November marks the start of the annual “National Novel Writing Month.” It’s a chance for people all around the world to join a writing community and commit to completing a rough draft in 30 days. One of the communities in the Chicago area is ChiWriMo.
I’d heard of NaNoWriMo before, but I had no idea how many people participate each year. In 2018, over 400,000 people (!) embarked on this adventure. It’s an awesome trend to see and good luck to anyone going for it this year!
My concern, though, is for anyone who wants to participate but says, “I’ve just never had that one idea.” I want to help remove this barrier. But instead of writing a post about, “How to get started,” or giving the vague writerly advice of, “Write what you know,” I thought why not just give away some ideas. Not all of these will fit neatly into a novel, some are more screenplays, but in honor of National Novel Writing Month, I’ve put together 30 ideas on Long Overdue Books (labeled “Please, Take These Ideas) that are 100% fair game. First come, first serve.
I want to create an environment with Long Overdue Books where new story ideas are always welcomed, supported, given an immediate, “Yes and” reaction like Second City improv. Too often new ideas are met with scrunched eyebrows or, “Wait, what?” reactions, simply because it’s too early in the creative process. This journey from a brand new messy idea to finished book is a hard one to make, why make the first step any harder?
So here’s a sampler platter of 10 ideas to help get you started. And if you do start one of these stories (or finish writing a rough draft), I’d love to hear about it. Please email me at – email@example.com or connect on LinkedIn.
Tour de Forty
The main character is stuck in a dead-end job. He’s not miserable, per se, but he’s definitely bored. Every day feels like the same routine. Go to work. Stare at the computer. Come home.
Then he decides to start cycling for 10, 20, 30 miles each morning before work. He gets hooked. Buys a more expensive bike. Goes all in on the helmet, spandex, bike shirt. All leading up to a new goal for his 40th birthday: I’m going to enter the Tour de France.
How does his wife and kids handle their dad’s new pursuit? Feel free to write what happens next!
The Stand Up President
What’s a day in the life like for an ex-president? Does it feel relaxing or kind of boring? Do they miss being in front of the crowds?
In this book, an ex-president decides he or she wants to get out to the comedy clubs and do stand up comedy. Their main goal: put together an hour-long set and perform to a packed house at Madison Square Garden.
Then it’s up to you if the ex-president is funny or not. Both choices could be interesting.
20 Years to Live
This idea came from all of the advances going on in healthcare that involve testing your DNA, early cancer screenings, early Alzheimer’s tests, all of these things that are supposedly helpful to people. In theory, they deliver peace of mind and help us get ahead of any problems.
But what happens when the doctor tells you, “So uh, bad news… you’ve got 20 years to live. You’ll be totally healthy for the first 18 or 19 years of that but then things are gonna get kinda rough.”
It’s long enough that the main character can’t do all of the fun, “You’ve got one year left” stuff like quit their job, travel the world, cross things off their bucket list. But it’s short enough to change perspective. Should I still get married? Have a family? Save for my 401k?
From there, the author can explore the question: Would you want to know if you had 20 years left to live?
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Peter from the New Testament. Specifically because of his 3x denial of Jesus on the night before the crucifixion.
It seems like it ends on a positive note, Jesus comes back, forgives him, Peter goes on to build the Catholic Church.
But I wonder if Peter ever doubted his forgiveness. Did he still feel guilty about the denials? And did he feel like the only way to overcome the past denials was to put himself in that position again and stand up for his faith? (Peter ended up dying as a martyr, crucified upside down).
This book explores the underrated leap of faith Christians have to make: Can I trust in forgiveness?
The main character finds out he has superpowers. It’s more like a Spiderman situation where he develops these by a freak occurrence rather than something he was born with (Superman) or trained his way into (Batman).
He gets invited to a Superhero camp, but finds out he’s not quite as gifted as the other superheroes in training. At the end of camp he gets the dreaded “Most Improved” award.
So then now what? What do you do as an almost Superhero?
Forgive & Forget
What if a big name villain like Thanos decided to leave his planet and come to Earth. But not to wreak havoc, he just wants to live a simple life. Get a job as a barista. Rent a humble one bedroom apartment. Start dating a sweet girl and even join like a weekly group that plays bridge at Ann Sather.
Everything is going well, the villainous past is long behind him, until the superheros from the home planet come to Earth to avenge their losses.
Can superheroes forgive and forget? Can a super villain ever start a new life?
Sex and the Small Town
This one is really simple, you take the premise of Sex and the City but put it in a town of 20,000 people. Or 2,000. Maybe just 200. I’m not sure the size matters…
So how does a small town setting make these stories different than New York City? And who will the characters be?
Up to you to decide. Works well as a show, but I think it could also be or at least start out as a novel.
The Claustrophobic Caterpillar
In a society of caterpillars, every caterpillar dreams about their future life. They are always looking forward to the day when they’ll become a butterfly.
But for one caterpillar, the whole process scares him to death. Why? Because he’s claustrophobic. Afraid of tight spaces. And being in a chrysalis for 2-3 weeks is about as claustrophobic as it gets.
In a role that feels built for Woody Allen (I mean he’s done an animated insect movie before) the author shows how sometimes to reach a dream we have to go through our biggest fears. Should make for a good children’s book.
Pope on the Slopes
This is actually a true story, Pope John Paul II was a big-time skiier. He absolutely loved skiing.
So one time he let his staff know, “Hey, I want to go skiing for a day.” This caused panic in the Vatican. Because how do you take the Pope skiing? It’s a security nightmare.
Telling this story would be interesting, but I think the whiskey of the story is this idea that John Paul II had the biggest job title in the world and all he wanted to do was ski. This can be a book about keeping your childhood passions and loves alive not for what they give you or prestige that comes with doing them, but simply for the fun of doing those activities.
Similar to The LEGO Movie or Angry Birds, it’s basically one big advertisement disguised as a comedy for the brand. But the advantage with M&Ms is the characters already exist and they have established comedic personalities.
We’ve seen the red M&M and the big yellow peanut M&M in commercials for decades. Time to stretch that out into a 70 – 90 minute film.
Plan: Write the script. When finished, let us know and we’ll help pursue a meeting with M&M MARS, see if we can make this happen.
There really should’ve been an M&M movie before the Emoji Movie…
Make sure to check out the full “Please, Take These Ideas” section on Long Overdue Books for 20 more ideas to choose from.
And I’ll have more information coming in December, but when you finish writing your NaNoWriMo rough draft, let me know because we have a few options for the next steps (“Seeking Editor” and “Seeking Publisher”) that you can utilize on the Long Overdue Books site. Hey, good luck out there!
I’ll be taking next week off to focus on my own National Novel Writing Month project, but will be back November 18th with a nostalgic look at the song “Hey now, you’re an All-Star” after 20 years since the release. To subscribe to Medium Rare via email, just enter your email address in the box below. Thanks for reading!