Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Two Cent Tuesday: Idea Overload

Hey, we were promised a sequel!
A few weeks ago I talked about a couple books I never got around to writing sequels to though the ideas were there.  And after that I listed all the various ways the Tales of the Scarlet Knight series (and a lesser extent the Chances Are series) could have continued.  And way back in May as part of the Box Office Blitz I presented a Scarlet Knight/Chances Are crossover story and asked if I should write it or not.  Most people's reactions seemed summarized as:  "Meh, do it if you want."

Though some people said I would do it because I would feel some compulsion to do so, I haven't.  Why?  Because I've learned you don't have to write every idea that pops into your head.  In fact I don't write most ideas that pop into my head.

Although I have sort of done that now, only just using overall concepts instead of actual characters and settings.  So maybe the idea sort of mutated in my brain to a different, possibly better idea.  You can follow that idea on Wattpad if you want though eventually it'll be released in ebook form.

On writers.net there was some novice who was spouting off about all the ideas he had and OMG, how was he going to have time to write them all?  The answer according to this Grumpy Bulldog is:  you won't!  Because there isn't time to write those half-dozen ideas and in the meantime you'll come up with another half-dozen ideas.  Especially when you're young that's the nature of the beast.  A young writer is kind of like a puppy that will chase after anything:  balls, sticks, birds, cats, people.  The young writer, like the puppy, is full of enthusiasm, but hasn't developed focus.

When you get to be a cagey old salt like me, you start to realize you can't write every idea, nor should you.  There's just not the time for it, even for someone like me who can bang out a novel in 3-4 weeks when he's on his horse.  So in the end you just work on the ideas you really like, the ones you really feel strongly about.  In the cases of the books that didn't get sequels it's because I didn't feel that strongly about the first one by the time I finished.  Not that they aren't good books (in my mind) but there wasn't sufficient pull to make me go out and write the next one.

Contrast that to the Scarlet Knight and Chances Are series, where I was working on the next book before the previous one was done.  Those had that magnetic pull where I felt there was more to do and more that needed to be done--up to a point.  By the time I got to the eighth Scarlet Knight story and third Stacey Chance one that pull had waned and I began to feel I had (at least for the moment) gone as far as I needed to with it.

This is one reason I don't like seat-of-the-pants writing.  You can get into that situation where you're really hot about an idea and start to write it only to lose steam into the process.  Then you quit on the idea.  Then you get frustrated that you quit on the idea.  Plus you've wasted weeks or months writing something that now you don't think is any good.  That's why I like to take time and develop the idea.  Sometimes though it still happens where I quit on something.  (I think a couple of those are on my old Wordpress blog.)  Despite planning, sometimes you just get into a story and decide it's not really as good as you thought; it can be difficult to see the trees from the forest.  In one case, I stopped on an idea and then came up with what eventually became the first Stacey Chance book.  Still it happens a lot less frequently than if I just chased after every idea the second I had it.

Sometimes I wish I could do the James Frey and contract grad students to write stuff for me.  I could just come up with the idea and let them do all the heavy lifting I might not feel like doing.  That would be a great way to get every stupid idea I ever come up with down on paper.  Or maybe that old adage about a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters.  "It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times...stupid monkey!"

Anyway, the point is that you have to pick and choose which ideas to run with and which ideas to leave on the table.  Trying to chase down all of them will just leave you tired and with a headache.

Now if you want a great idea to write, I came up with this on one of Pagel's blogs a while back.  The idea was when I was watching some zombie movie I was thinking, "Why don't people just get on a boat?"  So that would be the idea.  A bunch of people get on a really big boat, like a cruise ship or something, and they go around to various ports to find supplies and other survivors.  And there could be your whole Walking Dead cast of characters:  the leader, the warriors, the dorky comic relief, the expendable redshirts, the hot babes, the troublemakers.  It's the Love Boat...With Zombies!  Or maybe like Battlestar Galactica only they're on the ocean instead of space and you have zombies instead of Cylons.  Think about that.  I might write it, but I've never been that into zombies.  Or vampires.  Or werewolves.  And unfortunately the things I am into are apparently not that popular.  As if that's anything new for me.

Here's something else I thought of just the other day after they announced a Superman/Batman movie.  It's based off a comment author A. Lee Martinez made about how much less powerful Batman is than Superman, especially in the recent movies.  My idea for the movie would be that after "Man of Steel" the puny humans are looking for a way to bring down Superman if he goes rogue on them.  This gets Batman (as Bruce Wayne) working together with government types and a rival big company, LexCorp.  So basically then Batman and Lex Luthor are initially working together and come up with Kryptonite.  But while Batman just wants a failsafe of course Luthor would double-cross everyone to try and kill Superman and take over the world, which gets Batman and Superman on the same side to save the day.  It kind of follows the Avengers formula of where they are at first rivals but then allies which means you can have them actually fight each other early on which would be great for the trailers.  Does anyone have Zack Synder or David S. Goyer's phone numbers?  I will have to demand an Executive Producer credit for this, though to get my piece of the action.

Tomorrow is Shameless Plugging!


  1. Your Supes/Batman idea is pretty awesome. I'm sure it's better than what we'll get. I've got no confidence in the crossover at this point.

  2. I love books and movies and have had lots of ideas, but never have I had the time to actually put it on paper. Still I love your ideas on the Batman/Superman movie.

  3. I like those ideas.

    I haven't done it in a while but I had those posts on "Every idea I ever had," because I think up stuff all the time and sometimes I jot it down and sometimes I don't.

    You're right about ideas losing steam. I've started a few things -- Homer's Oddity, IO17, The Dysprosians -- that I then decided I didn't like, or at least didn't like enough to keep writing. So I quit on them. But I didn't mind too much because "Meh, write it if you want," and I'm just doing this for fun.

    You're also right that the right idea will pull you like a magnet. For "Motion 92" I'd wake up in the morning excited to start writing it. The story I'm working on for Andrew is like that, too. If an idea doesn't hold MY interest, it won't hold someone else's interest, either.

    I've had to learn the discipline that you have now -- don't start every single idea you have -- but I've blended it with those 250=1 stories where I can write a story that's finite and has some of my wackier ideas that I'm not sure I want to expand into an entire longer story or book.

    Weird: we were both thinking the same thing this week, kind of -- I mentioned that I've only written about 1% of the ideas I've ever had:


    and said that not only do I not write them all because you have to have some balance, as writing is a hobby for me, but also because most of them would probably turn out pretty bad. It's one thing to get a great idea, like the one I had for a story about a half-man/half-stegosaurus ("Steg!" I called him) but another thing to maintain that concept over a whole story.

  4. I know what you mean about spending a lot of time on a writing project only to discover the idea wasn't that good. I once wrote four hundred pages of a novel before realizing it was all crap.

  5. I used to be a pantster, and I just got exhausted.

    "Cage old salt" That's me too. Been pretty grumpy myself!

    Your idea for the announced Superman/Batman movie is fantastic. I think that would totally work.



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