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What I Do (or Don’t Do) with Writing Ideas

Unfortunately for me, my best ideas come to me right before I fall asleep. And I always convince myself that the idea is so good that I don’t need to write it down. I always think: Why would I write this down? This is too good to forget.

And the next morning, as I awake thoughtless, I am full of regret. My Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, my Academy Award-winning screenplay, my Tony-winning script…all lost in dreamland.

My writing now isn’t to grieve those lost ideas. They’re gone and there’s no reason to continue to mourn what I can’t even remember.

I’m writing now about ideas I keep, stored in a notebook or my phone or email drafts or Google Docs or Evernote or on the back of a paper place-setting from Steak & Shake (true story). Those ideas can still be pursued, can still be rejected, can still be stolen by other writers who had the same idea but they’ll win awards for writing it first.

Those ideas can sit as a sentence or two (or much, much more) for months and years before I make my way back to them. Sometimes I’ll add something small to them later and then ignore them for another year or five. And sometimes I know that I will never flesh out the idea to be anything beyond its present state.

But some ideas are too big to be forgotten before bed. They’re so big that I will force myself to run and grab my laptop and write until I pass out at the kitchen table at three in the morning.

Those ideas don’t come often in life. They are precious and need to be given the attention they deserve. And to give a new idea any time at all, you have to sacrifice time spent on something else.

Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves.


An Old Idea Comes Alive

Recently, I was looking at some old ideas I’d written down. Two ideas became one-page plays within fifteen minutes. I was feeling proud that I’d used up some old ideas, and I started looking for one that might be more of a challenge.

Then I saw an idea that was for a science fiction story. But now, thanks to the advancement of technology, it was just fiction.

Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again.


So I started making notes and writing scenes—I was consumed with making the idea come to life.

But then, as a reminder that ideas are like real people, it started making decisions for itself. What I had thought was a short story had become a novel. Later, it was a screenplay, which was a surprise, but that was fine with me.

But then, after just a day of life as a screenplay, it proved to be much more than a movie. The story had so many more opportunities, it had to be a scripted series. My only hope is that it doesn’t decide to become an epic poem next.

As I stated before, when a big idea (like this one) comes along, some priorities much change. So all of my open writing time is now focused on this idea. In my spare time, I google agents and the cost of printing scripts, and I try as hard as I can not to say what the idea is, which is difficult because it’s consuming my mind. When I have everything together, I’ll share the details here and create a Twitter account for it and everything. For now, I’ve got to keep on writing.

Summer Is Here!

Ian Philpot and Erin Philpot at Myrtle Beach vacationThe start of June has always been the identifier of summer for me, even though the season doesn’t technically start until June 21. But Memorial Day feels like the end of spring for me, and—after recently returning from a trip to Myrtle Beach (see the picture on the right)—it feels like summer.

So now that summer is here, I’ve made some decisions about things I want to do over the summer months. Some of those things involve reading, some involve writing, and some involve enjoying life as much as I can.


I’ve been chipping away at my 2013 reading list, and I’m satisfied with the progress I’ve made so far. In addition to those books, I’m adding:

  • The Ender Quintet — I read Ender’s Game and part of Speaker for the Dead in Myrtle Beach and I’m hooked.
  • The Icarus Deception — Because Seth Godin.
  • Batman R.I.P., Batman: Battle for the Cowl, and more — I asked for Batman graphic novels for my birthday, and I got plenty! I’d like to read them all before asking for more this Christmas. (I’m also considering a summer project of finding a special bookcase just for graphic novels.)


I’ve hit a good amount of my writing goals so far this year, but I’ve had two new ideas.


Week Two at Camp NaNoWriMo

2013 Camp NaNoWriMo Participant BadgeOne of the things I like most about extended writing projects is getting to know the characters. While I haven’t made huge strides in meeting my Camp NaNoWriMo goal, I’ve learned a lot about my characters.

The bigger bonus is that my new cabin seems to be a little more talkative than my old cabin, though it’s still not where I’d hope it would be. I couldn’t have hoped for much, what with writers being introverts in their natural state. But I figured it might be like a writer’s conference, where everyone is a little more social than usual because they understand that the people around them are interested in the same general topic. I was wrong.


My First Week at Camp NaNoWriMo

Last April, I was working on a play for Script Frenzy—a thirty-day challenge to write one hundred pages of a stage play, screen play, or any other type of script. Just a few days after Script Frenzy ended in 2012, the Office of Letters and Lights (OLL)—the folks who put on Script Frenzy and NaNoWriMo—made the decision to discontinue Script Frenzy.

A few weeks ago I received an email from the OLL that there would be a self-regulated writing experience in April called Camp NaNoWriMo. I immediately signed up, set a goal of twenty-five thousand words, and started making plans for what I would write—more stories about Alan Staph.

2013 Camp NaNoWriMo Participant BadgeAfter my first week at camp I’m a little behind my goals, but I’m optimistic.

Last year, I went to a writing conference in the middle of Script Frenzy. I was writing my script in two different writing programs (because I didn’t know which was better). And I wasn’t sure about some major details of my plot.

