21 May 2014

Blank sheet of paper

The job of an author comes with the rare and unusual boon of starting each new project with a completely blank sheet of paper, a chance to let the mind wander where it will. Then follows a pretty awesome trick: to conjure from the ether characters, plot, whole new worlds to fill that blank sheet.

Where do those ideas come from? Apparently it's a question that writers are asked more than any other. In his funny essay on exactly that question, author Neil Gaiman writes that over the years he has answered flippantly 'From the Ideas-of the-Month club' and truthfully, but to the suspicion of his audience, 'I make them up. Out of my head,' and more practically, for his daughter's classmates, he reveals he starts with the simple questions, 'What if?....If only?....I wonder....?'

Of course that idea is only the start - taking a seed and growing it into a tale that will draw readers along for many hours has to come next. Katy Regan, writing her fifth novel with Harper Collins has decided to open up the hood and reveal the mechanics of her process, as she blogs about building book five, day by day. Fascinating to see the nuts and bolts of themes, structures, character arcs laid out and clicked together piece by piece, as she constructs her next new world.

In our job we also get to be creative, but in a different way, rather than a blank sheet of paper, we start with what our clients are trying to achieve in their business. There's no point promising the moon on a stick (as you might hear in some pitches) if the moon (or a stick) is not going to help them get where they want to be. Starting with the simple questions definitely helps: who do you want to reach, when, what do you want them to do? Then we can start to come up with interesting ways to do it. Not a blank sheet but still a creative challenge we love.