– by Leona Choy
Here’s the long and the short of it.
Let’s personify an IDEA as if it were a person. When writers get a heads-up that an idea is approaching, they would do well to deliberate wisely what to clothe it in appropriately, since it appears stark naked! One size of trousers doesn’t fit all, and there are many styles from which to choose.
You can expedite your attire decision by whittling down your idea to a couple of concise, descriptive sentences. That will stand you in good stead and save you time and grief by not selecting proper clothing.
Problems arise when the writer tries to convince the idea to wear long pants when short pants are more suitable. A writer may try to force an idea to become a book when it would be much better dressed in shorts—an article in a magazine, a short story, a guest post, an editorial, newspaper column or a blog post. Perhaps it would do better as many pairs of shorts of different colors and styles slanted to various publications. It’s important to realize whether an idea has enough substance to carry you through an entire book and whether there is a market for it.
Or the other hand, while in the process of clothing your idea in shorts, the writer may discover that several short articles are beginning to bond and could be morphed into chapters of a book. One’s own E pluribus unum, (out of many, one). One book of many chapters may come forth from what were previously separate or short stories, if the right adhesive is applied by a creative writer to bind them together.
Throughout my ten years as a blogger, I wrote a considerable number of posts on related themes each with a fresh hook and slant. For several of my recently published inspirational books, I stitched the “shorts” together with a compatible theme. With considerable editing, of course, I assembled them into full length books. The more abbreviated ideas appeared in long designer jeans.
In another of my books I used an interview format in each of the twenty-four chapters imagining dialogue with prominent religious persons of the past century. I based the interviews on their writings and bound them together under a common theme. Each chapter was dressed in shorts. After the book was published, one of the persons (chapters) began to “speak out” and ask for a change of clothing—it demanded, as it were, long trousers instead of abbreviated shorts. During my research I accumulated more than enough fascinating material to propose a new book project to a publisher devoted to the person that chapter was about. The single short chapter turned into an extensive biography of Dr. Andrew Murray, a missionary statesman of the nineteenth century. In fact, I became his “authorized biographer.” After wearing shorts, this idea changed clothes and wore long trousers.
My original, productive over-researching led me to discover in library archives several out-of-print books Murray wrote which were unknown to modern readers. I proposed to another editor that I would be available to “contemporize” them into a more user-friendly edition since they were now in common domain. Three more long trouser books came from that proposal. What was originally only a short chapter in a book multiplied into an entire wardrobe which has since been translated into six foreign languages.
Writers don’t always know in the beginning how to clothe an idea when it comes strolling into the edges of our minds. It’s critical to success in writing to know when to go long or short with the material and be open to change or exchange its attire as time goes by. We should even muster up the courage to discard the idea entirely and move on. Sometimes an idea that we think is grandiose turns out not to be suitable either for book length or a short article. It might simply be happy to wear a pair of short-shorts—like a poem?
THE GENESIS OF IDEATION
In the beginning I had a bright idea,
and the idea bounced around in my head
without form and void
of structure or organization.
Should I let it live or die?
Is it meant to swim or fly?
Should I let it soar? How high?
Does God’s Spirit brood over it
and breathe into it the breath of life?
Or was it a thoughtless notion,
a product of my own concept or emotion?
Is it simply my ephemeral opinion,
sentiment, persuasion, or view,
inclination or speculation?
Should I tenderly nurture it?
Let it simmer or bring to a boil?
Or jettison it to the circular file?
Is it worthwhile marketing?
Will an editor smile?
Lord, give me wisdom to discern.