It's Not the Idea That Counts


It's Not the Idea That Counts

It's Not the Idea That Counts

by Seekerville Guest Blogger Dr. Richard Mabry

The question that people ask an author is always the same. “Where do you get your ideas?” But it’s not so much the ideas that are the determining factor in a novel—it’s what you do with one after you get it.

Ideas are all around us. Each of my novels and novellas has come from an idea that started out as no more than an idle thought. Walking through a med school parking garage late at night led me to an idea about a kidnapping that occurs there, and resulted in Stress Test. Wondering how a physician would react to a phone call that conveys the worst possible news about his father culminated in Guarded Prognosis. Musing about how a physician would handle a potentially fatal infection in two patients when he has just enough of the curative treatment for one led me to write Miracle Drug. My wife, as we brainstormed, mentioned a female physician finding a cell phone that gives her the instructions that she’ll have to kill a patient to free her kidnapped husband, and it led me to write my latest novel, Critical Decision.

It's Not the Idea That Counts

No, the idea isn’t the thing that makes a novel. What sets us apart as writers is what we do with that idea. In addition to the fact that it’s impossible to copyright an idea or concept, it’s also unnecessary. If half a dozen writers start out with the same premise, each will produce from it a different manuscript. That’s called the author’s voice, and it’s unique to each person. Some writers finally find their voice, some seek it for years but never achieve the right way to put the words together. And, like a giraffe, a writer’s “voice” is difficult to describe, but you’ll know it when you see (or hear or read) it. It doesn’t depend on the idea or even the arc of the story that follows. It’s all in what we do with that idea.

Suppose that you actually follow up that idea by writing a novel. By putting together all the words, you’ve joined the small group that has gone beyond just saying “I should write a book.” What now? Resist the temptation to submit the first draft, no matter how good it seems. You revise, and revise, and keep on going until you feel it’s perfect. Then it’s time both to submit and to prepare for rejections. It goes with the profession.

Eventually, after a few rejections, let’s suppose you submit your novel and get it accepted. Congratulations, now you’re definitely in a very small minority. You’re a published author, and surely instant fame and fortune will follow. Right? Sorry. Your book could be one of a million that’s published this year. If your name is Clancy or Rowling, you can probably support yourself on your earnings. But the majority of writers hold down a “day job,” and write, not as a means of support, but because…well, they can’t notwrite.

What’s the point of this? It’s not necessarily warning the neophyte author of the pitfalls that lie ahead, although there are a bunch. It’s pointing out that, despite the question that is asked of every author about getting an idea, the hard part of writing is what you do with that idea. There’s a long distance that separates an idea and a published novel. But some of us will keep on going down that road. And that’s what makes us who we are. We’re authors.

Ready to travel down that road? C’mon along. It’s hard work, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Ruthy here: Doc has graciously offered a copy of "Critical Decision" to a commenter... so let's see what the lot o' youse has to say today? Are you a writer or a reader? And where are you on your journey in life?

It's Not the Idea That Counts
Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical suspense with heart.” His novels have garnered critical acclaim and been finalists for multiple awards. In addition to one non-fiction book, The Tender Scar, he has written eleven novels and four novellas. The latest is Critical Decision.

 He and his wife live in north Texas, where he works fruitlessly to improve his golf game and tries to convince his family that staring into space is really working. You can learn more at his blog and web page, as well as finding him on Facebook and Twitter.


35 Comments on Seekerville: The Journey Continues: It's Not the Idea That Counts

  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on March 26, 2020 | 04:11 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "Richard, so good to see you! I'm so excited to welcome you back to Seekerville, and your sage advice is a marvelous thing. I'm always amazed by where ideas come from... and how I then take them from infancy to a whole book. Asking those "but what if...?" What if the hero's past includes a lost child? And the heroine gave up a child? Allowing the past to influence the present is something readers identify with because none of us exist in a vacuum.

    Thank you, Richard!!!!"
  • Richard Mabry
    on March 26, 2020 | 08:33 Richard Mabrysaid :
    "My pleasure, Ruthie. So glad to share with your readers once more."
  • Sandy Smith
    on March 26, 2020 | 10:03 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "Nice to see you here again, Richard. Great post. I have finished writing my first book and now working on revising it. I think authors really do see story ideas everywhere. I play the "what if" game a lot myself! Please put me in the drawing."
  • Jeanne Takenaka
    on March 26, 2020 | 10:06 Jeanne Takenakasaid :
    "Doc, what a great post! What you said about ideas resonated with me. I've found that an idea comes to me, and it takes time for it to gel and become a story. The ideas-to-novels you shared sound amazing. I've found that when an idea comes I need to pray for God to open up its possibilities. And I have a few trusted friends who help me explore different facets as it works itself into a fleshed-out story.

    I'm pre-published and praying, continuing to work toward publication, and very curious to see what that will look like in the months ahead. And on my journey in life, I'm a wife and mom who has three males in her house 24/7 right now, and I'm working to find a new normal, whcih keeps changing. :) "
  • Richard Mabry
    on March 26, 2020 | 11:18 Richard Mabrysaid :
    "Excellent comments, both of you."
  • Erica Vetsch
    on March 26, 2020 | 11:52 Erica Vetschsaid :
    "Welcome back to Seekerville, Doc! I love the different ways authors see the world and how they can put the things they see into their stories in unique ways. "
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 26, 2020 | 12:35 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Thanks for being here on Seekerville, Richard!

