The best story ideas come at the worst times!

Lightbulb ideaNo, I’m not talking about having great ideas for stories when you’re on the toilet, or when you’re not anywhere near pen, paper or any other kind of recording thingamabob, although that is pretty annoying too and has happened to me on many the occasion!

I am in fact talking in a much broader sense here. Let me explain. As many of you now know, I’m moving to Sweden in January (which I wrote about a couple of posts ago), and consequently the next few months are going to be chaotic if the last few weeks are anything to judge by. As many of you also know, I like to participate in NaNoWriMo each year, that crazy event where hundreds of thousands of writers around the world scramble to write a 50 000 word (or more) novel in the space of 30 days, in November. I have completed this for 4 years in a row, with varying results, but after not particularly enjoying what I wrote last year, and with my impending international relocation, I was almost definite about my decision not to participate in NaNoWriMo this coming November.

And then I had a good idea.

It might be one of the best ideas I have had for a story in a long time. It’s odd, because 2 of the 4 novels I wrote, I had no idea what I was writing during the process, 1 of them I started planning 2 or 3 weeks before, and the other one I came up with the idea about 2 days before I started writing (and this one, the one I completed in 2011, is the only one I actually don’t mind so far). But I have never had an idea for a novel several months before writing it, and definitely not one so good that I felt overwhelmed by the desire, no, more than that, by the complete and utter necessity to write it. But here I am, and I’m shaking my head at, well, my head.

It’s hard to explain the idea specifically, as it’s still all whirling around in my mind, and I’m slowly getting it all down on paper in between enormous bouts of brain storming ideas in various ways (this idea already has its own notebook for scribbling everything down during the planning process). But, roughly, it’s about loneliness, and has been inspired by a few things, by a few experiences with family, friends, loved ones, by a few things I’ve read here and there, things I’ve seen and heard, and I think the final straw was a recent blog by Stephen Fry that I am betting at least some of you have seen (it was published in June on his site, and is of course very much worth a read).

The idea is overly ambitious, but it feels like a story I have been trying to tell for many years, and it’s just taken me this long to realise it. So, despite my already overly dramatic life, I am going to find a way to write this novel during that month, or at least start it and keep to the pace enough to complete NaNoWriMo (I suspect I’ll be needing a lot more than 50 000 words to tell this story properly, and to tell it the way it deserves). This idea may have come at the completely wrong time, but I think as a writer when you have a story to tell you just have to find a way to tell it. And that’s what I’m going to do.

Have any of you ever experienced something like this, where you know you don’t really have the time to invest in a creative project, but do anyway because you feel you need to get an idea out of your head and into the world? What was it like going through this?

18 thoughts on “The best story ideas come at the worst times!

  1. Do you not think though that your recent change in circumstances has opened a door or window in your creative brain and let this out. I have had it happen to me and you just have to go with it, if you don’t it’ll hover like a bat trying to get out of a cellar. Do it. Just give it as much time as you can, when your life is more settled you can give it the time needed to polish and burnish but now when it’s new and demanding to noticed – do the thing. (I would also suggest that you forget the Nano doo da whatsit and honour the story instead.

    • This is very true, and I think you could be right – I often find when things like this happen in my life I suddenly have creative inspiration (not that I regularly decide to move overseas for love, but you know what I mean). And yes, you do have a point, maybe I do need to focus on writing the story now, or when I’m ready to write down the first draft of it. Polishing it is definitely for next year though. πŸ˜€

  2. There are just some stories that refuse to lie quietly at the back of your mind. Instead, they jump forth and multiply, forcing the writer to heed their words or they will make your head explode! lol Good luck with your story! πŸ™‚

    • Hahaha, yep, this is definitely one of those kinds of stories – it won’t let me rest until it spills out onto my page, I suspect. I am looking forward to writing it, and am enjoying planning it too (which is rare…I’m so not a story planner). πŸ™‚

  3. This has definitely happened to me! It seems like I always get those “not the right moment” ideas when I’m in the middle of something else that is taking all my time. And since I want to FINISH the first thing, I try to find a way to at least START the new idea. However, it’s gotten me into so tight spots, since it means I end up doing about 10 projects at once (I do music as well as writing, so that just adds to the chaos πŸ™‚ ) I do end up finishing the things I really want, which is the positive side, but they tend to take longer, since I play around with so many other things, too.

    I think it’s a good idea to at least write everything you can about your idea so it’s out of your head and you don’t have to feel like you forgot something later. If you feel confident you can start another ambitious project, then go for it! But you know you best. Either way, good luck and have a wonderful move!

