Like many writers, I get lots of ideas for what to write next. Until recently, I was very likely to immediately pounce on said notion, wrestle it to the ground, shove it in to a sack and rush back home to devour it – or ‘write’, as it’s more commonly known. This was often despite the fact that I was already in the middle of writing something else. You may well have had similar experiences. The reasons for this impulsive behaviour are two-fold.
The one that got away . . .
Firstly, there is the irrational belief that the fine-looking piece of story-related produce will somehow rot, die or disappear if you don’t immediately throw it in to a pot and start cooking up a storm in the fiction kitchen (a literal ‘potboiler’. Ahem).
I’ll have what she’s having . . .
Secondly, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, the meal being eaten by the woman at the table next to you in the restaurant always looks tastier than yours. There’s a lovely, juicy, tender slice of narrative waiting just over there and your dinner suddenly looks and tastes like gruel in comparison. Once the initial excitement of choosing all of those fresh and tasty ingredients fades away, you are left with the hard work of actually preparing the dish – only to find that you actually have several ingredients missing.
At the risk of stretching the culinary metaphor to breaking point, this is a recipe for disaster. It was only after many abandoned projects, that I realised a new approach was required.
Check your ingredients
Before you even begin to prepare your meal you need to make sure you have everything you need to be able to produce a complete and satisfying dish. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have the entire plot mapped out before you begin, but it does mean that you should have a strong protagonist or drive to the narrative. Is there enough meat to the story? Will there be enough colour and variety in your characters? Enough to sustain the reader until the end?
Ok. Think you’re ready? Maybe. Maybe not . . .
Make sure it’s cooked properly
It’s all very well throwing all of the right stuff in to a bowl and whipping up your soufflé mix, but if you don’t allow the idea enough time to cook, you will still end up with a collapsed piece of prose and no finished project.
I find that it works best to grab the idea, yes, but don’t immediately begin to write it in full. Simply make a note of it – maybe a few bullet points to make sure you don’t lose it – and then put it away for a few days. Maybe a week, maybe longer. That doesn’t mean that you completely forget about it – far from it.
The brilliance of your fleeting mind . . .
I have found that, once released from the burden of having to capture this mercurial, in-articulated idea, I can allow my mind time to think about all of its strengths, weaknesses and possibilities. Every time I have approached a new idea in this way, I have at least finished a draft of the story, or decided to scrap the idea before I even begin writing.
So next time you have that flash of inspiration, take some time to prepare and cook the meal you know that both you and your reader deserve.
Bon A petit!
How do you make sure that you fully develop your story ideas?
This was my 3rd post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and even some songs with audio recordings. Tomorrow’s post – D is for Death and Loss. A monologue with audio.