    Like most writers, I find that story ideas are everywhere...but you're so right. It's what we do with those ideas that makes all the difference. One thing I love about working on new stories are all the "what ifs" that zero in on the core of that story idea and make it into something fresh and new.

  • Richard Mabry
    on March 26, 2020 | 13:14 Richard Mabrysaid :
    "Yes, most non-writers are concerned with ideas, but the real test is what we do with them."
  • MJSH
    on March 26, 2020 | 13:41 MJSHsaid :
    "Definitely a reader here. I enjoy editing but know I’m not gifted to be a writer. "
  • Patricia Bradley
    on March 26, 2020 | 14:14 Patricia Bradleysaid :
    "I love the 'what if twists' you come up with for your books, Richard! And you've definitely found your voice! No need to enter me in the drawing as I have a lovely copy."
  • Jackie Smith
    on March 26, 2020 | 14:37 Jackie Smithsaid :
    "Avid reader Richard's books and have my copy handy to read next! Thanks for your wonderful books!"
  • Dalyn
    on March 26, 2020 | 14:57 Dalynsaid :
    "I'm a reader and writer both. Writing is how I process life and give outlet to my creativity and reading is my escape and inspiration. The process of writing and learning is part of my journey and I'm grateful for it."
  • Richard Mabry
    on March 26, 2020 | 15:29 Richard Mabrysaid :
    "Reader or writer, we all retreat to the words someone else has written for escape--and, if no one else has written them, we do it ourselves."
  • Priscilla Bettis
    on March 26, 2020 | 15:34 Priscilla Bettissaid :
    "I enjoy reading the same premise by different authors. There's always a different tone, different twist, etc. I read Critical Decision, fun read!"
  • Lee-Ann B
    on March 26, 2020 | 16:28 Lee-Ann Bsaid :
    "I'm both, happy to admit that. :) My problem is there are so many stories I want to write and so many books I want to read, there's just not enough time to accomplish it all! It's hard to balance it all, but what a journey to be on. :)"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 26, 2020 | 17:35 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Welcome back, Doc! A great post! It's so true that we can come up with many ideas, but we have to follow up and do something amazing with them. :)

    I'm working on a couple of critiques right now, and trying to figure out the best way to proceed to make it better. Lots of decisions. And honestly, it's tough to focus right now. But eventually, I'll come up with something that works!"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 26, 2020 | 19:32 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Jeanne, having kids home around the clock can really change things! :) I think maybe this is a perfect time to write a story from mainly the male POV. haha"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 26, 2020 | 19:33 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Mindy, we're glad you came by! You know we love readers here. :)"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 26, 2020 | 19:34 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Patricia, I, too, love his twists!"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 26, 2020 | 19:34 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Jackie, thanks for coming by!"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 26, 2020 | 19:35 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Dalyn, I love how you describe being a reader and a writer! I feel the same way."
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 26, 2020 | 19:35 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Priscilla, it is fun to see how differently authors handle the same story premise."
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 26, 2020 | 19:36 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "I agree, Lee-Ann!"
  • Anne Rightler
    on March 26, 2020 | 20:09 Anne Rightlersaid :
    "I am a reader only! I've never even thought about taking an idea and doing something with it to form it into a book. As much as I love books, I'm very happy to read the creative works of others. So all you authors please keep on going the distance from idea to finished product! Your readers love you."
  • Lucy Reynolds
    on March 26, 2020 | 22:00 Lucy Reynolds said :
    "I’m a reader. Thank you for sharing. "
  • Richard Mabry
    on March 26, 2020 | 22:00 Richard Mabrysaid :
    "Glad this brought out so many comments. Whether you're a reader, a writer, or both, it's not just the idea--it's what you do with it."
  • Mary Connealy
    on March 26, 2020 | 23:23 Mary Connealysaid :
    "Hi Richard. Sorry to be slow stopping in today.
    You are so right about this. It's really almost weird what writer's do. (okay, forget the almost!).
    I had a friend say to me not that long ago, "I just don't know where you come up with all the dialogue, all the back and forth. That is so much work."

    And you know, she's right. It's strange to stick with a story for 90 thousand words. It's not the idea, the BIG PICTURE, it's the details that take all the work. Although the big picture is of course, foundational.

    So it's that, too.
    Writing is hard to explain!!!
    Thanks for stopping in at Seekerville."
  • Nancy P
    on March 26, 2020 | 23:25 Nancy Psaid :
    "Sounds like a very interesting read. :)"
  • Diana Hardt
    on March 27, 2020 | 03:48 Diana Hardtsaid :
    "I'm a reader. It sounds like a really interesting book. Thank you for sharing."
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 27, 2020 | 13:44 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Anne, thank you!"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 27, 2020 | 13:45 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "We're glad you came by, Lucy!"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 27, 2020 | 13:46 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Mary, it is hard work! But the dialogue is fun for me. However, then I just have way too much of just talking heads. :)"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 27, 2020 | 13:46 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Nancy, thanks for stopping by. It does!"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 27, 2020 | 13:46 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Diana, it does sound great, doesn't it? A great premise!"
  • Anonymous
    on March 30, 2020 | 20:46 Anonymoussaid :
    "I enjoy your blogs and am awaiting your next novel!"
It's Not the Idea That Counts

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