Wicked Wednesday: Ideas Adrift

by Julie, basking in the post holiday glow

This month the theme of our Wicked Wednesdays is castaways. Castaways are defined as a shipwrecked person, anything cast away or thrown away, or an outcast. We’ll have a good time with this theme.

Wickeds, today we’re going to talk about ideas that go adrift. Have you either started a novel or started plotting one, and the idea goes adrift and you have to chase it? What do you do? Do you try and corral it back, or do you follow the idea?

Edith/Maddie: What a great topic for the month! I definitely have had novels meander away from where I thought they were headed. It’s not that I chase them, exactly, but I do follow as far as I can. Sometimes I have to tell the character, “No. We’re not doing that,” (for example, in one of the Quaker Midwife books, I refused to let twin newborns both die). But other times I’m delighted by the new direction and commit to it.

Barb: The most common thing that happens is that either as I’m writing or when I’m revising, I start seeing all sorts of connections that I hadn’t seen in the first place. They may be related to characters, motives, themes, etc. I do pursue those hard. In general I’m not a person who lets “things get away from me,” so I’m really unlikely to let that happen in a world created entirely by me in my head. That’s the joy of being in a world where everyone has to listen to you and do what you think they should. You’ll never get that satisfaction in real life.

Jessie: Such an interesting question, Julie! I strive to work in discrete task chunks and to have a lot of clarity around which part of the job I am undertaking at any given moment. I give myself a lot of time early on in the process to let my mind wander and to make unexpected connections. I love to follow where the research or my imagination leads at that point. That said, once I have created a story map for myself of my novel I generally follow it closely as far as actions and motivations go. I never know the details like dialogue or description, but I am fairly set on what comes next by the time I am writing a draft.

Julie: Like Jessie, I typically chase ideas while in my plotting phase and I’m letting my mind wander. And usually those ideas are solid. But not always. Recently, ideas have cast themselves adrift and I’ve tried to ignore it until I realized that following that idea would have been a better story. These are both new books, not part of a series, so the characters are establishing themselves in the story. And my characters don’t always behave.

Readers, does your mind ever wander and come up with great ideas for you to follow? Or does a task ever cast itself off, and lead you in a new direction?

18 Thoughts

  1. Yes and the good thing is I know when to move in another direction when it doesn’t seem to work out.

  2. All the time in both instances. That’s when my database of notes kicks into high gear. I’ve learned to not just capture the idea, but make it actionable. That takes a few more minutes. When I return to that note, I’m ready to launch the idea (e.g., a blog post, story, and more). I use the same technique when taking notes from articles, webinars, and even clients.

  3. Great topic! I also work in discrete chunks, but mine are a bit different. My chunks are five or ten chapter chunks (depending how it’s gelling). That way if I’m following a wayward thread I can make decisions early!

    1. What an interesting way to write. I typically assess, but need to do that more, and explore ideas that come up in the writing. Especially as I’m working on stand alones. There’s no story bible to limit what I can do.

  4. Think you aren’t human if your mind doesn’t wander. It’s more are you brave enough to follow it instead of ignoring it at times. As for me, I thought I had to follow the path that was “normal” for years until I realized that if I wasn’t happy what was the use. I allowed myself to follow my heart and I’ve been happy ever since. Then there was the time when I let my mind wander about how it would be to live where we vacationed often. I finally stopped dreaming and started planning which eventually led to us moving here – something hubby never thought would happen since I don’t usually do change well. I think our mind wandering is our heart telling our brain to take the chance.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. Great topic! I enjoyed reading your interesting comments and am thinking about what I can contribute, but my mind wanders…I seem to always be full of ideas, but then I get bamboozled or hijacked, and my mind goes elsewhere or tries to put out a fire, and when all is said and done, I forgot what my idea was all about. If convenient, I try to write down as much as I can so I can grab on to it in case of pirate encounters that leave me without my treasure. I hope you all had a great 4th., and are getting ready for Christmas in July 🙂 Luis at ole dot travel

  6. Oops! It’s Wednesday — how did that happen. I tend to keep coming up with ideas for books or series and never decide which one to keep and which to castoff. I think a lot of writers have this problem and probably people with any craft. Which thing to knit, or crochet, or bake next.

  7. Letting my wander is a great way for me to figure out how to solve a problem. A whole lot of “What if I try…?” Also, mind wandering can be fun just for its own sake.

  8. I think the closest I come is when I suddenly get an urge to read a different book next than the one I had planned. I can’t do that too much when I have ARCs to read, but every so often, I let something I hadn’t originally planned for the month to slip in.

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