Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Finding (and Managing) Story Ideas

Where are the best places to find story ideas?

And once you get an idea, how do you make sure it doesn’t float away into the ether?

The simple answer to question number one is that ideas are everywhere. If you subscribe to a daily or weekly newspaper, you’ve got a potential goldmine of ideas right in your hands:
  • In the front-page headline news.
  • In the troubled lives of people who write to advice columnists.
  • In the obituaries.
  • In special-interest articles.
  • In the op-ed pages.
  • In the odd little one-paragraph news items that never make page one.
When traveling, or even in your hometown, look for interesting current or historical events that might inspire a story idea. Collect brochures and maps. Take lots of photos, including informational signs (a trick Mary Connealy has mentioned before).

Become an eavesdropper (politely, of course). I’m not much of a conversationalist, but it’s amazing what you can learn simply by listening to other people talk. Practice the fine art of nodding and smiling and occasionally asking questions to prompt further explanation. One of my acquaintances is heavy into dog shows and obedience training. Another friend is a professional potter. One of my husband’s buddies is a midlife marathoner. Interesting stuff!

Attend classes and lectures. Stretch your brain. Learn something new. This month our church is offering a three-week series on veterans and traumatic brain injury. Who knows? Someday I may decide to write about a character with TBI and how the family copes.

Now we come to the hard part--preserving your ideas so you can access them when you need them.

Here are some methods I’ve tried:
  • Notecards filed in a plastic file box by topic (People, Situations, Phrases, Dialogue, Names, Settings, Other Interesting Stuff).

  • Hanging folders for newspaper clippings, handouts, maps, brochures, etc., sorted by topic or location.

  • A spiral notebook for recording random ideas (I sometimes color-code the entries by type).

  • A three-ring binder with dividers, labels, and tabs.
  • Computer files and folders.
I’ve also tried keeping a small tape recorder handy in the car for capturing ideas that come to me while in traffic. Then I transcribe the idea into one of the above forms after I return home.

The problem with these methods is that I’ve ended up with masses of information--clippings, notecards, maps, scraps, files, folders, etc., that may never, ever, EVER see the light of day!

I don’t know why this is. I obviously thought the idea was worth saving, or I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of sticking it into one of my collection spots. But then time passes, the initial excitement ebbs, and when I’m ready to begin a new story, I find myself thrashing about for newer, fresher ideas.

So . . . confession time . . . I’m not as proactive as I once was about capturing every random idea that comes along. Because if I were to ever actually mine the several and sundry stockpiles cluttering my office and computer hard drive, I would have enough material to write books into the next two millennia!

These days I mainly watch for interesting informational tidbits--as much for story ideas as for adding verisimilitude to ideas I may already be working with. Again, the problem is making sure the information is accessible when I need it. Often the filing cabinet drawer ends up being the best solution, but I try to make sure my tab labels are specific and logical. (Don’t ask me how that’s working.)

One tool that could prove quite handy for jotting and filing away story ideas is the Notebook View in Word for Mac (sorry, PC users). You can add, label, and color-code tabs just like a real notebook, and each tab attaches to a “page” that simply gets longer and longer as you fill it up. A big advantage for keeping an idea file on your computer is, of course, that you now have an easily searchable record by using keywords.

what the Word for Mac Notebook layout looks like

I have also used Word’s Notebook View on a project-by-project basis for character sketches, random details about my work-in-progress, etc. I can copy and paste photos and research info straight from the Internet as well as direct links to Web sites.

Addendum: As I was composing this post, I happened upon news about the latest release of Scrivener, software for the Mac specifically designed for writers (I understand a Windows version is in the works). I’d put off trying Scrivener in the past, but with so many respected authors raving about the new version, I was convinced to give it a try. It has some exciting features that, once I figure them all out, will easily replace most of my “homemade” novel planning and research management systems.


Let’s talk! What are some of your favorite sources for story ideas? What methods have you experimented with for tracking and saving your ideas? What works for you? What doesn’t?

Leave a comment with your e-mail address to be entered in a drawing for Jason Rekulak’s The Writer’s Block, a surefire way to jumpstart ideas, beat writer’s block, and get your story moving forward!

69 comments :

  1. Primarily my ideas come from historical research. After that, it's a variety of sources--newspaper articles, some new tidbit of info I learn, etc.

