Episode 3: Start With 10 – Story Idea Process
Getting ideas isn’t a problem for most people, especially writers. Taking an idea and turning it into a book, on the other hand, can be difficult. Knowing which idea will end up making a great book is harder still.In episode 3, JT tells you his method for coming up with the idea that will make the most memorable and exciting book possible.
You can listen to the episode right here. The transcription is below the player. Feel free to add your comments using the comment section below.
Episode 3 Transcript
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00:00 [JT Pledger] Good morning! Welcome to Freebie Friday, this is episode 3. Today I want to help you identify one story idea that you can use to turn into a novel or a screenplay. And we’re going to do this with a method that I call “Start With 10.” Stick around, we’re going to talk about that.
00:44 [JT] All right let’s jump right into it. If you are a writer or any type of person that falls into the category that I have labeled “a creative,” you probably come up with hundreds or even thousands of ideas every day. And I don’t just mean for stories, I mean just general “hey that’s a good idea.” And it could be anything from a new way to get to work or a new paint color for the wall, but you have these ideas that just seemingly come out of nowhere. That’s a creative person and these are the type of people that make great art. And when you’re a writer you need these type of ideas to help you come up with stories, or get you through a story you’re currently working on.
01:43 The problem is we get so many of these every day, every week, that it becomes difficult to identify which ones are great. You don’t want to stick with a story idea that’s not gonna turn into a finished product. And when it does turn into a finished product, you want that finished product to be incredible.
How We Make a Great Book From an Idea
02:11 Nobody sets out to write a crappy novel. So how do we get from the idea stage to a book that everybody wants to read? It all starts with your story idea. Now, on my 5-Draft Method course, we have a couple of lessons that deal with the raw idea and you can find that on ExtraDraft.com and I just want to touch a little bit on that today. And I want to cover this idea method here for you that I have developed, umm…and hopefully, it’ll…it’ll help you start to hone your story crafting ideas on your own.
03:03 So you may ask yourself, then, “how do I tell? I get a hundred ideas a day, JT, and how do I know which one to use?” Well, the simple answer is to ask questions. And again on the video course, I go into a lot of detail on this part because it is very important. But for right now, to keep this brief, basically what you’re doing is you’re going through your ideas and you ask these questions, and I will cover that here in a minute. But, you’re gonna ask these questions that try to dissuade you from wanting to write this story about the idea that you have.
You Simply Ask Questions
03:51 So you just basically ask yourself, you ask questions. And those questions will help you determine which idea it is you want to use. But, I have a process before we even get to that part, umm…to help you decide which ideas to ask questions about. And I’ll tell you that one thing that I’ve learned over the years here doing this, is that our brains are incredibly powerful things and a lot of us, and myself included in the beginning, we don’t let our brain do the work it’s supposed to do. And we try to force it, or we try to rail it into a specific area.
04:35 We got to stop that. We are creative people and we need to be creative. So, let’s start with this idea thing, okay? I call it “Start with 10”–because I like to give things labels and names–and we’re gonna start with ten ideas. Yeah, I know, it’s a great way to name a process–just telling it what it is–but yeah, you start with ten ideas.
Gather Your Ideas
05:05 Now, if you’re like me, you wake up in the morning and you already have 10 ideas in your head. By the time your second cup of coffee is down and you’re getting your pants on to go to work you, you know, you might be at 30…40. By the end of the day, who knows how many ideas you’ve had? Some have come and gone others stick with you. A lot of people that I know actually have journals and notepads by their bed, on their nightstand or whatever, in the hopes that they can have an amazing, incredible dream and be able to wake up and write about it, so that in the morning they, they won’t forget anything.
Write Ideas Down If You Must
05:45 Now, if you take the course you’ll learn why I think this is a bad idea, and I kind of carry that over into this method here. But what you are concentrating on here is 10 ideas that really kind of stick out to you. So, if you need to write them down go ahead, but I advise you not to leave the pen and paper, the notepad, wherever you’re writing these down, don’t, don’t keep it on you. Don’t carry it around. Don’t take it with you.
06:18 Leave it somewhere that you’re gonna frequent throughout the day, umm…your home office, the kitchen, you know, the desk at work, even, you know, the bathroom, whatever it is. But somewhere that you’re gonna be where you can write these ideas down eventually if writing them down is what you want to do. And, and for this process, if you’ve never done it before, go ahead and write them down.
