A Creative's Dilemma: Sorting through the Idea Pile

Asking What If questions is a great exercise to develop story ideas. In an earlier post, the concept of your story, I explain the what if questions and how to use what if questions to brainstorm story ideas. Story ideas also pop into my brain at odd times. When a new story concept appears, I write the idea in Evernote so I don't forget it. But, at some point, I need to sort through the idea pile and decide what is a feasible story concept for me to write. Unfortunately, I am not at the point in my writing where I need lots of new ideas simply because it takes me a while to finish my current projects. So, my current idea list seems never-ending. But, when I do finish a project and need to start a new short story or novel, I sort through my list of story ideas.

My process is not very scientific or organized, but I go through the list and categorize the ideas as yes, no, or maybe. As I go through the list, I have a few questions in mind:

  • How much research will I need to do for this story idea?
  • Could I start writing this story today?
  • What characters are in this story?
  • Where does the story take place? What time period?

I use those questions to decide whether the story is something I want to write. For my first novel, the story resonated in my brain for several months before I actually started writing. My Zelda series, on the other hand, came off a whim one day. I had the idea and started writing one of the stories the next day or so.

After going through my list, the no ideas are deleted from the list. The yes and maybe ideas are left on the list and I pick a story idea to start.

For my writer friends, how do you come up with new story ideas?

And how do you sort through your idea pile?