    As to storing, I keep very little in paper--no space in the apartment for that. So if the idea spawns either a book title or very brief plot summary, I give it its own file folder in Word.

    My new best friend is Microsoft One Note which sounds a lot like the program you described in this post.

    Usually stuff I store by paper I lose.

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  2. WOW! Being addicted to all things organizational, I was SALIVATING at this post and of your file pictures. LOL!

    Great job explaining your process, Myra! Thanks for sharing.

    Cheryl

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  3. Hi Myra:

    I like to play "What if" games on romance themes. This is a kind of marco overview. For example: "What if" in a hidden child theme romance the child knew he was the hero and heroine's child but they did not know it. How could this happen and why would the child keep the secret? Having to solve this will lead to many unexpected ideas.

    Think of ideas as the product of problem solving.

    Vince

    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

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  4. Its interesting where authors find there stories. Its also interesting I am not a writer but often think it would be good to read a story about that or this would make a good story.

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  5. Vince, I love the spin you like to take and put on stories! Lots of time if you can reverse the obvious, look from outside in or vice versa, you get a whole new perspective.

    BK, I'm with you. As little paper as possible since my world is run by paper. And Jenny, I love that you've got such a feel for writing but don't think you're a writer. You've got a great take on things, kiddo.

    Myra, thanks for this stuff. Scrivener, huh? Sounds interesting.

    I used to do newspaper clippings, etc. Sometimes I still do, but rarely. Usually if I see something I like or that grabs my interest I pop it into a Word file I have for story ideas. So I take what I want from the clipping and then keep them categorized for my own quick reference. Right now I have a burgeoning Steeple Hill file filled with story ideas and if something hits me about a particular story I'm considering, I pop into the file and add it. So the file is simply my thoughts on various unnamed books with bits and pieces my head collects along the way, BUT...

    That's just enough to jump start me when it's time to look at the next series, next proposal, next theme. This way the hard part (conceiving story ideas) is done and the fun part (writing them) is ahead of me. That keeps me on track.

    Which means I've got GREAT story ideas mapped out for 2012. Love 'em!

    Okay, food. I'm up early today because if you didn't try the White Chocolate Almond Baklava Fudge yesterday, it's to die for. Grab some before everybody else hits the floor.

    Coffee's here, plain joe, Starbucks this time in honor of how much business I gave them visiting my youngest son in Boston last weekend....

    Pumpkin spice latte's made to order...

    Gingerbread, too, and peppermint mocha. Eggnog lattes. 'Tis the season!

    No scones. I'm not a fan of scones, my bad: I like fillings. Gooey, creamy fillings or fruit fantasia. So let's do a pancake breakfast with your choice of chocolate chip, potato, blueberry or buttermilk, light and fluffy.

    Real maple syrup. Real butter. Oh my stars, that's heaven right there!

    Idea files. Now that's an idea I can get behind, LOL!

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  6. Hi Myra

    Many thanks for all your ideas.

    I also find many ideas in newspapers- I'm using an item from my local newspaper for today's NaNoWriMo writing.

    Blogs are also great for ideas. I search for blogs written by people who are involved in hobbies or occupations pertinent to my characters' lives. I'm often amazed by the secrets people reveal in their blogs.

    Up to now I've been filing ideas from online sources in One Note. I take photos of info in hard copy so that I can save that on my computer too.

    Re Scrivener for Windows- I'm using the beta version for NaNoWriMo and it's really really good. I'm definitely going to buy it when it comes on the market next year. It has a research section available and that's where I keep all my ideas for my current book.

    Please enter me in the drawing. Thank you.
    Ruth Ann
    ruthanndell@mweb.co.za

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  7. Myra "Miss Organization" - wow! Great ideas here.

    I also pick up tidbits everywhere. I'm a traveler, and when we go for fun, part of MY fun is planning the trip. I collect all sorts of things and we stay in out of the way places and do our own thing.

    Hence my heroine will find her self in some of these places, right? And everywhere, I take dog photos - EVERYWHERE. You just never know when that specific pooch will end up in something. :)

    My challenge is to organize the ideas. I find methods I like but then I don't follow through. This is one of my goals for 2010 (I still have time, right?) :)

    Suspect it will be spilling over into 2011 though. Ha!

