When I'm feeling blue, I don't want to write. I don't want to do anything writing related, either. I just want to sit on the couch, eat peppermint patties and caramels, take a nap, then sip coffee and watch the Food Network.
I’m blessed to have an overactive imagination. Yes, blessed! Ideas clang and roll around in my brain all the time. Most of them are tiny snippets, not worth exploring, but some burrow in and won’t leave me alone.
About six years ago, I learned something extremely valuable. If I don’t give my imagination the freedom to go wild, the ideas trickle. My brain has shut down after too many “not nows.” There is nothing worse than wanting to write a new book but having no idea in mind. That’s why I always have the next story brewing in my head while I’m actively writing the current one.
1. Get an idea. It might be the teeniest thing. WRITE IT DOWN! I keep an idea journal, but in a pinch, I type it into the Notes section of my phone.
2. Ask questions about the idea. Ask more questions. Realize the problems with it. Find ways to work around the problems. Let it grow.
3. I DO NOT WRITE the beginning of the story for the new idea. Many writers easily switch between writing projects. I often work on three books at once, but they’re at different stages. I don’t write two books at the same time. If I started writing the new story, I wouldn’t finish the current one. My first rule of thumb is to always finish one book before writing another.
4. If the idea is worth developing into a book, I figure out basic plot points. I also mentally picture the characters and find photos on Pinterest of celebrities they may look like.
5. I bring a notebook or a stack of used printer paper and drive somewhere to jot notes. For some weird reason, I do my best plotting when I’m watching birds, sitting in a coffee shop, or hanging out at a park. I need at least fifteen minutes, and I like to zone out and just feel the possibilities.
6. Struggling with plot issues? I click on the Voice Recorder function of my phone, and I talk through whatever is bothering me. It’s amazing how many dead-ends get bulldozed this way.
7. When in doubt, I get help. If I love a story idea and I just can’t figure out how to work through a major plot problem, I ask a writer friend for advice. Even my husband solved a huge plot problem for me recently, and it took him all of three seconds to do!
8. Write a brief summary of the story. I’m talking three sentences. This will help you keep the overall story in mind as you continue to expand the idea.
Now that my brain percolates a new story as I’m writing a different one, I never run out of ideas. I’m also excited to work on the new story when I finish a book. My brain never shuts down anymore, because I’ve found a system to develop ideas as they come. Works for me! What works for you?
How do you deal with ideas? I’d love to hear!
Have a terrific weekend!