Take Your Time
06:43 But the idea here is that we’re gonna take a day, maybe even two, to really come up with 10 ideas for a story. And, and then you’re gonna write them down. And when you have these ideas written down put it away. Go the rest of your day, don’t even think about them anymore, go have dinner with the family, watch some TV, check your emails. Go to bed. When you get up the next day and you’ve had your coffee, your breakfast, whatever, you, you know, your morning routine is…is complete and we’re sitting down to get with this program. We want to write now, we gotta…we got to write, we got to write, okay.
You Have 10 Fresh Ideas, Now What?
07:25 So, we have these ten ideas on paper. Don’t look at them, don’t. Leave them in the drawer, leave them upside down, whatever you did with them the night before, the day before, leave it there. Pull out a fresh piece of paper and write down as many of those ideas as you can remember. That’s all you got to do, without cheating. Don’t look, just sit there. How many of those ten ideas do you actually remember? And write them down. And when you’re done, then you can look and see where you forgot this one or left them out.
08:05 Now, during this process I want you to know that there is no right answer, okay? If you can get all ten, that you had from the day before, great! That’s perfect! If you can only get four, great! That’s perfect! It doesn’t matter. Just, just write them down and then check and what you’re gonna notice is that you missed some. You forgot some. Some of the details were different, and that’s okay. That’s our brain trying to express what we already know; somewhere deep inside what’s gonna work and what’s not.
Use Your New List
08:40 So take this new list, the one that you wrote down today, or the next day, “the memory list,” and, and look at the first three that you came up with. These first three ideas are gonna be your “idea pool” and this is where we’re gonna start the main part of this process.
09:00 Now, when you look at the first three you’re gonna notice something happens to you. There’s one or two options. You’re either gonna be excited about the top three or you’re gonna be disappointed. And if you’re disappointed or unsatisfied, look at the, the list you came up with, the one that has all ten on there, and why are you disappointed? There’s, there’s one or two that are on that list that didn’t make your new list. And if this is the case for you, I want you to take those ideas that were on the original list that didn’t make the second list, and I want you to add them to the second list and the number one, number two, number three spot. However many it is that you are that excited about. Usually, it’s only one, sometimes two but, put these at the top spot.
Use the Idea Pool to Narrow Your List Down
09:54 Now you take your top three. You have your “idea pool” and you’re gonna go forward. Now, if you look at your, your top three and you’re already excited, you don’t care about that old list anymore. Great! Let’s continue. You’re gonna take the one in the number one spot. Pick it. That’s it. That’s your idea we’re gonna start with this idea, it may not end up being this idea, but this is what, you know, we got to start somewhere.
10:22 So take the number one spot, take this idea and open up your notepad or your journal, your computer program that you write in, whatever, wherever is most comfortable. And at the very top of the page, I want you to write the idea down.
Start Asking Questions…
10:41 And then you’re gonna start asking questions about this idea, and you’re gonna write the questions down whatever it is. And you’re gonna start out being pretty generic. You’ll notice you’re gonna be like, you’re gonna be asking yourself stuff such as, “well what’s happening here? What, where did this idea, where does it start? Where does it end? How do we get from the start to the end? Who’s the main character? Where is he from?” You know, “What is, what is he doing? Why do we care? How is he gonna solve this problem? What is his problem? Who’s his arch-enemy? How is he gonna get in the way? How’s the plan gonna be foiled?” And on and on and on.
…Keep Asking Questions
11:22 You’re gonna keep asking yourself these questions. And as you ask them, answer them, and write the answers down and underneath the question, and go on to the next question. And you keep doing this over and over. Keep asking and answering these questions until you start to run out of questions, okay? And when you’re doing this, one thing I want to point out, is you are not trying to create a story or an outline here. You’re not asking these questions with the purpose of making this idea into a story. Instead, I want you to approach it as you were trying to destroy this idea, okay? I want you to ask the questions with the purpose of breaking this idea.
12:13 So at the end of it, the idea or the story falls apart. If the story falls apart while you’re asking these questions, it’s not a good idea. Throw it away. Toss it out. It’s that easy. It’s just an idea. You’re gonna get more. Don’t be upset about it. Not every idea is gonna turn into a story, and that’s okay. And this is why we do this little project. If this happens, you throw it out. You go to the second one on your list and you start all over.
The Idea is Holding Up to the Question Barrage!
12:50 Now, what happens when you get to the point where it’s not falling apart? The story is staying together. you’re being, you’re being able…being able? (laughs) You’re coming up with the right questions and the right answers to basically formulate this story idea into a full-fledged story. And it can be exciting, but don’t get overwhelmed. Stay with it, stay in that attitude that “I’ve got to destroy this,” “I’ve got to tear it down.” And you want to keep asking questions until there are no more questions.
