On SNIs…

I am not one of those lucky people who has tons of story ideas constantly jumping into her head, rounded out and fully formed. In fact, I kind of hate those people. It takes me eons of pondering and mulling and brainstorming to build a story from from the ground up, usually beginning with a vague idea for a character who  refuses to leave me alone. While setting and voice and romance come easy to me, it is always such a challenge to nail down goal, conflict, and motivation (the bread and butter of character-driven fiction), not to mention an actual plot with a beginning, middle, and end — a plot with ups and downs during which the protagonist makes decisions and things actually happen.

So, imagine my surprise when, just last week, I was driving down the road, rockin’ out to some Tim McGraw, when the chorus of a particularly angsty tune hit me hard. This song, its lyrics, its emotion… It was a novel waiting to happen. In fact, with a bit of tweaking and some serious creative license, it was a contemporary young adult romance novel waiting to happen. How perfect, because that happens to be what I like to write! Just like that, a whole story — characters and setting, GMC, inciting incident and climax and resolution — played out in my head like a movie, and it was glorious! I almost drove off the road in my hurry to get home and jot down notes.

Guys. I am so writing this story. I haven’t been this excited about a Shiny New Idea in ages. I’m going to put my rewrite on the back burner for a few weeks and focus solely on this new project because oh my gosh… It is just so inspiring! I started plotting yesterday (my first time plotting a brand new project with Scrivener — yay!) and I’m already completely immersed in these characters and their story.

Just for fun, here’s a sample plot point: Jenna’s first kiss with Tyler. She is bashful and has all the butterflies and he is swoony and awesome and way too good at kissing. At this point, we need to fall in love with them both so we don’t totally hate them for being crazy jerks later.

I’m giddy with the potential of this story! And now, back to work…

How do story ideas come to you? What inspired your current WiP? 


36 thoughts on “On SNIs…

  1. Rebecca B says:

    Congrats on the SNI! Based on that plot point, I am already excited for you.
    I struggle with my plots–I have all sorts of ideas for wonderful characters and interesting situations–but then it’s the whole “what happens?” thing. 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      I struggle with the same thing Rebecca. I often end up with lots of those interesting situations you mentioned, and a bunch of characters who are just moving along willy-nilly, without a care or motivation in the world. Aahhh… Writing is so hard!

  2. Miss Cole says:

    Hooray, a SNI!

    My most recent SNI came out of nowhere. I knew I wanted to write about a misfit in space, but the rest just came out as I went along ^_^

    Have fun writing!

  3. zanne says:

    That is so exciting! I love how the idea came to you, and it sounds good already. I hope I get to read some of your writing someday, because it sounds exactly like what I like!

    As for me… I am not sure where my ideas come from. I don’t have tons of story ideas going through my head, and the 3 I do have are all somewhat similar so if one doesn’t work out, I doubt the other two will! I really need to come up with something new soon, since my current WIP is going nowhere and I think I need something new to focus on. What I’d really love to do is just throw around ideas with someone and see if any of my ideas sound worth pursuing.

    • katyupperman says:

      I hope you get to read some of my writing someday too, Zanne!

      I like your idea of brainstorming ideas with another person. I do that with my CPs and my agent sometimes, and it’s really helpful to get outside opinions from trusted friends. Best of luck with your WiPs!

  4. Jaime Morrow says:

    I love SNIs! I’m not one of those people who has ideas come to her fully formed (I kind of hate those people too), but I do get a fair amount of SNIs popping into my head. I have a few tucked away for later. Now I’m super curious a) which song inspired this story of yours, and b) what it’s all about! 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      I’d tell you which song, Jaime, but it would totally give the whole story away! It’s the end of the song that really spoke to me and inspired the bulk of the story, so I must keep my secret for now. Someday I will get to share more, hopefully. 😉

  5. Stephanie Allen says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with SNIs…because I do happen to be one of those people you hate. I’m glad you’re excited about yours!

    I have an idea for a YA contemporary, and I have no idea where that came from because that’s not even something I read a whole lot of, let alone write. Most of my ideas come from things I learned about in my college history classes, though. (I have so many notes to myself in the margins of my lecture notes about “must work this into story!” or things to that effect.)

    • katyupperman says:

      I love the idea of using history as inspiration. I just finished Nancy Werlin’s IMPOSSIBLE, which was inspired by the song Scarborough Fair. I thought it was so cool how the author took the lyrics of the song and worked a whole surreal sort of fairytale (with a contemporary setting!) out of them.

      Good luck with your contemporary idea… I totally think you should give it a shot. Maybe contemporary is something you’re meant to write!

  6. Margo Berendsen says:

    I get my ideas from lucid dreaming – but can’t ever predict what causes it to happen or where the ideas come from! I love to hear other people’s stories about where their ideas came from – I wish it was included in the acknowledgments of more books 🙂

    Just had to stop by and “meet you” after the wonderful comment you made on my query at Matt McNish’s query blog! Thank you! Curious to see what you and agent Marini are cooking up – oh I see you have a writing projects link, goody!

    • katyupperman says:

      I think authors should share their inspirations in their acknowledgements too, Margo! That’s usually the first part of a book I read, and I love when writers give a mention to the origins of their ideas.

