Working Ahead

Hi gang, Craig with you again. I may have posted something about this before, but I’ve reached a point in life where “I don’t remember” stops being an excuse and becomes reality. Stick with me, though. What I’m offering might prove beneficial to some of you.

Okay, it might come across a bit like this:

This comes with a small story. Once upon a time, I had written a couple of books and wanted to write another one. The only problem is I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to write. It turned out to be one of the worst experiments in my life, and I vowed to never be in that position again. If that sounds similar to problems you’re facing, stick with me.

I turned to one of my standard tools – living documents. I started with one called Story Ideas. That isn’t where I stopped, but it was a beginning. This morphed into my already existing use of storyboards.

One of the habits I’ve developed involves flipping through Facebook, Flipboard, Pinterest, and others every night. I move pretty fast and something has to grab me pretty quick to get a deeper look. When something is interesting I save it right away. This makes Pinterest the hands-down winner, because storage is part of the program.

These things work on my brain and occasionally I get those what-if ideas that give birth to stories. This is where it all starts coming together.

When an idea lodges in my mind, I open my notes app and jot down something that I can remember it by. Hard to forget things if I write them down. There is an intentional delay in this phase, because some of them don’t force me to dwell upon them. You have a mind, so you understand how they work.

There is a hierarchy to keep up with here. Inspirational things lead to fleeting thoughts. If one of those proves interesting it goes in the notes app. You will have to modify some of this for your own lifestyle. For me, I have this magical period of time known as the daily commute. These things bounce around in my mind. Occasionally, they combine like elements to form molecules.

Honestly, most of them die on the vine, but they never leave the notes app. I have years worth of stuff saved in there. It’s like the opposite side of the mirror where other authors will tell you never to outright delete something you remove from your story. It could have value later in your career. There’s only one way it gets deleted and that’s when it’s published on Amazon.

Long term followers know I am a storyboarder. That is my next step. For those rare ideas that want to grow and combine into something – I start a storyboard.

This is not to say all the storyboards become manuscripts. Again, there is a filtering process, but at this level they could become manuscripts.

At the time of this writing, I have eight existing storyboards. This isn’t to say they’re all finished. With about half of them, I could start writing tomorrow if I wanted. The others are close, but still need a little something.

I don’t think I’ll ever not have something to write again. This process comes with the benefit of time to make these into something worthy and not just a basic plot with stock characters.

This may sound tedious, but I promise you it isn’t. Twenty minutes of surfing every night might lead to two minutes of jotting something into a notes app. I might only jot something down once per week. Every other week, I might make one index card for my storyboard.

Think about how long it takes to draft a story. Over the period of that six months to a year, you could be plotting out your next one by using a few minutes per day.

Story Empire is a writing blog, and by now you know there’s nothing that works for everyone. This process works for me, maybe it will work for you too. Feel free to modify whatever I mentioned. It has to work in your world, maybe you’re more into notebooks and character sheets. That’s all good, the point is to write it down.

I had to google this, but there is a quote that’s appropriate here:

“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.” — Thomas Edison

That seems appropriate to this process.

46 thoughts on “Working Ahead

  1. Pingback: Working Ahead | INFOPLUG

  2. That video clip is a great way to illustrate the way a story develops. How funny. Thanks for sharing your process, Craig. I think we all can relate to the way inspiration comes and an idea grows into a story. A super fun post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: #ReblogAlert – This Week on #StoryEmpire | The Write Stuff

  4. Hi Craig, I do know you storyboard. I have taken your idea but modified it to suit me. I collect pins that relate to a story I am writing or intend to write about. Currently, I also have a few boards for pins about WW1 pictures and articles, WW2 pictures and articles and climate change. I don’t suffer from a shortage of ideas so I collect the pins for existing ideas. They help with the bibliography at the end too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That was an amazing video and such a long process that isn’t all that different from writing how to get to the end or start at the beginning. A good way to find ideas that keep your writing flowing. I’m a note-taker when I see something or get a thought it goes down on paper. A true quote to end it with, for as many ideas as I add others never make the cut. Good post, Craig.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m always intrigued by your storyboarding. I can’t seem to develop a story a little bit at a time. Wish I could. I write down ideas and characters that come to me, but I have to sit down and really pound on them to make everything come together. I think it’s because I can’t multi-task. I have to concentrate on something to make it work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In some ways, people shouldn’t fight their natural inclinations. When I have a partial storyboard, I can move the cards around until something seems to click, then start writing. A board helps get distracting thoughts out of my head, too. Adding data to a board allows me to concentrate on the working draft I have going.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I LOVE the Edison quote. And I hung in there to the end of the vid to see if the salt got delivered. I wondered how many takes that took, LOL!

    I’m a note jotter too, but I do mine longhand in a notebook. Most of the books I’ve published have developed from ideas that were kicking around for a length of time–some even years. It’s amazing what prompt will start an idea germinating to something much more!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. First of all, Craig, let me just say I had to watch the video all the way to the end to see if the guy ever got his salt. 🙂 Engineering genius! I love your storyboard ideas and Pinterest is a treasure trove of visuals. I have a whiteboard next to my computer with five different story ideas jotted down on it. I would like to be able to move those from the whiteboard to a Pinterest storyboard and will experiment with that just to see what it sparks. Thank you for sharing your methods. And the quote from Edison is perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The Notes app is the first place my ideas go, too. My phone is the one collection tool I’m sure to always have with me. Great post, Craig. And the video was cool. (I especially liked the hair dryer and the ping pong balls.)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The video was well worth the few minutes spent watching, Craig. Amazing, but it gets the point across. Your own writing process wore me out just thinking about it, I must say. Ideas pour through my mind like the proverbial sand through the hourglass, and I seldom (if ever) have time to jot them down. Mostly, I start typing, and make it up as I go. 😯 I DO however, have a Scapple bulletin board on my computer where I keep a few notes for my current WIP. Mostly in the form of “What-If” notes. I guess that’s a similar idea, but I don’t spend a lot of time on it, once I start on the book. And I’ve honestly never thought ahead to the next book. It takes every bit of my brain to get the current one written. (That says more about my old brain and it’s capacity than it does about your excellent ideas.) You’ve got me thinking, though, and that can only be a good thing. Or a dangerous one.

    Super interesting post today that I suspect will be very helpful to lots of folks! Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Working Ahead | Legends of Windemere

  12. Love the quote by Edison.

    Just last night I was thinking about all the story ideas I have (and I keep getting more of them), but I have so little time. I don’t storyboard, but use my Excel spreadsheets (bet you couldn’t guess that)! If I get an idea when I’m away from the computer, I use the notes app on my phone.

    Good post.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. What a fun way to start the day! My grandson creates mechanical obstacles, to the awe of everyone. But to associate that creative talent with the writing endeavor (or life) is something I’d never thought about. This visual is one I won’t forget and now will apply when I’m thinking through a new story. Thanks, Craig!

    Liked by 2 people

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