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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Saving Your Ideas?

   
Author Topic: Saving Your Ideas?
Shane
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This morning I was lounging on a hammock between two sturdy oaks trying to contemplate what could possible go wrong. I thought perhaps a literate bear might develop a taste for Ian Flemming novels and pussyfoot his way through the high grass and wild lavender plants next to the woods before spinning me in the hammock and eating me like a Mexican wrap.

Although I can see no conceivable way to make a story out of this idea I decided to write it down anyways. I don't have a book dedicated to ideas I come up with so everything I do have is completely unorganized in strips of papers and most of the time are lost. My memory, in so far as I can tell in my life, is horrendous. I don't know my phone number. I don't know the current date. I'm pretty sure it's Monday based on the calls I've gotten from work telling me I'm late. They also refused to tell my my phone number.

How do you guys keep track of your ideas? Book? Digital? Memory? Tape recorder? I'm to young and inexperienced as a writer to really take myself seriously but I figure I better develop some system of organization before I start.


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InarticulateBabbler
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quote:

How do you guys keep track of your ideas? Book? Digital? Memory? Tape recorder?

All of the above, plus notepads galore! I have a file (on all three of my computers) called my Idea Pool. Usually, once I've written them down, I usually remember them--or that part of them that inspired me. I have a digital voice recorder in my glovebox, for when I can't write something down. A notepad in my jacket and near all of my computers (with recycled paper--the extend of my intentional green-ness), and often sketches.


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mikemunsil
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I have set myself up a wiki. The one I use is Dokuwiki 'cause it is so fast and easy to use. Also, I can run it on a USB stick. http://wiki.splitbrain.org/wiki:dokuwiki

Tiddlywiki is also nice. http://www.tiddlywiki.com/ In some ways it is even easier than Dokuwiki.


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Robert Nowall
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I usually keep it in my mind until I've chewed on it a little---I figure if I can remember it, it must be okay, but if I can't remember it, it couldn't have been any good.

Once I have chewed on it a little, I'll sometimes write down a note or an outline or a scene. Usually in a word processor file. Sometimes the story writing emerges full-blown from that, other times it just dribbles out to an enforced end.

Right now, in my mind, I'm preoccupied with a scene---unoriginal and terribly derivative of better works---yet something that might play into some background I developed for a story last year---but which hasn't progressed beyond a couple of opening scenes. It hasn't left my mind yet, but may shortly...I'm still chewing...


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Unwritten
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You don't want any advice from me. Just last night, I was reading something in a book and I thought, "That idea would work so great in the next book I write." I was sure I would remember it, so I didn't get out of bed, and I've spent the whole day trying to find that spot in the book again.

Letting it sit and stew in your own brain is a great idea if you have a stable memory. For people with volatile memories, like me, writing it down is a much better choice.


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Crank
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Digital. Electronic. Hand-written. Whatever format is convenient...and, more importantly, whatever saves me from allowing that idea to linger inside my mind.

S!
S!...C!


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JeanneT
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Ideas are about the one thing I do write by hand. I keep a journal of sorts that mostly that kind of thing goes in. That and I allow myself to grumble about the inequities of the publishing world that I'm not a best selling author yet and that Mike Resnick still writes better than I do. (LIfe ain't fair) But it's mostly full of notes about ideas that I'm SURE made sense when I wrote them down. If and when they make sense again it'll probably be time to put them into a story.

I have such a bad memory at times that I have to go back and look at my most recent file to remember what I was working on last. LOL

No, it wasn't that story I was imaining last night. I haven't started that one yet. Blech.


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rstegman
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I write reminders on a piece of paper,
then i post them on line on about six boards as science fiction and fantasy story ideas.
Since I know that if twenty people write the same idea, they will come up with twenty two different versions, I have no problems with returning to them to write them complete. Especially since I write 365 plus of these posts a year. the odds that one I am really interested in to be developed by others, especially the way I would do it, which is different than the post, is slim to none.