    You've inspired me to take another run at it though so I very much appreciate it.

    Vince - ah Vince - great view of things, as usual.

    Ruthy - YUM about covers it.

    Have a splendid writing day - please enter me may at maythek9spy dot com

    thanks all!

    PS - For the course at church - if y'all don't have it, you might consider finding Beyond The Yellow Ribbon. Don't recall the authors but it was an excellent book on the subject of returning veterans. I learned a lot.

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  8. Oh, I love this post! Anything that organizes my thoughts captures my attention.

    I recently heard about OneNote in Microsoft 2007. It is AMAZING!!!! Basically, it is like Three Ring Binders on your computer, complete with tabs and subpages. I'd explain it all, but it would take up your whole comment section.

    Here's a link to a post I did which explains all about it.
    http://thewritersalleys.blogspot.com/2010/07/writers-organizational-tool-onenote.html

    If you've got MS2007, check it out!

    Myra, you really could write tons of books with all that info collected. If only we had all the time in the world...

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  9. Another workshop in a box. This is awesome Myra!!

    But now I am a little bit afraid of you...

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  10. Myra, thanks so much for your ideas. At this point I have a notebook of ideas listed and folders with story starters. Thanks for giving some other ideas of ways to get a handle on organization.

    Please enter me in the drawing.
    umdmaurer at gmail dot com

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  11. Oh Myra, I so laughed at all those files. They are in my office too. I love all those files and what is so funny is, like you, most of that info never again sees the light of day.

    But every once in awhile I go back to find some tidbit of info.

    I like the physical files. Things I've "filed" in the computer truly never see the light of day again. For some reason the physical act of putting them in the file helps.

    But just because you don't use them doesn't mean they aren't in your brain waiting to pop out into a story somewhere. You'd be surprised at how many you use.

    Thanks for the plug for Scrivener. Let me know how you like it. I love my Mac and it sounds interesting.

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  12. Loves 2 Read Romance - LauraNovember 9, 2010 at 8:06 AM

    Thanks for sharing Myra! I am not a writer but I agree with Jenny. Sometimes I hear about something or read about something and think that would be interesting to read about.


    fantum2004 AT sbcglobal DOT net

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  13. This is going to sound really corny but -- love songs. Sometimes the lyrics just grab me and then my imagination starts playing around with a background story that could have been the impetus for the song. There's usually one line that really stands out and becomes a kind of mantra for the whole story idea in my head.

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  14. I love this post but, woe is me, I am so organizationally challenged! Because of that I have to store things in my head.
    Maybe someone can come over and help me implement an easy filing system :-)

    I tend to get most of my ideas from historical things I read about or see in movies or learn about at museums and historical sites. Also from dreams.

    Now, who wants to come over and be my Organization Fairy?

    jprivette1(at)roadrunner(dot)com

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  15. Hey, Myra! Fun post. I have a confession too. I almost never write down the story ideas that pop into my head. There are two reasons for this. One, I would never go back to the notebook, word file, or napkin I wrote the idea on. I just would not. I'd probably lose it or forget about it or just not need it.

    The second reason I don't write down my story ideas is that I figure if it's a great idea and is meant to be in a book, my mind will hold on to it and it will eventually develop into a story I want to write.

    Once, in researching The Healer's Apprentice, I came across the most awesome bit of information. Apparently, in medieval times, there was a law that said if a man was about to be executed for a crime and a woman, at the time of his execution, offered to marry him, he would be set free immediately. At first I wanted to save that for a future book, since it didn't seem to fit in with the story I was writing, but that was just too good to let lie, so I used it, working it into my WIP, The Healer's Apprentice. And it turned out to be a perfect fit, if I do say so myself.

    Another time a friend told the story of her uncle, who had a brain injury and was very unpredictable. He once tried to kill his own mother with a cement cinder block. My friend and her mother drove up just in time to stop him and he ended up throwing the cinder block through their windshield. I immediately said, That is so going into a book! And the stories she told about her uncle formed the basis for one of the characters in Magnolia Summer, which I am hoping is going to find a publisher SOON! (Please, God.)

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  16. Good morning, all! BK, thanks for kicking off the comments today!

