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Old 10-08-2010, 06:41 PM   #1
bthrowsnaill
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Should ideas develop or do you push at them?

I have a story idea floating around in my head. I am a little anxious to work on this story because it will be about a topic that greatly interests me. But the overall idea still feels like it's in a formative stage. I don't want to rush the idea, but at the same time I am not sure if a well developed idea is going to emerge from my subconscious, or whether I should start trying to write something and see what happens. I imagine that "full time" writers must have to write at times when their ideas haven't fully matured "organically". I've been thinking that that may be one thing that separates a "professional" writer from a part time writer: the ability to produce good stories "on demand". Any thoughts?
I have the luxury of not being on a writing timetable, so I tend to let ideas sit in my head like it's a giant Crock-Pot. I typically don't write until I feel like I have a good stew on my hands. But dang, sometimes it takes a while...
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Old 10-08-2010, 06:58 PM   #2
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I push at them and whip them into shape. I flesh out characters and conflicts until I have a solid plot and character development arc.

I think that's what professional fiction writers refer to as "craft", or at least one aspect of craft. The storytelling craft, along with the craft of how you put words on the page, are what make fiction that's worth reading IMNSHO.

I have a brainstorming group that meets monthly where we work on these issues. I have an idea in the germination phase right now that we're going to put through the wringer next week. I hope to have a solid synopsis at the end of the brainstomring day.
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Old 10-08-2010, 08:10 PM   #3
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Sounds like you've got your 'What If?' and you're pretty much at the point every writer is at when they begin a story. Just start writing it down and see where it goes...that's where the fun is
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Old 10-08-2010, 08:50 PM   #4
Steven Lake
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I do a little bit of both. When I'm first starting a story, it's like dragging a 400lb log up a steep hill. It's a continuous and uphill fight all the way. But by the time I hit chapter 4, the story is usually not only flowing, but in some cases even developing faster than I can write, forcing me to drop to a "notes only" form of writing, where I flesh out the plot and sub-elements through a long and complex series of notes, which I then use to fuel and guide the rest of my writing. That's the part I think is hilarious about the way I write. The story starts out kicking and screaming, and before long it's galloping along with glee.
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Old 10-08-2010, 09:13 PM   #5
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I let stories percolate in my head for a while and write scenes as they come to me. Those scenes may never make it into the final revision, but they help me find the heart of the story. Once I decide on the heart of the story, the rest flows out reasonably easily. When I try to force scenes, they end up being scrapped because they suck.
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Old 10-08-2010, 11:59 PM   #6
Steven Lake
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Yeah, that's similar to the "builder world" idea I posted about in another thread. My thoughts were actually one step beyond that point where I've let the idea percolate and form up into a story before actually diving in and writing. But that still doesn't eliminate the fact that the first couple of chapters are always a kicker to do until those ideas start getting some momentum behind them.
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Old 10-09-2010, 12:52 AM   #7
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The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced the answer to the OP's question is:

Yes.

-David
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Old 10-09-2010, 03:48 AM   #8
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I think each idea is different. R.L. Stevenson got the idea for Treasure Island from a treasure map he drew for his step-son Lloyd and his Dr. Jykll & Mr. Hyde was in part at least based on a nightmare that he had (and on the real life story of a criminal who masterminded his crimes at night and presented a respectable front to the pubic during the day). And stories aren't written, they're re-written, so you can be writing (and think you have your plot worked out) only to find that a new idea comes up along the way. That happened to Herman Melville when he wrote Moby Dick. A character in that work seemed to be important and then out of the blue he's washed overboard. Melville had met a new, more interesting character named Ahab. I think the author has to start with his/her idea and build on it. Clay doesn't shape itself, nor does raw marble become a statue on its own. The sculptor has to do his/her part whatever the medium of creation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bthrowsnaill View Post
I have a story idea floating around in my head. I am a little anxious to work on this story because it will be about a topic that greatly interests me. But the overall idea still feels like it's in a formative stage. I don't want to rush the idea, but at the same time I am not sure if a well developed idea is going to emerge from my subconscious, or whether I should start trying to write something and see what happens. I imagine that "full time" writers must have to write at times when their ideas haven't fully matured "organically". I've been thinking that that may be one thing that separates a "professional" writer from a part time writer: the ability to produce good stories "on demand". Any thoughts?
I have the luxury of not being on a writing timetable, so I tend to let ideas sit in my head like it's a giant Crock-Pot. I typically don't write until I feel like I have a good stew on my hands. But dang, sometimes it takes a while...
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Old 10-09-2010, 09:32 AM   #9
bthrowsnaill
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Mere hours after posting this, I was surprised to find that a full story outline came to me on my way home last night. I was very excited about it. And then the "buzz" wore off and I started to wonder if it was any good. Just another phase in the process I guess. Thanks for all of the great feedback. I think that I agree with (my interpretation) of the common thread of the responses, which is that ideas should be left to "simmer" to a point, but at some point the writing has to begin or they may "die on the vine".
I probably need to start writing this new story now to see if it is any good ...
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Old 10-10-2010, 12:44 PM   #10
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Basic ideas and "what if"s usually just develop; turning that into a story usually requires more work.

