Over the weekend, I wrote and posted a piece on my own blog about High Concept books from a reader’s perspective.
But I’m not just a reader, I’m also a writer, so of course I spent the rest of the weekend tormented, sleepless and getting through an enormous amount of cake as a result.
|Lunch on Saturday...|
As a writer, one of the phrases you hear knocking around an awful lot is High Concept. High Concept books are easy to sell. They offer something unique before you’ve even opened the cover.
High Concept sounds like it should be something complicated and wonderful, but in reality, it really just means Sounds Awesome. That’s it. Something that, summed up in a few words, makes you want to read.
Girl who can read characters out of books.
Boy who goes to secret wizard school.
Girl who can see death-dates in people’s eyes.
Boy who wakes up in someone else’s body.
Flip, Inkheart, Harry Potter and Numbers -
all brilliant High Concept books!
These are concepts that all sound great, and in these cases, they all resulted in great books. High Concept sells well. It gets people talking. As a result, publishers are always keeping an eye out for the next great High Concept book. So how much pressure should writers feel under to make sure their book is High Concept?
When I first started writing, I didn’t care about High Concept, mostly because I wasn’t aware of it. Ah, those blissful days when I wrote anything and everything and didn’t realise how bad and how unsellable it all was. But eventually, you have to start learning how to do it properly. You talk to writers, join online forums, go to conferences and workshops.
And you start to think: is my idea strong enough?
This is a great point to reach, and one I have learned to ignore immediately! There’s always a reason I'm writing the story I am, however ordinary it might sound on the surface. I know that there are certainly things I can (and will) do to make the story bigger, better, more interesting and important, but unless the story is born hand-in-hand with a High Concept idea, I’m not going there. If it isn’t born with it, then it doesn’t need it.
Why? Because it will stick out like an extremely sore thumb.
With all of the book concepts I listed at the top of this post, the concept gets left behind on page one, because it isn’t important anymore. The story, the characters, the setting and language – that’s what keeps a reader reading, not the concept.
A concept will sell a book, but a good story will keep you reading it, and a great story will have you going back for more.Slushpile note: The counterpart to this post can be found at Let's Get Serious