More writing tips: on inspiration management

Most of the writers
and artists I talk to have a million ideas. In my experience, we all
have way more ideas than time and energy to write them. I personally
curate these ideas like they’re some kind of sapling hoard and since
people seemed to enjoy my
previous little guide on getting actual text on paper
, here’s
some suggestions on how you could do that.

Jot them down

Not sure if it’s
like this with everyone, but I get a lot of friggin ideas, and they
get IN THE WAY. It’s like those fat flies that crawl into your house
and occasionally buzz by to bug you. It’s frankly impossible to
concentrate while one is flying around, so I try to write them down
fairly fast. That way at least, they’re quiet for a while and don’t
clutter up your brain while you’re trying to concentrate on something
else.
You can write these down pretty much everywhere. Mine show up
in Skype messages, in Evernote, in notes on my phone, in the document
on my laptop helpfully called ‘Ideas’, whatever I have handy.
That way, they’re nice and ready, waiting for you when you have time and energy to do something with them.

Perform triage

Look, not every
idea you get is gonna be great. Or even workable. It’s ok.
That’s
why we have more.

Every news room in the world has a meeting or
list where they just put down everything that came in that day, from
broken bones and idiotic politician gaffes all the way to major wars
or epidemics. And then they decide which to put their limited
resources into. They figure out the stories that get full front page
coverage, they decide which ones get a little blurb and which would
look better as a graph or a video.
When working with your own
ideas, you can do pretty much the same thing.
You find the right
format for each idea.

Archive the useless
ones

You know the ones.
Seems like a great idea at three in the morning on a friday night,
but you look at it in the bright light of day some time later and
its… nyeeeeeeh. It happens.
Maybe not because they’re bad ideas,
per se, maybe they’re just not something you can do anything with.
Because the style, the genre, the fandom doesn’t fit. A court room
drama with ninjas or your favourite character as a caveman might
sound quirky or interesting, but if you can’t find a good story for
them, or don’t have the background knowledge to make them exciting,
they’re not of use to you. Onto the archive pile they go.

Put out the quick
ones

Some ideas have
more story in them than others.
If anyone has ever wondered why I
write so many au’s and one shots, this is the reason.
The ‘what
ifs’
can make for some really awesome worlds, but you probably don’t
have time to write a full trilogy for every one of them. Imagining my
favourite sports anime boys in the zombie apocalypse, for instance,
makes for some gripping scenes, but not much more than that. So I
just write those scenes and leave them out there for people’s
imagination.
The same thing happens with short scenarios. A cute
quirk, a single action can make for a nice scene or short story but,
at that point, nothing more.
Writing these out is a form of practice
that makes you feel good about yourself, because it’s fast, you
accomplished something and you have something to share. A lot of
people enjoy reading scenario’s and imagines, so you may also get
feedback to keep you motivated for the bigger stuff.

Store and
recuperate scenes

This one might be a
bit controversial.
Ideas come in many forms. Sometimes a paragraph
writes itself in your head. Sometimes you come upon an alternate
time line and spend the next six hours breathlessly chatting to
friends about the many depressing things that this entails. Sometimes
you just imagine your favourite character in a Napoleon era style
military uniform and really dig how he looks in it.
Many times, I
get more cinematic ideas. Basically: scenes. Someone walking through
a fantasy version of Alexanderplatz, a guy playing basketball with
his s/o, a particularly fluffy moment between lovers on a lazy Sunday
morning.
Here’s the thing with scenes: they are the building
blocks of stories, and you can slot them into different ones. If a
particular scene is very vivid in your brain, just write it out and
save it for later.
Some of my stories are basically scenes that I
strung together and wrote out to make them coherent. The plot
doesn’t always come first. Sometimes the scenes dictate the plot.
Also, I have absolutely written out scenes and later put them in another
story when I decided the original au was going nowhere. This is fine.
They’re your scenes and you can do with them as you wish. Pick out
the best parts, dust them off, rewrite for the new reality and your
new story quickly gets some more substance.

Pat attention to
the strong ones

You can guide
inspiration, but only so far.
The more I write fiction, the more I believe that a lot of the themes and scenes that pop up are
basically things I myself am dealing with.
The strongest ideas
are the ones that resonate the most with you personally.

We write
about lovers because we want affection, we write angst because one
way or another, this gives us catharsis. We write adventures because
part of us wants to see the world, preferably without actually coming
out of the couch.
We write because we want to imagine these things
happening. As writers, we want to get lost in this scenario, and we
want to take readers with us.
So pay attention to the strongest
ideas.
These are the ones that keep popping up long after you’ve
already made notes for them, the themes and storylines that show up
in a million different ways in a dozen different character
configurations.
They’re the ones that are, possibly on some
subconscious level, the most important to you.
And if my personal
experience is anything to go by, they’re the ones that make for the
best stories.

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