Edited to say that Even if I were not posting these ideas, it is a great way to weed out the concepts that are not worth working with farther.
I still develop a stack of ideas next to the key board. I have a stack of 170 in a reseal bag that will never see the light of a computer screen. I have another stack of 180 that are good enough to post, but are unimportant right now. I have a live stack of 28 that I add and post from daily and tend to add to more than use up.

[This message has been edited by rstegman (edited June 16, 2008).]


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annepin
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At the height of my organization, I would jot down ideas whenever they happened on whatever I had available. Usually I would keep notebooks in my bag and next to my bed for this purpose. The most tempting are the ones I get just as I'm falling asleep and I think, oh, I'll remember this one tomorrow--no point in rousing myself to write it down. NO. Write it down now. Whatever you need to keep track of it and remember it.

Then I would go through my ideas and enter them into my computer, in a specific file titled "story ideas". Then I would go through them, loosely organizing them into short story vs. novel. If I felt so inclined I'd work out a bit of the storyline and see if I could develop it further. If I could, I would open a new file with the story name and jot down more notes and schedule time to write it.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I remember hearing about someone who would carry around 3x5 file cards and write ideas down on them. Then, every so often, he'd file them in a file box (dividing them up in whatever categories he chose), and replace them with more blank 3x5 file cards.

There are three of the things I like about 3x5 file cards: they fit into most jean (or other pants) pockets, they survive a little bending (from sitting down with them in the back pocket of your jeans), and they are pretty easy to shuffle when you want to play "pick a card/idea, any card/idea" (which you might want to do when you need an additional idea to add to a story).


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MrsBrown
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I email them to myself if I'm at work, or record on my voice recorder and transcibe later with voice-to-text software at home. Otherwise scribble on a piece of paper (don't leave home without a pen and a few scrap pages on my person) and make sure it gets into my Folder. If I ever lose my Folder, I'll be one unhappy camper. Eventually it gets typed in the ideas slush file.

Recording those ideas quickly is key, since I am very easily distracted. In the shower I just repeat it over and over again until I can reach the office. Some of my best ideas come in the shower.


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marchpane
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I carry a notebook and pen around with me at all times - except, of course, when I actually come up with something, in which case I invariably find that I've used up all the pages/lost my pen/the usual excuses. If I'm in front of a computer - which I usually am - I make a note on there. All of the physical notes/doodles/maps related to my novel are kept in a folder.

Generally I'm quite good at making notes. My only problem is finding the blasted things when I actually want to write about them...


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Lullaby Lady
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I generally jot down notes in one of a million notebooks-- half of which I can't find in the depths of my dungeon/garage. This morning, I decided to go back to one of my old story ideas (with my kids as the characters). I thought I had recorded some of the notes electronically, but I scoured my hard drive and *poof* they've disappeared. I even went through boxes of papers from our last move-- until I got nervous that our garage-dwelling cockroaches and wolf spiders were going to come after my toes.

Do sprites and imps carry off important papers during the moving process? Maybe there's more to the resident bugs than I had supposed...

I'd feel worse about my lack of organizational skills if it weren't for Jo Rowling. She's my favorite disorganized-creative-type, so there must be hope. Right?

~LL


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EricJamesStone
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I have a file on my PDA where I jot down story ideas.
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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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Didn’t we have this discussion already a few months ago?

RFW2nd


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DeepDreamer
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Not everyone's been here for several months.

I usually write down my ideas on looseleaf, which then gets put into a binder, and then posted up on my private wiki whenever I get a chance. I also have a file on my computer that is nothing but scene fragments -- little snatches of dialogue or action that doesn't really fit into any story I'm working on (or might but I've no idea where, yet.)

And when I'm at the hospital where I work, and want to look like I'm working so the Powers That Be are less inclined to give me extra work, I write in the text editor built in to our charting software. Every week or so I take that file and export it to Google Documents.

I also try to keep a small notepad in my pockets so that I always have something to write down notes to myself on. The issue is, I write the notes and then lose them, making that method a little counterproductive. I find it best to copy those notes into a page in my binder as soon as possible, so that I'm least likely to forget it -- or email it to myself, whichever method is most convenient at the time.


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Stagecoach
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When I get a new book, I peel off a half-dozen post-it notes and stick them in the front. I'll then peel one off to use as a bookmark. Post-it notes make the best bookmarks; they don't fall out, so you don't lose your place.

