The Evolution of your ideas: a somewhat rambling perspective

Trollheart

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You can get as specific or be as vague as you wish, completely up to you. But have you - and I'm sure you have - found your ideas changing, metamorphosing into other things, dying a quiet death or suddenly blazing with that "Eureka!" moment? I find that a huge portion of my writing gets discarded, as ideas don't work or plots make no sense, or less sense when reviewed later, and quite often something that I had intended to go in one direction pulls me in entirely a different one.

I have a story called The Witching Tree, whose main protagonist was originally an eight-year-old white boy, and which changed, rather suddenly, into an eight-year-old Indian girl, as the whole thing suddenly veered in the direction of Indian folklore and legend. Pooky's Last Ride, written as a (pretty bad) short romance story was revisited later and became a 20K-word horror/suspense story with supernatural elements. I began I Never Promised You a Rose Garden with fairies who were the traditional small creatures, living in flowers, then scrapped that to go with a more anthropomorphic version - they looked just like humans - and then that didn't work so I've gone back to the small guys again. Manhattan Gothic was finished and now has to be completely rewritten (or mostly, anyway) as though elements of it worked, reading back over it a lot of it did not, and I had better ideas, including changing the vampire from male to female and bringing in a panic room.

If anybody wants to share ideas that didn't work, or did, or changed into something else, or wants to run anything past us that they feel doesn't quite feel right maybe, feel free to post.

Note: I realise I used the word feel three times in the one sentence there. Shoot me.
 

Trollheart

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Hah! Missed all my vital spots! Can't you shoot anywhere other than the brain? Me happy you miss, me have riting to do in dat.. dat... dat ting with big square window... board with keys... bottom orange brazil wallflower! Pesky Iranians irritate George Formby as he climbs up a rose thorn bush. Beetles make great soup. Duhhhhhhh..........
 

tinkerdan

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My stories constantly shift and morph.
I had a character in my first book that looked non-essential and then they showed up in the second book again looking that way; until I realized that there are no such things as coincidence and this person was there for a reason. Boy did they have me fooled.

On another note I did the gender change and almost said I did the same thing; however it was different, there was going to be gender bending going on in the story regardless, I just discovered that the story started better after the gender change rather than before.

Evolution of story might also be called editing.
 

DLCroix

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Hi. I have noticed that this has more to do with the evolution of oneself as a writer. At least when I started writing, obviously I did it instinctively, more or less based on my experience as a writer and comic artist. But I saw that there was something more, and then I began to study the conventions and codes of writing. And I saw that there was still something else. And so.
Naturally sometimes I have had to rethink many things, sometimes taking apart entire chapters. But, for the same reason, once I had four novels ready, I decided to make the prequel so that everything is well tied from the beginning. Come on, having four novels about the same story was enough to decide that it was an important project. Because something of what I saw observing cases of sagas of similar extension is that many prequels actually respond to a market demand; they are not something the author has contemplated doing. And, well, it's just my point of view, but I don't like writing a story and then its prequel. The time it takes me to finish really doesn't worry me too much either, because what I've enjoyed has been the game.
Maybe it's going her well, maybe not. It doesn't matter. I'm sure once I'm done I'll be thinking about something else. Because history will have already been born. Then it will belong to others; it will have been enough for me to have her given birth.

Now well, I can share my formula. I usually start the whole process with a "What if...?" A premise. And based on that comes the questionnaire. Always the questionnaire. I never write anything without studying all the approaches and looking for the cracks in the structure, the plot. Now, as for the characters, I have some well specified, but it has often happened to me that others appear alone. And they also die alone. Death plays an important role in my story. Perhaps because it's the eternal question of the human being.
As for the style, it has been formed through the years. The blender, as I call it. A little bit of James Ellroy and Chandler, another bit of Gibson (conceptual synthesis, impudence and rawness), a pinch of Pérez-Reverte (the romantic description and the glory of courage), the sadness of Bradbury, the phlegmatic elegance of Burgess at will. Whisk and serve cold.
 
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Alan Aspie

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...have you - and I'm sure you have - found your ideas changing, metamorphosing into other things, dying a quiet death or suddenly blazing with that "Eureka!" moment?

When I get an idea of a story I write it down as an idea file. Just now I have 55 idea files.

