Focusing Ideas

Blog Post No. 432

giphyThis week’s post may meander a bit. I have an idea in my head and I’ve been turning it over in my head for the last few days—trying to find the right way to express it so that it makes sense to other people. Like, I’m sure if you were inside my head (and not horrified by the stuff going on in the background) it would make total sense. I’m going to try to use words to explain it, though, as the technology to see into another person’s head (thankfully) doesn’t exist. The basic thesis statement is that when you set your brain to focus on one type of thing, the ideas that you create from the things you absorb around you will mostly fit that format. See. It’s not easy to put into words. Let me try to elaborate and clear up what I mean.

For the last several years I’ve been focusing on medium to long length stories. To make writing my full time job, I’ve needed to get a novel written (other than Pilot which I still hope to go back and fix up one day). Mostly, though, I’ve put my energy into the novellas. Between the novella series and the Invasion Novel, I haven’t really given much thought to short stories. I’ve wanted to write some, but it was always a thought that could stay on the back burner while I actually wrote other things. I told myself that when the next novella was done, or the Invasion Novel was finally finished, I would knock out a few short stories (as if it were totally easy) before picking up the next project.

giphy-1By the way, the different mindset needed to write a short story compared to a novel is huge. (One could say as big as the difference between coming up with ideas for one versus the other). Short stories have to be tight and focused on only the most relevant details. They have to start right when the action is really getting going and end before they fall flat. A good short is like taking just the climax of a novel and adding enough meat so that it all make sense. Novels are like taking a journey into another world (when it’s a genre story or not). True, the best novels (in my opinion) are fairly tightly focused, but there is room to world build, explore the nuance of characters, and ride the waves of the story arcs.

When it comes to thinking up ideas for a short story or a novel, you have to hold those differences in your mind. At least I do. It’s not like I have to constantly think short story or novel all day, but if I spend time actively thinking about one, the ideas that pop into my head while I listen to a podcast or read a book, naturally conform to that format. Mostly. Since I’ve been waiting on the last edits for Break/Interrupt, I’ve been working on shorts. I spent the virtual writers retreat writing one (I’m almost finished). Because of that, I’ve had some awesome ideas for short stories in the last few weeks. One of them turned out to better fit a novel length, however. (After I tried to knock out a short and got to 2000 words with just the character introductions).

giphy-2That’s where the mostly comes in. Even if I’m focused on shorts, some ideas just work better as novels or novellas. (It works the other way, too). Ideas come to you when you get used to looking for them. Sometimes, two different interesting facts from totally different sources will collied in your brain (when you are showering or washing dishes (there’s a term for that, but I can’t remember it)). How you interpret them based on what you’re looking for (consciously or not) influences how they form. Like the shape of a container and the liquid inside.

Anyway. I hope I managed to explain the thing in my head. I hope it was interesting, too. Since I’ve been working on short stories (and not the ebooks, like I probably should) I’ve come up with some really exciting ideas for more stories. I have had to make a list so that in the short break between the novella and starting the edits on the invasion novel, I can get at least one more written. The others will have to wait for when the novel is done, or for when I start the next novella and there is another project shuffle. For now, I’ll get back to the current short and hope I get those edits back soon. The countdown to publishing Break/Interrupt is on.

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