In the beginning, an idea for a story or a novel can be a fragile thing that needs to be protected. You might want to let that idea roll around in your mind, let it grow over a period of days, weeks, months, or even years. You may want to keep this idea to yourself until it has fully developed. You may want to jot down a few notes, maybe create a few character bios, and maybe even a rough, one-page outline. And then, once you’ve really developed this idea and love it, you may want to share it with others.

Now, to be honest, I break this rule all the time. When I get a new idea, my favorite sounding board is my wife. Sometimes I tell her about my idea for a story too early. The idea sounds awesome in my mind, but when I start trying to describe it to her, then it begins to sound . . . well, kind of stupid.

There can be a few reasons for this. One, and the simplest answer, is that it was a stupid idea to begin with and I didn’t realize it until I spoke it aloud. We all need to remember that not every idea that pops into our minds is literary genius. Another reason could be that we are talking about the idea too soon before giving it a chance to grow in our minds, maybe rushing the idea into existence. Rushing an idea can be bad because it could’ve been a good idea if we had just given it more time to develop, and then maybe we give up on that idea too soon.

So, you’ve got an idea. You let it grow for a while. It’s an idea you can’t get out of your mind even though you’re working on other projects. It might be time to do what I like to call “talking it out.” This may sound a little contradictive because I just recommended protecting your ideas a few seconds ago, but at this stage it helps (it helps me anyway) to talk an idea out if I’m stuck on a few plot points.

And again, I turn to my wife (She loves it, I swear!). Sometimes just the act of talking a few things out can reveal problems in the story or spark new ideas.

One last thing: you might tell someone about your story idea (or talk to a few people), and they don’t really like it. But even after negative feedback, you still can’t get the idea out of your mind – then maybe that idea is still worth pursuing. There’s a chance that you’re not getting what you see in your mind explained clearly enough. Or maybe there are elements of the story that are good (like the characters or the ending,) but the story just needs more work. Above all else, if you believe in your story idea, it still may be worth pursuing and working on. Sometimes just the act of beginning an outline and writing down your ideas can be very helpful. There’s something magical that happens when you put pen to paper and just begin writing. Often, as I’m working on a simple outline, the ideas begin to flow and before I know it I’ve got seven or eight pages of different scenes written as the story begins to come alive and the characters begin to speak to me.

But whether you mull the idea around in your mind for a while, or if you start jotting notes down and forming an outline, or if you talk it out with someone, the time will eventually come when it’s time to start that first draft. I’ll talk about tackling that first draft in upcoming posts.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this helps a little. Please feel free to comment if you want to.

One thought on “WRITING TIPS: JANUARY 2018

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