Posts Tagged how to rescue an idea
Once upon a time, an idea caught your eye. You wanted to spend tens of thousands of words exploring it. Maybe you now can’t remember that, or the work you’ve done has left you weary and muddled.
If we’re talking about an idea that hasn’t been written yet, the first thing I’d do is make it new again. Recreate the gut ‘wow’.
OMG I must write this
I forget everything I’ve tried to do with the idea so far. I identify what grabbed me when the idea was fresh and new.
I also forget what anyone else has done with it, if they have. It’s easy to end up intimidated by other treatments, especially if I’m frustrated. I disregard all that and find what originally demanded I work with the idea.
I create a mood board. I write down random phrases, images, dialogue snatches that the idea suggests to me. As a shorthand I might note moments from other novels or movies, or snatches of music. Anything to capture the excitement I first felt.
Make it fun
The chances are, I’m disappointed with the pointless work I’ve done so far. Ideas will flow better if I’m not reproaching myself. After all, the original idea came unbidden.
As much as possible, I make this process feel like play. Instead of typing on a computer, I write by hand. I often use the gaps in expired appointments diaries, scribbling notes in a different-coloured pen, or using the pages upside down. This lets me brainstorm without judging the results. Or I go somewhere I don’t usually write – cafes, a bench overlooking a view, a Tube train.
If you use Pinterest you could also start a board for your idea, but I’m not disciplined enough and will probably get lost on a browsing spree.
Where to take the idea?
Once I’ve made the idea feel new again, I start thinking about where it can go.
I start new lists for
- characters and what they want
- dramatic events that fit with the idea.
Batteries recharged, I can now face looking at what others have done. I search on Amazon for books tagged with keywords. LibraryThing has even better tags – here’s the page for My Memories of a Future Life and its tags, which I can click on to find other books that tackle the same subjects. (I would do the same on Goodreads but haven’t been able to work out how.) I also use the website TV Tropes (here’s how I use it to fill gaps in my story outline). All these resources will suggest the kinds of events, characters, conflicts and quests I could have.
Importantly, they’ll also help me discard some possibilities. In the novel I’m working on at the moment, I get a heartsink feeling whenever I look over some of my notes. Clearly I’m not interested in that aspect of the characters’ world, even though other writers have tackled it. So I’ll play it down.
When is the idea strong enough?
Ultimately the idea is strong enough when I know:
- who the hero is and who or what might oppose them
- what people are trying to do
- how it will get worse
- what the setting is
- why it will take a long time to reach a resolution
- a rough structure – what kicks off the drama and various twists that will form the turning points. Sometimes I decide the end beforehand, or I let it find itself once I’m writing.
You might have covered all these bases but the story still seems limp. In that case, beef up the material you have -
- increase the stakes so that the goal matters more to the characters
- make it more difficult for them to get what they want
- turn up the conflict between the characters.
You don’t have to get it all instantly
This is important. Some ideas need to be shut away and wiped from your fretting brain. If the idea looks feeble, don’t junk it. Give it a sabbatical. The Venice Novel, which I talked about in the TV Tropes post, has worn out my ingenuity for now so I’ve put it in the deep compost department. Meanwhile another novel I thought I’d worried to shreds has – to my surprise – woken up with real substance. I’m working on the detailed outline. For now I’m calling it The Mountain Novel.
Partner it with another idea
Sometimes an idea doesn’t have enough juice on its own. But it’s still worth working it as far as you can. A few key elements in My Memories of a Future Life and Life Form 3 began as separate story ideas. Negligible on their own, they harmonised perfectly in a bigger work.
Don’t be afraid to restart
Sometimes we go wrong with an idea or get lost. If I’m in the early stages, trying to work out what to do with an idea, I return to the pure inspiration and look for a stronger angle. If I’ve already drafted and the story doesn’t seem to matter enough, I look at ways to turn up the heat. (Speaking of which, thanks for the distillation pic Brankomaster.)
Have you had to strengthen a story idea? What did you do? Share in the comments!
You can find tips for researching, outlining and what makes a robust story in my book, Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. Available on Kindle and in print. Book 2 is now under construction – sign up for my newsletter for details as soon as they become available. You also might like my multimedia course with Joanna Penn – more than 4 hours of audio and slides with an 86-page transcription – find it here.
Amazon, authors, brainstorming for novelists, brainstorming for writers, characters, concepts, conflict. The Venice Novel, deepen your story, developing a novel. how to develop a novel idea, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, having ideas, how to have better ideas, how to have ideas, how to have original ideas, how to rescue an idea, how to write a novel, ideas, inspiration, Library Thing, literature, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, Planning, plots, polishing, publishing, research, Rewriting, Roz Morris, self-publishing, The Mountain Novel. Life Form 3, unblocking, writer's block, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing routine
Sign up for my newsletter
- 'If you're a writer or are considering becoming a writer, buy Roz's Nail Your Novel and Stephen King's On Writing. Everything else is a waste of time and money.'
- 'Showed me where I was going wrong... without making me feel like an idiot'
- 'Made me want to drop everything and get back to the manuscript'
Rozmorriswriter [at] gmail [dot] com
Find me here too
- I'm a bookseller and was so impressed with this novel that I read it twice' 5 stars, My Memories of a Future Life ow.ly/mdb7f 59 minutes ago
- Thanks, Hollie! @BooksUndergrnd: My Memories of a Future Life at Victoria yesterday evening #booksontheunderground http://t.co/TffFloG0xj 1 hour ago
All content copyright Roz Morris 2009-2013 and may not be reproduced.
If you wish to REBLOG a post, that's very nice of you - please take no more than 10% of the piece and please link back to the full post here.
INTENSIVE MULTIMEDIA COURSE WITH ROZ MORRIS AND JOANNA PENN
What do you want to read about today?
It’s all here somewhereagents Amazon authors beginners beginnings books Character deepen your story entertainment fiction Fix and Finish With Confidence having ideas how to write a book how to write a novel ideas inspiration interview Kindle literary fiction literature music music for writing My Memories of a Future Life Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence novels Planning Plot polishing publishing revising Rewriting Roz Morris self-publishing The Undercover Soundtrack unblocking undercover soundtrack writer's block writing writing a novel - Nail Your Novel writing business writing life writing prompt writing routine writing to music
Type something. See what happens
- ‘Through the cold, lonely streets of NYC’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Terrence McCauley
- Are you ready to use self-publishing services? Post at Writers & Artists
- How not to bore the reader with trivial details – book excerpt at Jane Friedman
- ‘Belle & Sebastian are truly a band made for writers’ – Scott D Southard, The Undercover Soundtrack
- How to make a print book using Word – first of a series at Writers & Artists
Out and about
Alliance of Independent Authors Professional Member