San Francisco · Writing

Bike Riding, Coming Up With Ideas, and Writing to the Trends

Like my nerdy helmet? Safety first!

The photo above is me, about halfway into a bike ride through San Francisco. My new location is great–it’s just a few minutes via bike to the beach and close enough to ride onto Golden Gate as well, through the Presidio (which feels like a Hitchcock movie), and through the amazing Golden Gate Park. I’ve been on a few bike rides with my boyfriend since we moved here. It’s a great way to explore the area, but more than that, it’s this escape from all the stressors of life (the to-do list, emails, job-hunting, holding back the anger that even reading a story about Black Friday inspires). It’s much like running–you are so focused on what you’re doing that there’s no time to think of anything else. But unlike running, there are moments of relaxation. There’s coasting down a hill, letting your legs rest. You can breathe and you can look around. And there’s a lot to look at in San Francisco.

Even more importantly, your mind is free to wander. Truly wander, the kind of wandering I’d imagine you’d get from meditation, though I’ve never really tried meditating. Not wandering through anxiety and stress, but wandering through your imagination, your memories. You can think about being a kid, meet a new character.

For the last six months, I’ve been too busy with everything (preparing The After Girls for publication, moving across the country) to really focus on what comes next, writing-wise. And when I have, it’s been frustrating. Ideas come, but in a matter of days or weeks, I go from loving them to hating them. I can get pretty far into a concept but then find that I have no earthly idea what the character wants. I find myself thinking in Publisher’s Lunch blurbs  or elevator pitches (it’s like The Hunger Games meets Pride and Prejudice meets Eternal Sunshine). I think about what will sell and what will get a book deal, a big one. I know it’s not the way to think, but I can’t help it. If I’m going to commit another 2-3 years of my life to a story then it better be worth it, right?

Wrong, of course. I know that writing to the trends is not just bad for art, it can be bad for business. As many copies as gained success, I’m sure that there are a ton of dystopian and vampire YA manuscripts that won’t ever make it out of the slush pile. Readers, editors, everyone want something new. And even if you do make it through and snag those six-figures, do you really want to be known as the writer whose name no one can quite remember who wrote that series that was a lot like Twilight? I definitely don’t.

Coming full-circle here, I actually got one of my more promising ideas while bike riding around SF. My mind was free to explore, and I saw the houses that reminded me of Hitchcock, and I just started thinking about what kind of girl would live there, and it’s nothing, really, it’s just an image–not a fully-formed plot or a pitch or even something worth sharing with my agent at this stage–but it’s something that left me wanting to explore.

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