Friday, October 7, 2011

Keeping Up with Story Ideas

These days, everything is a time suck. I’m editing my current WiP for the last time, I hope. The sequel is waiting for me to finish it, plus I have other projects lurking in various stages of incompleteness. To complicate matters, other characters keep popping up all over the place.

As a way of keeping up, I scribble story ideas on anything available in my handbag. Not a good thing to do. Intriguing thoughts get lost if I don’t remember to copy them off the napkin, bus ticket or fast food place mat I wrote on when inspiration hit. You’d think with the number of notebooks I own, I’d have one in my bag at all times. Not so.
Like a lot of writers, I’m addicted to buying doodads, including notebooks, pens, cute book markers, highlighters and itty-bitty sticky notes. You name it, I’ll buy it. Comes the time though, when I have to face the fact that I own a lot more ‘must haves’ than I need. 
Months ago, I also realized that I had too many blogs going, but I needed a place to stash the stories I didn’t plan to start working on right away. To avoid more paper, I made one blog private and started unloading my story ideas there.

I can access the blog anywhere to add new ideas. I’m no longer making up excuses to buy yet another note book, and I can keep track of how various plot lines are progressing, based on the blog entries over time.

In a crunch, I might use my phone to store shiny new projects, but that private blog has become a valued repository with pages dedicated to different projects. Research links go on the relevant story page, so when I’m ready to tackle a project, I can find related material readily. When it’s time to start writing the next story, the blog posts will be start-up material for a project bible. And I should add that I’m no longer losing time looking for inspiration I captured on a bill that somehow vanished into the maw of my handbag.

This approach might not be a viable idea for you, but what other ways do you use to save time and capture story ideas?

J.L. Campbell lives in sunny Jamaica and is the author of Contraband, Dissolution and Don’t Get Mad…Get Even. When she isn’t plotting and researching new projects, she enjoys lollygagging on her blog at Twitter link - @JL_Campbell


  1. I carry four different notebooks with me in a backpack(one is for blog ideads). Each one is labled for each project.

  2. Hi, Misha and Joy!

    I keep a small notebook in my purse and on my night table, and I have pads of paper in every room of the house. A lot of people use their phones. I don't because I can write a lot faster than I can text!

    I keep my ideas together in a big 5-subject notebook. Each section is dedicated to a certain genre so everything is organized. I know where to write down new ideas and where to find an idea I want to start writing!

  3. Greta post! I have way to many notebooks and word document's with notes. It's a good thing I'm slightly OCD, so it's all mostly organized. Mostly. :)

  4. Misha, thanks again for hosting me. :)

    Shelly, that sounds like a lot of notebooks to carry around. I like getting the ones with the tabs so each notebook has multiple functions.

    Laura, by now I should have the notebook thing down pat. :) I don't drive though, so they get dogeared and ratty looking over time and then get chucked out of the handbag. The night table is of course an excellent spot for a notebook.

    Amy, thanks. Seems a writer's lot is endless numbers of notebooks and notes. The smart ones like you keep them in some semblance of order.

  5. Hi all!

    I used to keep books for story ideas, but I later on I found it a lot better to just store everything in my mind. I usually remember to take that with me. ;-)

  6. I have notebooks, one I keep in my purse, and a little voice recorder that I keep in the car so I can capture ideas while I'm driving. My husband purchased it to keep me from getting into accidents:).

  7. Hi Joy and Misha...I too scribble on anything I can get my hands on. I keep a scribbling pad in my purse and one on my dressing table. I even save ideas on my cell phone.

  8. Micha,

    Thanks for that chuckle. When you're scatterbrained like I am, that's a recipe for disaster. :D

    Isis, you've got a smart husband! All writers should have an able mechanical assistant in their cars.

    Rachna, when you think about it, it's amazing the amount of writing we do outside of actually putting down chapters via a keyboard.

  9. I've been known to write while driving, something I gave up for safety. Now I pull over. But I have a notebook and pens on me at all times. Usually. In a pinch, I've borrowed a pen and scribbled on my hand.

    Then I put all the ideas into a central 'idea journal'. Each project usually gets its own journal. Sometimes more than one.

  10. Mary, that had to have been a hot idea to have you scribbling in your hand. :)

  11. I like the idea of storing ideas in a blog, especially since things are archived over time--I like knowing when I wrote something. I'm terribly unorganized when it comes to jotting down ideas, and I usually find myself without pen and paper when I need it.

    Great post! :)

  12. I like the idea of a blog as a place to store ideas. I have so many...notebooks full of them, dating all the way back to the '70!

  13. Thanks Golden Eagle. I too appreciate knowing when I wrote the stuff down, so the blog is helpful that way.

    Bish, wow that's a lotta notes! The blog is useful too when you think about how paper can get damaged.

  14. I keep notes on my iphone or ipad. I can also record them with the voice recorder application. Steve Jobs left his legacy everywhere.

  15. That's a great idea if you can always get internet. I'd have the luck to be at Mom's house when I needed my ideas. But it's sure better than what I have now, a whole bunch of ideas I forget because I didn't remember to pack a notebook either. Next time I will start a private blog. Then when my mind goes cloudy, my info will still be in the cloud.

  16. A private blog is an interesting idea. not only do I have notebooks everywhere but I need to back up all the projects in my laptop. Hopefully on a blog, you couldn't lose it.

  17. I hear you on that, Michael.

    Sher, I too don't do the notebook thing too well anymore for a number of reasons. The blog does help lots.

    Bridget, it would be good if I backed up my blog once in a while, especially with the way blogger has been behaving recently.

  18. I'm the same way with ideas everywhere. I like the idea of the private blog for storage. I keep a lot of documents on my computer with ideas, but they can be difficult to keep track of sometimes. Maybe the old days of carrying a notebook to write in weren't so bad.

    Tossing It Out

  19. Arlee, I have some documents that I haven't seen in ages because I don't know whether they're on a computer or thumb drive or remote server. You're not alone.

  20. I thought I'd commented on this? It sounds so like me - I've got bits of paper and napkins and receipts and post its with ideas and research notes and scenes, everywhere!

  21. Oh goodness, I thought I was the only one who half existed on sticky notes lol!!! Those truly come in handy. But you are right to get them to a place right away where you can build on them...because the sticky not can only handle so many scribbles.

  22. I have a window right next to where I type which is covered in post its :-) Beyond that I'm afraid it's random bits of paper until I can type stuff into my ideas folder.

    I did once write an idea on my arm on the bus :-)

  23. Deniz, 'everywhere' just about describes how those notes get around.

    Angela, there's also the point where the sticky notes are not so sticky anymore and get lost. :)

    Sarah, now that's determination not to lose a story idea - inking it on your arm.

    Thanks everybody for sharing. I'll be around to visiting those blogs I haven't got around to today. Misha, thanks again for letting me take over your blog. :)

  24. I put them in my iphone. And then I write them out during my free-write practice sessions in the morning.

    I have a million notebooks, but nowadays I've decided I'll stick to writing in one at a time.

    I also plan to number all the notebooks I have so far, so if something interesting came up in a free-write session, I can make a note on my phone of the notebook number! :)

    Cool post, Joy, and thanks Misha for hosting her!

  25. Hmm... my ideas tend to simmer for a bit before I write them down.

  26. Thanks, Richard.

    Damyanti, writing in one at a time sounds like a good plan.

    Talli, I lose mine if I don't get them written down quickly.

  27. Misha, many thanks for hosting me. Much appreciated!


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