Be A Little Crazy
13:28 I don’t care how crazy you get with the questions. I mean go overboard with it, you know? If you’re writing your idea has something to do with with a guy on a boat and all of a sudden you’re asking questions about alien invasions and sea monsters and Bigfoot, do it! Do it. Get crazy with your questions and get even crazier with your answers. Yeah, maybe the guy on the boat is just a little fisherman but who’s his arch-nemesis? His arch-nemesis is some land shark that can talk, okay? Be crazy with it.
14:04 Because this is where your story is gonna end up fleshing out later in the future. Second or third draft in you’re gonna have this little plot hole, you’re gonna have this crazy little area that needs to be filled and you can come back to this and go, “you know, it would be kind of funny right here, let’s throw that in and see what happens.” So don’t be afraid to go crazy with it.
Now You Have No More Questions to Ask About Your Ideas
14:28 But eventually, you’re gonna come to a point where you just cannot ask any more questions. Now, I’m gonna go off on a little tangent here, again. If you get to this point where you can no longer ask any questions and you look at your paper and you only have five or six questions, you have a lot of work to do. By the end of this step in this process, you should have 50, 75, 200. I mean there should be a lot of questions (and answers).
15:04And if you are not at that stage, if you’re not at that level, if you’re not six, seven pages deep, you might want to rethink it. And you might want to consider learning how to ask better questions, and we can cover that, too. That’s a great idea for a future podcast. I do cover all this in the 5-Draft Method video course, but for now, just realize that you should be, you know, knees deep in these questions and answers.
15:38 So, when we get to that stage I want you to stop. I want you to go back and I want you to reread all the questions and reread all the answers, and then I want you to get a fresh page out. And I want you to write a quick summary of this idea. Use the questions and answers and basically come up with a short blurb, if you will. The…think of writing the, the synopsis, the back of the book blurb about this story. If it were a novel right now, what would the back of the book say? And write that down and get that out of the way because we’re gonna use that in the next step.
It’s Time to Take the Ideas Public!
16:18 So once you have this little summary and it could be two paragraphs, it could be six, you know, whatever. But just get the story out, the idea of this out in a summary form. Then you’re gonna go on your social medias. You’re gonna go to friends and family, and I want you to give them, present them with this summary. And when you do, let them read it and have them ask you questions. Now some of them might ask questions that you’ve already asked yourself and that’s great! And that means you’re on the right track.
16:53 But they most likely are gonna have questions that you haven’t thought of, and this is what you want to pay attention to. So if you post this on your Facebook or on your Instagram, even on, you know, on Twitter or, if you just send out emails or text messages to your friends and family; have them read it and ask them to ask you questions. I mean this…that’s the point of it. We’re not trying to hide anything here. We’re not being sneaky. Say, “look. I got this story idea. If you’re reading this book what would you want to know? What would you think happened? Why, why should you care? Ask me questions about this that I can answer.”
17:38And let them and take that all in and then answer their questions. You don’t have to answer them for them. You can, it’s polite, you know? Reply to their comments and their messages. But the point is that you’re answering them for you.
The Key to the Whole Process
18:01 And here’s the key: this whole process, by the time you’ve done this you’ve written ten original ideas, you’ve remembered three of them, we’ve picked one, we’ve asked it questions until it died or it survived, and then we’ve summarized it. We’ve given it to friends and family, in the public, and we have their questions. And this is where it comes down. This is all it, right here. We’re all in, all the chips are on the table, you’ve already asked and answered all your questions. If you can sit down and answer all of their questions, you have a great book idea.
You’ve Made it! Your Idea Is Great!
18:46 It’s that simple. By the time you’ve done all this, if you get down and you can answer any question that comes up about this idea, that’s a great story, my friend.
18:58 If you can’t, if you’ve made it this far and you get questions coming from friends and family or the general public on social media and you cannot answer them, you might have a decent story idea, but you definitely have a lot to think about. And one of the things that you should think about is going back through this process again with the third or the fourth one in your idea pool, and starting at that point. Eventually, somewhere in there is going to be one that gets you all the way through. That you can stay excited about and then you’re gonna have a great story. And that’s the whole goal. And that is how you come up with an idea that’s gonna turn into a real novel.
19:52 Until next week, we’ll see you on the site. Join the newsletter if you like to get updates on everything that’s happening. Join the communities and I will see you next Friday!
20:03 Until then, keep writing words.