Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On High Concept

This is a huge issue.

High concept is not simply ab0ut coming up with some witty single sentence that sums up your story but really something that tells the readers (and especially the editors and agents) what is it that makes your story stand out amid all of the other authors out there.

I have to say, that the days of having just a great story are not here any more. You need to have something that makes your writing stand out and be unique.

I honestly don't know how many times I have passed on REALLY good writing because it is just like something we already have, or like something I see time and time again. I would love to sign these people but the writing is simply not there.

Your story has to be something special. This is HIGH CONCEPT.

Think about your story. What is that special thing that makes it stand out. What is it that makes it memorable and marketable.

This is what to shoot for.

Good luck!



  1. So what you are saying in this post is before you decide your manuscript is finished, make sure to check and double check for originality of plot, voice, characters? You are talking more about the book itself rather than what you claim in your query. "High concept" means more than simply a claim to it in the premise, but in the delivery of a very different angle and extremely high stakes for the characters in addition to excellence in stringing the words along. A lack in any of these areas constitutes a deal breaker/rejection even if your story is good and you write beautifully.

    So I guess the best way to ensure that unique flare is to get your heart and soul onto each page, for that is the one thing that will guarantee true originality and the thing that sets you apart from all other writers. Good post.

  2. Scott,

    …the days of having just a great story are not here any more…

    That one statement is sad in and of itself. I understand the necessity of finding that ‘something’ that makes your story stand out, especially if you write category romance, but when great writing is passed over because the story has already ‘been done’ it’s too bad.

    I have no doubt with the technologies of today, the book industry has to produce newer, edgier, grab your attention stories that can compete with the video systems and television options available. The best thing I ever did was agree to read ‘The Telltale Heart’ as E. A. Poe inspired my love of reading.

    A great story can do the same to someone else. But will we continue to see GREAT writing, or will it slowly change into High Concept, or in laymen’s terms, gimmick books that have to have a zing in order to get them published?

    To me, a story is never overdone, with the millions of reading options available, it’s just a matter of how the story gets the reader there that makes it great. After all, we already know it ends in H.E.A.


  3. Interesting post, and a little depressing.
    So these months of honing my writing now needs to morph into honing my plots?
    I think it's interesting and definitely overwhelming to try to produce something new, or high concept.
    A challenge I hope I'm up to, LOL.

  4. The black raven of Bad News could croak for an hour. Thanks as always for the truth, awful as it may be. At least agent web sites are beginning to tell the same tale, as in, on one, "if all you have going for you is the quality of your writing, it is very unlikely that you will be published. You need to have a platform."Another says, "we want (only) overnight sellers." As in Best, of course, and who can say, the market misses all the time. They missed on Harry Potter and Stephanie Meyer and Bernard Cornwell ond on and on.
    Agency websites generally say they take less than one per cent of unsolicited material. And again, so what? Why publish any book that is not likely to sell? What's the point, other than ego gratification for the writer?
    So, Scott, those of us who love and write historicals are thinking we must turn them into historical romances, or even sillier, erotica, disguised as a HR. I don't read this stuff, but boy, can I crank it out! I've lived in the Bay Area, where everything can be seen and purchased, as it were. In your opinion, where, right now, is the most likely place for a new writer to break in? HR" Silly season erotica?
    My current favorite- "the purple-helmeted warrior of love." Bring it on!
    Running neck and neck with that gem, "he reached for her muff of fire." Huh? Sounds a tad dangerous. I can't wait to add my own to this distinguished list.