Here we are again. I think I’m not very good at opening things. Usually, I’m told that I wander or make things unclear. With that in mind, let’s get to the point:
A Hint of Almost: When thinking of generating ideas, every day is an inspiration. Someone else’s smile, a game on television, repetitive cliches (though by definition aren’t cliches already repetitive ) and tropes. I want to stress this because I have had repeated conversations about not having inspiration. Like writer’s block, I think that’s a bit cheap.
I hate definitive statements. I almost always protect my statements with qualifiers. This tends to be a bad plan in writing. Statements need to be definitive for the reader and the writer to maintain credibility, unless it’s for a reason (that’s another train of thought). What I’m getting at, mostly in a round about way, is this concept that ideas are or aren’t unique.
As writers we may want to believe this but often the telling of these ideas are what set them apart. How is Harry Potter different than Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Upon initial consideration they are both stories about grade school children who encounter magical forces and live out a distinct battle between good and evil. While Harry Potter may, unfairly, be the reference point for much modern fantasy, Lord of the Rings encountered a similar problem, as many storys written afterward were seen as derivative or redundant.
Okay, digressions. What I’m really getting at is, very importantly, ideas do not exist in a vacuum. While they may be intended to function independently or even as separate stories they can be merged (this is also a separate concept about merging multiple ideas). Or separated. Many of the same tried and true ideas that Harry Potter repopulated have existed for over a century, even longer. The same for Lord of the Rings.
Never let the thought that your ideas have been used before get in the way of inspiring a story.
Woods Between the Worlds: So, writing isn’t easy. Well, okay, it is, but actually doing it isn’t. So far, I’ve found three main ways to go about this.
- Time Limits – write for a set amount of time.
- Word Limits – write until you reach a set number of words
- Fancifully – write only when inspiration or fancy strikes.
In reality, all three seem to merge with one extent or another.
Word limits are inexact. You’ll never “only” write 300 words a day. That’s simply an approximation to shoot for. Maybe some days only 15o words come to you. Others, 700. The average is hard to keep track of long term but it’s a goal. I would never stop just because I’ve hit a word limit. I just know that some days those limits are much harder to find than others.
Time limits seem easier, except for finding the time. There’s always something less urgent and more pressing that’s going to demand your attention. Psychology fact: the average human’s attention span is approximately 20 minutes. After that, you’ll get distracted.
That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. You’re mind need some time to process everything. Some days, in a “zone” I can write for hours without any real distractions other than changing music.
As you can see, those word limits and time limits initially seem distinct but blend rather quickly.
A Good Day to Dye: On that note of blending… As I’ve said, ideas do not exist in a vacuum. That means if you have two or three or eight different ideas for five different stories, they don’t have to be separate. Often, the original idea is not enough to sustain the entire story.
Why am I mentioning this in an editing section? As I’ve said, this is not just editing but revision. To see the story and know what needs to be added is a key component in making something reader worthy.
Importance of a Name: Like concepts and story concepts, names do not exist in a vacuum. They can inspire entire stories.
Here are a few names that I’ve come up with over the years and weeks. Some mean nothing, others have inspired entire novels and characters. What inspires you?
- The King of the Forgotten Dreams
- Mistress of the Rising Tide
- Echo Hook
- Predilection of Fate
- Revenant Silence
Some of these are titles of people, others are chapter names, some the names of great starships, most are both. Many of them can be combined into a single story. Each has a story to them and they can easily be made to fit together.
Here, there are many similarities between the names I selected, probably because that’s the mood I was in when I was writing this. Next time, I want to discuss genealogy and how the history and meaning of words can directly or indirectly effect a characters entire bible.
Afterward: Words aren’t a random flow of words, despite what this blog inadvertently advocates. They are weapons, pitches controlled with what ought to be pin point precision. This precision comes from editing and knowing what to keep and what the vision for the story is. Often have a sense of what you are striving for is the greatest asset.
Writers I admire, Stewart O’Nan, Applegeek’s Ananth have said they only write a few words at a time, choosing each carefully. Personally, I can’t do this. I trust the perfect words will come later, as I distill what I want from the page.
I think what’s really on my mind today is that every idea is worth sharing. I’m not sentimental. I’m not saying that I care about whatever it is someone else has to say. In school, that meant never raising my hand or really listening to everyone. On the other hand, if no one says anything, I can’t know if I don’t care or not. I need that space to judge an idea.
So, let’s give that a try and see where we end up.