Every time I venture outside, a new story comes to mind. When I read the news or am told of a major event, BAM! new story idea. When I’m listening to a song, here comes a new idea. Even when I see a cool-looking tree, a new story idea pops into my head! . . .okay, that last one might be just a little bit of an exaggeration, but I think you get the point. For me, the problem with writing stories isn’t that I can’t come up with an idea, the problem is that I have WAY too many ideas in my head and I can’t narrow them down. Do you have this problem? Do you ever find yourself wondering “How on earth can I choose the right idea out of so many millions?” Well, if you do, I might be able to help you with that. This is my process for when I’m having troubles with choosing the right story.
To start out, I try writing an outline down. If I know that I’m not going to forget my new story, then I find myself less likely to feel bad about cutting it for now. Sometimes, I try to write all of the stories I have in my head right when I get them, and when I do, I find that more than half of them never get finished. A perfectly good story gone to waste. If you have the same problem, your stories simply sitting, written only half-way, try just writing an outline of your idea. Save it for later, just like it’s the last of your favorite flavor of cookie, and you know you’ll want it later on.
Once I’ve written them down, I usually narrow them all down to three of my favorites. I read over each of them again and again, so I can really get to know the basics of the story. After I’ve finished with that, I write down my favorite aspects of each of the stories. Try not to forget to add in even the smallest of details, whether you think it’s significant or not. It could be something as simple as “I like the main character’s name” or “I like that she/he has blue eyes”.
I then walk away from the paper for an hour or so, and completely get my mind off of the different ideas. Try playing a board game, reading a book, or writing a little more of another story you’ve been working on. Once that hour or so is up, go back to the stories and read through everything you’ve written down once more. Now, out of the three, which is your least favorite? Discard that one. Out of the two, which one stands out most and seems the most exciting? Not only that, but which do you think would be the most fun to write? Discard the one you like the least, or had the least side-notes, if you can’t decide.
Now you should have your one story. Tada! That simple. Remember, just because you’ve discarded the other few for now, doesn’t mean that they have to be gone forever. Just tuck them away in a folder or somewhere you’ll remember them for safe-keeping. Then, once you’ve finished with the story you’re writing, go back and go through the process again. This helps with making sure you don’t have tons of unfinished stories in your Dropbox, and it also helps with narrowing down your stories.
I hope that this has been helpful to any writers reading this who have the same trouble that I do. It isn’t easy to choose what to write if you have a bunch of ideas, but having a process that you stick to is a great way to help you get out of those annoying situations.
Do you have any techniques like this that help you narrow things down? If so, don’t be afraid to tell me in the comments below! I’d love to know all about it, and maybe even use your process myself sometime!