Thoughts on Writing Ideas, and Related Links

I’m writing again.

You have no idea how good it feels to say that.

More to the point, I’ve learned from my mistakes.  Part of what I did during my latest multi-month hiatus from blogging was to take a long hard look at why I suddenly found it so hard to write.  The biggest conclusion I came to:  I was working too hard on coming up with ideas, and then spending them almost as soon as I had them.  It exhausted me.

Here, let me show you an example:

I wrote many flash fiction pieces of which I was proud.  One of my very favorites is a piece named “Salvage,” which is set in a post-nuclear-war future.  (For some reason, I love apocalypses.)  The idea started like this:  Cryogenics is a big sub-field in science fiction.  One of the standard ways for people to avoid disaster is to freeze themselves, and then wake up well after the fallout has faded.  But that’s a story that has been told before.  What else would cryogenics be good for?  Well, that depends on who lives in the world and what their needs are.

My thought:  Certainly some people would survive an all-out nuclear war for a little while.  What would happen if they ran across a vault of people who had been cryogenically protected from the world they had to live in?  And the answer came quickly.  Body parts.  They could use the people as sources of fresh lungs, kidneys, blood, and whatever else they needed.  And there would almost certainly be provisions stored with the sleepers which the people outside could use as well.  The conflicts in the story developed from that idea in an hour of sustained thought, and the piece wrote itself stream-of-consciousness style in another hour.  It came out so cleanly that it didn’t need much revision, and it got quite a few pageviews and even a complimentary comment.  Good, right?


I had come up with a really large idea, one that could have driven a book or possibly even a series of books.  And what had I spent it on?  A thousand-word story.  In addition, two hours is all the writing time I really have over the course of a day.  And I had spent it all on a story that I gave away for free to drive people to this blog.  They didn’t come.

One of my resolutions, now that I’m writing again, has been to guard my ideas more jealously.  For the past few days I’ve been developing the background for a single story, playing around with ideas about what the world would look like.   They’ve developed in some very startling and fun ways.  What I’ve found, more importantly, is that this has been a good pace for me.  It’s easier to come up with one good idea and develop it over a period of time than to try developing five ideas a week and turn them into half-baked short fiction.

All of my flash fiction is still available on my blog, by the way…even the pieces of which I’m not so proud.  I suppose the merciful thing to do would be to send them into the black hole of cyberspace.  Bless them, though, they’re like one-legged puppies with big eyes.  I just can’t do it.  Maybe someday, I’ll build them their missing legs, and then they can be free to joyfully bounce in a bionic fashion across the World Wide Web.

Now that simile just took some serious abuse!


Speaking of interesting pieces on writing ideas:

Here’s a sampling on historical regression in post-apocalyptic futures.  The only one I’ve read is A Canticle for Leibowitz (and obviously I’ve seen Planet of the Apes).  But some of these look fun.

Some very bizarre methods of time travel.  I think #8 looks particularly interesting, because it’s the lowest-key of the lot.  Maybe one of these is what you need to jump-start that time travel story?

Stuck for a surprise ending?  These might inspire you.  Ender’s Game is de rigueur for inclusion, but my personal favorite here is still I Am Legend.  If you’ve never seen the Vincent Price adaptation The Last Man on Earth, you’re cheating yourself.

John Scalzi turns his blog over to Catherine Lundoff, who discusses the big idea behind Silver Moon.

If you can come up with ideas like these, you could write for SyFy.

And unrelated to writing ideas, this book might make it onto my review list.

Published in: on May 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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