A Writing Process: Step 1 - Inception
This is the first in a series of posts that will explore the different steps of a writing process I presented in an earlier post (click here to view the initial post).
- Inception (collecting ideas)
- Writing (putting words to paper)
- Alpha and Beta Reading (getting honest feedback)
- Polishing (updates based on feedback)
- Editing (copyedit done by a professional)
- Packaging (bundling everything together, including getting a cover)
- Publishing (sharing it with the world)
- Evaluation (learning from mistakes and successes)
Many authors and aspiring authors will tell you that they have ideas by the hundreds. The difficult part is usually transforming these ideas into coherent and interesting stories. Since every story undoubtedly starts with one or multiple ideas, it seems logical that the first step in any writing process should be the collection of ideas.
I do not know what other authors do, but in my case, I try to keep a pen and a notepad handy, in several locations in my house, as well as in my car and at my work. The bookmarks I use while reading books can also serve as paper (a wonderful idea by Leigh, my wife, who bought me these bookmarks on which you can take notes). Many will tell you that ideas come at the weirdest of moments, so having something to scribble them down is the best way to catch them. Although I take my ideas from many different sources, my imagination seems to be especially productive while I am driving in my car, alone, over long distances. This has the result that I often have to stop on the side of the road, multiple times during the same trip, to write down what just popped into my head, thus making the trip that much longer.
Once you have ideas on paper, the next step is to copy all those ideas in one location. I do this by bringing all my notes and pieces of paper to my computer. Then, I have a single computer file (in Scrivener) where I keep all the ideas together. I usually write down a short description, the date, as well as the context where the idea came from (it can be a comment by someone, a movie, a TV show, etc.). Sometimes, I even add a little blurb about what the story could be. I then group the ideas into different categories like "fantasy short story ideas", "sci-fi story ideas", "setting ideas", event ideas" , etc.
Once committed to a file, I forget about what I wrote down. I only return much later, when I am ready to begin a new story or when I need something to get me out of a writer's block (an unsuspected benefit of keeping such a list). Over time, ideas that initially seemed great can become stale, while other notes believed to be without hope can find a place in a story.
There is an important requirement for this step to work. You need a wife and a family who understand what you are trying to do and who will not throw away your notes when they find them scattered all over the place. But then, support and understanding is a constant in anything a writer does.