White Hot Ideas

This past week we went to the State Fair for the second time.  (The first was on September 10th.)  One thing I really like about the New Mexico State Fair is how varied it is.  Jim and my version doesn’t involve the midway rides or over-priced junk food.  It’s all about animals, art shows, and extremely cool demonstrations – sometimes of how to do things we’ve never heard of before.

Generations

Generations

And Ideas…

Oh, so many, many ideas.  I have been scribbling down things ever since.  Some of these will become projects of their own.  Others will fill in gaps in on-going stories.  Still others will swirl around my imagination like the stars in a spiral galaxy, lighting up the void, taking shape from the pull of unseen forces around them.

On a less mystic note…  The trend this year seemed to be guitars and dragons.  Even the Fine Art building had both.  We didn’t see any dragons playing guitar or any dragon-shaped guitars, but both are sort of cool ideas.  (Scribble, scribble…)

We also saw a demonstration of animal event we didn’t even know existed until we stumbled upon it when we dropped by the equestrian arena.  This was donkey snigging.  Yep.  You read that right.  Donkey snigging turns out to be an event in which a handler guides a donkey (full-sized or miniature) through an obstacle course.  Complexity is added in that the donkey is dragging an eight-foot long wooden pole.  It’s oddly mesmerizing.

At least right now, I’m not putting any of these ideas to immediate use.  But some of them are definitely setting off sparks.  Why am I not encouraging them to light a fire?  Because I’m currently working on something that I’d like to finish first.  As I was saying to another writer when she mentioned how a hot new idea was trying to lure her from the project she wanted to finish, the problem is that the hot new idea is easy to get caught up in until the moment it becomes yet another unfinished project.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to being a writer of completed stories (or novels or plays or whatever) is the hot new idea.  It’s so easy to write those first five or ten or whatever pages.  What’s hard is sticking to it, keeping going, developing, honing, polishing, practicing.  When someone says “I’ve written a hundred pages on my new novel.  It’s the first of a trilogy.  In fact, I have an entire twenty-book series mentally outlined!” I love the enthusiasm.  I honestly do.

But I’m also thinking to myself…  Coming up with all those scattered ideas is the easy part.  Making them play out…  That’s where the work comes in.

I’ve only taken one writing course.  That was my senior year in college when I had an elective available.  I didn’t learn anything from the course about the craft of writing that I hadn’t already figured out by reading lots of excellent stories by other writers.  However, the tremendous service that course did for me was force me to finish stories.

Up to that point, I’d filled notebooks and stacks of paper with stories that I stopped working on when the white hot idea became an ember that needed fanning.  Needing to finish because turning in a complete story was the assignment gave me the push I needed.  And once I learned to finish, I had developed a skill that turned me from a “would be” writer into a writer.

Does this mean that every story idea must be pursued to conclusion?  Not at all.  Some ideas gutter out because once the writer begins to explore them, the writer realizes that what seemed like a great idea is actually a cool descriptive element (say that dragon playing a guitar) and that there isn’t actually a full story there.

But if the only reason the writer stops writing is because yet another hot new idea came burning across the mental sky, then some considering needs to be done as to whether this is a wise use of creative resources.

Next week I’m going to interview an author who had a white hot idea come searing across his creative sky, an idea so hot that he couldn’t let it go and had to start writing – even though he was immersed in another story.  I’ll wait until then to tell you how that worked out.

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16 Responses to “White Hot Ideas”

  1. James M. Six Says:

    So, basically Heinlein’s Five Rules of selling fiction, #2?

    I know the lure of the great idea, but one thing that, for me, will kill a story dead in its tracks is letting someone read it before you’ve completed the first draft. If they love it, the pressure ramps up and I get too tense trying to make the rest of it just as good. If they don’t like it, what’s the point of finishing? Now, I don’t show an unfinished work to anyone.

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      Actually NOT. See paragraph beginning with “Does this mean…”

      I’m the same as you about letting people see something before it’s done. That’s one reason I don’t belong to workshops. It’s not that I feel change, but people will try to anticipate what you have in mind Or tinker.

    • jamesmsix Says:

      Sorry. That’s what I get for trying to speedread blogs before I go to work.
      I guess that’s a “missing” part of Heinlein’s Rules: Step 0: Identify what’s an actual story idea as opposed to a cool image with no story behind it.

      • Jane Lindskold Says:

        Now that’s quite a lovely idea! Good way to put it.

        Sometimes the only way to tell is to do some exploratory writing. That’s why Heinlein’s rules don’t work as well as folks want to believe. Sometimes that great image will turn out to belong to a story that isn’t written yet, which is one reason a lot of writers keep a journal or suchlike.

        I’m not so systematic, but I do have a box full of scraps of paper.

  2. chadmerkley Says:

    Dragons and Guitars: there are a lot of dragon-shaped electric guitars out there. I’d rather have a nice sculpture or a good guitar, not something that compromises on both, though.