    • Actually, I like the way you describe it, about starting one project while trying to finish another – I do this a lot too, and now that I think about it that applies elsewhere in my life, particularly to my reading where I am always reading several books at once too. I never really thought about it quite that way though! I’d love to get into making music, as I am as passionate about music as I am about books, but I’m not so good on my guitar (though I shall work on that I think, especially once I’m settled in my new home next year).
      I am definitely scribbling down all sorts of plans for this story, so I think there’ll be a blueprint of sorts for it when I feel ready to write the beast. Thanks for your thoughts, glad to speak to other creative people who do this! πŸ˜€

      • I’m always reading more than one book at once. πŸ™‚ And somehow I do finish all of them, so I must be making progress somewhere!

        Good luck with your music and your guitar practice! I understand trying to fit that in with everything else (I just released my first three songs and finding the time to edit them was tricky!). For me, I find that when I need a break from writing and editing, I switch over to music. It’s a little more physical, and using different senses (touch and sound instead of vision) helps to switch me into a different mode. Then I feel like I’ve gotten a break and can go back to writing.

        • I finish most of my books, but there are some which I got halfway through and stopped, and now it has been so long I think I want to restart them anyway. But I will definitely finish them. I always finish a book, even if I’m not enjoying it. I’d only stop of I knew I was going to hate it very early on in the book, and truth be told normally I’d be able to tell that before I even started πŸ˜› But that is good that you can finish all of them despite reading several at once! πŸ™‚
          That’s a good point, about using music to give yourself a break from writing while still being creative. Thank you, it’s definitely something I am looking forward to working on. And that is awesome on you releasing your own songs, congratulations! πŸ˜€

          • I should amend my previous comment: I finish all the ones I WANT to. lol! I guess now that I know how much work goes into writing a book, I don’t want to spend time reading those that a) don’t grab me or b) I feel like the author didn’t spend time on it to make it the best.

            Thanks for the congrats on my music and enjoy rekindling your guitar!

            • Ohhh I see hahahaha! I think I almost always hold out until the end, because I foolishly hope that maybe there might be some awesome twist that will make it better towards the end. On the odd occasion there actually is, too, but quite often it just ends in disappointment. But I do try to steer away from books I don’t want to read, simply because even if I live to 100 years old, I’ll be lucky to get through more than a few thousand books, so I want to choose the right ones (considering millions of new ones are published each year). πŸ˜›
              Thank you, I will πŸ™‚

  4. Write it! My English teacher once told me that the best ideas come when you least expect it and the most satisfied you’ll ever be with your writing is when you steal moments from time you know you don’t have. I think he was on to something. πŸ˜›
    I agree with Diane. Forget NaNoWriMo. Forget the word limit. Just write. Write every chance you get. We’ll cheer you on. πŸ™‚

    • Hmmm, your English teacher was definitely on to something there. And those English teachers sure do know a thing or two…*cough* πŸ˜›
      Oh I’m definitely forgetting the word limit with the story. But I’m starting to developing a better feel for how much room a story needs to grow…but I guess I’ll know best when I write it! So yeah, for now I’ll keep plodding away with the planning, but I will definitely start writing it this year! πŸ™‚

  5. I always have ideas coming at me, especially when I’m trying to edit and revise a project! I keep Post-it pads handy for writing these down for future posdibilities and jot them down into my phone notes. Sifting through them for the one nugget of worth is tough. I relate to your post and the NaNo agony/urge. Don’t know if I will particpate this year, but it’s difficult staying away, isn’t it?

    • I think that’s one of the biggest reasons I haven’t dedicated much time to editing and revising older stories, despite intending to do so, is that I always have new ideas I want to get down instead. But I know eventually I do need to sit down and just focus on what I already have, and really master the craft of making a story good, not just telling it at all. I think once my life has settled down and I’m on the other side of the world, where the weather will force me to stay inside for several months a year anyway, then I will get lots of editing done. πŸ™‚
      It is difficult to stay away from NaNoWriMo, and I guess the thing that is making me want to participate is that I have a little group of writers here where I live that I have done it with the last couple of years, and with me moving overseas in January this year will be the last year I can do it with them (at least, in the sense that we can hang out together in cafes and each others loungerooms etc). But…I’ll see how life, and my story, is going by then I guess. I definitely have other priorities this year! πŸ˜›

  6. Every day of my life, between study for an exam and my job at the library, it seems the wrong time. But the fact is … if you want to be a writer, you must do it every day, sunny or cloudy. Pick up the pen and WRITE. Expecially if you feel that the idea is good and you can’t give up on this. Good luck, good work !

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