|Insert story ideas here.|
Not too long ago, I sat down to start writing a brand new novel. Always a pulse-pounding moment. Except this time, I was ready. Coming up with story ideas on the fly can be simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. Luckily, I’ve learned a trick to keep the excitement level high while still going into a new book totally prepared. How?
By utilizing a writer’s piggy bank.
My piggy bank is a manila file folder. Yours might be on your computer or your smart phone. Or it could be a spiral notebook. Where you keep it doesn’t matter. How you keep it does. Properly maintained, a writer’s piggy bank lets you figure out most of the book before you even start writing, while giving you the flexibility to mix things up on the fly. Here’s how.
Write a novel the same way you keep your spare change.
Every time you start getting ideas for a new story, make a folder for it. For random, unrelated story ideas, feel free to make a “MISC. IDEAS” folder. But if one particular story really gets you going, and the ideas start to collide and multiply in your head, make a folder just for that new novel. Every time you have a sparkling new idea for it, jot it down on a piece of paper (or a text document) and stuff it in the folder for later. It doesn’t matter how big or small that idea is. Even if it’s just a few words, it’s worth saving. Over time, that folder will get thick.
When I had the idea for this particular novel, I had just finished one manuscript and was in the process of revising another. Between juggling two novels, copywriting for a living and occasionally seeing the light of day (gasp), I didn’t have the time to monkey around with a new project. So I jotted down my notes, as chaotic and disorganized as they were, and filed them away. Over the next few months, every time I got a new idea for this book, I crammed it into that file and forgot about it.
Meanwhile, I got my current manuscript revised and sent off to my agent. Then I dusted off my hands and sat down, with a heavy sigh, to start the whole novel-writing process all over again. But wait. What about my idea piggy bank?
How to write a novel the easy way (some assembly required):
I opened it my folder and spread out its contents. They went all the way across my desk. And across my side table. And onto my office floor. By the time I got done sorting, stacking and three-hole-punching everything, I wound up with an inch-thick binder crammed with characters, settings, plot lines, dialogue and all the fixin’s for a whole new novel. The spooky part is that I don’t even remember writing half of this stuff. It seems vaguely familiar, like something from a half-forgotten conversation. But it’s such a cool experience.
This whole idea bank works on the same concept as a piggy bank. If you empty the spare change out of your pocket and toss it into a jar every day, over time it adds up. One day, you can dump it all out, cash it in and treat yourself to something nice. A trip to Starbucks, a nice dinner, or ta da, a novel!
Writing Tips Instant Recap: The Writer’s Piggy Bank
1) When you have an idea, write it down and stash it away in an idea file.
2) If you have a lot of ideas about the same story, make a special file for that story. And don’t let the lack of a title stop you. “Untitled Mystery Novel” is better than nothing.
3) Keep collecting those story ideas over time. At first, it seems like nothing, but they’ll really add up, trust me.
4) When it’s time to start your next project (say, oh, National Novel Writing Month), dump out your piggy bank and start counting the loot. Voila! You can thank me later.
Do you have a writing question? Need a writing coach to help you solve a problem with your novel? Just ask! And if you try this idea and like it, let me know!
That's a great idea! I do something I call 'gathering' when courting a new novel. It's sort of like collecting everything you'll need for a long trip down a dark river. Your idea bank sounds similar. Glad it worked for you. You're such an organized novelist!
I only look organized from the outside. On the inside, it's mass hysteria.