28 Apr

5 Ways to Tell if It’s The ONE

Posted in DIY MFA, Process, Writing

So far we’ve been talking about ways to spark ideas for new projects, but DIY MFA isn’t just about coming up with a billion new ideas; it’s about eventually choosing one idea and seeing it through to the end.  But how do you know if an idea is really the ONE?  Here are five things that often happen to me when I get that idea that I know will be the ONE.

1) A voice (or series of voices) starts chattering in my head.  Yes, I know this might make me sound crazy, but the truth is, when I start actually hearing my characters in my head, I know that this idea is the ONE I’m supposed to work on.  For me projects always start with the voice of the narrator or main character so if I don’t hear that voice, I know the story’s not ready to be written.

2) I want to know how the story will turn out.  This is why I write to begin with.  I want to know the ending so I have to write the whole thing to see how the story turns out.  If I don’t care about the story or characters enough to want to know the ending, then I know it’s not the ONE.

3) I get protective.  When I first start a project–if it’s something I really care about–I don’t tell most people about it.  Only when I’m at the stage where I need to get feedback do I open up and share the project with a few trusted readers.  If I’m too open about the project at first, I know it’s not something I’m really invested in–it’s not the ONE.

4) I can’t wait to write.  This goes hand in hand with #2.  When I know the story is the ONE, I can’t wait to sit down and write it.  At least that’s true at first.  After the “honeymoon” wears off, motivating myself to write can become more of a challenge but at first when I start the project, nothing can come between me and my writing.

5) I stick with it.  Perhaps the best test of whether a story is the ONE for me is if I stick to it even when another, sparklier idea comes along.  If I can shake off that new idea and stick to my guns on the first story, then I know it’s the ONE.

What do you think?  How do you know when an idea is the ONE?
Homework: Think about all the things you’ve worked on during DIY MFA and choose one that you’d like to pursue further.  Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you won’t ever get to work on all those other ideas (they’ll still be waiting for you when you finish with this first one) but it’s important to have the experience of finishing an entire project.  So, choose one idea and plan to see it through over the next however-many months you choose.


Comments on this post

  1. Ghenet Myrthil says:

    I agree with your points. I have another one: I know a project is the ONE if I can outline it and feel confident about the plot. If I love the characters, that's all well and good, but the story won't work if there isn't a solid plot to put them in.

    1. Gabriela Pereira says:

      Great point, Ghenet!

      You're totally right that characters with no plot can be a lovely character study but they do not a story make. For a story to work it definitely needs a strong plot in addition to the great characters.

      I think it's when I finally have that A-ha moment where the plot clicks into place that I know for sure "this story is the ONE."

      1. J.C. Martin says:

        Great post! I agree with Ghenet that I usually start with a story/plot, like what if this happened? Not only that, I know it's the ONE when I think "What if?" followed by an answer, followed by "Then what?" another "Then what?" and the plot snowballs on its own. It's only ever happened to me once, and I've had to shelve the project to focus on a more immediate one, but I can't wait to get back to it!

        1. Kerryn Angell says:

          Oh gosh. I have no idea how I know when a story is The One. I'm really interested to see what everyone has to say about this.

          1. Najela says:

            I always start off with something but the idea gets out of hand. I think I need to do some more trial runs. I wish I could tell when I have the One. It's like finding a man. XD lol.

            1. Carradee says:

              Hm. I actually work best from talking an idea through. The more I want to talk about it, the more that indicates it's "the one" to work on atm.

              1. Mary Kate Leahy says:

                So true! I get the "Shakes" if I try to put off writing it. I mean not really…well a little…so that's when I know. And I will dream about it and about writing it. You have to be that jazzed to start out or you'll never finish. Great post.

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