How Do You Know if a Story Idea is a Keeper?

Tricia Goyer is the winner of two American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Awards (Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights), co-author of 3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado, and a contributor to the Women of Faith Study Bible. Also a noted writer of numerous books and articles on marriage and parenting, she lives with her husband and children in Arkansas. Visit Tricia’s website at

How Do You Know if a Story Idea is a Keeper?

I have to laugh when people ask me how I got the idea for my novel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon. The idea is nearly as old as my son…who will be graduating from high school this year!

It started as a contemporary telling of the Prodigal Son story from the Bible. In preparation for a writer’s conference in 1997, I wrote a prologue about a young boy whose carelessness caused his mother’s death. That one event then brought division between him and his brother.

The prologue came as a powerful scene, and it captured the attention of editors at Mt. Hermon writer’s conference. I clearly remember Steve Laube saying, “You’re on to something here.” Yet what good is a prologue without a complete novel to go with it?

After that, I got the idea for From Dust and Ashes and the prodigal son story got put on the shelf. Every now again I’d take out that idea, and turned it over in my mind a few times, but I felt God’s whisper, “Not yet.”

Fast-forward to 2011. I was approached by an editor about coming up with an idea for the Titanic. April 15, 2012 was the 100th Anniversary—would I like to submit a

novel idea for consideration?

One morning I was laying in bed praying about an “Titanic idea” when the prodigal son story popped into my mind. Was it possible that the seed of the idea I had so many years prior fit on the Titanic? I dug back through my old computer files and found the original prologue. Then, in my mind’s eye, the story of a younger son, an older son, a woman who cared for them both–and the loving father–played out in my mind.

That’s it!

I copied and pasted that old prologue into a new document and Chapter One started with the story of these new characters and their life-changing journey on the Titanic. The proposal came together quickly, and in a few weeks I learned that Barbour wanted to publish my idea!

When I hold By the Light of the Silvery Moon in my hand, I’m still amazed that I was given the honor of writing this novel. It goes to show that some God-given ideas bloom overnight, while others take years until they see the light of day.

Here are three tips for knowing if you’re idea is a keeper.

1) The idea stirs emotion within you. I find all types of interesting ideas in newspaper articles, or in stories I hear, but there have been only a few dozen ideas that have gripped my heart. If your story idea does, pay attention.

2) Others believe in the idea. My husband (dear man) read many of my novel attempts, but out of all of them he kept saying, “When are you going to write that prodigal son idea?” The fact that editors and agents took note of the idea, too, says something.

3) God’s fingerprints seemed to be all over it. My novel idea was rooted in Scripture, and I knew the story could be impacting if told in a more modern time period. An image of God is reflected in the loving father who welcomes his wayward son home. If a story idea sticks around in your mind—and will glorify God in it’s telling—then it’s something to wait upon and pray about! The story may not come to fruition in this decade, but you can be certain it’s unsinkable!

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Remember the Titanic 100 years after its doomed voyage with Tricia Goyer’s fictional portrayal of one woman’s journey. To Amelia Gladstone, this ship means promise of seeing family again. To Quentin Walpole, the Titanic represents a new start in America…if he can get onboard. All seems lost until Amelia offers him a ticket, securing his passage—and bringing him face-to-face with his railroad tycoon father and older brother, Damian. As Amelia works to reconcile father and son, she finds herself the object of both brothers’ affection. Can she choose between two brothers? Or will she lose everything to the icy waters of the Atlantic?