If I write more files - character files, storyline files, story world files, whatever - I start a project file. I move that original ideafile there. Just now I have two main files for these passively stewing projects: big projects and small projects. 13 small projects and 12 big projects.

If any of these becomes the focus of my active attention, I separate that project from those files and move it to the root. Just now I have 7 of these.

One of them is my Work In Progress. It's the one that I write as much I can.

So the pipeline goes just now like this:

Ideafiles ==>
Projects (passive status) ==>
Projects (active attention, passive production) ==>
Work In Progress ==>
(Publishing house if possible)


I'm trying to focus on multi format production which means that some - not many - ideas have parallel ideas inside the main project.

I'm also writing and collecting some supportive material which is not inside any idea or project.

Some health issues + our small future home project have taken away possibilities to concentrate to writing. And my wife had to telecommute at home for few months because of corona. It meant I could not get to my own computer while she was working. (She can't let anyone outsider to see or listen things she is working with.)

My point about ideas?

I let them stew. I collect them. Sometimes two ideas become one. Some ideas are dead ends. But there is always a good collection. I can pick what ever I feel like.

My current Work In Progress:
- I have written about 102 500 words of supportive archive material about the substance. (Equals about 133 000 words in English.)
- About 4 300 words about structure. (Equals about 5 600 words in English.)
- About 12 000 words of thematic supportive material. (Equals about 15 600 words in English.)

That project needs some more material before I can start writing the story, the first draft of it. The story will be about 70 000 - 120 000 words in Finnish. (Equals about 90 000 - 160 000 words in English.

I rewrote my last project 5 times. Now it's in about 8 publishing houses under their consideration. 2 publishing houses have given negative answers. If any of those 8 gives green light, there will probably be some editing before publishing.

Emotion ≈ energy in motion.

I like to keep my ideas in motion even in passive phases. Ideas might go forward or backwards in my pipeline. I might kill some of them to make room for better ones. Writing needs emotion, energy and motion.

And most of all... Writing needs writing.
 

Trollheart

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Something tinkerdan said above struck a chord with me. In one of my novels I had literally a faceless, nameless character (I think it was called a Kroet or something, no name though; that was the race, some sort of minor demon foot soldier). Completely without my input, this character assumed not only a name and identity, but became so important a character that much of the novel now revolves around her. She literally wrote herself into the story. It was like she said "bit part? Minor, faceless grunt, seen once and never to be seen again? Oh no pal! This is MY shot and I'm a-taking it!"
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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Gosh, I could write a whole essay about all the times that sort of thing has happened to me. Throwaway characters become major players, small scenes grow and become the basis for the whole focus of the book, minor characters get background character arcs and clamor to have a book all to themselves one day. Fun little ideas become major plot points for later in the series, one mysteriously abandoned castle becomes a pack of abandoned structures all over the countryside, a seafaring jaunt turns into a mystery spanning a dozen books--and my personal favorite, a prologue turns into a prequel turns into four prequels turns into fourteen prequels, which aren't really prequels since I'm writing them first. I'm not kidding. And yes, you can raise your eyebrows.

You won't be laughing when they're written. :cool:
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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It's more like a pre-series, which means it now has its own arc and plotlines, and stands pretty much on its own--it simply takes place before what I am still nostalgically calling "the main series" and I like to write things in order.
 

DLCroix

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Hi. I was beginning to think that perhaps it is a phenomenon of these times, each plot becomes into a kind of Matrioska doll, a literary Akira. Types of projects much more ambitious by their length than a river novel.
Perhaps they are the conditions where we had to exist. I mean, one knows the rules, synthesis, dialogues, etc., but our characteristic of be amateur writers (most, and it would be suicide, you have to have a lot of money to think about dedicating yourself to this as a professional) makes us give you more importance of the writing game itself; not as the writers of before did, who knew that they had to meet deadlines. Knowing this, the reality of current fandom, I think it is an unconscious factor that facilitates the expansion and multiplication of ideas. A plot within a plot with even more subplots.
The only solution that I at least see is to ensure that each story, although it shares a common universe, has the capacity to be self-conclusive. That is, the reader reads a novel and does not need to read the previous or the later ones.o_O
 
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Margaret Note Spelling

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The only solution that I at least see is to ensure that each story, although it shares a common universe, has the capacity to be self-conclusive. That is, the reader reads a novel and does not need to read the previous or the later ones.

