One of the first things I realized about writing was that there was no way I could write a good idea down fast enough. While my mind thinks in longer formats, my attention span is about as long as the length of a movie. (And that is only if the story is well constructed and engaging). Here I was picturing the scenes of a story never before captured and I could not get it all down on paper.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that if only I could keep pen to page that I would have cranked out my first book in one sitting. Quite the contrary. At least for me writing a book is not stream of consciousness, or even like writing this blog post. What actually was occurring, I quickly found out, is that I was imagining interesting scenes, but I struggled to connect the pieces. The story was not coming together. It seemed so clear in my head but the nitty-gritty was going to take some doing. I had information overload. Many ideas did not start out great. Many ideas did not even stay on topic.
People always ask me if I ever run out of ideas. When you let yourself be creative I have determined that there is no such thing as running out of ideas. Making those ideas meet or exceed what you have envisioned for a project? Now that is another question.
You would think I would have learned to outline better. But I felt too good for that. Or more accurately, I was too impatient. I was hoping this great idea playing through my mind could be drawn out on the page for me to see and enjoy with perfect flow, form and function. Writing, however, is work and it takes a lot more sticking to it at all costs to see it through. I soon realized that if I wanted my story to come to life I needed a lot more determination. Even after the blueprints were drawn up it was going to take hardwork, brick by brick. Part of me still thinks that there are a number of ways to divide my time and maybe it is just as well to let others create, through sweat and tears, for me to enjoy and consume. Except there is one problem. I caught the fire for writing that I cannot extinguish. Ideas kept coming. And no matter how I look for others to write the idea that is in my head, with every twist and turn that comes in a story I would not expect another would write it in the way I would choose to engage with the story. No matter what I have enjoyed through the years a great story waiting to come to light relentlessly begs for my attention.
If I thought of a great idea for the work at hand I stopped what I was doing and wrote it out. It could have been in the middle of the night, but I slept through it enough times to know that I would not remember a good idea if I didn’t wake up from a good slumber and jot it down. If I thought of a great idea for another work, I stopped what I was doing and wrote it down. Before I knew it I was sitting in mounds of papers and sticky notes with various thoughts. These soon got input into my computer until I had a multiplicity of files that spelled confusion. Years and years went by with various ventures coming and going, but I always returned to writing projects that just would not leave me alone. Often every spare moment was taken by the trade. Alas, I am a writer!
It took me far too long to realize the importance of an outline. I suppose part of that is the fear of stomping out creativity. There is a point to that. It is not easy to keep interested in a book you will end up reading through numerous times especially when you know the beginning from the end before you start. Still, some kind of skeleton structure is the best advice I can give to new writers before they get carried away in tangents without realizing it. Learn not only the rise and fall of climax within a plot, but the beginning, middle, and end of every chapter becoming its own story within a story and leading smoothly from one compelling tale to the next.
An author friend of mine gave me advice that unless I was certain I was willing to give writing the time it would require that I should think twice about becoming a writer. I guess I was not able to avoid the itch. The ideas beg me to write them down, first as a note, then as an outline, and then as novels. If you have a great idea, whether it is writing or another craft, learn how to outline your project before you get to work. As you get better you can go off script a little more, but even then projects without instructions often become missing parts. If you have a passion to see an idea through, don’t let your ideas get lost in the oblivion. Write the gist of it down, and go to work!