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Finding Ideas that Stick

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Anonymous asked: “Hi Lizard! I’ve always wanted to write a book, but whenever I try to write, all my stories feel the same, and all my characters feel flat. I quickly quit stories, also, losing my interest on them in a matter of hours. Could you give me some advice so that I won’t have to sell my soul to the dark overlords in order to write a single paragraph?”

Writing is a process. No book is ever going to be just a matter of sitting down and writing it out in one shot. It’s drafting, redrafting, intense editing, often huge various changes along the way and ultimately then you get somewhere. Someone can take ten years to write a book. 

Writing is also a practice. If you’re doing it often, you’ll have an easier time getting words on the page. You can more readily express yourself through words in the way that you want to. You’ll start writing scenes that need less editing, less revision (sure you’ll probably still edit and revise, but it’ll become a faster process). Writing in my experience has been a craft that takes a lot of time and energy. It’s something that you have to let yourself be bad at until you can start writing something good. I’ve written so many horrible, horrible, unreadable scenes, but I had to. If I didn’t write them, I wouldn’t have learned from them, and more importantly, I wouldn’t have learned how to make those scenes right. 

If you’re having trouble sitting down and just writing more than a few paragraphs, there are some exercises that have helped me in the past. The one I recommend most, free writing – or more practically “journalling”. Sometimes sitting down with a pen and paper and writing a few pages in a journal about literally anything will sometimes help get the words flowing. I keep a notebook and when I’m struggling, I write some kind of reflection on my writing process. I write in my journal about what I’m currently working on within my own writing. I try to confront any kind of struggles I’m having. I strategize how I’ll get over it, but all while writing it down. It has to be put on the page otherwise it doesn’t count. It’s like it never happened. The act of writing it out helps so much right before sitting down to write. I’ve already gotten into the process of writing out my thoughts so I can keep doing it once I’ve sat down to start working on my novel again.  

So, that’s one strategy I recommend, but now, let’s chat a little bit about ideas. Ideas for a novel are kind of a hard subject. The thing is, you have to love the idea enough to want to stand behind it. It might mean thinking on it for a little while. Like really sitting on it. With those kinds of ideas, I usually try to write them out in my notebook. I try to think about the logistics, who are the characters? What is the plot? What’s going to happen? I don’t outline or anything like that from this point. I just try to consolidate all my ideas into something more cohesive. 

I come into it with the understanding that my idea will change as I go, nothing about this story is set in stone, and if I like the basic idea, especially to have been thinking about it for a few weeks (often longer), I’m not going to tire of it. So ideas that I won’t get tired of talking about is a super vague topic. For me, if I’m writing a ghost story, I never get tired of talking about ghosts. Problem solved. I might tire of one of the characters and change them through revision, I might think one of the subplots is stupid and change it completely, but in the end, it’s a ghost story and I’m not bored, because it’s ghosts. So, with ideas, you’ve got to pick a topic you really love. It will make the writing of this story so much easier and more satisfying. 

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