Monday, December 18, 2023

From idea to story, an open book blog hop post


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Describe your steps for moving from a story idea to a finished story.


Ideas are never my problem. I have several a day. But some of them will never be anything more than a passing fancy, a clever quip, a "what if?" 

I'm sure I've lost some ideas that could've become something because the idea came at an inconvenient moment (while cooking, in the middle of a work meeting, during the night) and I didn't pin it down, but I don't worry too much over those because I'll have other ideas. 

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Some ideas are special though. You have a little thought and it persists. It keeps coming back around and poking you in the brain. Like "hey, hey, hey." 

The initial inspiration for my Menopausal Superhero series was like that. It just kept flitting back into my thoughts, like some part of brain had been noodling on it all this time, even though I was in the middle of writing a completely different novel at the time.

Getting from idea to a story takes a lot of forms for me. Since I've been under contract for a novel series these past few years, I don't always have the freedom to follow a new idea right at the moment I have it--there are deadlines, after all. 

So if I really like the idea, I try to pin it down so I can come back to it later--send myself a text, keep a voice memo, use the notes app on my phone to capture a paragraph or two. Mostly, this works for me and I'm able to pick up the idea at a later time, months or even years later. I do come back and pick those up a lot of the time, but not always.

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Sometimes, though, I'm too distracted by the idea to focus elsewhere. It's TOO persistent. In those cases, I've been known to give in, and follow the new idea through a few pages or even a whole draft (if it's an idea that is poem, article, or short-story sized, as opposed to book-sized. That's probably not good for finishing the novel--I have that ADD tendency to want to follow the "new shiny" all the time, and I have to discipline myself to keep my focus in one place long enough to finish. But, it's a balance and mostly I do okay at finding it. 

There is sometimes a talking phase for me. My husband is my sounding board for a lot of these. 

We'll be driving or out walking somewhere and I'll say, "I have an idea." 

He'll say, "What's it going to cost us?" 

I think he's relieved when my idea is for a story I want to write and not for a room I want to remodel. He always has some good questions, and his initial response helps me figure out if the idea might appeal to readers or not. 

Once I've picked an idea to focus on though, I'm pretty dogged. Years of managing my "squirrel brain" has taught me how to make myself zero in and commit. 

I'm not a planner in my writing though. On that planner to pantser spectrum of writing, I'm dangerously close to being out in public without any pants. So, to my writer friends who are outliners, my process looks like I'm just flailing around, I'm sure. 

It works for me though. 

While I'm focused on a particular project, I have a rule that I have to touch it every day, even if it's just to re-read and think about it for a while. That keeps me moving steadily forward, and lets my subconscious work on it while I'm handle the mundanities of life. I write every day; I make steady progress; eventually, I get there. 

I have a regular critique group and I rely on their input to let me know when I'm done--when the story on the page works for the reader. Then, I start the publication cycle--research, submission, revision (sometimes), rinse and repeat until successful. 

So far, all my work is traditionally published, in that I submit it to a publisher who accepts it or doesn't and the process follows their procedures from there, but I do have plans for some all-indie projects in the future and I'm looking forward to figuring all that out. 

How about you? What decides which of your ideas makes it to fruition? Do you have a backlog you hope to get to someday? I'd love to hear about in the comments. 

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  1. I don't take many days off from writing. But like you, those days are great for my brain to mull over what I've always written.

    1. I write every day…some days more productively than others.

  2. My brain hops about all over the place, with several stories "on-the-go" at once. Every now and then, I have to take a break.

    1. If I follow my brain every time it tries to hop, I never finish anything.

  3. I often take days off from writing, as to me it's just a hobby. I hate it when I think of a good idea for a story and then forget it before I can write it down.