    And Ruthy, I always appreciate your breakfast buffets--so yummy!

    Wouldn't you know it, today is dentist day. I'm headed out shortly for my 6-month cleaning and checkup so will pop back in as soon as I get back and will respond to comments then.

    In the meantime, keep sharing your thoughts on finding and keeping story ideas!

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  17. Hi Myra,

    Great post! I do get a lot of ideas from observing (and eavesdropping!) other people. Sometimes I brainstorm with my DH who can really stimulate my mind and imagination.

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  18. Myra -

    Wonderful ideas!

    I would lose them all if I tried to write them all down and organize them like that :p. I do have a notebook with some in it.

    Some other computer-y ideas:

    *OneNote has been mentioned.
    *Scrivener for both Mac and Windows - I DL'd the windows version for nano but haven't messed with it much.
    *YWriter - similar to Scrivener, free for Windows - dunno if they have a Mac version
    *Liquid Story Binder - similer to YWriter and Scrivener for Windows, dunno about Mac - it goes on sale fairly regularly

    I like different things about each of them but haven't messed with any of them too much.

    What I really want is a timeline program. LSB has a timeline feature but it's not what I want [or I can't figure out how to make it what I want, one of the two]. I want one like you see in like History textbooks and stuff. Haven't found any free ones.

    I'm leaving more calorie free birthday cake because yesterday was not a good day so two days of cake is even better :).

    Carol

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

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  19. Myra,

    Great post! You sound very organized.

    I have had ideas from newspaper articles and from researching my ancestors. Some of the stories I have pieced together are intriguing to say the least. One day I may have to write an historical!

    I also love reading the obits, so I enjoyed seeing your notebook with the clippings! I may start doing that.

    I'm not so good at storing. I have random pieces of paper in a folder (somewhere), but I finally did jot them into a Word file!

    Some of these programs sound interesting, except that I have an ancient version of Word. :(

    You guys find the best pictures! What's your secret? I end up looking in the sales flyers for models that look like my characters. LOL.

    Good luck at the dentist. I have a mammogram scheduled for this afternoon - TRADE YA! LOL.

    Sue
    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

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  20. You know, the standard question for authors is: Where do you get your ideas.

    I get this question so dependably that it can become cliche, and yet if I really stop, it's kind of hard to explain and yet it's interesting. WHERE DO I GET MY IDEAS???

    Petticoat Ranch--the second Dirty Harry movie Vigilantes.
    Calico Canyon--a Sunday School class--hyperactive little boys
    Gingham Mountain--the tiny house I grew up in with eight kids.

    Montana Rose--Love Comes Softly
    The Husband Tree--I got no idea what I was thinking there. :) Sort of an amped up Petticoat Ranch with no vigilantes and a cattle drive.
    Wildflower Bride--Alpha female, beta male

    I just start with a germ.
    I got an idea once walking down the deserted street of a living history museum that was mostly closed late in the season so I was alone.
    I got an idea from the Voice activated calling feature on a cell phone.

    Buffalo Gal--in Black Hills Blessing was from a story I read about Ted Turner's buffalo ranch in western Nebraska.

    Stories just come from anywhere. I watch a movie or TV show and think, "It'd've gone a different direction right there, taking it a different way."
    I read a book and some character catches my attention and think, "I like her but I'd make her a frontier rancher who lost her husband in an Indian raid......

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  21. So MELANIE
    You're saying, in Medieval times, getting married was considered a punishment on a par with execution?

    whoa

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  22. Has Bloggger changed for anyone else this more?

    I'm not having to type in a verification word.

    I like it.

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  23. Hey, Myra, GREAT post, girl!!

    My daughter is in law school and spends a HUGE bulk of her time at a Starbucks before finals, so much so that all the employees know her by name. The point of this is that Amy came up with an idea for a book by just sitting in a Starbucks day after day, overhearing bits and pieces from a wide range of people's lives who were either on the phone, having coffee with a friend, etc. and it's realllly eye-opening as to the stories she is privy too!!

    Personally, most of my ideas come from some facet of my own life or my family's, which, to say the least, is (or was) pretty dramatic and crazy before (and immediately after) I came to Christ. Given my age, I have a wealth of ideas from which to choose, but one of these days even I will run out and have to try some of these other methods, so thank you!! :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  24. I see someone mentioned Microsoft OneNote. It's amazing! Even better than the notebook view in Word for Mac. I really miss OneNote now that I have a Mac. But i'm making do.

