Do you struggle with writing fiction? In a writers’ group meeting, we chatted about a common struggle: managing your ideas, without being distracted by them.
One writer said that she struggled with organizing sudden inspiration. Another said that his big challenge was developing ideas. He constantly second-guessed himself, deleting one or more scenes—he’d even delete a character.
Many of us struggle with ideas.
Writing fiction: organizing your ideas, and developing them
“I always seem to get an idea for a new book when I’m in the middle of a book,” a writer said. “Sometimes I’ll start a new novel, but I get confused. Then I end up with two unfinished projects. Has anyone found a solution for that?”
We agreed on the best solution: commit most of your writing time to completing your current novel. Spend any spare time making notes for a recent inspiration.
By the way, if you’re looking for an app to help, Obsidian is great at helping you manage your ideas, for complete novels, as well as for characters and plots.
Let’s look at some additional tips.
1. Dump all your new ideas into your current draft
Although this sounds weird, do try it. It’s wonderful for anyone who’s constantly getting new ideas. If inspiration strikes while you’re writing, just add the idea right there, within the draft itself.
Here’s an insight from a writer who’s working on her seventh novel: “When I add a sudden brainstorm right in the middle of the draft, I’ve got the ideas in context. That really helps later. I used to create a new file for each new idea, but by the time I review the file, I’m bored with it.”
This works. The ideas remain fresh.
2. How to stop second-guessing your ideas
Try journaling about an inspiration. Mystery novelist Sue Grafton called her novel journal her “most valuable tool.”
Again, you can do this right in your draft. Yes, it leads to messy drafts. Nevertheless it has a major benefit: you’re developing ideas as you go. There’s less chance you’ll go off on tangents. You may get an insight into a character, or you might create a scene immediately. (See the third tip below.)
Context is vital. When you add material into a draft, then read the draft later, you’re more likely to use the ideas. Procrastination becomes less frequent.
3. Try adding “oddball” scenes to your draft: you can use them later, or not
Many inspirations are fuzzy: you’ve just got a feeling about something. Perhaps you’re thinking that your hero needs more pizzazz, or your antagonist isn’t all that threatening. Maybe you want to add some humor.
Sometimes ideas for dialogue, or an entire scene will pop into your mind.
Write the dialogue. Create the scene.
For long form writing like novels, I use either Obsidian or Scrivener, depending how how much research I need to do. (I prefer to use Obsidian for a draft if there’s lots of research, because you can link files and Canvas mind maps easily.)
In both apps, I create a folder called: Oddball Scenes for each project. I add odds and ends of material to the folders while I’m writing.
As the novel progresses, I’ll insert these stray scenes. On the other hand, I may not use a scene at all—even if I don’t use a scene, creating it was a valuable exercise.
Use your ideas when you’re writing fiction
Writing fiction is messy. You need to keep 1,001 ideas straight, and it’s easy to become distracted. Inevitably, distraction turns into procrastination.
Try keeping your ideas right in your Work in Progress. Context is everything. You may find that it’s not only easier to write, it also easier to use your amazing ideas.
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