Daily Archives: November 16, 2015

What Doesn’t Work

In Friday’s post I mentioned some ideas that I’d come up with for the villain of my current novel that were just too far fetched to use.

Like having him be some sort of ancient evil being who is trapped in a human form that drains people’s life force so he can live forever.

And the one where I had him body-hopping into the body of his own eldest son down through the generations.

And I’m probably not going to go wit the demon-summoning, either.

How, you may wonder, did I come up with such weird things to begin with?  Did they just happen while writing the way my village of zombies did in my first ever NaNoWriMo?


For one thing, I haven’t gotten that far in this novel yet, although I am currently starting to give the reader the idea that the antagonist is… not normal… and that there is something going on that my protagonist doesn’t know about yet.

For another thing, my first NaNoWriMo novel was the first – and last – time that I went into November without some sort of outline.

So, nope, these weren’t November insanity ideas.  These ideas came while working on the outline.

Where did they come from?

Free writing.

It’s like a brainstorming session with yourself.  Or yourself and your muse.

You just write down ideas.  They don’t have to be good ideas, just ideas.  And you keep asking yourself questions and writing down the answers.  Do it longhand on unlined paper because it’s fun to draw arrows all over the place.

When you’re done, you’ll have a mess.   A big glorious mess of hilariously bad ideas, some of which you may really like but which just won’t work in the world of your novel.

But that’s all right.

Because somewhere in that mess, when you start discarding the stuff you wrote down but didn’t like, you are left with some ideas that will work.  And even if they aren’t perfect, they can spawn another round of brainstorming and free writing.

And what about those ideas that you like but that won’t work?


Non-workable ideas are frustrating.  They seem like such good ideas, and often they are, but just not for that story.

And that’s okay, because there’s always another book, and what might not work for the current one may be a plot bunny for another, so ideas you don’t use in that book can be saved to be used somewhere else.

And sometimes, in order to find out what works, you have to find out what doesn’t.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

(Who am I to argue with him?)








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