This will be the first in a series of articles based on my own writing process in the hope that you will get ideas on how to come up with ideas, structure them and then turn them into a written work. I have been terribly creative and given the series the title of the “writing process”. This first post will be on ideas and how to use them. I will not be discussing sources of inspiration in this post but I have covered them elsewhere, the link to which is here. I’ve used different approaches and you’ll just have to decide what works for you.
Think about it
When you have an idea, one that seems really great and fantastic and exhilerates you, calm yourself. Don’t get swept away in a tide of emotion. Don’t commit to paper. Just think about it. Leave it fester. Start thinking about the ways it could work. Jumping into something too quickly can leave plot holes or unfinished plans. Other times you act too soon and realise later on that your heart isn’t really in what you’re writing or you haven’t thought out the characters properly.
Thinking about it helps. Patrick Ness gives the advice that you should have a main idea and the only way to know if it’s good or not is if other ideas stick to it. Think of it like hanging flags on a pole. The pole is the big idea and the flags are the smaller ones that make it unique. As per usual, I’ll turn to Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series as an example. The main idea here is the teenage detective. Then the flags are his relationships, his uncle, Yassen, the gadgets, the villains etc. (it’s ok if you’ve never read the books, it’s the same for any other book) Harry Potter’s main idea is a young magician and a wizarding school and Lord Voldemort. The smaller ones are the spells, the potions and every other wonderful thing J.K. Rowling managed to pack into those books.
Thinking about it helps.
Write it down
This is a no brainer. Write your ideas down. It is going to happen at some stage no matter what. It is more reliable than your memory because you won’t forget anything. The one downside to it is that if you write down every idea you have you might get swamped and having reams of ideas and possible plots right in front of you can affect your ability to differentiate the good from the bad. This is why I prefer to think about it first before commiting anything to paper.
And when I say paper, I mean paper. Don’t write your intial ideas on a laptop. By all means back them up on a laptop if you think they will be safer but laptops don’t give you the same freedom to jot down and play with ideas that a pen and paper does.
Write the first chapter
Between my third and fourth or fourth and fifth manuscripts, I am not quite sure which, I came up with a lot of different ideas. I thought of books for Young Adult and Middle Grade, comedies, horrors, thrillers etc. I was not sure if any of them were good so what I did was write the first chapter of an idea. For instance, I wrote something where the first chapter opened with paintballing friends and corrupt cops. I wrote it, decided it would not work and that the overall idea I had in my head was no good either. I did this five or six times.
The benefit I found from it was that it painted a clearer picture in my head. I was able to differentiate between good ideas, bad ideas and ideas that were simply ugly. It also helped in learning how to write compelling opening chapters, something which is essential to any book, especially when writing for a younger audience.
Write any chapter
I have never done this but it stands to reason that if you can write the first chapter, you can write the third or the seventh or the twenty-first chapter. Usually when I try to think of an idea I pick the opening, a major point or a couple of major points in the middle and I have a good idea of how the book will end.
So perhaps you’ve got an idea of a scene and it comes in the middle of the book. Write it first. See how it turns out. It should give you an indication of what your book is about as well as providing other ideas to work with.
Just go for it
Write. Write like you have never written before. A lot of people do this. They just have a basic starting point and run with it. They have no idea where the story goes or what is going to happen. All they know is that there is a story there somewhere and they hope to find it along the way.
The obvious drawback to this is that it does not suit the creating of complex plots since various intricacies and nuances have not been laid out prior to writing. Then again, that can all be done after the first draft.
Until next time,