Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Scratching for Ideas: Bottling Lightning

Monday I blogged about Twyla's 6th  Chapter on preparation in which she outlines ways to "scratch for ideas.  So, with the agenda to revise one of my "problem" manuscripts, I set out to scratch yesterday.

Scratching = preparation.  Its just that.

Twyla writes that a lot of this scratching can be done through reading.  Of course, for a writer this is pretty obvious.  But I love her concept of "archeological reading".  Basically she says that we need to do two things: 1) read the masters and 2) read chronologically to get deeper and deeper.

I made a list of all of the concepts in my manuscript.  I made a list of similar stories.  I made a list of influences of this story.  And then I started to dig.  I read book after book after book.  I looked at style and plot arcs and resolutions to conflict.  I read the newest of self-published stories of unknown authors.  I read modern classics by Oliver Jeffers.  I read the mastery of Beatrix Potter.  I was on a mission.  I was scratching and gathering ideas.  I kinda look at it like I was filling up my well from which I would draw ideas.

And then I looked at my manuscript again...and I wish I could say that magically all of the problems went away and the manuscript was revised and is perfect now.  But you know what?  I was still stuck.  So I packed up my laptop for lunch and I continued to marinate the ideas I had gathered throughout the rest of the day.

Today while sipping my morning coffee.  Before my morning run.  I got a visit.  Not from the "problem" character in my "problem" manuscript.  But from a character I had thought of during PiBoIdMo.  He had something to say.  In fact, I had his whole story written within 15 minutes.

You see, the work I did yesterday was preparation, but with creativity there is sometimes no way to tell the lightning when or where to strike.  Perhaps we just bottle the lightning for use later.  And in that bottle it simmers and sautees.  It transforms and melds.  It builds and builds til the pressure can no longer be contained and it erupts

Every blog entry.  Every book.  Every challenge.  Every conversation.  Every class.    Its all scratching.  As are the museum visits and conferences and critique groups. 

And someday....BAM!

Join me Friday as I continue to scratch.  I will be blogging about the first session of the fabulous new self-paced e-Course from the Picture Book Academy --  "Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books" (taught by the lovely Marsha Diane Arnold. 


  1. So exciting. Good for you. I just love when that happens. Rosanne

  2. So true! There are couple of times where I was trying to figure out a solution to story and it came to me a week later in the middle of the night.

  3. Love this post, the techniques that you used for scratching, and how magical and mysterious creativity can be.

  4. Lucky you! Nobody visited me while I was having my morning coffee, except Cupcake who was begging to lick the bottom of the cup. I sat down at my computer anyway, and played with something old and started something new.

  5. Exciting and brilliant, Marcie. (Now, please share, how long did you take on all that reading and scratching. I'm getting pretty old. Will I have time. :) )

    1. How long did it take? Well, the initial idea for the manuscript came to me in November during PiBoIdMo. Its been marinating a tad since. Then yesterday I spent about an hour reading and researching other books. And I took a FABULOUS e-course (YOURS!)for about an hour. It all works together. Not sure I can actually pinpoint how long...but I would think about an hour a day of scratching is what I am aiming for.

  6. yes, all this perculating is very useful. It even works for me sometimes. I love when that happens. I love your word scratching too. :)