Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Keeping Track Of Shiny New Ideas

If you're like me, whenever you're in the middle of doing something that requires all of your focus (say, revising your novel *cough*) that's when you get hit with a Shiny New Idea(!) I find if I don't do something with those ideas, right away, I lose the spark and can't always get it back.

What I do, is as soon as a SNI hits, I write it down. In as much detail as possible. I keep each shiny new idea in it's own notebook. Specifically, Mead Five Star 1 Subject Notebooks, like these:
(I am perhaps, a little obsessed with them.) I buy them in every color possible because I have synesthesia and the color of the notebook is important to me. Seriously. Like, my current SNI is in a dark blue notebook. I could never write it in say a red, or lime green one, because the story is most definitely not lime green. Which sounds crazy, but trust me when I say this all makes sense. Anyhoo.

I like to free write.

Generally, I start with the bio of my main character. Most of my ideas start with either a character or a "what if". My current SNI started with a "what if" about a boy. So I knew both the situation and the character.

I label a blank page CHARACTER(S) and scribble down everything I know about this character, and usually, just the act of doing this reveals more and more info about the character and the plot.

After that, I label a new blank page BASIC INFO and write out the basics of the plot starting with a logline, like: A boy does ________ and learns _______. Or whatever. Then I go into more detail. Again, just the act of putting down vague ideas makes them clearer and adds in more detail.

I never pressure myself about this. This is all fun. It's like cleaning out a closet. I try to take every single thought I have about this idea and just get it on paper so that later I can go through it and know what I was thinking, the vibe of the story, etc.

I think in scenes so once I have my character and basic situation (plot) I tend to have a jumble of visual images and emotions of things that happen in the story. I start a new page labeled - can you guess? Yep, SCENES and I try to write out everything I see and hear (my ideas tend to play out like movies in my head) about the scene. I then ask myself, what happened? What lead up to this moment? Why is this happening? What happens after this? I write out all the dialogue I "hear", even if it doesn't totally make sense, because I don't want to miss anything that just might be brilliant.

The best thing about this process is that it opens up my mind to more ideas about the story. I discover new characters, and events within the story world, and that keeps it brewing in the back of my mind while I'm working on what I'm supposed to be doing. I will usually come back several times to add thoughts, new character details, songs for a playlist, etc. It also gives me piece of mind that my story will still be there when I have the time to devote to it.

By the time I'm ready to work on that story, I usually have my main character's voice, all my key scenes and plot twists worked out.

Using a separate notebook for each idea gives me the added bonus of feeling productive. I get a rush when I look at my stack of ideas and know that I have some cool ideas that I'm excited about waiting for me. I don't feel lost, or overwhelmed because I've already done most of the work in just a few minutes of stolen minutes of free time each day.

What about you? Do you have any writing obsessions like my notebooks? What do you do with your Shiny New Ideas?


  1. That is some sick organizational loveliness you have there! I'm trying to become organized. Yup, trying.

  2. Wow - I'm in awe of your organizational skills. I get an idea and jot down the log line -- and that's it. I have one central notebook that's filled with these. I open my laptop and just start writing which is probably why revisions are taking FOREVER! :)

  3. LOL Organized is not a word I would ever use to describe myself! I just like notebooks and seeing all of my ideas as tangible things.

    You should see my notebooks, they're a hot mess of random thoughts about a someday book, but they are really helpful, and it's just easier for me to keep track of them, and rememeber what kind of vibe they had if they're in their own color-coded notebook!

  4. I love the idea of color coded! FATED seems purple to me. Or blue.

    I usually jot down thought in whatever notebook is closest at the time. It doesn't make it easy. I'll have to try this.

  5. I don't have as many shiny notebooks but I do have ONE notebook for ideas and I'll jot it down. But usually my novel ideas take longer to germinate and don't quite hit me to the point where I write down the idea. I find if it's powerful enough it'll keep bugging me! I do write down dialogue snippets and scene ideas the second they occur though!

  6. Daisy, that sounds about like me. I've even written down, in random notebooks, conversations I've had with people.

    I'd like to try Valerie's method though.

  7. I used to write ideas in whatever notebook was around but then I ended up with a bunch of notebooks with different parts of the same story idea and it was too hard to keep track of. I could never find what I was looking for.

    I like the Five Star because they have a pocket in the front so that if I scribble down an idea on a napkin somewhere I can keep it with everything else. And also, just because I'm weird, lol. I've always loved school supplies!


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