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Idea Testing

Is there any forum for / opportunity to share novel ideas, prior to writing them?

I have three ideas that I am playing about with, and I would love to get some industry feedback. It is possible that a similar book has been written, or the topic doesn’t have a large enough platform, and I would hate to find this out after investing a year in the writing. A forum where writers could pitch their story ideas – not for representation or sale, but to get a feel for viability – would be an excellent resource for writers and agents alike. I am sure if anyone knows about the existence of something like this, it would be you.

I don’t know of any such forum, and while it’s not a bad idea, I think you’d have a difficult time getting both authors and industry pros to participate.

My guess is that authors would be hesitant to participate because an idea is just an idea, and the fear of idea theft would be huge.

My guess is that industry pros would be hesitant because an idea is great, but it’s the execution that makes all the difference. Take a look at published books, and let’s use vampires as an example. There are hundreds of romances written featuring vampires, but it’s the execution of the story that makes all the difference when it comes to grabbing readers.

Unfortunately there are no shortcuts in this business. You can use your writing group as a sounding board for your ideas, but ultimately you need to sit down and execute the book and then see if it works.


Category: Blog



  1. I remember this as being one of the most frustrating things about Queryland. My heart goes out to you! It's soooo nice to have editors to email and ask, 'Hey, d'you think this'd fly?'

    Queryland is like playing darts blindfolded with someone constantly and silently moving the dartboard around.

    I like

    best. Never woulda made it this far without 'em.

  2. Other AW members have beat me to it, so I'll just another vote for getting to the watercooler and hanging out in the Sandobox or even Share Your Work, if you've got a chapter finished.

  3. As said, an idea is just an idea. Often writers find that the idea changes as it is written. The ending story is often nothing like the original idea. If you're lucky it's better.

  4. One thing bothers me about the question, which is the implication that "investing a year in" writing a book would be a waste of time if it's not published–that you'd be better off knowing beforehand that you didn't need to write it.

    And the cynical side of me wants to say, let me save you the trouble. I don't know what your idea is, but it's almost certain that a similar book has been written, and the publishing industry will go on just fine if you don't write it. If you don't have absolute faith that you can do a better job–or if you don't have the unstoppable passion to write it yourself–then don't waste your time.

    The optimistic flipside to this is that whether or not the book sells, you still will become a better writer for the practice. Maybe you have to write out the story to the end to notice the flaws in the premise. Or maybe you'll start writing the book with one premise, then by the end of the book you realize that the real story is elsewhere–the last chapter of your first draft becomes the first chapter of an entirely new story. And you wouldn't have found it if you'd decided after some initial feedback that it wasn't worth the investment.

  5. Just wanted to add that you don't have to "save" your crit partners and beta readers for your finished work–writer-friends and reader-friends can be super-helpful when it comes to hashing out ideas–you don't have to be a publishing pro to say "Hmmm, Idea Y seems more engaging than Idea X and I'm not sure I quite buy Idea X's concept of animatronic hot dogs, anyway." Brainstorming sessions can really get your creativity flowing when you have a sounding board! And the brutally honest ones can show you the holes in the idea you love before you write them in so deep you can't fix them.

  6. I agree with Bija's post. As soon as I read your question, I was thinking, "Every plot in the world's been done. But if you write a sh*tty book, you write a sh*tty book." I've published two books with the top publisher in the world, and not for a second did I worry if the stories had been done before; it's just a fact that they had been. Now it's up to you to get into writing groups (RWA, SCBWI, etc.) and critique groups and make your writing as good as it can be.

  7. This is hard for all writers in the beginning. I often brainstorm for days with my publisher, with e-mails going back and forth. But when you're doing it alone, you never really know because you can't step back and judge.

    I have seen agent bloggers post about what types of ideas they are looking for. And this is a huge help to some writers.

  8. I do love Absolute Write, but in the end the "muse work" I have to do myself. When I'm writing, I ask myself – Would I love it? Usually the answer is yes, but more than once I realized I didn't care about what I was writing, so I ditched it. I can't write for trends, they come and go too fast.

  9. Great points from everyone, and here's another one for you: even if everyone loves your idea and it's so well written you blow your agent away, that doesn't mean an editor will share the same enthusiasm.

    This happened to me. I wrote a steampunk urban fantasy I was very passionate about, and my crit group loved it, my agent loved it, miscellaneous readers of the genre loved it, it won first place in a prestigious contest, and it still got rejected by publishers, including the publisher of my other series that's due out this fall.

    So even the best book ever written can fail as a publishable book in the eyes of those casting the deciding votes. It's soul-crushing, but you carry on because you have to. You're a writer and writers write. You cling to the belief that perhaps your luck will be better the next time.

  10. If you really want to see what's out there, I think amazon and goodreads are decent places to do research. since both sites recommend works based on your established interests, you can follow rabbit trails, explore subject matter, etc. It takes work, but it's a good idea to know what's in your genre. Most likely your idea has been done before, but like others have said, your twist on it is what matters. The advice I keep seeing over and over is write what you love and would want to read yourself.

  11. As others have said, writing forums or knowledgeable critique groups can be great for bouncing ideas off of each other. When it comes to figuring out whether your story is original, well, that's where good old-fashioned research comes in. Get as familiar with the genre as you can (although you'll never be able to read everything unless you're writing in some tiny niche), because there's no database out there that will let you plug in keywords and spit out every title with those elements. (That would be awesome, though, but probably very expensive unless it was user-maintained, in which case your vocabulary wouldn't be consistent.)

    And above all, do not look at writing a book as a waste of a year's time, especially if you are not yet published. If nothing else, you should at least improve your skills by writing it.

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