Ignore Your First Idea

I remember one workshop I attended on how to write fiction. It was put on by two very knowledgeable women who have given many, many such workshops. The fee wasn’t much but I considered myself fortunate to get a seat because there are long waiting lists to get into their workshops.

I learned a few things. One was that I can’t write their way because it’s too complicated. Lines connecting plot points and outlines and long, detailed descriptions of the characters and plots. Some attendees even mentioned going home and plotting points on a graph to help them write better.

That’s not me. Never in a million years and the women giving the seminar were very careful to advise anyone who doesn’t work well with their method to forget it. So I did. Except for one very salient thing.

Forget your first idea. The idea that caused you to sit up in the middle of the night and know … just know … that you had to write a book about it because it was so right. So perfect. So complete.

It might have been perfect, but I can fairly well guarantee that it wasn’t complete. Because few stories are complete when they first come to you. So don’t begin outlining, plotting or whatever you do when you begin to put your idea down on paper until you’ve stretched your mind and your imagination and gone beyond that first idea.

Think it through … imagine every possible scenario … come up with other similar but different ideas … check out the opposite of your original flash of brilliance … do whatever you have to do to get past that first idea. And the second. And the third. And, possibly, even the fourth. Surprise yourself.

Because when you reach for the stars sometimes you actually catch one. And when  you dig deep inside of yourself and come up with newer, better, fuller and more comprehensive ideas you are creating a newer, fuller, better story than you’d have imagined yourself capable of. Then write it.

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