A number of us from my local writers’ guild just completed a challenge to observe our surroundings for ten days, and each day to come up with five potential novel ideas. At the end of the ten days, we were to turn the three best ideas into elevator pitches of fifty words or less and then submit them for judging. I thought this would be easy and was eager to participate. I just submitted my three best pitches, and let me tell you, it wasn’t so easy. But, I did learn a lot from the challenge and that makes me a winner regardless.

  • I learned it helps to get out of the house and talk to people to get ideas. That seems painfully obvious, but in reality writers tend to live in their own heads a lot. The days I struggled to write my five ideas were the days I stayed in, or only spoke with my family. The days I was out and about, I had plenty of ideas to choose from.
  • I learned to write down the ideas immediately. It doesn’t matter how good the idea is or how much I love it, I know I forgot plenty of great ideas in the time it took for me to get home and record it in my pretty “idea journal.” Solution: by the end of the third day I started carrying index cards with me so I could jot down those brainstorms immediately. The additional advantage of this I discovered was being able to take out the cards and further develop the ideas while waiting for bus/doctor/food/whatever. It made the wait seem shorter, and amused me.
  • I learned that it doesn’t matter what genre I originally thought the idea would be, they all turn into mysteries. I guess that must be how my brain works, but I have some great ideas that another writer would probably make into romance or sci-fi, yet the longer I thought about them and developed them, they always ended up dead center in the mystery genre bulls-eye. I have also noticed that with creative writing prompts. A roomful of writers can all start with the same prompt and will end up with as many stories as there are writers and all different genres. I always seem to write mysteries.
  • I learned that developing an idea, and then editing it down to fifty words is painful. Seriously, there is a reason I like novels. I like detail. I like character development. I like sensory descriptions. I like action. However, that is not what an elevator pitch is. An elevator pitch gives just enough details to tease the reader/hearer into wanting  more. It’s who, what, why, and how written as succinctly and intriguingly as possible. Every word must count.
  • I learned to combine ideas. When I sat down and read through all the ideas I had recorded, my mind started combining disparate ideas and situations into potentially excellent stories. Had I not had sixty ideas to browse through, I never would have come up with the combinations that I ended up loving.

So, I have been in the house all day, and today my biggest mystery is where does Gizmo hide his toys. See, right here is a story idea that could become a children’s book, a romance, a comedy, or a paranormal sci-fi adventure. But in my hands, I already know, it will become a mystery.