    Myra, thanks for a look at how you organize! I have file folders of brochures and maps and articles I've cut out of papers. But I really like your notecard file idea. I've never done that.

    Although I think now that we can put so much stuff on the computer, it's probably the way to go. I do have an "ideas" file. But like you said, sometimes I go back and just laugh at what I once thought could be a good book idea. :)

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  25. I have NO SYSTEM for keeping track of my ideas. NONE. How's that for true confessions??

    I do have a little notebook I keep in my purse that I'll jot things down in - but it jsut stays there, along with my short grocery lists, notes from the AWANA leaders' meeting, and doodles.

    I could definitely use that book. Please enter me :)
    joanne(at)joannesher(dot)come

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  26. I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You :-)

    ~Ron

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  27. Since I write woomen's fiction, this has always struck me as odd, but a lot of my ideas come from the world of sports.

    Really.

    I'll hear about something that's affected an athlete, and I always wonder about how it affects the woman. And the idea builds from there.

    sally bradley writes AT gmail dot com (delete all the spaces)

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  28. Thanks for the information on organizing Myra. This is ongoing!
    Please enter me in the draw.
    Jan
    janet_kerr@msn.com

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  29. "Look, Ma, no cavities!"

    Yay! Back from the dentist--not my favorite thing to do, but always nice when they don't tell me to come back in two weeks to replace a filling or get a crown.

    BK, I am more and more inclined to keep less and less paper around! I've heard other writers talking about One Note. It does sound a lot like Notebook view in Word for Mac.

    Vince, "what if" is a writer's favorite game! I'm working on a version of it right now as I start planning my next book.

    Ausjenny, it sounds to me like you're a writer at heart!

    LOL, Ruthy, you are a writing machine! I doubt you will ever run out of story ideas!

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  30. Ruth Ann, using blogs for ideas and research is a great idea! I especially like it because you're getting the personal side--real people's experiences.

    KC, I'm with you--still working on finding the BEST way to keep my collection of story ideas organized. And thanks for the book recommendation. I'm thinking of having a returning vet character in my next book.

    Sherrinda, it's true--I've got tons of material, if only I would go back through my vast array of ideas. Maybe someday I will. ;>D

    Abigail, thanks for visiting Seekerville!

    Tina??? Blogmistress extraordinaire? Afraid of moi??? No way, girlfriend! I live in awe of YOU!

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  31. MaDonna, it sounds like you're well on your way with a story idea collection! Good luck with your writing!

    Sandra, I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in my multiple-filing-systems misery! I find the same thing--stuff I've saved on my computer gets lost and forgotten. That's why I'm hopeful the Notebook in Word for Mac will turn out to be a more effective system.

    Laura, maybe those of who do write should get with you and Ausjenny and pick your brains for story ideas!

    Kav, I love the idea of using love songs for story ideas! Sometimes they make good book titles too. In fact, Summerside Press is launching a new romance line with nostalgic love song titles.

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  32. "Mary Bailey," when you find the Organization Fairy, send her over to my house. She can start sorting through my so-called filing systems!

    Melanie, I tend to think like you do--if the idea is strong enough, I won't forget it. Unfortunately . . . I am getting older, and so is my . . .

    What were we just talking about???

    Edwina! Husbands can sometimes be great brainstorming partners! Good idea!

    Carol, thanks for sharing the various software options. I'm still very much in the learning process with Scrivener. I think I'll love it eventually, but for now it's still a bit frustrating. Wish I knew of a timeline program that would fit the bill for you. For tracking story events I usually use an Excel spreadsheet set up like a monthly calendar.

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  33. Sue, I think I'd rather get my teeth cleaned than to the mammogram thing. Hope yours goes well! I find a lot of my character photos by searching iStock or Getty Images. You can add all kinds of filters to your search until you get just the right mix. Then sometimes I find a photo that's almost what I'm looking for, so I switch the search to find more photos by that photographer. Often that way I find other poses using the same models.

    And BTW, looking at photos, even stock images online, often inspires story ideas!

