Wicked Wednesday: Tossing Ideas

by Julie, enjoying summer

Wickeds, one of the hardest things to do as a writer is to toss an idea that we love. What do you do with those ideas? Do you have a file of ideas? Do you bring them back in other books? Is there an idea you’ve tossed that you hope to use someday?

Edith/Maddie: I keep a few ideas for short stories on my white board, but I’m not disciplined about recording sparks for short fiction. I’m secretly (ahem, not anymore) delighted that a protagonist for whom I conceived an entire (and editor-rejected) series will have a starring role in DEADLY CRUSH, the second Cece Barton mystery (said editor had no issues with accepting Josie Jarvin as a supporting character). When an idea pops up for the next book in any of my series, I always try to add it to a file. If it doesn’t get written down, the memory evaporates.

Jessie: Congrats on reviving someone you wished to use, Edith! This question really got me thinking, Julie! Over the years I have found that my books evolve over quite a long period of marinating in the back of my mind. I thought about my Change of Fortune series for several years, including the research, before I started the actual writing. I have been researching and mulling over my current work in progress for more than two years. So, the ideas I have seem to be evaluated on an unconscious level before I ever get to a point of pain with having to discard them. Something I have done on a couple of occasions is to write what turned out to be two books whilst thinking that I am writing one. It is a terrible muddle when it happens, but I end up prying them apart and enjoying the end result. Nothing goes to waste!

Liz: I definitely keep an idea file, Julie! I also like to let projects marinate for a while, Jessie. For me it’s about the evolution of some long-term projects where situations and people evolve from when I started thinking about it, which changes a lot of the trajectory of the story. And I definitely have characters that are still kicking around from books that never got published. I’m sure they’ll make an appearance somewhere down the line!

Barb: I don’t keep an idea file. For years, I’ve believed that the ideas that keep coming back to you, kind of haunting you, are the ones to pay attention to. Now that I’m older and have a tendency to forget things, maybe I should revisit this premise! I do think my best books, and the books that were easiest to write, are the ones that had time to marinate. I love to find a good narrative, non-fiction book about whatever I’m writing about and read that well ahead of when I have to start writing. I often revisit themes. It seems like it takes me at least a couple of books to be done with them. So in that sense I definitely reuse ideas instead of tossing them.

Sherry: I remember reading (somewhere) that Handel wrote the Messiah in three days. If that was true there must have been a LOT of marinating going on. I have a computer file called “book ideas.” It has proposals my editor asked for that went nowhere and other ideas that I’ve played around with, but never fully developed. Sometimes I pull it all out and blow the dust off.

Julie: Sherry, a lot of marinating indeed! Or maybe he got the gig late, and had to hit a deadline? I have been working on an idea file for the past couple of years. Usually they are attempts at short stories that became the beginning of a novel. But I’ve also had characters, or scenes, that I loved and hat to cut. Those also go in a file to help prompt me for another project. I find that if I don’t write it down it’s gone.

Readers, what do you do with ideas that you love that don’t “fit”? These ideas can be craft patterns, recipes, book ideas, songs? Do you revist them for inspiration? How do you keep track?

18 Thoughts

  1. I have my favorite authors and favorite series and I keep track on GoodReads. I also follow authors on Amazon and they let me know when a new book has been released. I get a lot of author’s newletters too. There are so many books that I want to read and so little time.

  2. I put it aside and come back later because you never know when and if it will work.

  3. I keep ‘em. The ability to record and retrieve in a digital form (e.g., Apple Notes or Notion) makes it easy to recycle ideas. The key to unlock the power of ideas requires making them actionable. Difficult, but doable. As I record an idea, I also write my thoughts on how I’ll use that concept (e.g., turning that muse into a premise for a book). It’s fun reviewing the ideas, too!

  4. I’m a big note maker. However, if I kept all our notes, I won’t be able to get in my home much less create either a craft or a recipe. So I make myself go through any notes occasionally and shift through those that are reasonable and apt to happen and dispose of the others. If it makes it through a few rounds, it makes it to my computer file for future reference. It’s my way of not everything just clogging up my computer with ideas. Even my computer file gets a make over from time to time as some things become outdated or not as interesting to me as it once was.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. I try to start the story….just the first sentence or paragraphs. Sometimes I fill a whole page. It serves to remind me later.

  6. I use the Notes app on my phone or Evernote to jot down an idea that comes to me if I don’t know how to use it immediately. Sometimes it turns into something. Other times, it fizzles out.

  7. Yes! A plot point I thought of for a middle-grade boy’s book years ago–one that never materialized–shows up in a Halloween book to be released next month!

  8. Great topic! I keep two idea files – one with articles I’ve ripped from newspapers and the like, and the other on my computer. Here’s the rub. The really attractive ideas tend to stick with me, so when I go to the files, it’s often for subplots!

    1. I used to keep a doc with links to articles but now I pdf them as well so I have them at hand. I read an article 20 or so years ago I’ve never found again and would love to. So now I’m a bit obsessive.

  9. I have things on my Notes Apo but also a folder of stuff jotted down, torn from magazines, etc. that I toss in and keep. You never know when something will work!

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