As a younger writer I carried a small notebook and a pen in my back pocket everywhere I went. It probably drove my poor mom nuts, since I was constantly forgetting to take the pen out of my pocket. I know I ruined at least one pair of shorts by sending them through the wash with the pen still in the pocket. Turns out black gel-pen ink is impossible to get out of khaki. Oops
Come to think of it, this might be why I was eventually assigned laundry duty.
I would drag that notebook out at the slightest hint of an idea and scribble it down, often telling friends and family “Hang on, just a minute! I have to write this down!” They were quite patient, as a minute usually turned into five, and–if someone didn’t pull me back to reality–those five minutes turned into a full fifteen or twenty.
Once at a family gathering, I was busy scribbling in the notebook when a relative asked, “Where do you get all these ideas?”
“Everywhere,” I said. And it’s true. I’ve gotten ideas everywhere, from a snippet of overheard conversation (yeah, I’m an eavesdropper) to a colorfully-clad hipster dude passing me on the bike path. Sometimes dreams connect the dots for me, though I’ve never gotten a full-fledged story idea from a dream, just ideas on how to tweak things. TV shows and movies are often sources of inspiration, as is Pinterest. Oddly enough I seldom get ideas from books, though if I finish a really good book, it makes me excited to dive back into writing and editing my own stuff.
I’ve noticed ideas, especially new ones, seem to come and go in spurts. Currently, I’m going through a dry spell on new ideas–which is fine, because I already have way too many ideas. I’ll never get them all written–but the ideas for sequels to my urban fantasy are flooding in, so much so that I have no idea how to incorporate them all.
And then there’s that–how to sort through the ideas and pick which ones to work on. I know I’ll never have the time in my life to write all my ideas. So I tend to mash ideas together a lot–the Underworld Mythos series was born from two separate trilogies that were similar, so I threw them together. The final product isn’t going to look like either one of those trilogies, but I like to think I made it better. I also pick the ones that I’m most excited about, otherwise I know I’ll never have enough steam to get through the entire thing. And sometimes, I’m pleased to find my ideas are only sustainable for a short story or a novella. (Though sometimes short story ideas surprise me and turn into a whole series.)
So…there’s a short little ramble on what ideas look like for me. What about you? How do you get ideas, and how do you pick which ones to work on?