Monday, September 24, 2007

The Idea Box

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a box where you could reach your hand in to retreive a wonderful idea for a book? One that called to you and inspired you so much that you just couldn't stop writing for days straight?

*pulls head from the clouds*

About a year or so ago I thought of a book title. Just a title, that's it. I but it in my notebook of things to ponder later, then I forgot about it. Well this book I've been "trying" to work on just ain't cuttin' it. So guess what pops in to my mind? That title. Then a bit about the opening situation, even the first few paragraphs. So I may go for it. Either it will turn into something, or maybe get back on the book I had INTENDED to work on.

So how do your ideas appear? A character? Plot? Title? Sentence? Climax? Backstory? Then what do you do with that tiny tidbit? What are your steps for plotting, or just diving into the story?


Paty Jager said...

My ideas come from things I see or read usually. Though the Petticoat books have come from each other.

The first one I'd given a glimpse of a character trying hard to catch the eye of a woman and I left a dangler that needed closure. Those two items worked around in my head and I came up with the premise for Outlaw in Petticoats. Then since I was giving the titles an occupation that was usually a man's I came up with Miner in Petticoat's for the third book and used one of the Halsey brothers traits from the other books to come up with a premise that would put him at odds with a woman miner. And thinking about scenes, plot points and such for this, I came up with an awesome idea for the fourth book, Doctor in Petticoats. I'm not saying any more, because it will give a way a major turning point in the third book! LOL And the fifth book, I have a title, but I'm hoping something will spin off from the fourth book.

As for other books, I usually see something that happened in history or, like the steam boats up the Columbia, dig into the information and come up with characters to go with the historical information I want to impart on the reader.

As for the spirit books. I've always felt a kinship to the Nez Perce having grown up in their beloved valley. So bringing their life to and their honor to others was my focus on this trilogy.

I've been known to jump back and forth on books, so I know how you feel and know you are just trying to jump start the creative flow. Good luck and I look forward to hearing how things are going!

Alice Sharpe said...

Lisa -- I hope this book just unfolds for you, and becomes what Eli calls a gimme book. Or, as Paty said, provides the jump start for your other work.

I bet I've been asked this question more than any other. Where do ideas come from? And the answer is the same for me as it is for you and I best most writers. Ideas come from...everywhere. Right? From a woman's picture, from a painting, from a song, from a piece of conversation, a newspaper article, your son's girlfriend's sister's husband's battle with the tax guys....everywhere.
Writers can't go to the store and buy tubes of words. And even if we created our own paper it wouldn't help much because we deal in a very elusive medium. Ideas. Shadows. Tricks of light.

Good luck, I'll be sending positive vibes your way...


Barbara said...

I've heard writers say the fans often come up to them and say, "I've got the best idea for a story, and I'll give it to you if you'll just write the book." Has anyone ever taken up a fan's offer of his/her idea? Did it work? Ideas seem to come cheap compared to the labor of writing a novel, and maybe ideas can only be truly developed by the person who has them. Anyway, good luck to you, Lisa. I hope this new idea will grow itself under your hands!

Piper Lee said...

Yes Lisa, it would be nice to have an idea that inspired and called so that I could write for days straight. I've even had this experience many times.

My biggest problem is the whole writing for days part. I don't have enough private/quiet time to write for days. Jeez, I wish!

I'm hoping, someday, when my kids are grown and gone that I'll have more days to myself and that the DH will have someplace he can be in the house that's FAR AWAY from me!!! (Well, when I'm writing, anyway.)

Like Alice said, ideas come from everywhere.

I've had dreams that are so vivid that I'd like to write a story from them sometimes and I've written them down so I can remember them and maybe come back to them someday. Hmm... do I really want people to know what's in my sub-conscious mind though? Scary!!

That "tiny tidbit" you talked about usually gets written/scribbled into my ideas notebook and set aside until I can come back to it later.

I used to just dive right into the story and then I'd get totally stuck because I'd not have developed my characters enough. I didn't know them well enough yet to write about their lives.

Now I've learned that character development is essential for me to do first in order to write. I have to know everything my hero and heroine would do in every situation. I want to know the way they think and feel about life. This has helped me tremendously. And backstory, I guess backstory is part of finding out who my characters are too.

Once I know my characters inside and out the other things like plot just seem to start falling into place.

So yeah, for me it's been a real smack upside the head to finally figure this out. Now I'm getting somewhere and I feel so happy and excited.

I've also realized that it may take me years to finish this WIP, but I don't care anymore. I've let go of the pressure I was giving myself by comparing myself to everyone else around me and their productivity. My productivity is mine. I am responsible for it and I needed to be happy with my decision to do it all my way. :)

Good luck! I know you'll figure this all out and what works best for you will fall right into place.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

I don't have enough private/quiet time to write for days. Jeez, I wish!

I'm hoping, someday, when my kids are grown and gone that I'll have more days to myself

Piper, this is a common issue for writers with small kids/young families. It's why a lot of writers write early in the morning before their kids get up or late in the evening after their kids go to bed. If it's important enough to you, you find the time to make it work.

Allison Brennan has five kids like you and before she sold that's what she did - got up early, stayed up late, sacrificed TV and movies and her "routine" so she could write.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Fun post, Lisa. My answer is I have no idea. I think Alice said it best. I get ideas from everywhere. The book I'm working on now though is the only one that's come to me fully formed, beginning to end, and so crystal clear in my head I can't think of anything but writing it.

And alas, I have to send it off and wait to hear what my agent says before I go on. Waiting sucks.

Lori Barber said...

Lisa - Thanks for sharing a struggle I also suffer. I too am fickle, and have jumped back and forth between books I'm writing. Especially when I see someone doing something I can imagine one of my characters doing also. I would love to have a whole story written neatly on the walls of my pea-brain and all I had to do was tap my fingers across the kepboard, but it hasn't happen yet. I get snippets, but the big craters are missing and I have to go hiking to try and find them.

Many of my ideas come from a phrase or sometimes a single word spoken. My brain latches onto it, twists it and turns it, and I'm off in another world for a moment while the person is still speaking. A line in a song or movie or book often does the same thing. Sometimes I quietly observe people around me and start wrapping an imaginary scene around a particular thing I see them doing. I wonder what makes them tick and what would I find if I took a peek in their car, their purse of wallet or followed them home.

Genene said...

Yep, ideas come from everywhere. I have a box or two of several dozen ideas plus a cabinet of about a dozen stories in various stages of development that I'm seriously adding material to a folder for that story.

So far, I haven't had the clouds open up and dictate a story with crystal clarity. Some scenes, yes. The entire book, no. The fun is in digging around, getting to know the characters, writing a detailed plot :) and knowing there will be surprises as I write.

Good luck with your book, Lisa -- whichever one you decide to write. I finally got so fed up with having a bunch of partial stories that I just pick one and plow through to the end.

Lisa Pulliam said...

Sigh, I wish I could tell you all I found a crystal ball for stories. I guess we just have to be thankful that the ideas come when they do! Thanks for sharing about your ideas :)