Inspiration or Irritation?

An opportunity came up the other week to develop characters we were working on by writing stories with them based on specific prompt scenarios. At first the initial prompt did not seem to apply to my characters at all, but eventually inspiration struck.

I don’t know that I learned anything new about my existing characters from working on that prompt, but it did allow me to play out a scene that had previously been a little hazy in my mind. That is a very good thing.

What surprised me about the prompt fic is how this one scene ended up spawning ideas not just for later on in the existing characters’ lives, but for the next generation of characters, as well. All of a sudden Maddox and Kieran’s children are living in my head, and I don’t even have a definite outline for Maddox and Kieran’s own story. So I find myself genuinely torn at the moment between being thrilled at how Phallon and Connor’s story seems to be playing out, and being frustrated that I seem to be getting farther away from Maddox and Kieran.

When I very first started writing a little over ten years ago, I had one, maybe two ideas at a time. I wrote from start to finish on one and then worked on the next. Once in a while, if a story idea was particularly short I might pause a current work in progress to get the new story down on paper, but it really didn’t happen very often.

In the last year I find myself almost completely at the mercy of the muse at times. I started out ignoring new ideas, only to find myself irritated when I could not recapture them later. Then I would write down new ideas, whatever pieces came to me the most strongly – just notes, so that I would remember the substance of the idea later on. As I continue to be carried along on the wave of whatever comes to me, though, I can’t help wondering if what I’m making is progress, or just word count.

Not that word count is a bad thing, but part of the goal is to actually finish stories, right?

So I guess what I would like to know is what happens for everyone else? Do you have a pretty linear writing process, or do you have multiple ideas going at once? If you do have more than one, then how do you balance them? What happens if a new idea starts beating you over the head?


4 Replies to “Inspiration or Irritation?”

  1. I definitely follow a thread unconsciously. There seems to exist a relentless need to continue and finish a story or else I neglect the tale. It can be annoying. I have characters languishing in the throes of an action sequence. We'll see who wakes me tomorrow, I suppose. Best wishes on finishing the tales for all these wonderful characters!

  2. I tend to work in a more linear pattern. Most of what I've been working on is a group of short stories that form a more-or-less linear storyline. As such, I don't really want to work on story 3 if I haven't finished the first two, because how will I know the details of what happens in 2 and how they apply to 3 if I don't?

    However, if the muse does strike, I tend to work with it one way or another. It might just be a different story entirely that I at least start (I can think of two stories that I started when really inspired that I still haven't finished) or I'll write down the idea and anything else that comes to mind to work with later, if I so desire.

  3. I have no rhyme or reason to my writing so far. If I have time, and am awake enough, I try to see the story in my head. I just got an idea for a second story, which should be interesting, but I don't have others at the same time usually…

  4. I ALWAYS have multiple ideas going. There's writing, and then there's directing the hose at the page or keyboard. If the hose is running, then catch it. If not, then write ideas you already have. Trust the process. If you see it, write it.

    Don't worry if you have a lot of ideas. That's supposed to happen. The more we unblock, the more we are unblocked and the ideas flow.

    Finishing is a learned skill; don't worry. You'll get there. Right now, just catch what butterflies appear to your net. Trust the process. Write what you see.

    Story is God.

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