      Best of luck with your querying… Fingers crossed for great news in your near future!

  7. Jessica Silverstein says:

    Oh boy, that sounds like something I would read, for sure. That’s awesome. I definitely get distracted by SNIs, but they certainly never come fully fleshed-out…here are actual notes I made about one a month ago:

    “Rehearsals, classes, etc etc. Unrequited blah blah blah. New guy comes along, she gets him interested before he knows he’s not supposed to be. He’s great. Blah-de-blah.”

    Clearly, if I ever turn to that idea, I have my work cut out for me 🙂 Your notes are much more coherent.

    • katyupperman says:

      Haha! I’m glad I’m not the only one who uses the “blah blah blah” method of brainstorming and plotting. I do try to plot in detail because it’s much easier for me to write that way, but yeah… Sometimes certain scenes and ideas just aren’t completely fleshed out yet. Good luck with your WiPs, Jess!

  8. Erin Funk says:

    New story ideas that pop out of the blue are the best, especially when they arrive with all the important details in place. Hope you enjoy using Scrivener for this new project!

    • katyupperman says:

      I am LOVING Scrivener for plotting this project, Erin! I’ve already had the satisfaction of easily moving plot points about my outlining board… It’s fantastic!

  9. Rebecca Barrow says:

    I am so like you in that I’m awesome with characters, but then I totally SUCK with the actual plot! I wish ideas just popped up in my head fully formed, but oh well. I’m using Scrivener to plot right now and it is so useful and so fun–there’s no way I could ever go back to Word. Have fun and good luck!

    • katyupperman says:

      I’m having so much fun plotting with Scrivener this time around. Like you, I don’t think I could ever go back to Word. I’d almost rather use physical notecards… At least they’re easy to shift around!

      Good luck with your WiP, Rebecca. Glad to know I’m not the only one with a character-focused brain 🙂

  10. Rachel says:

    I also have good characters but suckity on the plot areas. Ex? Right now. I have 8k out of my sister story but cannot seem to write the next chapter. Gah!! I know the big reveal but it seems like it can’t come yet but then I don’t want to do stupid filler chapters…*shakes head*
    My SNIs come from everywhere I guess… Violent Delights came from loving Heathers and Christian Slater as JD in that film and wanting to read a book like it. My sister story came from my Animorphs fanfic (LOL! Remember that next big thing post I did? yeah) and the desire to drink sweet tea (which, um the North REALLY needs to invest in). In my sister story research I’ve found there’s a Jack Daniels slushie mmmm. I want one of those now 😉

  11. Carrie-Anne says:

    Ever since my age was in the single digits, characters and stories have always just come to me rather full-blown. Reading also came to me full-blown, so it’s probably a similar gift. As I’m writing, I just fill in any blanks with storylines and characters who come to me.

    My current WIP is the third (saga-length) book in my historical Russian/North American family saga, and I got the idea to do a third book back in 2001, while I was finally finishing the first book. Some of the storylines have altered a bit from my original plans as I’ve been writing it, and I’ve come up with some new stuff to fill in the blanks.

  12. Elodie says:

    Yay for shiny new idea!! 😀 I already want to read it! It´s funny how ideas come to us. Mine are usually not fully formed…

    I was a total pantser for ONE TWO THREE…so I had in my head the characters, the beginning and then somewhat the end but everything in the middle? Nope. I tried to plot and outline more for GUILTY but the way the idea came to me?

    A book from Victor Hugo that stayed with me for a long time. I read it when I was 17…and then the main character came to me. She´s strong and funny and her voice seems to come naturally 😀 But plot points? turns? They came later in the process 😀

    Good luck with your new projects and can´t wait to read more about it!

    • katyupperman says:

      I have a hard time with the plot points too, Elodie. I’ve found that the more I plot, though, the better my work comes out at the end, and the less revising I have to do down the line. I pantsed my first project several years ago and it ended up being a 135,000 word beast with NO plot. Needless to say, it’s now trunked, but I learned a lot about what works for me from that story. Funny how each one teaches us something different. 🙂

  13. Alison Miller says:

    YAYYYYYY!!!! I love when an idea takes hold of me like that! I can’t wait to read all about it!

    • katyupperman says:

      I can’t wait for you to read it, lady! I’m hoping that the actual drafting process comes as naturally and feels as exciting as this initial brainstorming and plotting is going. 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Liz! As I’m sure you’ve noticed, contemporary romance is where my heart’s at, which is why this idea and this story have me all kinds of excited. I think it has potential to be very cool. 🙂 How’s your WiP coming along?

  14. Ghenet Myrthil says:

    Your new idea sounds awesome! I’m like you – it takes forever for me to come up with an idea I like, and a plot that works. Good luck with your first draft! I have a SNI that I’m excited to write when I finish my current revisions on my first manuscript. 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      Ooh, yay for shiny new ideas! I bet you’re so excited to dive in, Ghenet. We’ll have to keep each other updated on our progress. Best of luck finishing your revision and starting your new project!

  15. Rebecca says:

    SO intrigued, though I think I could be intrigued and excited about anything your working on! So happy for you and your shiny new idea, have fun!

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