Ideas are everywhere.
Sometimes it feels like you can pluck them from the ether. And you can lose them just as quickly if you’re not careful.
Many of my ideas come when I’m drifting off to sleep. Shaving in the morning seems to generate quite a few. Running seems to stimulate the creative juices too.
So why are these bad times for ideas?
Simple, I have no way of recording them at the moment they announce themselves.
Okay, I’ve pulled back the duvet and felt my way in the darkness to my study in Crouch Corner to scribble a note on a Post It. That’s why I use a battery powered electric shaver – it’s easy to scurry back to the study. And I have been known to repeat the idea over and over like a mantra while running to imprint it on my brain.
But sadly, I’ve lost ideas in the blink of an eye.
The idea arrives. I stop what I’m doing and head upstairs to the study. On the way another thought hijacks me. It can be as mundane as ‘I still haven’t filled that small hole beside the loft hatch’. But it’s enough to wipe the idea from my mind.
No amount of coaxing and retracing my steps can bring it back.
That’s the trouble with ideas.
When they stimulate more ideas, you’re in trouble. Writing down the first idea often sends the second and third out of your head.
That’s when you wish you’d taken the shorthand class you thought you’d never need.
Short of attending a mental Zumba class, I’m not sure how to make my mind and memory fitter and better. Then again, there’s a good chance I’ll have forgotten all about ‘Zumba for the Forgetful’ by the time I’ve returned downstairs for the cup of tea that’s now stone cold.
Ideas solve problems.
“Everything begins with an idea.” – Earl Nightengale.
I wonder if everything begins with a question. Or a problem, if you prefer.
Questions set the mind working. Problems need to be overcome.
The stage is set for ideas, especially when new or better solutions are required.
When readers ask me where I get my ideas for plots and crime novels, it’s as if they believe there’s a mystical well that I dip into when I need inspiration. If it’s a whacky idea or something out of left field, I wonder where it came from.
But thinking about it, the mind is perfectly adapted to solving problems and answering questions. Feed in the information and the mind will process it, consider the alternatives and present you with an answer.
Be warned, you won’t always get the answer when you want it – or the answer you want. It can take weeks, even months. The lag allows you to dress it up as inspiration, but there’s no magic here.
It doesn’t mean the idea can’t be imaginative or take your breath away.
Many times while I’m writing a murder mystery novel, an idea crashes through my concentration, stopping me in my tracks.
Often, it’s an insight into something deeper in the story that I haven’t quite grasped.
When I was struggling with No More Lies, the latest Kent Fisher murder mystery, I had one of those moments. The end of the chapter was almost upon me and I needed a hook to round off everything. Not that I was thinking about that. My thoughts were probably on what I would write in the next chapter.
My fingers simply typed a sentence that left me stunned.
Those few words changed my understanding of the dynamics of the story. Suddenly, the main struggle in the novel became clear. It wasn’t the one I was trying to write. It was something deeper and more fundamental – something that made the rest of the novel easier to write.
That’s when I had the idea for my January Challenge
If you read my posts, you’ll know I challenged myself to complete the first draft of No More Lies before the end of the month. Now I’m in the vacuum between the end of the first draft and the first edit and revision.
But the ideas keep coming, which means there are still issues that need to be solved.
Top of the list was Kent Fisher #5 – the next murder mystery.
No More Lies has gone through three different titles so far. The first half of the story required a similar number of revisions before the ‘sentence that changed everything.’
No such uncertainty with Kent Fisher #5 –
When there is no justice you create your own.
The idea simply answered the question – what’s the next Kent Fisher murder mystery about?
What do you think? How does it sound?
More ideas have flowed from this. They’re all recorded as a rough story begins to take shape. But I won’t be saying any more. Ideas often lose their shine when you share them. In your mind, ideas sparkle and tantalise. Once verbalised, they often sound far less exciting.
And some should never see the light of day.
If you’d like a free copy of No Mystery, the story behind the Kent Fisher murder mysteries, add your details to the form in the sidebar.
Something for the weekend
This week, some quotes about ideas. It seems like I’m in esteemed company, relatively speaking, of course.
“Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?” – Albert Einstein
And one for the crime fiction writers –
“You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.” – Medgar Evers