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Make Your Ideas Welcome – They’re Your Friends

November 15th, 2019

Forty-odd years ago, our dynamics lecturer wrote an equation on the blackboard. One symbol caught my imagination. That idea, for a novel, complete with cover design, remained with me for about thirty five years.

Years later, I reached the novel writing section of the Writers Bureau Comprehensive Writing Course. The same idea eventually grew into my début novel, Theta Double Dot.

I’m always fascinated by how others garner ideas, so I’d like to share some of my own methods. I should emphasise that these have evolved, as my circumstances and opportunities have altered.

I think nothing outranks routine and discipline, in laying the essential, firm foundations for writing achievement. I began when I’d changed from commuting to working online, from home. Periods of illness, together with heavy domestic and administrative time demands, made really effective time management essential. The other, maybe apparently contradictory, piece of advice that I offer, comes from the “desiderata”, which you may have seen on a fake parchment, like my version.  “Therefore, apart from a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself…” Trust me, this is every bit as important as any other technique or strategy.

Sometimes, I only managed to write a paragraph of my novel, or move forward with the plot or its development by a tiny amount. That was still infinitely better than nothing. Maybe I’d come up with a little more on a character’s profile – just that. Perhaps I’d decide what the weather ought to be doing, in a scene that I’d just begun to plot (in best Writers Bureau fashion). This was a great piece of advice in itself – sort your weather for every scene, if you want to maintain authentic atmosphere and tension.

I could then address the day job’s tasks, knowing that I’d done something, however little, that was writing or related thereto. I could tell myself this, throughout the day and the encouragement it conferred helped me face everything else.

Those are a few of the ideas that I can offer, about how to optimise time management, while being kind to yourself along the way.

I’d now like to offer one or two suggestions about the sources of ideas. If I want to plot a short story, whether it’s themed or not, I often start by simply looking around the lounge. My gaze once fell on a lampshade that bore a reproduction of an ancient map of the oceans. It gave me the plot idea for a piece of flash fiction about the quest for a new navigational passage. On another occasion, my glance rested on a miniature Persian rug brought back from our earlier travels. Suddenly, the patterns seemed subtly to alter. Could those patterns actually conceal the printed circuit for a timing device? A story called “The Devil’s New Rug” resulted.

My second method is commonplace and no less effective for that. Step away from the desk or keyboard, go for a walk and don’t even consciously try to plot or resolve anything. Just absorb impressions, dialogue, cloudscapes (probably best from the safety of indoors, that one), smells, music, atmosphere (chemical or psychological). Keep pen and paper to hand at night. Many ideas have come to me via dreams.

Keep every idea – its time will come.


Alan Dale belongs to the Woking Writers Circle and the Association of Freelance Writers.

He has had articles and features published on line and in print.

Three stories have been broadcast on local radio and several have appeared in print and online. A local TV station has commissioned and accepted a short story for dramatisation.

He won the April 2014 Freelance Market News short story competition. His 250 word story won second prize in the 2016 N.A.W.G. Pam’s People Competition.

A story was shortlisted in a Writing Magazine adventure story competition.

His first novel, Theta Double Dot, a thriller, has been published by Austin Macauley.

Website: https://www.alandalewriter.com

Email: qq8vf5kg@talktalk.net


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Link to Austin Macauley webpage: https://www.austinmacauley.com/author/dale-alan








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