So the agent at the talk you just went to, or in the blog post you’ve just read, says that they are looking for something new, something fresh, someone with a unique voice. But how do you find that killer concept with a unique voice?

Do you –

  • Assume that you have none of these attributes and give up?
  • Try to think of the wildest, weirdest story you can possibly imagine and begin scribbling?
  • Look around at what’s popular at the moment and give it a twist?

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You never know if an agent will think that you have a unique voice or a story that ‘fits’ their list, etc. I’m a great believer in writing what you like to write and drawing from your own knowledge, skills and experiences to add authenticity to your writing. I suppose this mirrors the age-old advice to ‘write what you know’. Contriving something that you think will appeal to agents or publishers rather than something you are actually passionate about, I suspect, will have much less chance of success. When the chances are already small, I think such an approach is unwise.

I find inspiration in a great many places. Recently, I’ve been thinking back to my childhood and trying to remember how I thought at the time and how my world view has changed. I’ve reminded myself of a period in my life when I I had to lean over the side of the bed to check there were no monsters underneath before I could get to sleep – this behaviour shows immense courage in the young Andrew you’ll notice. Had there been monsters under my bed I could have been savagely attacked! There’s a story right there. It might not be hugely original but it’s a spark that you can kindle. Could I hear them scratching? Whispering? What if there was a portal under my bed to a land of fairies and other wee beasties? What did they want with me? Ask yourself these ‘what if?’ questions and move on from there.

I also recalled a road traffic accident I was involved in with my late grandfather. Apparently, no one else in my family has any knowledge of this accident happening! How could that be? Did I dream it? What if my grandfather had kept it a secret? If so, why? – assume for the purposes of this post that the there isn’t the simple answer of avoiding getting into trouble with my mother – Might he have been a secret agent? My grandfather used to mend old televisions. What if, one day, he had received a message from a crackly voice via a set that was supposed to be broken? Was he acting upon the message when the accident happened?

Keep doing this and you’ll build up a number of ideas. Put them aside. Forget about them. Pick them up again a week or two later and see which one grabs your attention and ignites your imagination. Write that one. Pour your soul, your sweat and your tears into it and then send it out.

See what happens.

 

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