Confessions of an Author: Ideas

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on April 26, 2013 in Anecdote, Confessions of an Author, Elixir Bound, Large Hadron Collider, Physics, Writing |

Business first: I’m over at author extraordinaire Kai Strand’s blog today with a character interview of Katora, the main character from Elixir Bound.

Confession #5: I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to write.

Seriously, though, I’m not even sure where most of my ideas come from. I’ve mentioned this before, but often ideas (or solutions to plot problems) just pop into my head while I’m in the shower. Or maybe I’ll see some random person at the mall or the playground or wherever and *poof* I’ll have a new character with a backstory and goals and conflicts.

While watching the Oscars this year (and admittedly feeling tired in general and very bored with the whole awards/skit thing), my next Great Big Idea appeared. The idea took my obsession with physics (you know how I love black holes and the Large Hadron Collider) and gave it a character. There isn’t quite a fleshed out plot yet, but the character is very clear to me now. Before this moment (literally a very brief moment…no idea one minute, a great idea the next) I only had an intellectual interest in something, and now I have a real, solid character.

Not all my ideas are great either. Some pop into my head and fade away. Some I might think about for awhile and eventually jot down or even work on fleshing out a bit, but they don’t really come together. One of the reasons I don’t like to write my ideas on paper when they first come to me is because I have so many ideas. I know the ones that stay with me, the ones I can’t stop thinking about, are the ones that are good fodder for a story.

I’m not really sure exactly what parts need to come together to make this magic happen. I’ve always been a creative thinker, so part of it may just be my mind is always working in the background, synthesizing input and my thoughts while I’m doing other things. Part of it, too, is because I’m open to new ideas because it’s those Shiny New Ideas are what keep me excited about writing.

Writing a first draft of a novel is tough, revising a novel is tough, editing a novel is tough…the ideas are the fun part…they’re the things that give me the rush of adrenaline, that make me push through a tough middle when drafting, a tough scene when revising, or line edits (which are just plain boring).

So I’m afraid I can’t share what makes me a creative person or where my ideas come from…because I really have no idea. But there are people who know about creativity, who study it. The good news is recent research indicates you can train your brain to be more creative. I’m not sure I’ll be partaking in any of those exercises, though. I just don’t think my brain can handle any more Big Ideas right now!

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  • I agree 100%. The creative mind must be disciplined and weeding out the extraneous junk comes in the selection.

    Interesting that you let your subconscious do that for you. Mine is not “well behaved.”

  • Mary W. says:

    Showers seem to be a breeding ground for ideas for authors. Hmm, wonder if it’s the water, the relaxation of it, or the fact that you cant’ get to a pen and paper when you’re in there! (well, at least not easily)

    Like you, I tend to mull over an idea for a while, sorting out where it can go, before I start writing it down.

    • I have heard from other authors that showers work for them, too. I actually do a lot of prewriting in my head before I ever write anything down. Just how my process works.

  • Ann Herrick says:

    In bed, lights off, seems to be a place where ideas hit too, especially if there’s nothing around on which to write/record these ideas and you have to get up and search for something. 😀

  • I find the initial writing difficult too, but the editing is a blast. I love it! As for ideas, I have the same affliction. I have no idea where these ideas come from. They just do, oftentimes while I’m writing.

    • More power to you, Suzanne, for enjoying the editing process. I find it a bit painstaking. Drafting can be fun for me, once I commit to sitting down and doing it. Hardest to get started…especially with all the shiny distractions of the Internet.

      Seriously, why am I here on the blog? I should be writing this morning! 🙂

  • Meradeth says:

    I totally agree–the ideas are where the fun part is! (Thought, I do like first drafts a lot too 🙂 I always kind of wonder what’s going on in my brain for these random ideas to pop up, though maybe it’s a good thing I don’t know when things get weird!

  • Mirka Breen says:

    “I’m not even sure where most of my ideas come from.”

    I always thought ideas came from the Idea Farm. No? 😉

    I have had both the idea drought (it’s a momentary perception, not the real thing) and downpour. Either way, the source is infinite.

  • I’m the same way. I can’t give a specific reason or time for an idea. Something just catches my eye or a conversation sparks an idea and it builds from there. I usually start with a small idea and/or character and start thinking…what if this happened and this happened and then that happened and so on…until I get a plot rolling around. Some are good and some fizzle, but that’s how the creative process is. It’s an amazing thing, the way the creative side of our brain works.

    I’m also like you about ideas for my books. Right now I have 15 ideas for novels. Some how I’m not sure those 15 novels are all going to see the light of day anytime soon considering the deadlines I’m facing with current projects, but it’s nice to know the ideas are still floating around in my brain!

    Michelle 🙂
    Author, PODs available June 4th
    Milayna available March 11, 2014
    The Infected, a PODs novel available November 2014
    Visit me and learn how to win a signed copy of PODs!

    • Hi, Michelle! I love thinking about the What Ifs of stories. It can really open things up in new directions.

      My problem with the influx of ideas is keeping on task with the ones I’ve already committed to. Like trying not to think about Shiny New Idea and push through this draft of a follow-up to my already published book. 🙂

  • mclicious says:

    It is so hard to keep from starting all of the shiny new ideas at once, isn’t it? You make a good point about not writing them down, though – I, too, have noticed that the ideas I am really passionate about stay in my mind for years, while the ones I forget were probably not that meaningful to begin with. Having too many ideas is kind of why I want to work somewhere like Alloy or Paper Lantern Lit, so that someone else can take hold of some of the ones I don’t think I could write competently but still very much want to read!

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