The Idea File

There are some ideas that come out fully formed, like Athena from Zeus’ head. These ideas are ready to be turned into writing projects immediately. Others need to stew for years. Most are somewhere in-between.

Ideas are great, but only useful if they are readily available when you need them. That means time and effort to gather them. In the previous article we talked about where to find ideas. Now we talk about how to store them.

The memory can be a faulty sieve, leaking the contents when you aren’t looking. I have a bad memory, and it’s getting worse thanks to health problems. Because of this, I don’t take memory for granted. As this series continues, you will see how this has affected every aspect of my writing life.

It also affects ideas. I cannot trust myself to remember them when the time comes.

Welcome “The Idea File”.

This isn’t a new concept. Authors have been using variations of it for ages. It’s sometimes called something else; it’s sometimes formal and sometimes very informal.

Basically it’s a place to gather the ideas, inspirations, and tidbits into one place, waiting for the day it may be retrieved and used in a project.

Don’t have an Idea File? Then it’s time to start one!

It can be a literal file in a filing cabinet where you drop snippets, pictures, or notes to yourself. It can be a special notebook that you make notes in or tape things into. It can be a file on the computer that you open up and type in ideas. It can be a shoebox under the bed. Whatever works for you.

Any time I see something with story potential, whether it is plot, characters, location, technology or scene ideas, I open up a computer file and type it in quick. It takes only a minute or two, but it’s safe and sound. No chance of forgetting it or losing it. It’s tucked away, awaiting the right project.

At first the file looks pathetic. Only a few lines that are barely worth the effort to look at. At first you will likely remember everything in it, so why have it at all?

Don’t let that discourage you!

The wonderful thing about an Idea File is that over the months and years the ideas will accumulate. When you are adding new ones, an old one might suddenly spark a full idea that is usable. Or it might inspire a completely unrelated idea. Something might inspire you on a current stuck project.

And, of course, when you are finished with a writing project and need to jump into something new, this is a place to go. To find the seeds of a new project.

Read through the accumulated ideas. See if any spark scenes, plot lines or interesting characters. Try combining more than one idea.

The latter is what I’ve had the most success with. A lot of ideas just aren’t big enough on their own. But, combined with another in a different area of the Idea File? Yeow, the possibilities! A simple idea has just found depth and complexity that it didn’t have on its own.

Start your own Idea File. Add to it regularly. Perhaps you, as well, will find hidden treasures to inspire future stories.
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“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

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4 thoughts on “The Idea File”

  1. My problem is that I have several Idea Files—in various notebooks, on the computer, in binders. Some are mixed up with other things, like journal entries are such. I really should have one or two centralized locations for this stuff.

    Good reminder to keep written records of ideas!

  2. I have a folder with lots of files and connected subfolders (same name as the file) for additional stuff that relates to the original idea. Also, I have several stories I wrote as a kid scanned in because I would love to return to those ideas. Still, more often than not, I’m using a brand new idea for my next project. Go figure…

  3. I was taught and started an idea’s File during my journalist course over 30 years ago. All cut out of the newspapers of unusual or strange things reported over the years. It is an expandable cardboard file that has a fold-across lid. I must admit it has expanded as far as it can go and still clip the lid shut. I have no intention of scanning into the computer, but have an empty folder waiting for the next lot of ideas. 🙂

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