Okay, so here’s a simple tip. One you’ve probably heard before. One you’ve probably ignored until it’s too late.
Always carry a notebook.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. A notebook. How quaint. How 19th century. What a delightful little writery affectation. I’m too young and vibrant to forget things. I’ve trained my mind to function like a steel trap!
You’ll forget stuff.
Back when I was in college, I was trying to write and drifting back and forth between a werewolf detective novel and another one I’ve mentioned here called The Trinity, about rival immortals. And I also had this idea dancing in my head. A scene with a few snippets of dialogue. Something about it called to me. Tickled me. Gnawed at me. It was one of those things I kept playing with, spinning it different ways, trying to find just how and where it would fit in a story. Or maybe a story that fit around it.
So one night I was talking with a friend down at the dorm security desk and somehow ended up talking to a foreign exchange student. For, like, two hours. There at the desk. I don’t remember much about her except she had an amazing accent,very clever (hey, we talked for two hours), and was kinda stunning in that casual way some women pull off really well.
And about halfway through this conversation, I suddenly realized where that little scene fragment fit. Something she said flipped it around and I suddenly knew just how this would work in a story. How it would be the seed of an entire powerful, amazing book.
But... I was having a fascinating conversation with an attractive foreign exchange student. I didn’t want to break that off. Besides—there was absolutely no way I’d forget an idea this good.
Reader... I forgot it.
To this day, my most solid memory of that night is the sheer joy of knowing I’d figured out how to perfectly use that idea. I don’t remember how. Or the exchange student. But I remember how thrilled I was, knowing I’d finally get to use that idea.
I just don’t remember how.
Write it down. On a notepad. On your computer. On your arm. On your phone (there’s usually a notepad app, and there are some great ones out there you can grab cheap). Doesn’t matter if it’s an idea, an editing note, a clarification—always write it down somewhere.
But don’t tell yourself you’ll remember it.