I have, so far, fortunately never been hit by writer’s block. I usually have the reverse of it. Writer’s flood? I get odd ideas from things I’ve seen, thoughts that pop into my head, bits of conversation I overhear. I have a file on my netbook labeled “Writer’s Journal,” where I stash ideas, inspirations, or the various equivalents of doodling. I also have a small notebook I’m supposed to always have with me (and sometimes even manage it) to jot down ideas when I can’t get to my computer. I try to go over my notes (including the ones that get written down on envelopes, receipts, scrap paper when I don’t have my notebook) fairly often and make sure they get into that journal file. And I back that up, often.

But this isn’t about organization, really. This is about when I decide it’s worth pursuing one of these ideas. I can’t claim this will work for everyone, or even most folks, just for me. Maybe it will be of use, maybe you’ll think it’s the worst idea ever.

The system, if it’s worth calling it that, I have now runs like this: when I get an idea, unless I think it’s absolutely amazing, I will make a note and put it aside. I’m not really ignoring it, more seeing what it will do. Often, they come back to me. Sometimes I get whole scenes, or conversations, or something, rattling around in my head as some of these ideas grow. If something comes back, with more detail, or specific ways to go forward with it, I go ahead with it, or at least try and flesh it out some. Some scenes/ideas keep coming back over time, and I figure if they are that persistent, I should do something with them.

I either open a file for them in Word Perfect (yeah, yeah, I’m one of the only people left that uses it, I know) or, more recently, I’ve started using Scrivner. Scrivner, has proven to be a great organizer, along with Freemind, and I recommend both. No, no one paid me for any of those suggestions (but I’m amenable to bribes if anyone from those companies read this). I get a paragraph or so about what the idea is, or who the main characters are, or some kind of idea where I’m going. If I look back at it and say “Ok, so what?” it goes back into storage. If I like it, or am interested by it, I push ahead. Sometimes this leads to a few complications– as I write this, I’m in the middle of three novel length ideas I’m taking turns on, as well as various shorter ones. I jump back and forth a lot. I fully expect if I ever get one of those brain mapping things done, there will be lots of random hops and skips that will make the poor tech wonder if his machine is broken, and probably become some med student’s thesis down the road, if they do those. Note to self, research that.

Short version of all this, I guess, is that, for me, if the idea proves persistent, or grows, I go ahead with it. If it’s a little snippet that isn’t going anywhere interesting yet, I put it aside for another time. I don’t know if this will prove helpful to anyone else, or if various other writers are reading this and going “What’s wrong with HIM?” but there it is, for what it’s worth.

Maybe I’ll try and do something on organization another time. If I get around to it. Or the idea grows on me.

About the author

Wayland Smith WAYLAND SMITH is the pen name for a native Texan who has lived in Massachusetts, New York, Washington DC, and presently makes his home in Virginia. His rather unlikely list of jobs includes private investigator, comic book shop owner, ring crew for a circus (then he ran away from the circus and joined home), deputy sheriff, and freelance stagehand. Wayland is a four time participant in, and survivor of, NaNoWriMo, having made the 50,000 word goal each time. A black belt in shao lin kung fu, he is also a fan of comic books, reading, writing, and various computer games (I”ll shut Civ down in one more turn. Really). He lives with a beautiful woman who was crazy enough to marry him, and a goofy dog with a fondness for peanut butter and white wine.