There's nothing wrong with actively working on a story, to force it to develop. Start asking yourself questions about where you want the story to go, and possible ways for it to get there. Create story outlines that will help distill the general idea into more coherent form and details. Consider individual scenes you'd like to see, and again, what you'd need to do to get there.
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Old 10-11-2010, 02:53 PM   #11
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I think that depends on the writer. Some writers claim to work out the entire story in their heads before they writer, but I've never been able to do that. In fact, I don't even outline. I'm one of those just-start-writing writers. But that's not to say I don't encounter problems. I've spent weeks on a single paragraph.

Beneath a Buried House

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003SE7J6I
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Old 10-15-2010, 09:17 AM   #12
bthrowsnaill
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I'm currently experiencing something that is the inverse of the subject of this thread: a story is pushing its way out of me. The idea for the story came to me, but I decided that I didn't want to write it because it is a bit dark, and I have decided that I want to writer some lighter fare. But the story is persistent, and it continues to "write itself" in my head- no matter what other projects that I try to work on. So I am resigned to completing it now. It's a short story, so the time devoted to it won't be too significant. Has this happened to any of you?
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Old 10-15-2010, 09:52 AM   #13
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Once idea you could do to see if the ideas are still in development stage, or if you're pushing at them, or even if they're pushing at you, is to sit down and do a very detailed outline of the book. What that'll do is force you to think out your story. If it has enough momentum to eventually translate into a book, you'll find that the story comes alive in your mind far beyond what it already is, and that the story will partially or completely hammer itself out right before your eyes.

The other option is, it might totally kill the idea, which really isn't a bad thing in the grand scheme of things. I've had several novels that were rattling around in my head and sounded like NYT best sellers only to die shortly after I started outlining them because I would begin fleshing out the idea only to realize how utterly retarded it was, or even that it wouldn't carry enough meat to be a viable store. Case in point. I had a story one time that was rattling around in my head called "Guardians Inc" and was about a group of mercenaries with mechas that went out and helped people. Well, when I started outlining the story, it very quickly became evident that I only had a scene or two worth of information and no story to back it up or go any further with. And no matter how much I pushed, nothing more of the idea would come out, so I simply canned the whole thing and moved on. That in turn then freed my mind up to work on other ideas, which subsequently spawned several other books that *did* go all the way from start to finish.

So go ahead and outline the book and get the thoughts in your mind down on paper, and don't be afraid thinking that doing so will kill your idea. Yes, it has that possibility, but at the same time it might turn that little twinkle into a skyscraper sized story.
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Old 10-15-2010, 01:55 PM   #14
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I've never needed to outline before, but, then again, my mind seems to be stuck in a well worn path leading toward sci-fi, horror and fantasy. Since I'm trying to steer in some other directions now, I may just try to outline and see what happens. Thanks for the advice.
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Old 10-18-2010, 07:41 PM   #15
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You have to push, at least sometimes. Even a great idea that seems to grow on its own in your head won't write itself all the way through. Characters who won't name themselves, getting from A to C without knowing what B will be, great endings that have no beginning, there are always ideas that need that extra effort put into them or nothing will ever become of them. The difference between everyone who says they want to write and those who actually put words on the page is that writers are able to push past the scenes that don't just flow from their fingertips and get them done anyway.
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