Patience Is A Virtue

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white rabbit

I’ve just finished rereading a book that I used not to like much. It’s a lesser-known Georgette Heyer called A Civil Contract and, unlike almost all her other Regency works, it isn’t really a love story. It’s about a relationship that’s built without love, or even friendship at the beginning. The younger me found this very dull, and not what I looked for from Ms. Heyer.

The current me, however, loved it because that sort of slow-build relationship takes much more patience to write. Now that I’ve done more myself, and am a bit more familiar with the challenges of crafting subtle interaction on the page, I have a far greater appreciation of the skill required.

Impatience is one of my biggest flaws as a writer (and I have many). All these ideas in my head must be got down onto the page NOW before I lose one. That means there’s a tendency to rush them. I like quite minimalist writing as a style (having got over the purple prose era in my teens) but there’s a difference between minimal and rushed. Yes, rushed writing can be fixed in editing, but you risk losing the quality of the idea in the hasty execution of it. So when I come back later to reread and edit, I don’t see anything worth salvaging and the idea is lost after all.

I make notes, of course, and keep a list of ideas on my wiki. (For those who don’t use it, wikidot.com is a great free personal wiki site where you can keep and cross-reference research notes, character notes, world building notes, story ideas, quotes, etc etc etc.) But the nagging sense that something is being forgotten, or won’t be done justice, is a fairly constant writing companion. Does anyone have any tips on managing idea queues? Because this is one I haven’t figured out.

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One response »

  1. For me, my story plan is important in managing ideas. For longer stories, that plan may be quite sparse at the start, but if I have section in scrivener labelled ‘scene 3’, then any ideas that crop up for scene three can be stuck there as I go along, without getting lost or distracting me too much from the flow. This means my brain can roam around a bit while still focussing on the project in hand.

    Writing short stories also helps. It means that I get a lot of ideas out of my system. I can scratch the itch of some exciting concept without it distracting me from other projects for weeks at a time.

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