A Novel Year: What Makes a Good Story Idea

writing ideas
Writing Ideas: A Novel Year – January
January 14, 2018
choosing a genre
Choosing A Genre: How to Make it Easy
January 28, 2018

A Novel Year: What Makes a Good Story Idea

what makes a good story idea

Hopefully you’ve used last week’s inspiration to come up with one or more ideas for your novel. Before we begin, though, a word of caution: To writers, ideas are like puppies. We love them. We’d keep them all if we could. But not all ideas are equal. What makes a good story idea? Read on to discover the ins and outs of idea management and how to avoid writing a novel that no one wants to read.

What Makes A Good Story Idea?

If you’re writing for your own pleasure, then write whatever tickles your fancy. In that case, you’re the audience you need to please. But if you’re writing for others, you’ll need to put your ideas through a stricter vetting process to avoid spending time on ideas that, let’s face it, might not be winners. Here’s how to sort the wheat from the chaff in idea-land.

Step One: Know Your Audience

This is critical, and I recommend it even to those writers who feel like they don’t want to write ‘to market.’ For those who don’t know, writing to market is a bone of contention in the writing community.

It involves researching what’s selling best and choosing a genre, sub-genre or niche from these popular tropes and writing something similar. Some say it’s selling out to do this. Others say it’s necessary in a highly competitive market.

Whether you want to write to market or write the genre you love, even if it’s a slow seller, it’s important to CHOOSE A GENRE. Yes, I’m yelling that at you. Choosing a genre you love stacks the odds more in your favor, because your writing will flow more naturally.

What makes a good story idea for the genre you love? Can you answer “yes” to any of the following?

My idea is a twist on a popular theme in my genre.

My idea expands on a theme popular in my genre.

*My idea has never before been written about in my genre. 

If so, you might have a great idea in your idea pile. The asterisk on that last one is a caution: I think untried ideas are fantastic — I’d love to see something new under the sun. Again, however, the ‘write to market’ crowd will disagree.

Step Two: Can My Idea Really Be A Story?

Okay, you have a few ideas that will work for your genre. But will they make a good STORY idea? I emphasized the word ‘story’ because, let’s face it, not every idea is strong enough to carry an entire story along with it. Does your idea have the following?

My idea would allow me to incorporate colorful and rich characters. 

My idea has a strong theme.

*My idea is not just a rant about my personal beliefs/platforms.

Again with the asterisk: I just wanted to indicate that for fiction, this is not appropriate, but it is entirely appropriate for non-fiction at times.

Step Three: Narrowing Down the Candidates

I don’t know about you, but sometimes having too many ideas puts me in a kind of deer-in-the-headlights state where I feel I can’t make a decision. Having too many ideas can seem like a good problem to have, but you want to focus on the best one and set the rest aside for later.

You’ve decided on your audience, you’ve researched what makes a good story idea in your genre, and you’ve got two or three from which to choose. Which is best? It’s easy.

Choose the one that will allow you to write the most sophisticated tale.

Look for ideas that already have a theme to them like wisdom triumphs over might or hard work outpaces wealth. Determine which can have a few strong characters or a cast of colorful ones. Finally, choose the one that fires your passion. A passionate writer is a better writer, I’ve found.

We’ll be moving on to the next step soon, so if you haven’t done your homework, now’s the time to catch up. Here’s what you should have accomplished so far:


Generate ideas.

Choose one to pursue.

See you on the next page!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *