Thursday, July 25, 2013

101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing -- 010: Write Everything Down

The other night, I went to bed and, as usual, lay there thinking for a while. An idea for a story entered my head and, as I was nearly asleep, I didn't really want to get up and write it down. But I did. I forced myself.

The next morning, I saw the piece of paper I'd written on laying by my bed and knew I'd written something on it, but I simply couldn't remember what. If I hadn't written it down, it could have possibly been lost forever.

In retrospect, I don't know if the idea I wrote down will work the way I want it to. But that's not the point. The next one I force myself to get out of bed and jot down could be my next novel. It could become my most successful novel.

I know every writer has experienced this sort of thing. In fact, there are ideas I've lost because I thought I would be able to remember them. Sometimes they'll come back to me later on, but often they won't. I also know that every writer has heard this before and knows they should write things down. But that doesn't stop us from trying to rely on our memories every once in a while, does it?

So here are a few tips so you never get caught trying to remember that brilliant idea you just knew would make for an awesome story.

1. Use your phone/device/etc. If you're out and about and find yourself without a pen and paper, you can use the note-taking program on your mobile device to jot it down. You can also email it to yourself if you want to be sure a copy gets safely to your computer.

2. Keep a pen and loose paper by your bed. I recommend loose paper rather than a journal because it cuts out the step of flipping through the book to find a blank page. At three in the morning, there's a risk of losing that idea-inspiring dream if you have to do too many things before writing it down. I like to use index cards, since their rigidity makes it easier to write on them without a desk or other solid surface present. Make sure the pen and stack of paper or cards are dedicated to your bedside. Don't move them during the day as you might forget to put them back later on.

3. Keep an idea file on your computer. Scraps of paper and napkins can easily get lost. When you get home (or get up, if you've written something during the night) copy your notes into your idea file so they'll all be in one place.

4. Keep your loose notes. Sometimes flipping through pages of physical notes can inspire you in ways reading on a screen can't. You can take them out and rearrange them to see how different ideas will work together. Plus, you'll have your original notes in case your computer crashes and you lose your idea file. But this won't happen, because your regularly back up your files, right? Right?

5. Write more than just story ideas. Sometimes the behavior of a stranger will inspire a character trait you can use. You might also find yourself in an unusual location or hear an amusing snippet of conversation. Write these things down, too. You never know what will inspire you, and anything that you take notice of could also be the sort of thing to make readers take notice and get them more involved in your story.

Do you have any other ways to make sure you never lose your ideas? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!


If you're enjoying the series so far and would like a single page to bookmark, I'll be adding each of my 101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing here. Also be sure to subscribe by email (see the box in the sidebar) to be automatically notified about my new posts.

You might also be interested in my new eBook, Building a Promotional Package: How to Prepare for Your Successful Book Launch. Details about it can be found here.

Michael K. Rose


  1. I've lost more than a few ideas because I didn't write them down. Your advice is invaluable. Thanks for taking the time to "write it down."

    1. Thanks, Mary. :o) Glad you found it to be of value.


  2. Reminds me of the classic Seinfeld bit on writing jokes down in the middle of the night. His final comment is, "Why did I think that was funny?"

  3. Some great ideas here. They're all things I know I should do, but like you said, we don't always do what we know we should. Thanks for reminding me to be better about writing ideas down! :)