Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Adopting Ideas and Maintaining a Journal

Tiffany T. Cole
Adopting Ideas
I'm one of those writers who gets more ideas than I can handle. Possibilities and what-ifs are constantly on my mind, and I'm acutely aware that nearly everything I look at and everything I hear has some kind of story if I ask the right questions about whatever features stood out to me. When I walk past a group of people and hear fragments of an animated conversation about something that happened, I automatically fill in the blanks of what I didn’t hear with a what-if story of my own. Similarly, when I see an item that is out of place or unusual, I start asking how and why until a scene emerges.
Sometimes, though, those ideas are too self-contained for me to develop a full story—maybe just a character, scene, or setting. When too many of my ideas are self-contained, I consider adopting ideas in one of three ways:
Nanowrimo's Adopt a Plot Thread
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a writing movement that takes place every November in which people write 50,000 words in 30 days. NaNoWriMo has a writing community that's beneficial all year around, especially if you're just trying to find ideas. The Adopt a Plot thread is viewable even if you're not a member. You can simply scroll through the pages of the thread and adopt as many plots as you want. To access the Adoption Society, where you can pick from a variety of adoption threads, go to
Because anyone else on the thread can also take the ideas, I suggest you change any specific setting or character names and give whatever idea you choose your own personal twist.
Dreams and Nightmares
My dreams are vivid with recurring themes, so much so that I make a habit of recording all the characters, settings, and feelings in a dream diary because I'm certain I can get a story out of it. If your dreams aren't vivid or you don't remember them, that doesn't mean you can't benefit from this method of idea adoption. You don't have to use your own dreams, especially if you're close to them. You can always ask your friends and family to share their dreams with you or just go on Google and read about people's dreams.
Writing Prompts and Idea Generators
For me, the only type of writing prompt I can get a full short story or novel from are prompts that indicate characterization and specific conflicts. However, there are many different types of prompts, and every writer responds differently to them. Finding prompts and idea generators is as easy as doing a quick Google search. However, here are a few recommendations:
Maintaining a Journal
Regardless of whether you adopt ideas or they just bombard you on a day-to-day basis, it's absolutely vital to have two journals:
·         A small journal or some place on your phone to record any thoughts that occur to you. Often, I just end up writing ideas all over my hand and arm, but that makes washing my hands a devastating process.
·         A document or idea journal where you gather all these ideas and then, later, go through the ideas and section them. In my idea journal, I categorize each idea by its genre; whether it'll be a short story, flash fiction, novella, novel, or part of a series; and if I'm likely to actually pursue the idea. I then flesh out the ideas I'm likely to pursue.
Ideas come in all shapes or forms. No matter how they come to you, whether you borrow them from someone else or they pop up when you least expect it, each idea is valuable and has the opportunity to be the story you were looking to write.  
Tiffany T. Cole is a freelance editor and a copy editor for Limitless Publishing and the Purdue University Chronicle. She has edited and critiqued dozens of newspaper articles and dozens of books, fiction and nonfiction alike, in a variety of genres. Before that, she was an editorial assistant for Month9Books and the president of Reader's Den, a website where she reviewed and promoted books for small publishers, self-published authors and traditionally published authors, for two years. If you need an editor or editorial advice, e-mail Tiffany at

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