Today’s post comes from a fellow writer, Johanna “Jody” Staton about how she finds and keeps ideas for writing. Here’s Jody:
Even when we enjoy writing and want to do it, we always seem to have excuses not to be doing more of it: school, jobs, family plans and obligations.
For me, there was one more excuse: no ideas that grabbed me by fingertips and dragged me to the keyboard. Until I read a column in a writers’ magazine that suggested keeping an “idea dump.” So I started one.
I’ve always gotten a daily newspaper, a habit learned from my grandfather and reinforced in journalism classes. Skimming the headlines gave me a general idea what was going on in the world. If the headline hooked me and the lead paragraph reeled me in, a whole article gave me insight into people and stories I didn’t know about before.
My mother had frequently clipped articles that she sent to me in college. Off on my own, I rarely cut anything out of the paper, until I read that “idea dump” column.
Space was made in a file cabinet. Out came the manila folders, the scissors. My husband read the newspaper first, because it developed holes once I got hold of it. Magazines were divested of entire pages.
The folders multiplied like rabbits. “Characters” became a bigger hanging box-bottomed folder housing “Children,” “Teens,” etc. “Settings” got geographical divisions. For articles from the writing magazine, genres each had their own folder, as did various aspects of the writing craft.
The following outline is an example of just some of the folders in my “idea dump”:
people who work with animals
middle grades books
young adult books
my home town
point of view
Can I claim that each of those clippings resulted in a writings project—a story, an essay, an article, a novel? No. But what I do know is that once I followed the column’s advice and started my own “idea dump,” something must have gotten turned on in my brain, so that now I have enough ideas for novels to keep me writing forevermore.
How do you organize/sort/keep your ideas for possible stories?
Jody Staton first realized she wanted to be a writer when she was twelve, and won an award at summer camp for the best writing of the season, a paragraph titled “God’s Symphony.” She worked for her high school and college newspapers, and was an English major. She has a graduate degree in magazine journalism. Jody was also an editor at Jack and Jill magazine, and had stories and articles published there and elsewhere. She does freelance copy editing, and has written several middle grade and young adult novels, all in various stages of development. None are published yet, but some have gotten favorable comments from agents and editors. She is currently working on a horsey historical for upper middle grades.