This year, I don’t have any of those problems. I don’t have any travel plans this month. I’m using Google Docs to keep my writing together. And my story is based completely on brief narratives from my character, so I don’t have major plot points to hit.


Reading, Writing, and 2013

The new year is moving ahead, and I wanted to take some time to share what my reading and writing plans are for 2013.


Below is a list of the ten books that I’m planning on reading this year. Most of them are non-fiction, which will be a challenge since I have a hard time reading books without a plot. Nonetheless, I’m going to give it my best effort, and I might end up writing about them if they’re any good.

  • Lessons Learned: Leading by Example—This book was sent to me by my reddit Secret Santa, and it contains fourteen essays from various business and academic leaders.
  • Altared—This books was written by a guy I met at Calvin’s Festival of Faith & Writing last year, and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for four or five months. It’s written from the perspective of an engaged couple exploring how Christians can get caught up in preparing for marriage and lose focus on their faith.
  • And Then There’s This—I’ve had this book for about three months now, on loan from my boss. It’s about the transfer of information in an increasingly viral world.
  • It Worked for Me—I’ll be reading this book because the author, Colin Powell, is speaking at this year’s Global Leadership Summit (GLS). Usually GLS speakers talk about their latest book when they speak, so I’m hoping to get ahead of that curve with this one.
  • Love Does—This books seems to be making its way through Christian circles lately, and the author, Bob Goff, is speaking at the GLS this year. Two birds, one stone.
  • Reverse Innovation—This is another book from an upcoming GLS speaker and the last I will put on this list.
  • Les Miserables Victor Hugo Three Volumes Thomas Nelson and SonsLes Misérables—My mom gave me three volumes of this book for Christmas a few years ago. They were printed around 1900, so I’ll be downloading a digital copy and reading from it.
  • Kingdom Come—This graphic novel covers the death of Superman, and I’ve owned it for three years now. It’s about time I sat down and read it.
  • Platform—I’ve heard too much about how helpful this book can be that I can’t not read it.


Yes, writers are much better at talking about writing than actually writing. Fortunately for me, I’m technically I’m talking about writing by writing, so there’s something good that’s accomplished in that, right?

  • Alan Staph—Last year I mentioned that I’m working on a series of short stories about Alan. My goal is to have 15 stories by the end of the year with at least one of them submitted for publication.
  • One Page Plays—I had an idea, just after Christmas, that I should write a series of plays where the entirety of the action fits on one page. They will fit into different categories (monologues, meet-cutes, relational, etc.), and I will post them to a Tumblr on a regular basis. My goal is to write 50 plays by the end of the year, and then figure out what to do with them.
  • NaNoWriMo—For four years, I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month, and I haven’t completed the fifty-thousand word challenge yet. My goal is to try again.
  • Blog—Keep updating. I try to write at least one blog post a week. My goal is to just stay consistent with it.

Well, that’s it for my goals in reading and writing this year. I’ll be sure to post updates as I get through those books and writing projects.

November Recap: NaNoWriMo and More

November always seems like it’s gone too quickly, which has been nothing but had news for my NaNoWriMo word count.

As you can probably guess, I didn’t win National Novel Writing Month this year. I blame my characters and my story. They blame my lack of plot planning. Either way, I lost.

And even though I lost one November initiative, there were a couple of things that I could put in the win column.

Ian Philpot Movember No Shave November 2012

Top Left: Beard – Top Right: Goatee – Bottom Left: Mustache – Bottom Right: Clean

No Shave November / Movember

I’m putting this on in the win column because I went thirty days without shaving. I had planned just to participate in Movember, but I was afraid that my attempt to grow a blond mustache would’ve been weak, so I let all of my facial hair grow. At the very least, it made for an amusing picture.

Alan Staph

When I became distraught with my NaNoWriMo novel, I went back to my Alan Staph stories and did some editing. In that time, I realized how much I liked that character.

So I’ve started working on a cover for Short Stories from the Short Life of Alan Staph, and I plan on having at least one of those stories available in digital and audio form by January 1. I’m not totally sure what then entails, but I’m figuring it out.

Christmas at work

After a lot of hard work over the last few weeks, my team at work put out our annual Christmas website. It took a huge final effort to get it out, and I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Now, for the month of December, I’ll be focusing on the Christmas social media campaign, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!

Erin’s Birthday

My wonderful wife turned another year older in November, and I was glad for the excitement of her birthday weekend! My favorite part was near the end of the weekend when I took her to dinner and to see It’s a Wonderful Life: Radio Play at the Raue Center in downtown Crystal Lake. The play was a surprise, but I made sure that we dressed up for our night at the theater. (Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to from that night to share, only the memories.)


So, all in all, November was a pretty great month. I guess the big takeaway for me is that it doesn’t matter what kind of November I had if I can’t make the most of December.

NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 13

Bad News: I’m officially more than 10,000 words behind in NaNoWriMo.

Good News: I’m not giving up.

I’ve been very frustrated with my story from the very start this year, which has really caused problems with the whole word count thing. But I’ve decided to continue to push myself to write something every day for this month. I know there are parts of my story that I want to get out, and I won’t let myself stop until December.

