Sometimes I’m going along, minding my own business, and BAM! I’m hit by a great idea for a story. Naturally, I’m excited by this prospect as ideas to a writer are like gold to anybody. The trouble is I sometimes get great ideas at the most inopportune moments.
I’ve already blogged about how I keep an idea notebook for these ideas. I also have a Post-It note program on my computer that comes in handy for these things (particularly if I come up with an idea for a story I’ve been trying to revise for months and I don’t want to lose it before I get a chance to try it). Both of these things are great. Sometimes I kick myself for not using my idea notebook more. But that’s because, like I said, I get my ideas during the most inopportune times.
The idea for “How the Night Haunts” came to me right before NaNoWriMo, while I was still struggling with the American Vampires outline. “Anniversaries” came to me during Nano. Both great ideas, both with rotten timing. I jotted the basic premise for both stories down on my computer post-its and hoped they’d be there in December.
I don’t mean that I was worried I might accidentally erase the notes. I mean that sometimes, at least for me, a good idea must be acted on NOW for it to be a good story. Giving it any time at all to cool down and it ends up being as appetizing as the skin on gravy. It doesn’t mean that the idea still isn’t a good one, but it does mean that it’s going to be more of a struggle for me to translate that good idea into a good story. Without those piping hot images and that burning need, my appetite for it isn’t as strong.
Some ideas, though, are made to last. The longer they sit, the more they simmer in the back of my mind, so that when I do get to them, I’ve got an even better idea of what I’m doing with the story, even if I wasn’t actively thinking about it. Those stick-to-your-ribs kinds of ideas are the ones that while acted on in a flash might be good, letting them roast a while makes them better.
My trouble is that I don’t always know which one is which. I lucked out this time with “How the Night Haunts” and I think I cut it close on “Anniversaries”. If I had waited any longer on that one, I think it would have burned. Some stories, I’m not so lucky on. The idea either doesn’t pan out on paper or I never get around to writing it in the first place because I can’t rediscover that magic that brought the idea to me in the first place.
But, I never throw an idea away.
You never know. The right time for that recipe might come around again. And I want to be ready if it does.