    Mary!!! I wish I lived inside your head!.....On second thought . . . that might be kind of scary. But you're right. Some of the best ideas come at you out of nowhere. Then they latch on and don't let go until you write the dadblamed book!

    Julie, I can just imagine how many interesting conversations your daughter overheard in the coffee shop! And I have to agree with you on how much material we draw on from our personal lives and family experiences. Really, that's what we know best, isn't it?

    Missy, I agree--every once in a while I page through my idea notebook or look at some of the note cards I used to write ideas on, and I can't help but laugh. I thought that was interesting??? Give me a break!

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  34. Joanne! I so empathize! At least you have a little notebook where things are getting written down. Just don't lose the notebook!!!

    Ron, we appreciate the follow! Hope you find interesting stuff in Seekerville to keep you coming back!

    Sally, my mind works in similar ways. I always wonder how a husband, wife, friend, or family member might be affected by a difficult situation. Often it isn't the afflicted person's story that's truly interesting, but how loved ones cope with the sudden changes in their lives and in the relationship. Good point!

    Janet K, glad you found the information helpful!

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  35. Love this post. LOL, I REALLY need to check out OneNote. I HAVE it, but haven't taken the time to play even though I keep hearing about this over and over again and it sounds like a great fit for me.

    I'm a software nerd. Most of my stories are based on something in the real life of someone I know but with a major twist.

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  36. Myra, thanks for sharing your management ideas. My method is simple. I have two folders, one for story ideas and another for historical tidbits that might trigger or flesh out a story. Not sophisticated but it works for me. I'm not one of those writers with a million story ideas in their heads fighting to get on the page. So I don't dare waste the ones I get. :-)

    Janet

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  37. Ron, you're the stinkinest cutest old geezer I've seen in a while.

    Welcome, Dude.

    Snickerdoodles. We baked early today so there's a fresh sampling of one of my favorite tasting and smelling old-time Betty Crocker recipe cookies.

    Snickerdoodles.

    Just the name makes you want to be nice. Have fun. Help yourselves to seconds, I've got a diaper to change.

    Oh my stars. The laws of physics are being challenged as we speak. What's IN those tiny diaper pellets and how can they hold so much?????

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  38. I've never looked for ideas. I never had an ambition to be a novelist, so I had no reason.

    Until the idea for my WIP hit me out of the blue one day while I was listening to Johnny Cash on the radio. The song ended, and I said, "What if he did?" My husband said, "What if who did what?" it was a pretty comical moment.

    The song mentions four different people, so I even had a cast of characters from the start. Though I've added several to fill it out.

    Since then, it seems God fires off an idea every so often. Two ideas came to me when a couple characters in the first story demanded their own. Given the frequent appearance and vast popularity of trilogies, series, etc., I assume my characters aren't the first to do that.

    Another idea came from one of my favorite novels. A character's mother had attended and taught at a school for the deaf, and I thought, "What if he had a daughter who decided to teach there like the grandmother she never knew?" Then, into my mind walked a family, traumatized by an accident that killed the mother and rendered the son deaf. Family in pain without a mother meets loving teacher with a heart for deaf children...sounded like a winner to me.

    Other ideas have come from Bible studies, Greek mythology (I'm a huge fan of both of these ;) ) even a very vivid dream I had once.

    I usually turn on the computer or whip out a paper and pen and write whatever has come to me in that moment so I don't lose it.

    My goal is to get all of these stories written so that I have to go hunting ideas.

    I'd love to win the book...

    andeemarie95@gmail.com

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  39. Hmm...I think I have a One Note disc somewhere, but I've never tried it. Didn't know anything about it. Thought Word was all I really needed. Now I'm curious.

    Most of my ideas go by the wayside. For the most part, I don't write ideas down unless it just won't leave me alone. Then, I'll either write it in a notebook or put it in a Word file for "safekeeping." Maybe someday I'll need the little push past writer's block.

    Sometimes, I'll actually start with a character profile and a little background info and save it in Word.

    Also, on my Yahoo page, I have an application for writing notes. This holds various things I need or want to keep at my fingertips for those moments I need quick access.

    I've also written several short stories that I've sent into a magazine. The ones that get rejected, I'm saving as story ideas for possible future novel ideas.

    lr. mullin at live .com

    All these tips are amazing! Thanks for sharing!