Since my word count is lacking and I don’t have much to update as far as my story goes, I thought I’d share some of the technologies that have gotten me through this year’s NaNoWriMo.


If there was ever one program that included every option an obsessive writer could wish for in a writing program, Scrivener is it. From planning my novel out in a virtual cork board to turning into a distraction-free writing environment, it’s got everything. It also compiles the final product into manuscript form or ebook! (I even used it to turn Relief Journal‘s latest issue into a Kindle file.)

Google Drive

As great as Scrivener is, I only have it on my laptop at home. So when I need to write on the go, I use Google Drive. There are other systems similar to Google Drive, but Google is probably the easiest to work with whether I’m on my work computer or my iPad.


I’ve said it once before, but I’ll say it again: Google+ is the best place for people participating in NaNo. Google+ can seem like a ghost town if you’re looking for interactions from the same friends you have on Facebook. But your Facebook friends aren’t all participating in NaNoWriMo. Additionally, Google+ is much more like Twitter in that you can follow lists (aka circles) of people or hashtags. The community I’ve found in the NaNo Google+ Circle I have is the biggest motivator/encourager I have (aside from my wife).


For the last year I’ve been saving reddit posts (mostly from r/writingprompts, r/shutupandwrite, and r/askreddit) to get me going for when I’d get stuck in writing. Those posts have come in very helpful in creating backstories for my characters, though they were a little difficult to find amidst all of the cute cat videos that I also saved…


Well, that’s all. Time to get back to writing.

NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 4 Recap and Cover

It’s late in the fourth day of NaNoWriMo 2012, and I’m plugging away at Day of Calamity. I’ve dedicated plenty of time toward writing so far, but I’ve really struggled with getting the words out. I’m about a full day behind right now, so this update isn’t going to be very long.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about my story as I write it:

I’m not playing fair when I skip mundane parts of my story to get to the exciting stuff. My story is about people living after an apocalyptic event, so there’s no such thing as mundane. I need to write it all out. Without those “mundane” details, I can’t write a good novel.

Two of my characters like each other. That was a surprise. I mean, that’s something I should’ve figured out earlier, right? I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s kinda like watching my future daughter. I’m happy she’s happy, but I don’t know how I feel about her flirting and hugging guys. I’m already plotting to complicate that part (like any good father would).

I need to break up my story into smaller details. In my story planning for NaNo this year, I tried to plan out general chunks of story and let them work their way out as I write. That was a bad idea. The clearer I can be about what I want to happen, the better my writing will be.

Okay that’s all I’ve got for now.

Oh wait. One more thing. On Friday, I created a cover for my novel. Here it is:

Day of Calamity - Ian Philpot's NaNoWriMo novel cover


NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 1 Recap

NaNoWriMo 2012First, let me say how horribly unprepared I feel about NaNoWriMo this year. The novel I’m writing is the third idea I’ve had, and I landed on it just over a week ago. I tried taking time to outline characters, but I couldn’t even decide on their names. Earlier this week, I managed laying out the first ten chapters. Hopefully that can carry me for a while.

Next, let me tell you about the story. It’s called Day of Calamity and it’s like Occupy Wall Street meets Newsies meets Donnie Darko. When bad things happen, most people try to protect themselves and their interests. But what happens when that meets the generation that’s becoming adults in today’s world? Calamity.

Speaking of which, I spent a lot of my first day of writing in a struggle with my narrative. After consulting my wife and mother (who I think are both great writers themselves), I switched from telling the story in third-person to first-person. So I did some editing on day one—a big no-no for a NaNoWriMo veteran like myself. But the result was an immediate outpouring of words. And that’s what matters most this month.

Finally, I’m going to mention my favorite part of NaNo Day 1: Google+. I’m not sure how it happened, but someone added me to a NaNo circle on Google+ last month and I added that circle to my circles. The community of writers on there is incredible! I already know it’s going to make a huge difference in my effort this year, and I love it!

That’s all for now. I’ve got some writing to do!

My NaNoWriMo profile — Read about my novel, add me as a writing buddy, follow my progress
My Google+ profile — Add me to your circles or let me know if you want to be added to my NaNoWriMo circle
My NaNoWriMo circle  — Add it to your circles

NaNoWriMo 2012: One Week Out

NaNoWriMo Work SpaceI’ve been trying to make some progress on my NaNoWriMo story by getting to know my characters, places, and storyline. You can see my workspace in the picture on the right.

By the time I had fourteen chapters planned, I realized that I liked the story but I wasn’t going to enjoy writing it. Instead of trying to force that story, I’m going to gather the index cards I’d been plotting on, store them in a shoebox with some old writing notebooks, and start over with my new story.

Ah yes, I guess I should mention: I have a new story.

It’s about a man on the edge of an historic event. He’s fully aware of the situation and has to decide between running away to ensure his personal safety or taking a position of leadership that could cost him dearly. Instead of deciding, he lives out both options.

There’s more, but I’m way behind in my preparing for NaNo and I’ve got index cards to start planning on.