12 March 2011

A Gathering of Ideas

Okay, so we’ve gotten into the habit of writing. We found a good spot, a good time, where we can concentrate on the page and put the words forth from our brain to the paper or computer screen. That first idea is moving right along. Characters seem to almost talk to us as we write. The Muse broke from her chains of educational restriction and she’s stretched her wings to allow your imagination to flow.

As such, our mental door receives a knock when we sit down to write.

This is a new character, a new story idea. It’s something shiny and new. Wait a minute! The previous idea isn’t complete yet! What do we do?

This is where pundits in the field differ in opinions and where your true journey gains its first hurdle. Listen to your fellow writers, but also listen to yourself, as it’s your journey, not theirs.

From my experience, this point gives you choices. These choices base themselves on what works best for you, the writer. I’m going to touch on three, but it covers a whole spectrum between the three. You’re first choice is to grab that clean piece of paper, or open a new document in the word processor, and begin writing that new idea. Keep going until the idea won’t flow any more. A second choice is to write the idea’s concepts and basics out, but continue writing the first idea until you complete it. The final choice is to ignore the new idea entirely, maintaining just one writing project at a time.

Each choice offers their positives and negatives. It’s why I said this is the first hurdle. Within your mind, you know which works best for you and your personal organization. Let’s look at each one a little bit.
Choice one has us just begin the new idea. Let’s look at a few concepts about this. We don’t lose the idea. The idea rolls from the pen or fingers, like a shiny new car off the lot of a dealership. We write new words. If each session, we constantly start new ideas, the old ideas start to tarnish, to fester, and they may never reach completed status. Characters from the other ideas will look hurt, may not want to work with you and your Muse. However, this is just my thoughts, and you may be different. Complete the idea each session, this doesn’t become problematic.

Choice two offers a middle of the road solution. Here’s a few concepts to consider for this choice. Again, we don’t lose the idea. You can develop the idea better, as you have concepts and characters. List the research of what you want to accomplish. It may lead to a stronger piece, one better than the first idea. It may not. From your concept sketch, you may find that the idea is crap and trash it. It might need more time to develop until you feel ready for it, or until more details come to you.

Choice three hits the opposite extreme, with completely ignoring the idea. It allows you to concentrate on the idea that you’ve already started. The present characters work well with you and your writing. You’ve lost the new shiny idea. It may never come back to your mind. If you run into a wall with the present writing, you can’t switch to the idea you chose to leave behind. It’s your choice on how to proceed.
No one can say that any one choice is right.

I know writers that have four drawer legal sized filing cabinets filled with story ideas. Others have spiral notebooks with quick jotted notes about this concept, or that character, or overheard dialogue that sparked something and encouraged their Muse. Still others, many started files on their computer. Personally, I have a little of all three, with files of ideas, many computer files, as well as quick jotted notes.

Your personal organization will dictate your best approach to new ideas. For those that already write, I'd love to hear what your approach is.


  1. I tend to let ideas simmer in my subconscious so don't write them down until I actually start working on them. I know that I'll never lack for ideas, so I don't worry about them "disappearing" if I don't write them down. In the moment that I need one a good one comes.

  2. I have to form the idea by writing it. Keywords to get me started, then write possible summaries of it until something clicks. If I were to let the idea simmer, it would stay at simmer and never go anywhere.