The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

EVERY Idea has Potential


EVERY Idea has Potential

west texas christmas stories

If you’re brand new to writing, you may have self-doubt. You might question sentence structure, your novel’s length, character motivation, the list goes on and on.

If you’re fairly new to writing, you might have dealt with these self doubt issues already, but might be shocked at how much your writing changes over a week, months, even years.

Whatever stage you’re at in this game, I want to emphasize the importance of writing every idea that pops into your head. As I blogged about last week, we must become fearless. The hardest part is to stop trying to make sense of the ideas that come to you at the most inopportune times.  I say this because I’ve let so many slip away.  However, one idea that I didn’t let slip away became a published story this week.

West Texas Christmas Stories

In 2006, I remember having an idea for a Christmas story. No clue as to why it came to me or where I was, but it was about a cowboy spending a lonely holiday and being content in his life.  Last year, I watched an old cowboy greet the morning sun on his horse just before he rode out into to the pasture to gather a herd. The look on his face was pure joy and contentment. The horse seemed excited too. For both of them a day’s work was just ahead, doing what they loved to do. That old cowboy reminded me of that holiday story. I found it on my computer, polished it up, and wondered where I could send it. This year, someone forwarded a story call out to me. My story fit the submission criteria, I submitted it, and had a “Yes” before days end. Six years after I had made a note, the spark became a published story in West Texas Christmas Stories with Abilene Christian University Press.

Write, Write, Write

The more you exercise that writing muscle, the more your eyes will look at the world as a writer. I remember taking our kids to the Fort Worth Zoo, just after I had begun to write fiction. My oldest, who was around seven then, said, “Would you stop saying everything’s a story.” My husband agreed, “ It is annoying.”

I hadn’t even realized I’d been speaking out loud, but the entire day held fascinating events, animals, sights and sounds wherever I turned. I couldn’t contain my excitement at seeing the world in a different light; through the eyes of a writer. Because everyone seemed annoyed, I didn’t take a note one. I was too embarrassed. I can’t help but wonder what might have been the fate of all of those ideas I never wrote down.

Now, I carry a journal or notebook everywhere and even snap a zillion pics with my iPhone. I’ll let you know the results in another six years or so. How crazy is this business?

www.nataliebright.com

Writing is Stupid


BE BOLD WRITERS

By Natalie Bright

In a previous blog, I talked about a little book often referred to within writing circles titled ELEMENTS OF STYLE. I turned to this book, not as a writer, but as a mother to help my son retake a major state competency test in English. I’m happy to report he passed the multiple-choice portion on editing with an above average score! However, the discussion question was lame and he didn’t want to fill up a whole page with something stupid so he wrote a short paragraph. One paragraph does not a one page answer make.

Words on Paper

What is it about putting words on paper that is so defeating to some people? Kids trying to answer discussion questions aren’t the only ones who wrestle with these issues. Adults do too. I’ve met so many people at conferences who have some amazing stories to tell. They’ll talk your ear off, but become incapacitated when it comes to actually putting pen to paper. “I’m afraid I’ll mess it up,” said one lady, who’d been collecting family letters and genealogy research for years yet it’s all in a box, waiting. She had an amazing history to tell and a solid idea for a creative fiction novel. I hope she finds the courage someday to tackle the project.

Fearless Attitudes

From this day forward, let’s become fearless writers. No matter how lame, or how silly the idea might be that pops into your head, write it down. Whether it be fiction or nonfiction, setting, character, or a snippet of dialogue, write it! Jot it down on a sticky note, and you can elaborate in your idea journal later. I have ideas on meeting programs, napkins, and bank deposit slips.

  • A card index is a good way to stay organized; title, markets, short synopsis or intro paragraph.
  • A 3-ring binder filled with project sheets with details where you were when the idea came to you, possible titles, markets, themes.
  • A new .doc. It might only be a one sentence note, but it’s there and surprisingly I remember it and find myself expanding on the idea years later. Some have even turned into something major (see next week’s blog for some exciting news!)

Regrets

The one thing I haven’t done in years past is to write every idea down. Regrettably, there’s been tons of sparks that have popped into my head at the worst possible moments. Unique and wonderful gifts of inspiration that I knew I’d remember. Unfortunately, I never could.

So be bold ye fellow wordsmiths! Just write.

www.nataliebright.com

Battling Guilt and New Ideas


Battling Guilt and New Ideas

By Natalie Bright

Deadlines loom, whether self-imposed or not, on our writing. The fact is, you must have loads of self-discipline because writing doesn’t come easy. Distractions assault you from a multitude of sources.

This past year, I found myself being more and more consumed by new story ideas. I had been focusing on a series of middle grade westerns featuring a feisty eleven year old by the name of Silver Belle. Her adventures wake me up at night. However, the urge to finish an inspirational book about the loss of our baby tugged at my heart. That project is now an eBook. GONE NEVER FORGOTTEN is available on Smashwords.

Time to tackle Silver Belle’s second adventure? No way. The story about a frontier kid and a Comanche brave who form a friendship at a Texas Fort continues to pester my brain. Good grief; more research.

Guilt: for missing two contest deadlines, for abandoning Silver Belle in mid-adventure, and for feeding my family take out every night for a week. Even so, thank goodness I agreed to volunteer at the Scholastic Book Fair at my son’s school where I discovered a lovely book by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, EMILY’S FORTUNE.

While learning more about her work, I found this on the Houghton Mifflin Reading site:

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor says the hardest part of being a writer is focusing only on the book she is currently writing. She constantly comes up with new ideas and characters. Every time she gets a new book idea, she puts the title of the book on a three-ring binder. As she thinks up characters and scenes for that book, she jots them down in the notebook. She usually has about ten of these idea notebooks on her shelf while she is writing a book.

Isn’t that the best inspiration ever?!!!  I do keep an idea notebook. For every story idea noted, there’s at least one ignored with the thought that I’d never have time to research and write it.

In the coming New Year, I promise myself to never abandon new ideas and to joyfully write in my idea notebook, guilt free!

Have you started your idea notebook yet?

Sending wishes that you have a blessed and productive New Year in 2012!

Natalie Bright

Inspiration


Outtakes 23

Inspiration

I work in the complaints and correspondence department of a major annuities company. I’m often required to review old documents to verify names, dates of birth, contract ownership and so on. Clients have provided wonderful glimpses into their lives by the materials they send. I’ve received French Canadian birth certificates, Mexican marriage licenses, hand-written records, legal documents that appear to have been typed on old onionskin paper. But the most interesting was entitled Non-Relative Affidavit.

Even though it was scanned into our files, the age and fragility of the document was obvious. The shading indicated the page had yellowed over the years. Wrinkles and tears marred the submission and made reading the information difficult. The affidavit verified a birth in 1929, but the verification was not entered into the county records until some fourteen years after the birth. The age and unique format fueled possible reasons for the delay in filing the birth of this child.

My speculation went along these lines. This was a point in our history when home births were more common than hospital births. Perhaps a doctor did not attend the birth and record it. If the parents were not married, the event might not have been registered in an attempt to spare the mother and child embarrassment and ridicule. Was the child of minority origins? In the Old South, were minority births always registered? Some folks did not trust the government; therefore they might not want to have the birth registered. With this in mind, I realized I had the beginnings of a possible short story. I have not filled in many details;  so for now, this sketch will go into my story ideas notebook.

The point is that our story inspiration comes in many forms. Why not take a few minutes to go through boxes of old paperwork molding in the attic. Or maybe visit the archives in your local library or museum. A name or a place or a piece of paper might just trigger the next best seller.

Cait Collins