December 09


Too crazy?

*Disclaimer: Please don’t judge my musical tastes by this post. I’m making a writing-related point, okay? Okay.

This week, I sent my most recent manuscript to my agent and also finished the final round of edits on my soon-to-be-pubbed debut novel. (Woohoo!) The natural next step is to write something new.

The only problem? I have no clue what to write.

So I’m in that idea-gathering phase of writing where possibilities are endless, but finding the right possibility is essential. So far, everything I’ve come up with is “too” something: too similar to what’s already out there, too boring, too crazy.

But wait.

Is “too crazy” really a thing?

Take music for example. Last year, if someone had pitched a song about the communication of foxes, the response probably would have been, “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” or perhaps, “What exactly are you smoking?”

While some people still have those reactions, the song is currently on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #6.  People love to laugh at it. Love to look at it and go, “What is this?” Every kid I know, from my eighteen-month-old goddaughter to the fifth-graders I teach, seems to just genuinely love it.

Really, “The Fox” is just the most recent in a long line of songs that probably shouldn’t have done well, but did:

  • “Gangnam Style”
  • “The Macarena”
  • “Harlem Shake”
  • “MMMBop”
  • “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

I know, I know, most of these songs are popular for the wrong reasons, most aren’t serious, etc. But the fact is that they could have been (and probably were) deemed “too crazy” at some point, and look at them now.

So if “too crazy” doesn’t exist in music, does it exist in books? Think about these premises:

  • A competition in which teenagers fight to the death on reality TV – The Hunger Games.
  • Two teens with cancer falling in love in a story you know isn’t going to end well – The Fault in Our Stars.
  • A heart-wrenching book about humans told from the point of view of a dog – The Art of Racing in the Rain.
  • A book written from the point of view of death during the Holocaust – The Book Thief.

Too crazy? Maybe on first glance. But that doesn’t really seem to matter.

So the next time you’re in the idea-gathering phase, give those “too crazy” ideas a chance. I’m not suggesting you set out to write “The Fox” of novels. That probably wouldn’t go well for many reasons.

But don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. Think outside the box.

The best ideas might look (and sound) different from what you expect.

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