I hope your writing week has been filled with lots of words! If it hasn’t, never fear. I’m here to help. Here is post No. 4 in my Getting Started series and it’s all about methods for collecting your story ideas, and why it’s such a good idea to do so.
First, a question. Have you ever had a great idea for a scene, or a perfectly formed sentence come to you, only to forget to write it down and then have no clue what the idea was just a few hours later? Or perhaps you did write it down but now you can’t find which scrap of paper you scribbled the damn idea on? I’m guilty as charged. Both of these things have happened to me. But not for a while because I now have a system for collecting my ideas which I thought I’d share with you.
Where ideas fit into the writing process
Ideas are obviously crucial to writers if we want to keep moving our word count onwards. But there’s nothing that makes writing time run out faster than using that time to come up with an idea. Writing time is for writing. Ideas happen at all other, often inconvenient, times.
What I do when I have an idea
Here’s what I do. No matter where and when I have an idea, I write it down straight away. As you can see in the picture on the right, this might mean a scribble on a piece of notepaper, or a jotting on the back of a business card, whatever is available. I record my voice on my phone if I’m driving. I have a notebook in my handbag and another one by my bed. I’ve used parking tickets, envelopes, anything that can be written on. I’ve even contemplated using my children! (not really!)
I used to have a master ideas notebook on my desk. Every couple of days, I would gather up all the scraps and notes and re-write them into the master notebook on my desk. When it was my writing time, I would open up the master notebook, look at the list of ideas and pick whichever was most appealing at that time. Then I would write the idea into a scene. It meant that every time I sat down to write, I had something to work on. There was no procrastination, no waiting for the muse to show up, no scouring my mind for ideas.
Collecting ideas using Scrivener
I still do something similar, but I’ve gone techie! No master notebook; instead all of my ideas are popped straight into a Scrivener document. I basically create a new scene (or index card) for each new idea. On the index card, I jot down the idea. When I sit down to write, I run my eye over the index cards and choose which one I want to work with and then I begin to write it into a scene.
Sometimes I get ideas to flesh out an existing scene. I can do that in Scrivener too; Scrivener has a yellow notes section at the bottom right corner of each scene and so I just put my idea into there. Then I colour code the scene using Scrivener’s Label feature so I know it’s a scene I have to come back to and add more to.
A way to manage all of your writing ideas
Other writers use post-it notes on a chart; there are many other variations. It doesn’t matter so much what your method is. The important thing is:
- to keep having ideas
- to jot the ideas down when you have them
- to have a “master list” or someplace to collect all of the different ideas together
- to use that master list as your work plan; choose one idea from the list and sit down to write. Never worry about what order the ideas should be in or working in some kind of chronology. Work on whatever idea strikes you the most at the time.
Take action now – how will you get your ideas process working?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Getting Started series and that it’s helped you to make a start on your book. I believe it’s possible for anyone to write a book, they key thing is being inspired and staying motivated. I wanted this series to be one of the things that could inspire and motivate you to get your word count rolling and to start believing in yourself.
I’d love to know how you’re going, what progress you’ve made, what problems you’ve faced. What is your method for managing ideas? Do you have one? Have I encouraged you to develop one?
Most importantly, what’s the one thing you’re going to do right now to get your ideas process working? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.