Awhile ago I attended an inventors’ club meeting. Some of the members had already launched successful products and were working on more, while others were merely beginners with great ideas. The beginners were commiserating about how hard it is to deal with financing, raw materials, manufacturing, promotion and all the rest, when one of the experienced inventors suddenly stood up. “Look,” he said impatiently, “ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the development that puts you over the top. Do what you have to do to make it real and get it to market.”
I was surprised, because I’d always thought that a brilliant idea could make you a fortune. But I quickly realized my new friend was right: Idea is just the beginning.
Fiction writers share a lot with those inventors. It’s not hard to get inspired by a great concept, to take it to your table or toolshed or cellar and do some brainstorming, and even to start putting the story on paper—but eventually, many of us lose traction. Why? Because development doesn’t happen on its own. In fact, I’ve come to think that idea development is the No. 1 skill an author should have.
How do great authors develop stunning narratives, break from tradition and advance the form of their fiction? They take whatever basic ideas they’ve got, then move them away from the typical. No matter your starting point—a love story, buddy tale, mystery, quest—you can do like the great innovators do: Bend it. Amp it. Drive it. Strip it.
Bend. Amp. Drive. Strip.
It’s BADS, baby, it’s BADS.
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