Which Ideas to Keep and Which to Chuck?

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
1,944
#22
I don't tend to pitch ideas to anyone else, really because I think that many ideas - my ones, at any rate - could work or fail depending on the approach and the writing. I'm never quite sure what to do with raw ideas: I tend towards the view of letting them ferment in my brain, without exterior input. However, I see a lot of threads from new writers effectively asking "Is my basic idea any good?". The only answer I can usually give to that question is "Can you make it any good?"
On this one -

I know I've definitely said that to other people before when they've asked.

But equally I've also been the one asking and have got some good stuff from it.

So I think there is more stuff that can be said. If I'm honest, a lot of the time I say "Can you make it any good", it is code for "This sounds like a lot of books and you need to consider why it will be better than the other books". Turning that concern into actual questions about the points is more likely to help the asker. Again, it has certainly helped me.

Mind you, I've also found that hoarding some ideas and never telling anyone about them in an attempt to frustrate the story out of myself to have some merit too.
 

AlexH

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
747
Location
Staffordshire, UK
#24
I'm often advised to remove an idea from a story if it doesn't move the plot forward. If an idea doesn't develop enough to fit in the story I'll remove it (and save it for another story), though sometimes I'll leave ideas to linger. Yesterday I rewrote the second half of a story I'd been stuck on for a year. There's no set pattern.

My stories don't consciously end at a certain length. My shortest is 50 words and my longest 10,000. I've been told there's enough for a novel in two of my stories (and one of those is only around 2,000 words), but I've no ambition to write a novel. I struggle to write to word limits, though I think I'm getting better at knowing what may work for flash. I used to try and fit too many ideas in.

I never write ideas down. My theory is that if they are good, I won't forget them. Obviously, there is no way of proving if this theory is correct :)
That scares me! I've had eureka moments with stories and forgotten the idea after not writing it down. I think there's something in not always taking the first, or even second idea - as it's likely someone else thought of it too. It's why so many short story markets don't accept zombie or vampire stories - they've been done to death and it takes something original (like Twilight was at the time) if you're using such a trope.

For those of us who often have a bunch of potential ideas hanging around at any one time, how do you pick between them? Is it a mood thing? Or looking for a certain compelling thing (like drmatteri is looking for characters, and hi and welcome to the forum!). Or just plain old "Well that one looks more complete?"

In any case, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who's got a big old folder full of half-started stories and ideas for a rainy day.

How long do people take between having the initial idea and starting to write it? Go for it right away or let it mature for a little, see if you remember it a week later?
I have a file full of one-liners and a file full of actual story ideas. I'll pick one that clicks at that moment. If nothing clicks, I'll stare at the ones I like best for 1/2 an hour, maybe more.

Often I write the story as soon as I have the idea. Other times I may leave it for months or even years. Once again, there's no set pattern for me. Sometimes I take the path of least resistance. Other times I desperately want to finish a story, and will work on it no matter how close it gets to killing me.
 
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
1,944
#25
That scares me! I've had eureka moments with stories and forgotten the idea after not writing it down. I think there's something in not always taking the first, or even second idea - as it's likely someone else thought of it too. It's why so many short story markets don't accept zombie or vampire stories - they've been done to death and it takes something original (like Twilight was at the time) if you're using such a trope.
There's definitely something to be said for this.

I've had a character in mind for a while - a sort of inversion of the Chosen One; a proactive middle class type with no innate world changing powers other than her determination and wits. The first idea I had it for was basically a wholesale rip off of Wheel of Time. I never really did anything with that except make some other awesome characters that I'd actually kinda forgotten about until now but which need homes.

I've had this character in a couple of other ideas. But I recently cast them (almost unwittingly actually, started as something else before I was all "Wait...") in another idea recently and that one feels almost perfect. Although that story idea started as one thing and became another in itself.

The majority of my ideas are refinements of older ones.
 

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