    Dragons playing guitars is an odd image to me–my mental template is dragons as fitting in medieval settings, while guitars (or any fretted string instrument) are Renaissance and later. It just kind of clashes for me. Even a lute would be pushing me. I can definitely imagine dragon playing a harp or lyre or koto or something like that,

    Just thinking about what kind of instruments made sense made me realize that they’re all plucked instruments without a fingerboard. Every string is tuned to a specific pitch, unlike a guitar, etc where the pitch of a sounding string is changed by shortening it by pressure against a surface. I have a hard time seeing dragon claws being able to do that. Harps or zithers just seem more natural for dragons.

    So this goes back to creating something that’s more than just a cool image, but making a complete setting where all the elements make fit and make sense in context. Of course, I’m in the minority of people who would find this particular detail incongruous.

    I’d be okay with seeing a dragon play a bellows-driven bagpipe. :).

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      If I ever follow through with this idea, I’m going to make sure to draw on your experience. And now my brain is busy corrupting Coleridge via Tarzan.

      “A dragon with a dulcimer in a vision once I saw/ He was playing a song about ancient Opar.”

      Time to scribble notes.

      • chadmerkley Says:

        Wow. Tarzan in Xanadu–with dragons. That’s a little scary, Jane. You can’t even blame that on an opium dream

      • henrietta abeyta Says:

        If you or Paul click the photo of this page, you’ll see the offer of an active opening I tried to give a good skillful book author like you Jane. This opening has the example of a busy young traveling one who could have Tarzan as its firmly chosen BFF.

        I wouldn’t care if you used it, you’re sure welcome to Jane, I love to be helpful any way possible. So I sure wanted you aware that I offered an opening to you.

        Click the photo and you’ll see it. Jasmine Olson speaking.

      • janelindskold Says:

        Well, Chad, one of the great joys I have in living my life drug free is that I have no one to blame but myself!

    • henrietta abeyta Says:

      There’s also the Ethiopian bowl lyre which would be an instrument from a place close to Tarzan’s Gorilla family.

      Kwanzaa would sure be one of the days perfect for the dragon to visit Tarzan. Guitar and Ethiopian bowl lyre I can see this make-believe dragon playing both.

      I’ve put an additional scene of the dragon entering Africa to sort of help you too, in case you didn’t want Africa to be its accurate home.

      Asia would be the more common section to have the dragon born in and if you use the opening I made up, the Indian ocean or China’s sea could be the dragon’s birth place.

  3. Paul Says:

    Ever have someone approach offering this great story idea, that you should now write and split the profits 50/50?

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      Very funny… If there’s a professional writer out there who HASN’T encountered that one, then it’s only a matter of time.

    • henrietta abeyta Says:

      The active opening I offer Jane isn’t just from how I think of dragons and other fantasy characters, it also does a little bit with what I remember from quizzes of being a dragon, Paul.

      Personality Quizzes. I’m able to understand enough about life that quizzes of what dragon I’d be are Rainbow Dragon, Royal Dragon or Spirit Dragon these are 3 of the gentlest make – believe dragons Paul, and they were my nice pleasant quiz results.

      But I’m not too surprised about these 3 pleasant results of dragon types that match my personality, because in several wolf quizzes I’m repeatedly thought of as a Alpha or Beta rank wolf.

  4. henrietta abeyta Says:

    Well scary / enjoyable / amusing?????? This dragon idea would depend on what type of roles the dragons had. Not every dragon is mean. Plus the friendly dragons who offer to share their magic powers can quite entertaining especially when you know the reasons.

    Saphira She’s a tall but thoughtful, she’s Eragon’s dragon.

    The dragon in Shrek tells Donkey, don’t leave, I love you!

    And in Asia dragons, phoenixes, unicorns, and turtles are honored.

    It’s Europe where dragons who frighten people are numerous. But still in stories like Quest for Camelot, there are a few stories of friendly European dragons. If you’ve seen enough of the motion picture tales of dragons their music can be easy listening music, soft vocal songs that sound encouraging like Saphira’s Keep Holding On, celebration songs like Cornwall and Devon singing If I Didn’t Have You, With Dragons like Mushu in Mulan’s animated movie Family music is played by a Cricket while the ancestors dance in the rhythm of True To Your Heart. And the soundtrack of How To Train Your Dragon is mainly music of flights. Friendship songs and Jazz are two other kinds that would fit a dragon’s attitude as well as how fast they move.

    I’ll Tell you Paul, I’ve even drawn a dragon playing a guitar with very small wolves holding each others paws while dancing, like kids do at schools. I enjoy tracing what can be printed.

    Jasmine Olson sharing information from her enjoyment of 3 hobbies movies, music, and drawing, plus what she’s read from websites too.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Hi Jasmine… Your enthusiasm is great, but there’s a funny thing about writers… They like to come up with their own visions. I’m glad my words gave you so much food for your imagination!

  5. henrietta abeyta Says:

    And Jane your State Fair sounds like it’s more fun than Utah’s.

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