Updates and Musings on Idea Generation


I know it's been quiet from us over at Wonderbox lately, but it's not because we haven't been active. We've just got our heads down and stuck into several ongoing projects, and let's face it: "we" is me and anyone I can rope into doing my weird ideas with me.

I updated the Wonderbox News & Reviews site with all our goings on - check it out for wider info on our digital fiction writing competition and our new podcast.

As for Normal Deviation, we're not sitting on our hands, don't worry! We have a veritable trove of stories for the anthology, and we've been working with all authors to get them in ideal shape. We're on to the nitty-gritty of design, layout, font, front matter, back matter, middle matter, where the page numbers should go, and all the rest.

Our major milestones to come are:

  • Re-launch our Kickstarter campaign - April. Now that we have our wonderful authors on board, we expect this round to be highly successful. We'll let everyone know what's up as soon as we launch. Get ready to share!
  • Book launch - May. We're planning a book launch in our home area of North Wales.
Expect a flurry of activity this spring!

Musings on Idea Generation

Because of our "third option" request, we've gotten a chance to see into our authors' cognitive processes a little bit, to see how the same image has inspired a wealth of ideas, and a full collection of stories that are vastly different, yet share various qualities. 

This is something we rarely get to see in creative writing: even in my own practice, the origins of my creative ideas get lost rather quickly as I cycle through the process of refining and reshaping ideas from initial spark to final outcome. As a creative practice researcher, I've made it part of my process to record as much of my idea generation process as possible. Many times I'll look at these initial notes at the end of a project - when it's all packaged and polished and ready for publication - and marvel at the evolution.

Finke, Ward & Smith theorized the idea generation process, which they call the Geneplore Model. I ascribe to this model because it fits with what I see in my own work: 
  1. I have a goal (what they term the "product", since they're often talking about marketplace innovations), which is to write a short story, or a hyperfiction, or a novel. 
  2. I drum around trying to piece together something worth putting into that goal - gathering my preinventive ideas. Sometimes these are snippets I've collected in my (Evernote) journal. Sometimes I sit down and do a word association game, pulling out everything that is interesting to me at the moment. Sometimes it's based on a character, or a storyworld, or maybe even something I've been reading or watching (making my writing a little bit fanfiction, I suppose).
  3. I explore and interpret these ideas. I ask questions about them. I recombine them with others. I try to think if they've been explored before, and in what ways. I think about how they will fit in with the goal I have, testing it against product constraints, as Finke et al. call them (will this idea work as a short story, or does it need to be a novel? Can it be explored in a hyperstory, or does it not call for that level of interactivity).
  4. This exploration leads to new ideas, more exploration, more concrete ideas, and so forth, until I finally settle down to write the new thing.
  5. Of course, it's not over even then. Creative writing is a constant process of idea generation, as we observe what characters do, how they react, as well as our own interactions with the work and our world. We may start down a path and become unsatisfied by it, and so drum up new directions; we may discover an offhand phrase or side character suddenly sparking new avenues. We may even be interrupted, or let a story lie, or be influenced by current events, stories we read/watch/play, and this pushes us in unexplored directions again.
One of the reasons I really love my job as a creative practice researcher, besides the fact that I get to do all kinds of creative things, is that I get to dig into so many questions about creative writing and how it works. Rest assured, DeAnn and I will have a lot to say about the ideas that came out of this project, and how it's helped us to see into the way the creative mind works.


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