WriterDojo S1 Ep5: The Discipline of Idea Management

WriterDojo Episode 5 is out. This week Steve and I talk about how to get, develop, organize, and use ideas for your fiction. Ideas are everywhere. (and I forgot last week to post that Episode 4, Outlining vs. Discovery Writing was out, and it’s a good one) This episode I also tell the story for the first time of where the idea for Wendell T. Manatee came from.

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WriterDojo S1 Ep6: genre
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15 thoughts on “WriterDojo S1 Ep5: The Discipline of Idea Management”

  1. Love the series, it’s very informative, especially covering aspects other podcasts never do. I also enjoy both your personalities, and you can tell you guys are friends. Keep it up.

  2. Larry,

    I appreciate the podcast for the necessary business advice (it’s job sp treat as such) and the hard won experience about writing qua content creation.

    I look forward to other forthcoming topics


  3. As a N list author I’m afraid my ability to pay for something is rather limited. It sucks to be me. But, wow, a podcast I can listen to that is fun and informative, and which give me hope that I can improve.

  4. I loved this episode. It’s so helpful to hear how long it takes other people to do things. My favorite part of the LAST episode was about going back to put in clues to something you think of later — I really did wonder if everyone had all threads worked out before starting! Here’s my current question (probably for Steve): Suppose you have an idea for a short story that practically writes itself… until halfway through when it stops. So you ‘ve being doing it by the seat of your pants, but now you’re crashing. The last short story I wrote and sold practically wrote itself. I didn’t even know how it was going to end when I started it, that’s how little I planned. Every time I look back at this one, though, I have great fun until it just stops and no amount of brainstorming has taken it anywhere…

    1. Hmm. There could be a lot going on there. In this i tend to think a few ways:

      1) You need to learn how to outline a little. I’m not saying you need to shift your style or process 100%, but really learn the other way of doing things. Some stories, genres, etc don’t really lend well to not having the ending in sight.

      Even though I’m a discovery writer, the one thing that will stop me in my tracks is not knowing the general gist of the ending. For example, my story in The Monster Hinter Files. It’s completely character concept based. It starts with him and ends with him. The ending is the twist about the nature of his power. With my story in Noir Fatale, it’s the origin story of how a guy becomes a member of the secret police. So the ending is the event that pushes him fully that direction.

      In other words, what is the general theme of the story? If someone walked up to you and said, “I’ll buy the anthology your story is in, but only if you sell me on the quick concept.” If you have that concept in place, you’ll have a much better idea of how to develop an ending to match that concept.

      2) You need more ideas. Sometimes a short story is a single idea. You’re in quick, and out quicker. But sometimes you need more going on in the story to give it all substance. Is the reason you don’t have an ending to your story because you don’t have a strong enough idea (or simple enough ideas in terms of quantity). Look at the story and ask questions like “What would make the story cooler?” “What is the central conflict?” “Did I make things too easy for the characters?”

      I almost always start with “What genre is the primary focus in the story?” If it’s Horror, then I know I can have everyone die (or worse). If it’s Lovecraftian, that influences my ending. Same if it’s a humorous story, or romance, or fantasy. That will help me pull in a couple themes that can be converted into ideas for the sake of the story. Often times this helps me arrive at what emotion I want the reader to feel (hopefully) upon reading “The End.”

      3) Sometimes your story just doesn’t work. If it’s a short story, don’t worry too much about it and move on. But even then, I like to think about the other two points above. Noodle on them for a while, then revisit the story trying out different new pieces to see if I can make them fit.

      I have a ton of abandoned short pieces. I use short fiction as a test environment for style, characters, potential settings, etc. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. It’s ok to move on, especially if it’s short fiction. If we are talking novel-length, you prolly need to sit down and figure out what’s wrong (I don’t like being the person with a boatload of unfinished novels). But short stuff? Don’t stress out.

      4) Have someone you trust read it and give you some feedback. Maybe you are too close to it. I was asked to write a story about giant robots for an antho called “Mech: Age of Steel”. I’d already done a giant monster story for Baen’s Big Book of Monsters, and I wanted something that fit in terms of scale, and with a horror lean. Everyone was doing rock’em sock’em, so I wanted to do horror with giant robots. But I was having trouble. I asked a friend (Dan Wells) to let me bounce ideas off of him, and some little throw-away thing he said made me think, “I should just do Pacific Rim meets Single White Female”. And that made the ending easy to envision and write towards

      Conclusion: Mess around with your story. Save the doc, and open a second copy of it (call it “alt version” or “test version”). Now get in there and eff around. Switch it up. Try different themed endings. Try outlining. Remember, everything Larry and I talk about at just tools in a toolbox. Some may work for this project, so won’t. Figure out which are which.

      Then take what you learn (hopefully by completing the story), and apply the lessons learned to you next one.

  5. Will you make any comments or is there a podcast episode about the environment you write write ie computer (programs, ) or long hand and preferences towards one or the other and therefore organization?

    1. I just use Microsoft Word. We’ve not recorded an episode about writing writing environments yet, but that’s a good idea.

        1. Jack,

          Cool I’m curious what Larry and Steve opine on the actual writing tools. I’ve heard from writers who swear by Scrivner. I suppose it doesn’t matter per se until it’s time to publish.

          I use fountain pens and duotangs and then type the stories on Worperfect (the latest one) 🙂
          I’m looking at watcom tablets for writing as I find keyboards really awkward.

  6. Just caught up on WRITERDOJO. Great series. You were a genuine Gun Writer? Cool. Except for Larry Correia novels the bulk of my reading material is Gun Magazines. Keep up the good work!

  7. Loaned a copy of Spellbound to a coworker who “didn’t read books”.

    A few weeks later he was quoting it.

    Also, good very good episode. I started it thinking I had no ideas, and at least two plot bunnies attacked me on the drive home. They are now filed away for later.

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