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For me, ideas form seemingly out of nowhere. But when I spend some time trying to pin it down, I realize there’s usually a trigger from my daily life.

My first manuscript began with a street name: Clinket Street. It was part of an address on a payment I was reviewing for fraudulent activity. It twisted and morphed into a trinket shop (my brain works in rhyme: Clinket, trinket, you get the idea) and then an entire adventure to recover lost trinkets.

A more recent manuscript started with the feeling I had walking down my open basement stairs as a kid. They had no backs, and I was always terrified that something was about to grab my ankles. That idea twisted and morphed into a story about a boy who actually does find something down in his basement, and that something snatches his sister and drags her down into the depths where he discovers an entire system for processing the souls of the dead.

I think the most important things to do when you’re trying to come up with ideas are:

1. To give yourself the mental space (think: wide open mind) to recognize the ideas. To dream them up and then let them become what they need to be.

2. Be brave. Push the envelope. Come up with the most out-there scenarios and then use your words to give them shape.

3. Write them down! It doesn’t matter if they turn into anything right then. I have a journal where I jot down ideas. Then if I’m at a point in my manuscript where I need an idea, I use the journal to jog my creative mind.

I recently drafted a blog post about revising to be featured on my agent’s Blog. I thought I’d share it here too!

My revision process is a very organic one, so it took me a little while to whittle it down. I decided the best way to illustrate it would be to break it down into steps. I think one of the most important (and most difficult) things to do when revising is to take your time. I’ve had to learn this myself, as I tend to throw myself into things quickly. But I really value taking time to process feedback and make wise and calculated decisions about how to move forward. If you do, it will save time in the long run and you’ll produce better work.

1. Take at least 24 hours to process the feedback so you can get all your emo junk out of the way. Make rational choices on how to approach the suggestions, rather than emotional ones. (I often break this rule. Waiting is just so hard. And I rather like getting feedback, even if it’s not all sunshine and roses. The stuff that is tough to hear will help make your story stronger.)

2. Ask for clarification on any feedback that is unclear. Do your best to see the story from your reader’s perspective. This helps so much when trying to determine what they see and what changes will work.

3. Develop ideas for how to approach feedback. My feedback is often related to fleshing things out and developing ideas more, as I tend to be a fast drafter, so I spend lots of time gazing off into the big blue Colorado sky and daydreaming (i.e. brainstorming) during this step.

4. Depending on the relationship you have with your CP/agent, use them to brainstorm too. If you get stuck on how to approach something, ask for ideas. Weed out what doesn’t work and focus on what speaks to you and your story. You don’t have to take every piece of advice you’re given but in the same sense, don’t disregard feedback simply because it’s difficult to put into action.

5. Once you’ve decided how to tackle the changes, decide on your approach to actually making them within your manuscript. I try to work through the most involved changes first, as they’ll most likely effect a larger part of the story. No sense in changing more than is necessary, or doing things twice.

6. Take your time with each phase of revising. Smooth out additions, weaving in relevant changes from beginning to end. Make sure the changes you’ve made are cohesive and comprehensive.

7. Once you feel like the manuscript has been fully revised, set it aside. Re-read after a few days with fresh eyes. Then, send it to trusted critique partners. I have different CPs for first round revisions and later round revisions. I don’t like to ask my CPs to read the project over and over. We’re all busy!

One other thing I wanted to mention. It’s so beneficial to have a handful of trusted CPs, not just one or two (and definitely not just a family member or friend!), and preferably CPs with different talents. Some are better at line edits and catching things like issues with filter words or narrative inconsistencies. Others are better at big picture edits, plotting, and overall development of the story/characters. It really helps to have both.