Saturday, November 15, 2008

The flow of ideas

Ryan writes: What does your writer's notebook look like? I'm always curious about how other writers "just write." Do you just jot down what happened to you that day? Ideas about life? About characters? About specs or pilots running through your head? Do you write in full sentences or just jot down key words and remember later? Basically, what works for you in writing now and culling good ideas together later?

I don't really have a notebook. When I was younger I used to keep journals of daily ramblings, what happened to me, etc., but that seems like quite a waste of time now. I need to be writing actual scripts. But sure, I get ideas all the time, and jot them down on post-it notes or receipts or whatever. If often seems the best ideas come in the car or the shower, when it's not so convenient. :) Luckily (or not so luckily) I'm at a computer all day at work, so I'm also a fan of emailing myself, or creating Word documents of ideas. If I'm in Final Draft I often write my own internal discussions onto the page, asking questions to be decided later and highlighting any unfinished thoughts in yellow. Probably my favorite part of a script is dialogue, so I'm always listening to people talk and writing down the gems.

I think it's great always to be thinking of new ideas and jotting things down, but you also can't be afraid of sitting down at the computer (or notepad, or whatever) and writing when you are NOT compelled by sudden inspiration. That's what will turn your writing from a hobby into a career.

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Neil said...

I'm right there with you. I have a book of cool names, but other than that, there's nothing. When I'm out, if i have an idea, i'll put it in mu phone, then it goes in my PC when i get home. So many ideas in my 'Writing' folder, it's insane!!! I know that I won't have enough time in life to do them all, but there's enough to kepp them going. Maybe when i'm close to death, I'll just pass my ideas onto other writers!

Dan Williams said...

I have an 8-inch by 10.5-inch notebook with 140 pages, and I write down all the ideas I think are good, or that relate to the project I'm working on. Most of the ideas are "plot ideas", meaning, I like to figure out what the characters are doing and why and get the events in the right order. For me, if I don't write stuff down, it's gone, adios, never to return again. The nice thing, when it happens, is when a number of story beats comes all at once. But if they don't, then I work with story models I've worked out, and these help suggest story beats I can add in.

Andrea Janes said...

Write down everything. Roald Dahl insisted that every writer must have a notebook or at least a pen with him at all times.

I write emails to myself all the time! Gmail is a very efficient secretary.

But the true godsends are my standing file boxes. They're like $5.99 at Ikea and they stand up nicely on your bookshelf, and you can label them by project (and have one labeled "Random Ideas") and stuff all the scraps of paper in them, providing the illusion that you're very, very organized.

Between the folders and the Gmail search function you can save and organize your million scattered ideas for future culling.

And of course that "Random Ideas" box also comes in handy on days when you're blocked.

APM said...

Most definitely keep a journal. You should write down also random quotes - or dialogue, and character ideas, random thoughts, movie/tv concept ideas. Inspiration strikes at the wildest times, so if you aren't near your computer or notebook, you usually can keep short memos in your cell phone. Also, in my car I keep a small mini size journal that I can write down ideas then rip them out when I get home so I can add them to my main journal or project I'm working on. Staying organized I think is a real asset to fleshing out new ideas.

Mike said...

Yes, it qualifies me as pretentious, but I always carry those little Moleskins around my man-bags - they're super helpful. And I use the Notes function in my iPhone to list blog topics.

Then, there's the good-old journal which I keep by my bed and ignore on a nightly basis...

Amanda - thanks for adding me to the blogroll!

Anonymous said...

Mike, I'm a pretentious Moleskiner too. I'm also a disorganized scrap piece of paper-er.