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Idea Generation: The Rules and Regs for Collecting Ideas


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My last post was about Setting Goals in 2022, and one of the things that I wrote about was the Storystorm idea generation challenge. I have since had a question about how Storystorm works. Are the ideas fairly complete? Or are they something I will have to flesh out later? 

In all reality, I try not to set too many rules. I look for challenges like Storystorm that are fairly open to interpretation. Some of my ideas are outlines with a character, setting, story problem, and multiple attempts to solve that problem. The science fiction novel for which I am currently writing Act 3 came to me that way. I knew how the story opened. I had my setting and my story problem. I just had to get to know my characters to know how they would attack that problem. 

Other times I come up with a title. This often happens when I misread something. Since I’m dyslexic, a preview scrolling by can throw me. So can fancy fonts which may be beautiful but can also be tricky to read. I’ll do a double take and realize that it says The Apostle Paul and not The Opossum Paul. That isn’t even close to a complete idea but I still think The Opossum Paul could be a hilarious story. 

In Melanie Faith’s Graphic Novel Creation class, we are working on characters. My notion has blossomed into an idea for single panel comics. The ideas for these tend to be one line long. Since I know who the primary character is, I only need this one line of text to bring to mind a panel. 

Other times my idea revolves around a place or person. I write a lot of nonfiction so a simple note to find out about Pickle Springs or Zerubbabel is enough to start my research. 

So what do you need? Complete ideas or fragments? 

I don’t know. You’re going to have to tell me. It is all going to depend on how you work and what you are comfortable with. 

One of my writing friends admitted to me that she works with one idea at a time. She finishes a novel and then goes after her next idea, weaving together bits of this and that before she has a functioning whole. For her to declare something an idea, it has to be fairly complete. 

I have so many ideas! Way too many to pursue them all. When I don’t write them down, I catch myself running through that day’s ideas. “I need to remember that awesome abandoned church photo, the idea about the Muse, and . . . and . . . what was the guy’s name who invented—"  

It is just a lot easier if I write them down. Then I can let go and move on to what I’m supposed to be working on that day. And, if this catch and release program doesn’t work and an idea keeps popping into my head, I know it is one that I need to work on as soon as possible. 

Writing down messy bits and pieces works for me. You may need to wait until you’ve fleshed something out before you feel honest about calling it an idea. As always, the important thing is to find a method that works for you. 

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on February 6, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins February 6, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins February 6, 2022). 

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