That's basically the plan. No single book needs another in order to be understood and enjoyed--and yet taken together, they trace a larger arc that can be far more epic in scope than merely one book can contain.

A phenomenon of the times, though? I just like to think I'm writing what I would like to read. I like complex stories that take a while to tell, but also irresistably draw you along every moment of the journey. And I like building other worlds until they feel as three-dimensional as this one (just with interesting differences).
 

DLCroix

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Oh that's fantastic! Although it is a headache, especially in the creation of other worlds that come to feel as genuine and natural as ours.
 

jbmwriting

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I'd written an outline for my the next book in my series, but I could tell there was something about it I didn't like. Then I had two ideas pop into my head this week, made the changes, and now I'm ready to start writing!

The manuscript always changes as I write, but personally I need a pretty strong framework beforehand to help me stay concise and avoid plot holes.
 

DLCroix

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That's critical, having a plot scheme before you start writing anything. Even when my muse bursts into stumbles and says me, "Look, I have it!", I don't get carried away by enthusiasm as before, and instead I say, "Oh, really, dear?" I write down, yes, somewhere that spark of inspiration, but I don't quite trust much; finally I check if it fits with what you say, the outline, and then I see if I add it or not. Because on other occasions it has happened to me that days later the very pretty one comes and says, "Hey, but this is wrong", regarding an idea that she herself had proposed to me.
 

Susan Boulton

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That's critical, having a plot scheme before you start writing anything.

No, you don't have too. Everyone works differently. For all my stories, short and novel length, I had either a rough idea, or a short scene I had written. Not a plot theme in sight. The stories grew, changed, characters came and went. Research changed the whole complexion of things, and that was just for the first drafts. The various re-writes changed lots. Then when it went out for critique lots again was changed and don't mention the editing when it got to the publishers lol

You need to let a story breathe and grow, if you put it into a straight jacket of a plot theme or a tight plot route, then it can fail quite quickly (just my own opinion)

Also never delete anything you write. Characters, scenes, ideas and even a few lines can all of a suddenly become a story, or get fitted into a new story.

I also have learned never to talk about an idea/novel/story before it is finished, as I find talking about it kills it dead, and it is left on my hard drive all alone ;)
 

DLCroix

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Hello! Yes, I completely agree, although I would like to say that by outline I understand that it is the frame of a story, the pillars or beams that support the structure. I mean, the background; not the way. This refers a bit to a discussion we had in another forum about oil painters and watercolor painters.
The former are very schematic and rigorous ("the straight jacket" you say) and, although it may seem, I don't agree with that either. Because, based on that example, the oil painter follows a very detailed planning that, as you say, leaves no margin for freedom while the second is more intuitive, he only has a general idea but builds the work as ideas appear.

However, personally I see nothing wrong with mixing the two systems, designing the outline well to avoid surprises that sometimes force you to rethink everything (at least know how the story will be solved, "who was the killer", as the suspense writers say), but at the same time leave that margin you say so that the characters can unfold and breathe , development that is often responsible for the emergence of parallel subplots. But even with this freedom you as an author know what they can and can't do, and if new characters are born that you didn't have contemplated I think, based on that initial outline, you also evaluate what limitations their performance will have.
At least this mixing of both systems has worked well for me in the novels I have written so far. But, as you rightly say, every writer has his way of doing things. And it's okay.
Because we also have the digesis dichotomy versus mimesis. In the first there should be no problem, as it is the traditional presentation-knot-end.
But what about a mimesis? In that case, I think it is appropriate to have a minimal map of the structure of events, so that when the timeline of history is altered and the mimesis occurs there is no confusion.
Now, regarding last thing you say, you couldn't be more right. Where possible, you should even resist the temptation to let others see what you're writing if it's part of a material that's not finished or with the latest review. I think at most you should tell if will be a boy or a girl. But that's all you should say.
 

Steve Harrison

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I don't worry about having an outline; just a beginning and end and two or three major plot points to use as stepping stones. Once I have a mental picture of those elements, I can start and meet the characters as they turn up.

Also, I have no qualms about sharing what I'm doing, so I often discuss ideas and WIPs with friends and family (and anyone else who will listen). Their reaction is very helpful to my process and is often inspiring.
 

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