When I first started writing I put very little weight to what I was actually writing.
I came up with an idea and like a dog with a bone, just took off with it. Let’s see where this goes!
What I didn’t realize at the time, was in fact.. time.
That is to say, how long any serious project stays with you in life.
You might get lucky and a project could explode out of the gate showering you with fame and fortune. It is possible.
But far more likely, talk to any veteran writer, and they’ll tell you, you’ve got to hustle and grind your work. And it takes time for it to get traction.
Often a lot of time.
Writers don’t grind in a measure of hours and days, but years and even decades!
To give you a personal example, I wrote a King Arthur novel, Avalon back in, I wana say 2014. The publisher never did anything with it (to all the noobs reading, that happens more times than you might think in #writerworld).
I’m quite fond of the story and here I am, nearly 10 years later, still looking for opportunities to get that baby out into the world.
An non-personal example, you may recall Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. Supposedly that script was kicked around Hollywood for 15 years… and Eastwood himself sat on it for 6, before finally producing it.
Here’s the takeaway.
The major projects you write are going to stick with you in life for quite some time…
So make sure they’re important to you.
And that’s the key point I want to convey here.
It’s 10 years later and I’d still like to see Avalon gain traction. Every year I’m happy to send out a query letter, or pitch it in some fashion to somebody. I’m happy to do it, because the story means a lot to me.
Now, think about spending all that time on a story you didn’t really spend a lot of time developing… Something that didn’t really mean much to you, just a bone of a story that you grabbed and ran off with.
Believe me, you get sick of it real quick.
You get sick of dealing with it and get bitter at the fact that you have to deal with it, because no one else is willing to touch it with a 10′ pole… but worse than that, you start to resent that it’s taken up so much time, pulling you away from newer projects.
Projects that actually have a lot of meaning to you.
Every story you write, doesn’t need to be a paradigm shattering, world changing, story… but it should be really important TO YOU.
So many times writers jump on a story because they simply love some specific element and know they’ll enjoy the actual writing process of it.
Loving action and wanting to write some Predator sci-fi story, doesn’t mean it’s going to be important to you. The superficial bits and pieces… even the superficial stuff you may be great at writing, never equate to a deeper connection.
When you’re working on a story, if it isn’t shaping up as something you want to dedicate at least 5 years of your life on…
Believe me, you’ll thank me later.
You can’t be in two places at once and you want to be 100% focused on the stories where you don’t mind spending 5-10 years or more hustling.
Of course if you’re like most writers, you’ll have multiple stories and projects going at once… and that’s where the stories that don’t really mean much to you really dig in their claws.
The more projects you’re trying to grind, the less time you have. The unimportant stories become leeches or Kryptonite, sucking your energy away.
Advice From the Flipside
On the other hand, there is something else quite important to recognize.
You usually only get ONE SHOT at making an IP work. If it doesn’t work, that’s it, it’s dead. They almost NEVER come back to life.
Let the dead ones go. Never forget:
- Pet Cemetery.
It never ends well.
Just so I’m clear, I’m talking about actually successfully launching an IP. Not “trying, or almost” launching an IP.
You can pitch something, or try to get something off the ground for years… there’s value in that effort.
But once it gets off the ground, if it’s a disaster, you’re not Warner Brothers, you don’t get to remake the same thing five different times… (in truth, they only remake the financially successful IPs. That is to say, the ones that make money the first time around.)
If you find yourself trying to breathe life into an IP that failed one or more times out in the world, do yourself a favor and remember the old adage, “Beating a dead horse.”
So hopefully after reading this, you’re going to prioritize the stories that mean the most to you personally. The ones you want to fight for, tooth and nail, for years to come.
But before we go, I want to impress upon you the importance of the actual, technical concept to these more important stories.
I give a good breakdown of concept over in the Phantom Story article.
Your concept is the kernel of the story. The underlying, driving idea.
It’s almost always brief and abstract.
- Immortal warriors across the globe converge on NYC to fight to the last man. – Highlander
- An amusement park of cloned dinosaurs break loose. – Jurassic Park
Concepts aren’t really a complete look at the story. This is where Loglines come in.
A great concept immediately hooks someone when they hear it.
This is key.
It forces their imagination to run away with them. In other words, it excites them.
And creates an irresistible feeling to know more.
Tell people you respect and trust your concept.
If they get hooked. If they start asking you if this scene happens, or that scene happens… If they enthusiastically start asking you questions. These are all excellent signs you have a winning concept.
If you share your concept and people get quiet and don’t ask questions, or seem excited, it’s time to rethink things.
When you combine a story that has tremendous personal meaning to you… with a well-received concept, you’ve just set yourself on the fast track to success. ▪
About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S. Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.