When to write down ideas

When I first started writing, I tried to jot down pretty much every idea that came to mind – characters, bits of dialogue, a story idea, rhyme, you name it. Unfortunately, although I was in the habit of carrying a pen at nearly all times, I rarely kept a notebook handy. So I wound up with piles of receipts or gum wrappers or whatever was available when inspiration struck. Also, my handwriting is nearly unreadable (one of my professors said it resembled Hittite. AFAIK, Hittite has never been deciphered).

So I got more disciplined. I invested in a notebook (small, with a durable plastic cover) that I carried in my purse. However I’d frequently misplace said notebook (often under a pile of papers or books) and so I bought a few more so I’d always have one close by.

You can see where this is going, right?

I’d write down random snippets and then forget which notebook I’d put it in (and as the pages filled up, where in the notebook I’d written it). Worse, half the time I’d nix the idea altogether, delete the scene a particular line had been written for, or decide that no, I was never going to get around to that novel about an alien landing on Earth during the Viking era or that semi-autobiographical story of a person landing in Guyana in the aftermath of the Jonestown massacre. Of the ones that remained, for about half of them I’d waste half an hour puzzling wtf was I thinking at the handful of words that, at the time, I’d been convinced was a stroke of genius. Provided I went back and read any notes at all while I revising any particular story.

Finally, I decided, keeping notes was largely a waste of time. The best ideas seemed to stick in my memory regardless. Only on one single occasion among the dozens of stories I’ve worked on do I regret forgetting to jot down something. It was a Terry Pratchett-type pun for a YA Fantasy I’ve been working on. Oh, well.

That isn’t to say the habit is entirely useless. Nowadays, I try to limit what I bother jotting down to either premises that I could hang an entire story and characters onto (and wouldn’t involve a solid year of research), or plot points I’ve been struggling over on nearly-completed works.

There are also times when I am bombarded with so many ideas I cannot concentrate on the task in front of me, whether it’s a writing project or making sure the bills get paid. On those days I feel like Hwel from Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters:

Particles of raw inspiration sleet through the universe all the time. Every once in a while one of them hits a receptive mind, which then invents DNA or the flute sonata form or a way of making light bulbs wear out in half the time. But most of them miss. Most people go through their lives without being hit by even one.
Some people are even more unfortunate. They get them all.

Writing the lot of them down (even if it never goes further than a notepad document) clears the proverbial clutter in my mind so I can get on with whatever project at hand.

And eventually one of them becomes a blog post on WordPress.

I just did one of the worst things a would-be writer could do

I let myself get distracted with a new project before completing any old ones. Bad, bad, bad!

Instead of finishing final edits and finishing the book cover for The Fortune Teller, I wrote four thousand odd words for the opening of a brand new novel. Normally, I don’t bother writing new ideas down. If they’re good enough, they’ll stick in my mind regardless. Well, this new idea stuck like crazy glue, though it’s barely the skeleton of a story. More like a premise. However, it’s also that ever-elusive ‘high concept’ idea that might someday sell. I hope.

As for the cover of my almost-finished project, it’s basically a fairly generic-looking fortune teller, complete with hands hovering around a crystal ball. When I looked up something similar for inspiration in Google images, there were two general versions: one with an opaque, glowing crystal ball like the one I created myself, and one with a glassier looking, more traditional crystal ball. Naturally, I’m now dithering on whether I should try the latter instead. I have a blue marble I photographed, but I’m thinking of getting a clear one from the dollar store or one of those new age shops and trying that instead.

Decisions, decisions… or is that excuses, excuses?

At least I have still been plugging away at something… *sigh*

Hoping to get back into writing after a longish break

I have several manuscripts that seem to be forever almost finished. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been concentrating on one called The Fortune Teller, which I plan to self-publish, and have spent a good chunk of time designing a cover for it.

I used GIMP, which I wasn’t completely familiar with, though it is similar to Photoshop. Thankfully I’ve used that one plenty of times. It’s free to download at http://www.gimp.org and while there were a couple of annoying quirks (mostly to do with floating toolbars that I couldn’t figure out how to re-anchor), it’s an excellent program overall.

There was still a learning curve and it took me a few tries to settle on one particular photo, testing several different backgrounds and so on. After several substantial revisions, I have to admit that the first one was horrible. I knew it was at the time, which was what prompted me to start again from scratch. While the adage goes, You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, sales numbers say otherwise. Mine probably won’t be perfect, but so long as it doesn’t look amateur, I should be okay. I do have an art background and some in design, and a couple of friends who are design professionals who’ve given me some great tips.

The cover is nearly done, and I just finished yet one more revision after getting some feedback from a critique site. Now I’m letting it sit while I make a final version of the cover, making sure it adheres to the various technical standards for Smashwords and Kindle. After that, one more run-through in the novel to make any last story changes (like changing one character’s age a little) and check for any inconsistencies, it should be ready for a final, line-by-line edit.

After that (oh, and uploading and trying to get the novel ‘out there’), I will finally be able to get back to what I really love doing most. Working on another story!