Some of the writers I chat with in Writer’s Cafe asked recently how well dictation software works for writing novels. I would never try that, as the software could never understand the difference between what I’m saying and what I’m meaning, in my opinion. But I have “Dragon Naturally Speaking,” and I think it could be useful for the first step I take in novel writing, which is Concept.
There’s no structure to the concept stage. It’s just about blurting out everything that comes into my head about a story. Getting it all down so I don’t forget. Last night I was brushing my teeth when I got a great idea for how to solve the problem of travelling to planets in other star systems. So I ran back to the computer and typed in the idea. Normally I apply this kind of idea to an existing story idea. I looked to see if I had any stories about travelling to other planets, so I could use this idea as the means to travel there. But I don’t have any stories about people going to other planets. So I saved it as a text document in the folder for a sci-fi epic I plan to write one day.
The concept stage can be a couple of paragraphs or a couple of pages. It’s rarely longer than that. If I read my notes back to someone, they should make sense, but maybe not a lot.
I was talking to my oldest son a few years ago about story writing, structure, Act I, Act II, Act III. It was a 300 mile drive, so we had lots of time to hammer things out. We started with a silly concept idea. What if you had a big spill of oil or grease in your kitchen or garage, and you poured kitty litter all over to absorb the goo, and from this you got a monster that tried to eat your family? So we went over what the family might be like, what the monster’s motivation might be, and how this would create conflict for the family. Who changes and who stays the same? Who is the protagonist? Who is the antagonist? What if the monster turned out to be the good guy? It was a lot of fun.
Sometimes two or three concepts can be attached to the same story. Sometimes a new concept requires a new folder. Some of these come from dreams I have. Some come to me when I’m out walking, or cooking dinner, or washing dishes. They almost never happen when I’m sitting at the computer, trying to think up something new.
The key is to write them down, even if they’re silly. If you decide later the idea was stupid, it’s easy to hit delete.