a lot, learned a lot and seen a lot, and now I’m more prepared to plumb the depths necessary to truly tell this story.
So when sifting through your pile of lost ideas, how do you choose which one to dust off? It’s not an exact science. You can go by feel. Which of your old ideas is speaking most to you at that moment? Writers have a mysterious intuition for stories, where one idea or concept burrows its way into your mind and won’t leave you alone until you do something with it. Does one of your old unfinished stories do that to you? Is it begging you to come finish it and won’t get out of your head until you do? Then that is obviously the story you need to be picking up. Or your motivation could be purely financial. Which of your story ideas is the most marketable? Compare your ideas to what is popular now, or what might be popular in the future, around the time you finish your story. As of this writing, there’s a big surge in popularity for Young Adult adventure books starring white, teenage females. Before that the hot thing was Young Adult high fantasy starring white, teenage boys. If your idea fits what’s popular now and you can crank a book or three out of your idea within the window of that genre’s popularity, then go for it. Otherwise, think about the future and try to gauge what the next trend will be, and see which of your book ideas fit. Of course, some concepts are timeless (re: anything that can be easily adapted to a movie). So if that’s the way you want to go, then you might want to consider that.
Okay, so now you’ve picked your story to rehash…now what? You need to look your idea over and figure out what it was that made you abandon the story in the first place. Maybe the subject matter was too personal, or maybe the story has a character in it you can’t quite figure out. Maybe the concept was too big to wrap your head around at the time. I have one story idea in mothballs because it would involve extensive worldbuilding and research into a foreign culture – in my case, feudal China. I also would have to delve into a myriad of different kung-fu fighting techniques, and figure out how to portray them properly in prose. And that’s in addition to the usual character and plot development stuff – involving nine different protagonists (yeah, my story idea is a little on the ambitious side). I’m not ready to do all of that…not yet, at least. Regardless, once you figure out what stopped you the first time, you need to attack that issue head on and figure out a solution. Or work around it, and develop all of the other aspects of the story you are more comfortable with. For instance, if one important character is an enigma to you, then develop everybody else first. Sometimes, working on another aspect of the story will actually present you the solution to the aspect that is bothering you.
Once you open your mind and focus on that story, you will be surprised at the things you notice around you that will help you develop it. Information in the news, or in conversations with your colleagues, or stuff you see in other media, will feed your idea. There were stories I’ve found on the internet that I otherwise couldn’t have cared less about, but now that I’m in tune with my new/old story idea, those articles particularly stand out. When you think like a hammer, everything becomes a nail. So start hammering away!