When I get a good idea, I can usually find a post-it note quickly by just looking in any book that I'm currently reading. I scribble the idea on the post-it and then put it in my computer later.


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MartinV
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I have a paper notebook with me all the time. I don't neccesarily write the entire idea into it - it goes out of my head too fast for that. But I write enought of it so I remember later when I'm reading it. It's sort of like a knot on the handkerchief.
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JeanneT
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Have you read Terry Bisson's brilliant "Bears Discover Fire"? One might acquire such a taste. Perhaps it found an abandoned book out in the forest and is looking for more.

One of the few things I write by hand rather than on the computer is in a daily (supposedly) journal and I note story ideas in the back.

[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited June 22, 2008).]


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goatboy
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I tried saving little bits of paper with scraps of ideas on them and found I never went back through them to use any of them. That is when I realized ideas are cheap and easy, 10 cents a dozen if not less.

Now I used a method that I borrowed from Holly Lisle. That is, I don't save ideas. I let them roam free back to whatever place they came from. If the idea is a good one, I'll remember it. If it's a bad one...well, I don't want to write about those anyway.


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rstegman
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quote:
goatboy
I tried saving little bits of paper with scraps of ideas on them and found I never went back through them to use any of them. That is when I realized ideas are cheap and easy, 10 cents a dozen if not less.


That is why I do my story ideas. They are a lot more useable once written out a bit. It is also why I am able to do at least an idea a day for ten years. They are cheep, but they are fun to explore for an hour a day.


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Robert Nowall
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quote:
They are a lot more useable once written out a bit.

Really? I find my ideas tend to be less compelling, less demanding to be written down, once I've written out some outline or note---like the impulse dies when they're pinned to paper (or computer file).

...which is an explanation for not finishing things, too.


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JeanneT
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quote:
Now I used a method that I borrowed from Holly Lisle. That is, I don't save ideas. I let them roam free back to whatever place they came from. If the idea is a good one, I'll remember it. If it's a bad one...well, I don't want to write about those anyway.

I don't think you can know if it's a bad one at that point. Or it might be bad by itself but good when combined with a different idea. I note mine down in a very general way, just a sentence or two. That seems to help in letting my brain know to mull this idea over then it tends to sprout and grow. Eventually I may or may not do something with it.

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rstegman
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Robert,

Most of the ideas I get are not worth going any farther. I figure about two ideas out of every month's worth of posts are worth reading more than twice. six out of a year are really worth developing farther.

Another thing is that when you write it out more, like I do, you can see if you even have a story there. I write scenes and situations. A lot of mine turn out to not have an ending worth the effort, or nothing there other than an interesting scene or situation.

You can use your presentation as an outline for the real thing if it turns out to need to be a novel.

The main purpose of writing out the concept is to see if there is any thing there.

edited to say that you could have your own blog where you can post your unusable ideas.

[This message has been edited by rstegman (edited June 24, 2008).]


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Robert Nowall
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Indeed. But the problem with the ideas dying on me in the process of writing them down, is that, in the end, I wind up not writing anything...
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rstegman
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Part of the problem might be length. A story idea I post that goes onto the third page is thought of as long. Four pages is rare.

I saw my very first story ideas, which I wrote on line. some of them are not even half a page.

I got a story idea this morning, for example.

The "Liberals" complain about how chemicals, foods, and lifestyles are killing us. They win and we change our ways, getting rid of those things. We then find out that those chemicals were what was creating liberals in the first place, ending the warnings to not use those chemicals.

That is about the longest my notes usually run when I write them on the papers to remind myself of the idea.

When I actually write it as one of my posted story ideas, filling in details, explaining things and such, telling how it could be used as a story, it will likely end somewhere on page two.

I spent an hour fleshing out the concept and can then forget it. it will not be one of my better story ideas, but someone might find it interesting enough to play with and publish.