    Vince, I love your ideal! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    ~Linnette

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  40. Julia, isn't that the way it goes? We have "systems" in place but just don't make the time to figure them out and put them to use. It's often easier to go with the familiar, even if it's less efficient overall.

    Just TWO folders, Janet? They must be crammed with stuff--at least your historical tidbits folder. Your stories are always so rich with detail that makes them come alive!

    Ruthy, I hope you washed your hands between changing the diaper and setting out the snickerdoodles.

    Andrea, I've had those story ideas hit me out of the blue and DEMAND to be written on the spot! Sometimes it comes as an extremely vivid dream, and I wake up just itching to write the story. It would be nice if this happened when it was actually convenient for me!

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  41. Linnette! I just now went to my Yahoo homepage and looked up the notepad feature! Didn't even know it existed! (It's part of Yahoo Mail if anyone is looking for it.) Thanks for the tip! And good idea about saving your unpublished short stories for possible development into a book!

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  42. @Linette - Didn't know that about yahoo email either!

    One Note should install with your version of Microsoft Word/Office/etc. It looks like it's available on Office 03, 07 and 10.

    Where do I get my ideas... [I sort of skipped that part earlier...]

    The sequel to my completed MS... I'm not really sure but it's been batting around for several years. The completed MS because a friend demanded that we know what happened before that. The 3rd from my own life.

    The 5th came from reading a book by a very well known CBA author and I didn't really like it all THAT much and thought 'um I could do better' [yeah, we'll see... ;)]. I can at least do different! It hit me that the little sister from MS 1-3 would be the perfect character for it. As I was typing the first scene, I realized how much more backstory there was for her and the 4th one was born.

    My current WIP... Um... the female protag kept insisting she was in WITSEC. The rest of it came from a Flash Fiction exercise I did with a friend and it grew from there...

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  43. Carol, isn't it amazing how an idea can just blossom? That's what I love about the creative process!

    This afternoon I'm playing with a brand new "writing toy" that just came in yesterday's mail. I first heard of it from Pam Hillman (thanks, Pammers!). It's called The Writr's Brain Storming Kit: Thinking in New Directions, by Pam McCutcheon & Michael Waite. (You can order it from Gryphon Books.)

    The book comes with a deck of 50 cards and instructions for using the word prompts on each card to generate characters, goals, motivation, conflict, and even plot turning points! I've already outlined the basic traits of a hero and heroine for a new romance I'm just getting started on. It's fun!

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  44. If I could type, that would be Writers Brain Storming Kit!

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  45. Except that time I left out the apostrophe. I just can't win!

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  46. Awesome pictures! Thanks for sharing your process.

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  47. Oh Myra, this is funny because there I was organizing my files and it just popped into my head that I should check the Seeker blog.

    Yes, I finally submitted Emma's Outlaw to both the editor and agent who requested it and I've now lifted my self-imposed blackout of blog surfing. Yay!

    And I was going to start my Nano project but I just needed a few hours to ... clear one story out before owning the next, you know?

    And since all these files of research from the last 5 mss are piled around my desk, I decided to put them away now that I have this neat new desk with 2 drawers of hanging files just like your 2nd photo. So that's where all my research info, one-sheets, character photos, etc are going. We'll see how it works.

    If it doesn't, I'll come back to your great post. :)

    Anita Mae.

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  48. You all have convinced me to try One Note.

    Cheryl

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  49. Im a writer in my imagination but no way would it get to paper.
    I can talk about something but I cant get it onto paper. when I tried to keep a diary it would be a one line sentence for the day if that. I just struggled to write what I could say.
    On some forums when I posted about my trip to Canada and what was happening I had people comment it was the most they had every seen.

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  50. I have one note but not sure how to use it except saving things to it.
    like receipts etc. need to learn more.

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  51. You're welcome, Nicole! Thanks for stopping in!

    Anita Mae!!!! Yay for finishing & submitting your manuscript! Have fun sorting and filing. I'm glad you can't see what my desk looks like right this minute. I've got books, brochures, notes, and random pieces of paper scattered all around me!

