Idea Development

Now that I’m officially done project number three, it’s time to move on. Ah, I love a clean slate, a blank page, a white computer screen staring at me as the little black line blinks at me. *Write something, write something, write something.*

I’ve been getting better coming up ideas as I go about my daily life and now have a collection of random situations and characters gathered in a folder on my virtual desktop. And now it’s time to choose which little gem I’ll turn into something more. Which idea is ready? Which ones still need to more time to simmer on the back burner as the possibilities come together and the story takes shape?

For me, once I’ve picked my next idea I seem to go through three stages. I think of a tiny idea. Then I write it down in point form, just simple one line sentences that hit the main beats of the story. The key points. Then if I think the idea sounds good and fun and interesting, I sit and write out a full outline. I mean full. Like 10 pages of scenes all done in little paragraphs that describe the situation, what has to happen and by who. Sometimes I’ll have a thought about the dialogue as the character’s voice starts to speak to me. Once I feel like I have the whole story down in the outline, then I review it for key things—Is there conflict? Do each of the characters arc and change throughout the story? Is there enough internal conflict for the characters to overcome? Is the resolution/climax of the story satisfying? Does the story start in the right spot? Once I feel like I’ve answered those questions and I know what I want to accomplish and how I want to accomplish it, then it’s time to sit down and start writing—that’s a whole other set of stages!

That’s my process. Well, at least right now that’s my process. Maybe I’ll do things differently in the future, but right now this is what works for me so I’m sticking to it.

So now I want to know, how do your ideas go from a little thought bubbles you have in the shower or while driving to the finished product. How to you get to the end?


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15 pings

  1. A.M. Kuska says:

    Well, last night I woke up with this thought in my head: “Ending for Zombie story: Zombies are gone. Girl asks little boy out on the street what he is doing. He looks up from what ever toy he is playing with and says, “Living””

    That’s all I have to go on. I’ll flesh out what I know of these characters, and basically try flinging things at them till a story happens.

    Then I’ll write an outline and turn it into a sensible story. >.<

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Sounds like a good start, er

  2. Shoshanna Evers says:

    I usually come up with an idea and then start “free writing”, where I just write whatever comes to mind, bits of dialogue, images, scene ideas, etc. I usually know where I want to begin and I know where I want to end, but that’s usually it. Then I write.

    Recently I had to write a full story synopsis before I started writing the actual story as part of a multi-author series proposal for a publisher. That was really hard, but I did find the synopsis helped me trouble-shoot while I was writing.

    I’m not sure, but I think it also may have taken some of the fun out of writing the story, because I already knew what was going to happen before I wrote it.

    But I’m not against plotting, definitely. It’s a valuable tool.

    1. hthurmeier says:

      See, I think the outline keeps me writing because I can see what’s going to happen and I get really excited to write those upcoming scenes. It helps me stay motivated and moving forward. When I try to write without a outline, I’ll write a scene or two and then I won’t be sure what to write next or in what order things need to happen so that everything falls into place later on. In the end, I always end up with an outline.

  3. jennifer121 says:

    You have a nice process. Mine always begins with characters, one scene, and then I have to put the plot around it! More difficult for me but every time I do a throrough outline, the book gets tabled. I need to write to see what happens next. Very messy!

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Sometimes my little thought bubble is just a scene I think would be really fun to write and then I’ll try to build the outline around that. How do I get my characters to that scene? What would they do after that scene? Of course sometimes I just have an idea for a character, but that usually takes a lot longer to figure out what to do with them. I still have a couple of characters in my idea file just marinating while I figure out what story they belong to.

      I love hearing about everyone’s individual process! So interesting!

  4. Wendy S. Marcus says:

    Hi Heather!
    I usually start with a situation then form a scene. Then I flush out the specifics of the scene. Where it takes place. Who are my characters. Then I do a brief character profile for everyone involved. I identify my main characters and secondary characters and what role each will play in the story. Then I think…what preceeded this scene or what will come next. I give it a good think to see if I have enough for a beginning, middle and end. If I think I do I get started. I’m pretty good with beginnings and endings. HATE middles!!!

    Good luck with your writing!

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Sounds you have a great system working, Wendy! I’m usually good with middles and endings, but I *always* have to rewrite my beginnings!

  5. tonya kappes says:

    Oh, I love this stage and all the way to the end. I first think about the plot and characters. I go to the stationary store and pick out a journal that fits the theme of the book (for instance: My novel The Ladybug Jinx journal has flowers and ladybugs on it). I start to put my ideas, thoughts, characters etc in that journal. I also start using my character development worksheets on all the characters forming in my head (some I use in the novel, some I don’t). I get a three ring binder and sorta scrap book pictures of the town, characters etc…..I’m not a plotter so after I get a good feel of the characters, I will make bullet points about the novel and start writing from there. AS other ideas come my way, they end up in the journal (which I carry at all times during the writing process) or the three ring binder or both. Shooooo! Tired yet? You asked;)

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Tonya, awesome process! Thanks for sharing that with me. I’m not one to carry extra things like journals with me, but I will send myself and email if I’m out or find some other way to jot down ideas as they come to me. I tend to add a couple of pages to my outline about the characters, how they look, what their personalities traits are, etc. Sometimes I’ll include names for things in the story (stores, neighborhoods, etc). Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  6. jeff7salter says:

    Very interesting topic.
    I’ve completed six novel ms.
    I have two projects to get out of the way (a query and an overhaul of Ms. # 3 & subsequent query) … and then I’m ready to begin Ms. # 7.
    My problem is: which story to write?
    I have over 50 ‘starts’ ready to be developed. Some are just concepts, some have a few pages of notes, some I’ve already begun writing and have a few hundred words. A few have several thousand words already.
    But I can’t decide which one I want to spend three intense months with.
    How did they begin (one of the points of your column)?
    In some it was a bit of dialog, in others a particular scene. As I’ve been writing more, I begin to imagine ‘hooks’ and work from there.

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Hi Jeff,

      Sounds like you don’t have any trouble in the idea department! Wow, fifty starts is awesome. Every time I’m starting a new project I seem to spend about a week debating which one idea should be the next. In the end I follow the advice I’ve received from other authors

  7. Janet Walters says:

    Heather, You plan. I like planners. That’s the way I write. Idea leads to situation leads to characters but usually I see the ned scene before I start the first. Like you planning keeps me on target. Those little paragraphs that turn into scenes or chapters really help. Not that they can’t change when they’re not working.

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Hi Janet, changes definitely happen. Even with my 10 pages of outline, I’ll still end up adding in a scene here and there or moving something around once I get into the swing of the story. But at least the outline keeps me focused on where I need to go next so I don’t usually get hung up for too long.

  8. Joy N. Hensley says:

    I usually come up with a scene first, either a beginning or something from the climax. Then a basic idea of beginning and end with a few things that must happen along the way. Then I’m a pantser until the second draft. That’s when all the work happens.

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