I cannot use all my story ideas. I am struggling writing a bunch of short story about a cat sized baby dragon, let alone several hundred stories that could be novels when done.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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mikemunsil posted (about a month ago):

quote:
I have set myself up a wiki. The one I use is Dokuwiki 'cause it is so fast and easy to use. Also, I can run it on a USB stick.

http://wiki.splitbrain.org/wiki:dokuwiki


Tiddlywiki is also nice. http://www.tiddlywiki.com/ In some ways it is even easier than Dokuwiki.


Well, I just saw this video on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dnL00TdmLY

that explains "Wikis in Plain English," and I am rather excited by the possibilities--not just for keeping track of ideas, but for things like group collaborations, and even critique groups, and other organizational "meetings" and so on.


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Grant John
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I'll have to check out the video. Unfortunately I have to wait til I get home seeing teachers have the same sites blocked as their students. :-( No Youtube from work.

Grant


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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“No Youtube from work”

Then bypass the firewall

https://webproxy.kaxy.com/index.php

lets you bypass just about any block that schools, military, government, work, etc computers have.

RFW2nd


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Rommel, does that link violate the "violate any law" part of the registration agreement?

{quote]You agree, through your use of this service, that you will not use this BB to post any material which is knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, or otherwise violative of any law.[/quote]


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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Not to my knowledge.

The web site lets one bypass firewalls on their network to open websites. I learnt of it in AFG and used it to post on hatrack for the government computers blocked hatrack, so I went around them.

I put it as a helping hand, nothing more

In fact I posted it in Hatrack outage--only in UK? And nothing was said.

RFW2nd


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KayTi
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Kathleen - awesome link! My father is doing some work on a wiki (knock me down with a feather - my father is not always the highest on the technology uptake curve, LOL) and he's been running into problems where the people he's trying to collaborate with seem unwilling/uninterested in collaborating on the wiki. I think this might help him get them exposed to the idea of wikis (he tends to be long-winded in his explanations, so I think this quick and dirty 4 mins might be more suited to the "get people familiar" concept.)

Anyway - much appreciated!


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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You're welcome. I'm hoping the same thing for some people I'm working with, KayTi.

The people who made the video have other such "Plain English" explanations on their website:

http://www.commoncraft.com/show

and they are very helpful, I think.

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited July 17, 2008).]


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halogen
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I use google docs for all 1-4th drafts. Whenever I have a new idea I think it through to a single page then add it as a new document. Then I let it sit there and ferment until I have time to work on it.
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aspirit
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I felt like joining about a month behind the discussion...

I don't usually write down new story ideas until they have developed into a persistent nuisance, clamoring for release. I do attempt to record anything and everyone that reminds me of an existing story, though.

I use notebooks, a story binder, email (for when I'm at work), and electronic folders. Along with pens, I keep a pocket-size notebook in my purse or pocket and a small notebook in my car, and a regular notebook by the computer. I stopped trusting napkins and post-its, my medium of necessity years ago, because they are messy and easily lost. Any idea I expect to use in an existing story, I transfer to my binder, if it didn't start there.

A binder is my primary tracking tool, because I:
~can easily reorganize the material
~can carry it with me to most places without worrying about pages falling out
~don't need a computer to access it
~enjoy flipping the pages and seeing my stories together

I keep several clear pockets in the binder to collect magazine articles, scratch paper, or other pieces that I have not recorded yet on regular paper.

I've used a voice recorder before, but I forget to review what I recorded. I don't trust computer hardware and software enough to keep only electronic documents. I’m much more sentimental about paper, anyway.


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Robert Nowall
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After a month...I don't remember exactly what it is I was chewing on...I'm engaged with another story, a couple of thousand words plus outline and notes written down...I don't think it has anything to do with the idea I mentioned back then, though it does share the background info I mentioned.

It's another rule I have, that if I think of a great idea, and can't remember it later, it couldn't have been that great...


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Greenscreen
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I have an excellent memory, though I don't always remember all my ideas, sometimes one of my ideas will come back to me and sometimes I an only list three or four of my ideas off the top of my head. I also try to carry a pocket size notepad and pe with me to write down notes and ideas etc... Oh, I'm also paranoid about other peoepl reading my ideas so I use a code, one with more than 26 individual figures, but you don't have to do that.
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