Don’t Lose Great Story Ideas in the Depths of Your Imagination

Novelists seem to be able to come up with great story ideas at any given time and in any given situation: morning walks, feeding the baby, staff meetings, sitting in traffic, discussing politics with a friend, etc.

So you have all of these story ideas that bubble up in your imagination, sometimes perhaps at not exactly the most opportune times. How can you make sure these wonderful ideas don’t get lost in the depths of your fertile imagination?

Well, it comes down to what a story idea is worth to you. As a novelist myself, I know from personal experience that when a great story idea strikes and I think for certain that I’ll have no trouble remembering it, the idea typically slips away unless I am intentional about saving the idea in some fashion.

My first method of saving ideas was to carry a pen and small notepad with me so that when a story idea (or an idea for a current work) came along, I could jot it down. This method worked quite well, and still does when the situation calls for a quiet, discreet way of making some notes for myself. But then something better came along.

One time, when I was scribbling some notes about a current work, a friend asked what I was doing. After I told him, he said, “Why don’t you get a pocket digital recorder?” I replied that I’d never actually thought about it because my notepad had sufficed. The next week, the same friend surprised me with a gift of a high-quality digital recorder he’d found on eBay.

As good as the notebook method had been, using a digital recorder turned out to be far better. With a digital recorder, you’re able to speak faster than you can write (legibly, at least), and because of that, your imagination can run a little more wild and you may very well end up with a nice chunk of material for a new novel. Or, as often happens with me, I may be making a note or two for a story I’m currently working on, and the next thing I know, I have the next two or three scenes outlined in rough form.

Whatever method you may use to save ideas, you then need to make sure those ideas get onto your hard drive. I like to have a general “Ideas” document where I can cache all of my story ideas. Once a story idea gets promoted to “current work” status, then I have another “Ideas” document saved as “[Story Name] Ideas” in that story’s folder. That way, I have a place to store any ideas that come to mind for the novel I’m currently working on. And I always make sure I back up my files in several locations, including emailing current files (password-protected) to myself so that everything is not on my physical hard drive.

So never let an idea go to waste by losing it somewhere in your imagination. Every idea is worth saving, because you just never know what it might turn into down the road!