    Cheryl, I agree, everyone who's used OneNote seems to like it a lot. I bet it's a lot like Notebook view in Word for Mac. Otherwise I might be insanely jealous. But not jealous enough to go back to a PC!!!!

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  52. Ausjenny, you and I sound like "verbal communication opposites." I am the quietest person in the world when it comes to face-to-face conversation. (I think Anita Mae would vouch for that--LOL!) But I can write long e-mails, long blogs, long stories, long letters . . . and I have scads of journals I've kept over the years. There's just something freeing for me to hold a pen in my hand or sit at the keyboard.

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  53. I realize I need to collect all my clippings in one organized spot. What a novel idea, Myra! My ideas are spread out all over.

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  54. See, that's my problem, Cara. I have the 2 file drawers.

    AND the plastic note card file box.

    AND the spiral notebook.

    AND this messy collection on my desk.

    And random files on my computer.

    AND an overflowing stacking tray where all my miscellaneous stuff gets dropped.

    I think I decided to write on this topic because I SO BADLY need to develop a more efficient system for myself!

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  55. I'll start off topic...I got my copy of Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint that I won a week ago. Yay! New Craft material. If I follow my personal precedent, I'll read the first three chapters, then my brain will overload, and I'll have to find something lighter to read for a while.

    I just remembered another idea that I had. This one came to me in church. Trilogy about siblings named Peter, Paul, and Mary who share some of the same spiritual characteristics of those people. Peter and Paul worked out pretty well in my head, but I'm having trouble deciding which Mary to model mine after.

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  56. I have an Office Live email account and is has One Note capability. Now, to learn how to use it.

    ~Linnette

    PS - live is the same as hotmail - both Microsoft.

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  57. Oh, I knew there was a reason I wanted to go back to a Mac.

    I pull my ideas from life experiences and characters that I have crossed paths with. Then I do a lot of 'what ifs'. Course I haven't been able to complete a manuscript yet as I bore myself to 'non-completion'. I could definitely use some help. Would love to be entered to win The Writer's Block.

    Smiles,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  58. Myra, as soon as I saw the photos of the file box, I knew you had to have written this particular blog. You are so organized! I'm impressed.

    I save clippings and jot down notes and keep some ideas in my computer as well. But the ones that stick, the ideas that turn into stories keep hanging around no matter where I try to stash them.

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  59. Cindy, I "converted" to the Mac 3 years ago and have never looked back. And yes, you definitely need to see those mss. through to completion! If you get bored halfway through, do what Mary does--have someone pull out a gun and shoot another character! I've been tempted to try that a few times myself!

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  60. LOL, Debby--am I THAT predictable???

    Truth is, I'm great at setting up organizational systems but not always so good at follow-through. Always trying the "next new thing" hoping it will finally be THE system that works for me!

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  61. Myra said:

    Truth is, I'm great at setting up organizational systems but not always so good at follow-through. Always trying the "next new thing" hoping it will finally be THE system that works for me!

    YES! That's me! I can GET organized [when properly motivated] but STAYING organized is something else entirely!

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  62. Love the ideas. I'm getting back into writing so I'm a little rusty at finding story ideas.

    Blessings,
    Jodie Wolfe
    digging4pearls(at)comcast(dot)net

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  64. Enjoyed the read. I've started collecting ideas in this manner (following advice) and wondered how does one keep the collection from turning into overflowing files and notebooks? Its nice to see new computer software to keep this from happening.

    louisek.riley@gmail.com

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  65. Actually, Mary, I think it's more on the lines of, "This guy must not be quite so bad if someone is willing to marry him."
    Who knows what those medieval people were thinking! We have some pretty weird laws on the books here in America too.

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  66. Come to think of it, maybe I should do a study of weird laws if I ever need a story idea! I think I would get a lot of ideas from that.

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  67. I SO relate, Carol!

    Jodie, here's hoping for LOTS of story ideas to inspire you!

    Blanche, even in the computer age I still don't know how to conquer the paper mess, as you can see from the photos!

    Melanie, I really need to get hold of your book! It sounds like a great story!

    Thanks, everyone, for chiming in on Tuesday's topic!

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  68. I absolutely LOVE Scrivener, and I know a few friends who were in the market for a new laptop who went with a MacBook BECAUSE of Scrivener. Love love.

    Valerie at valeriecomer dot com

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