Confessions of a Serial Writer

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hi. My name is Josie M (*Hi, Josie*) and I have ideas... lots of ideas. So many that I'm addicted to them.

My ideas' favorite pass time is popping up in the middle of executing another idea. I'll be typing away, fingers flying across the keyboard, word count climbing so fast I think I might be able to finish a rough draft in a matter of days (Ha!) and then... one stray thought will spark a tangent and a completely new story starts outlining itself in my head. If this has never happened to you (and don't pretend it hasn't) it's both exciting and highly annoying.

The phantom idea is a crafty thing - a truly brilliant military strategist that knows the precise moment it can strike with greatest efficiency. It searches out weak points such as the time it takes to delete a word and replace it with one where the letters aren't transposed or during the time I've set aside to stomp most of the "that" from my WIP. But the coup, that pervasive ambushing of the thought train that cuts all supply lines to the current WIP, comes when the phantom idea weasels its way into the natural flow of things. It's a sneak attack executed in perfect time so that I never see it coming.

While working on one story, I'll think "what if" _____ happened instead of _____, and that's all it takes. A phantom idea is born to fill those blanks. Like all newborns, this idea feels entitled to all of my attention and refuses to take a back seat to its predecessors. It interrupts me at all times of the day until I stop long enough to sketch out some semblance of the idea that may or may not be used elsewhere.

The partner to this sort of interruption is the "future" scene that's not due to be written yet. I'll write down what I believe is an insignificant piece of information, and suddenly, I'm getting ideas about how that piece of information is now vital in about eight chapters. There's nothing to do but write out a couple of paragraphs for that future chapter (Because these flares are never available for recall at will. They work on their timetable, not mine.) and wonder why my throw away character has developed his own voice, personality, friends, and emotional death scene. (Yes, I'm talking to you Nameless Guy in the 3rd Row who was supposed to bite it off screen and meant only to be referred to in the past tense after you died.)

I know this all sounds like I'm complaining, but I'm not. I'd never wish to be without new ideas (I might, however, alter their delivery schedule). Ideas are as essential to a writer as air and water.

For a long time, all of those stray thoughts and plot points were relegated to hot pink, neon yellow, and fiery orange Post-It notes stuck around my room. (World's ugliest wall paper. Seriously.) People gave me strange looks and tried to inch close enough to figure out what these odd slips of paper in chains that reached the floor could possibly mean. Most gave up when they realized it's easier to read Morse Code than my handwriting and backed out of my space just in case they were some arcane knowledge they were better off living without.

Now, I've found software that replaces all of those Post-Its (my walls were butter cream, who knew) and allows me to open "chapters" at will so I can file those random bursts of information for later use with little to know interruption in my concentration.

*brace for cheesy, cliched sports logic*

You know what they say "The best defense is a good offense."

4 Chiming In:

Terry Towery said...

I do the exact same thing. Ideas sometimes come at the damnedest times, like when I'm trying to finish a scene that's crucial to what I'm working on. I keep a notebook next to my computer to jot things down in, and keep one of those little pocket Moleskines on me at all times for the same reason.

Like you, I worry more about the ideas STOPPING someday. God, that would suck.

On a totally unrelated issue (and since I'm dutifully stopping by and leaving you comments and since you are my new writing hero), would you please zip over to the Public Query Slushpile and look at my query letter and let me know what you REALLY think of it? If you have time, I mean.

I've posted it EVERYWHERE and get such differing comments that I honestly don't know what it needs, if anything.

Thanks and let me know if I can return the favor.

Terry Towery said...

Thanks for your helpful comments on the query. I really appreciate you taking the time to check it out. I'll rework it some. I swear, it's harder than writing the novel ...

So, my lovely wife just asked me: "How do you think she pronounces Josin? It's such a cool name for a book cover."

I say Joe-sin.

She says Jaws-sin.

You say?

J.T. Wilbanks said...

Post-its cover nearly every inch of my room, the writing space anyway, the sleeping space has yet to be touched by anything other than the notebook I keep beside my bed.

My of the books I write are set in words parallel-though mostly unconnected- worlds. So if something happens in one story I start wondering about the chain reaction in the others. That's when the phantom ideas made their move. Slipperly little suckers.

Emma Michaels said...

I know exactly what you mean. Great post! Keep them coming!

Sincerely,
Emma

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