Idea Generation: The Rules and Regs for Collecting Ideas

Sunday, January 16, 2022

My last post was about Setting Goals in 2022, and one of the things that I wrote about was the Storystorm idea generation challenge. I have since had a question about how Storystorm works. Are the ideas fairly complete? Or are they something I will have to flesh out later? 

In all reality, I try not to set too many rules. I look for challenges like Storystorm that are fairly open to interpretation. Some of my ideas are outlines with a character, setting, story problem, and multiple attempts to solve that problem. The science fiction novel for which I am currently writing Act 3 came to me that way. I knew how the story opened. I had my setting and my story problem. I just had to get to know my characters to know how they would attack that problem. 

Other times I come up with a title. This often happens when I misread something. Since I’m dyslexic, a preview scrolling by can throw me. So can fancy fonts which may be beautiful but can also be tricky to read. I’ll do a double take and realize that it says The Apostle Paul and not The Opossum Paul. That isn’t even close to a complete idea but I still think The Opossum Paul could be a hilarious story. 

In Melanie Faith’s Graphic Novel Creation class, we are working on characters. My notion has blossomed into an idea for single panel comics. The ideas for these tend to be one line long. Since I know who the primary character is, I only need this one line of text to bring to mind a panel. 

Other times my idea revolves around a place or person. I write a lot of nonfiction so a simple note to find out about Pickle Springs or Zerubbabel is enough to start my research. 

So what do you need? Complete ideas or fragments? 

I don’t know. You’re going to have to tell me. It is all going to depend on how you work and what you are comfortable with. 

One of my writing friends admitted to me that she works with one idea at a time. She finishes a novel and then goes after her next idea, weaving together bits of this and that before she has a functioning whole. For her to declare something an idea, it has to be fairly complete. 

I have so many ideas! Way too many to pursue them all. When I don’t write them down, I catch myself running through that day’s ideas. “I need to remember that awesome abandoned church photo, the idea about the Muse, and . . . and . . . what was the guy’s name who invented—"  

It is just a lot easier if I write them down. Then I can let go and move on to what I’m supposed to be working on that day. And, if this catch and release program doesn’t work and an idea keeps popping into my head, I know it is one that I need to work on as soon as possible. 

Writing down messy bits and pieces works for me. You may need to wait until you’ve fleshed something out before you feel honest about calling it an idea. As always, the important thing is to find a method that works for you. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on February 6, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins February 6, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins February 6, 2022). 


Renee Roberson said...

I love coming up with ideas but then have a hard time executing them all! I use a variety of methods. For magazine content planning, I look at what queries I've received from writers, what our overall theme is for the month, and then fill in the gaps with a list of national holidays and days. For my podcast, I come up with individual cases of missing people first, and then see if there's a way I can tie two or three into one episode (example: "Missing After a Night Out" or "Missing Moms in North Carolina"). I often get ideas for short stories from news headlines, and book ideas appear either with one character and a dilemma or an unusual setting.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

It is interesting how you come up with ideas in different ways for different types of projects. A lot of blog posts, both on the Muffin and my own blog, come to me when I click on a link, excited to read about whatever I think the title is saying but . . . nope. I guess I'm going to have to write it myself.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--It was interesting reading this post, because it was a tiny window into your creative brain. No wonder you are always juggling a dozen different projects at once.

I come up with a lot of my shorter piece ideas from other writers. Since those pieces (for me) are creative nonfiction, when other people talk about their experiences, it jogs my memory.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I loved seeing how you come up with your ideas about what to write.

The book you gave me? Already have an idea from just the title alone. And, it is bright and wonderful. Shouldn't I work on that instead of my MG novel? Or my cozy? Sigh.

Ideas are everywhere!

Cathy C. Hall said...

I find Storystorm fascinating just because of all the sharing of different ways of coming up with ideas, Sue. When I've participated, my idea may be a whole paragraph of an idea or just a word. And yeah, I often come up with a title first and go from there.

It's the "go from there" where I may get bogged down. :-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Follow through! I think that is something we all struggle with.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I'd love to see a story about The Opossum Paul. :) I frequently have mondegreen moments - so much so that I was thinking about doing an art show with paintings based on misheard lyrics from childhood. "Alice a Seal" is still one of my favorites. ("Our Lips are Sealed")

Storystorm sounds fun, and I'm glad you're working on single panel comics! Maybe we'll see one here at The Muffin? ;)

I'm working on a list of "humiliation essay ideas" a la Susan Shapiro from her Byline Bible. I'm trading the list with some other essay writers and we're seeing which ideas are the most hilarious and cringe worthy (marketable)! I have so many...

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top