Advice From A Writer

This week’s blog was planned in my mind, but rather than sitting down at my computer and writing immediately, I decided to make a phone call and get some laundry done. I now have no idea what the blog was to be about.

At almost any writer’s conference, workshop, meet-up, discussion group, or critique session, someone will say, “No matter where you are or what time of day it is, if a writing idea comes to you, write it down immediately. But most writers have to learn first-hand that this is an important bit of advice.

I first discovered how crucial this piece of advice is when I got Amanda, the protagonist in my novel, into a very bad situation. It was easy enough getting her there, but I had no idea how I would resolve her dilemma. After several unsuccessful tries, I decided to let it rest for a while. I went to bed.

At around 2:00 a.m., I woke up and the solution immediately came to me. Not just any solution, but the perfect solution that would advance the action into the next chapter. The first thing I thought was that I needed to make a few notes so I wouldn’t forget. But it was dark and I was tired. I reasoned that a solution so brilliant could not possibly be forgotten in just a few hours. So I fluffed my pillow, pulled the cover up under my chin, and went back to sleep.

With daylight came the realization that I needed to get the middle-of-the-night revelation on paper. But I quickly discovered I could not remember anything about the sequence. I went to the manuscript, certain that reading again about Amanda’s situation would cause me to remember. It didn’t!

For the better part of my writing time that day I struggled with getting the story to move forward. Now, I wonder how different the story would have been had I sent Amanda down the forgotten path.

Trust me on this suggestion. Never let a writing idea go unrecorded. Write notes on a napkin. Scribble words on your hand. Enter remarks in your electronic device. Draw images on the bottom of your shoe. Whatever it takes to keep that thought! And always keep in mind that if not recorded now, there is a high probability it will never be recorded. I have no statistical evidence to support this claim, but tempting fate is never a good idea.


  1. Certainly good advice. In my case I find that if it occurs to me to Google something, for instance, while I am writing this note, I will have forgotten what it was by the time this is posted.

    Be comforted, however. Not all ideas that occur to one awakening from sleep at two ayem are good ideas. You may have dodged a bullet. And Amanda seems to be well on her way to wherever she is headed.

    1. David, agreed that not all ideas that come to me during the night are good ones. As a matter of fact, I would prefer to be asleep.

  2. Excellent advice. I used to keep a pad & pen beside my bed. As Vanilla said, not all the ideas that arrive in the middle of the night are good. It sure is good to capture the others.

    1. Secondary Roads, I'm getting much better with writing things down, even though it is often inconvenient.

  3. So true, Verla!

    I'm convinced that if I had written down my ideas through the years, then I'd by now be done with a novel. (Insert optimism here.)

    The only thing I remember is that I had some good ideas.


    1. Melinda, I will never understand why the best ideas come in the middle of the night.

      Hope I will be seeing a novel from you in the near future!