This week I have been urging my fellow writers to make use of our long days indoors to get some writing done. As a result, I started looking through some of my old writing classes and tips. I realized they might be useful for writers who are starting out, getting back in the groove or looking for help. Here are some thoughts on getting your ideas together if you want to start writing something.
When I was working in various television newsrooms, we usually began every morning with a pitch session. In some places only the managers met, but in others, everyone had to pitch a story idea. We didn’t use every idea on that day, but we would keep a list for future reference, or get someone started researching the story in case we wanted to do it later. It’s good to always have ideas for the future and writers can do this too.
At home with your spouse or your kids, you might try a game of "Story Idea." What would make a good story? It doesn't have to be well thought out, but try going around the dinner table and ask everyone if they were going to write a story, what would it be about?
Who would be the characters?
Why is this happening
Where would the event take place?
What might be some of the complications that might hound your hero or heroine?
What would make them act and what would they do?
Finally, what would be the ending?
You can even do this while talking on the phone. You can always toss ideas back and forth for a story at any time. You can also do it on your own and simply start writing down the plot for a story or even a character sketch for the type of character you would like to write in your next book. It doesn't even need to be a project you might do now. Store those ideas away for the future. In the newsroom we couldn't always get to every story that came up in the meetings, but often, if there was an idea we really liked, we kept it in a "futures" file we could go to when we were stumped for ideas.
You can always put it in a "research" file if it needs more research and that can be another project for a day when you find yourself with nothing to do.
What do you do with those extra story ideas you might not want to use right now? Well, for starters, don’t lose sight of them. Just as we did in our story meetings, just because you don’t make an idea your next project, you can always use it for a later book.
There are more ways than ever to keep track of your ideas, and that way you’re never at a loss for a story to work on during those dry periods or if a possibility for a submission arises.
The best way to keep track is simple:
WRITE THEM DOWN SOMEWHERE
There are lots of ways to do that and it has never been easier to keep your ideas handy.
- Put them in your phone or on your portable tablet or computer. I use the memo function on my I-phone to write down my ideas if I don’t have anything else around. It can be as simple as a few words (if you think you’ll remember the whole idea later). Include as much information as you need to develop it later.
- Email it to yourself. I do that with my phone too. There have been times when I suddenly have an idea for a scene and all I have to use is my phone. I’ll go into the email function on my phone, write up the idea and then email it to myself. I’ve sometimes written partial scenes that way.
- Keep a notebook. That’s an old low-tech solution, but one I have always recommended. I always keep a notebook with me where I can write down random ideas. Remember what I said about listening to people in the coffee shop? Well, it doesn’t do you any good to eavesdrop if you’re going to forget those ideas as soon as you get home, so if I hear an interesting tidbit of information, I write it down.
- Keep a file. Again, I can keep a file of ideas on my cell phone or print up a story I see online and put it into a physical file for later. Remember all those wire stories I told you I used to keep? I still have a good many of them I can refer back to when I want to look for an idea. And your file doesn’t need to be physically in a drawer like my old ones. Save the file on your computer and put your stories into an electronic file.
I always say story ideas are always around us. Try them, save them, use them. They can get you through some slow days!