The Big Idea

They’ve been going on about it for years, the agents, the publishers.

When you going to give us THE BIG IDEA?

Especially in genre fiction, it’s not enough to simply write good novels. It must have that high concept core. Everything is so market driven these days. The Marketing department of any publishing house is at the acquisition meeting. No matter how enthusiastically an editor might champion your new idea, it’s toast unless it tags.

Yupp, it has got to have that killer one line sell that may even appear as the shout line on the front cover. Certainly it will scream out from the back cover, in the writing known as the blurb.

In exasperation, I asked my agent once, after yet another of these conversations, to give me an example of The Big Idea. He thought for a moment then said: ‘Jack the Ripper on the Titanic’. Now before you all go rushing out and starting that novel, he said later he was kidding. But he was highlighting the ball park.

My novel ‘Vlad – The Last Confession’ is such an Idea. The shout line: ‘The Epic Novel of the Real Dracula’. The real Dracula? In this day and age surely a gimme? And it did do well – but perhaps did not achieve the full bestsellerdom desired. I think, despite the ‘real’ in the shout line, people kept expecting the vampire to show up.

There’s a lot of pressure. Genre fiction writers are in trouble. The so called midlist author – sells comfortably but not gazillions – is an endangered species. You need to sell and sell large. So, in another of those conversations, my agent spoke of how books, real books, were artifacts now. People who love them LOVE THEM. “They need to look, feel, smell great. I can see walking into a huge London bookstore and seeing, oh, one stack of books that says ‘Plague’ and one that says ‘Fire’. Black, and red, enflamed…”

“Hang about,” I reply. “Are you talking the Great Plague and Great Fire of London?”

“As an example, yes.”

“Give me a minute.”

That minute turned into four hours of frenzied writing, then two weeks of it. A treatment, three chapters led to, well, this: (Copy and paste if this doesn’t link. I am still getting the hang of WordPress!)

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/century-snaps-c-c-humphreys.html

A serial killer story set against two of the greatest cataclysms in English history.

I don’t know whether that will be the shout line. But it’s certainly THE BIG IDEA.

 

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9 Responses to The Big Idea

  1. terrypersun says:

    Oh, to be inside that head of yours about now.

  2. Karl Sine says:

    I can’t wait to read these books!!
    Your Jack Absolute books are still some of my all time favorite books! I recommend them to people all the time.

    • Great! And I am working on follow up to Jack Absolute. Just for fun but… I love him too!

      • Karl Sine says:

        Very exciting to hear your working on a follow up to Jack Absolute.

        As an actor and a fight director myself I have appreciated your approach to your books. Your stories are always character driven and exciting reads.
        And I have to say you write some of the best fights around.

        Keep it up!

  3. Katharine Sands says:

    There is another way to look at it, C.C.
    The Big Idea or logline or high-concept pitch often gets spoofed…It’s Moby Dick meets Sex and the City or some such; but, for the literary agent point of view, writers need to seduce, charm, intrigue and engage so quickly today….Many still feel that readers will understand that obscure title or lyrical arc once they read…but, they may never get that far! You have to grab attention fast — and a storyteller should be able to do this…Writers often shirk the need to set the reader up…or, go into lengthy themes or complex motives…here the Big Idea can really make a work stand out….Katharine

  4. Ooh, that’s my time period almost. Looking forward to them!

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