tusenaravensamhet asked: I am a very big fan of your blog, as many others probably are. The idea is very simple, really, but I find it incredibly helpful. Now I have a problem regarding ideas and how to write them out. I can be a fountain of ideas but when to write them down, I find myself unable to do so. Do you have any tips on how to make ideas into words or should I just keep on trying?
Well, thanks! We try to keep things relatively helpful ‘round these parts. In keeping with this theme, we’re going to sally forth and answer your question.
Writing is really only writing when the writing happens. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this means that ideas are great, but they only become stories once they’re told, meaning, down on paper (or orally to friends/family or whomever, verbal storytelling counts!). Therefore, the inability to get these ideas into actual, you know, writing, is probably rather consternating. Luckily, there are things you can do.
- Ditch the filter. Writers tend to auto-edit. We’ll think of an idea and start to write it and then say “no no no that’s stupid.” Then we delete it. Getting into the habit of calling your ideas silly right out of the starting gate is the first way to stop ideas from flowing. If you let the idea tap continue to flow uninhibited, then more ideas will begin to appear on paper. If you get in the habit of eliminating ideas before they’re on paper, you’ll probably miss something. Ditching the filter also comes with the confidence that you will edit later on.
- Don’t feel constrained by conventional forms of writing. If you’re a poet, don’t feel a need to say “I want to write a poem about grocery shopping, I shall begin my first line of verse now!” Why not spend some time thinking about all of your feelings associated with grocery shopping, all of the details that you think are interesting/clever/beautiful/whatever, and then once you think you’ve got a substantial body of images and feelings, work it into a poem? Similarly, if you’re writing prose, don’t worry about throwing scenes together right away. That will happen eventually. You might want to…
- Try Freewriting. Once you’ve set one of your ideas on paper (maybe only as a name; “Story About Fish” will work just fine), then write just anything down. Any direction you can see this fish story headed, set it on paper. If one lead appears promising, pursue it. If a lead ends up going down a place you don’t like, go back and try again, or scrap the lead altogether and go someplace else. At this stage of the game, you have very little going for your idea, so eliminating large sections of it is far from tragic. Basically…
- Let ideas fail. Nothing at this point in time is AIG (too big to fail). If something just isn’t going to hold up, let it go. As the adage goes, “murder your darlings.” Something might seem like a fun idea, but if everything else in your story is going one way and that other idea is going another way, you might have to cut it. Sorry.
- Stop caring about logistics. If there is something that takes place in your story that doesn’t make sense for whatever reason, don’t worry about it yet. If something feels right, go for it. Fix your logistical problems later. Don’t worry about exactly how they’re going to get out of jail, just write “JAILBREAK SCENE” in big letters and worry about it later. Write large sections of your story with pieces missing. Follow what you have now. If you have energy, seize it.
- Find a routine. If there’s something that tends to work for you, work on it. If you feel comfortable starting with your antagonist, start there. I personally start with a story’s setting before I have any characters, because that’s what I’m most comfortable writing. If there’s something that you feel that you can write confidently, work there. The other bits can get figured out later.
The real meat and potatoes with getting your ideas out on paper is experimentation. Experiment with the elements of your story and experiment with the ways that you get them on the page. There are no hard and fast rules in writing, these techniques (plus the fun things in the ‘further reading’ section) are just a few suggestions. Find something that works. When that fails, try something else. Adapt, be flexible, and have fun.
- Too Many Ideas Syndrome
- Breaking Down the Wall
- Ideas Worth Your Time
- Organizing Ideas
- Ideas as Strong/Weak instead of Good/Bad
Thanks for your question! If you have any curiosities about writing, always feel free to use our ask box!