The Tickler File

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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The Tickler File

Post by Ermo » April 6th, 2010, 10:41 am

When I worked in journalism, the file of potential future stories was called the Tickler File. I just got back into fiction writing about six months ago and decided to start a file of all of the ideas swimming in my head. I have 10 potential books/short stories right now and am quickly committing myself to a lifetime of work... Do you have a Tickler file? How many ideas are in it? Do you rank them?

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Re: The Tickler File

Post by Emily J » April 6th, 2010, 11:10 am

Aside from my notebook of doom (it weighs about as much as I do) dedicated to the fantasy series I will write someday, my tickler file is in my head. Rattling around between my ears are (2) webcomics, (1) graphic novel (1) historical fiction novel (1) sci-fi novel (6) YA fantasy novels (4) adult fantasy novels and (1) crime drama. *Whew*

My friend often asks how I keep all those characters and plots in my head at one time. (really he's quite impressed when I rant about book A or book B as if it actually existed). I explain that I have simply removed everything unimportant from my head, pushed it right out. This includes my life history up until last year, (no really, I am virtually an amnesiac) what I ate for breakfast, calculus (who am I kidding, math in its entirety) and generally everything else I learned in school.

Strangely enough my order of writing these mental tomes is in inverse proportion to how much I care about said project. In other words, I am such a perfectionist that I am saving the ideas I hold near and dear and am instead working on plots that have only occurred to me recently. This works out much better for me, since I am less of a perfectionist and by the time I get around to writing that magnum opus (in about 300 years) I will be in top form.

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Re: The Tickler File

Post by Margo » April 6th, 2010, 11:20 am

I have something similar, but it's not as developed as a full-fledged tickler file. I have a file where I toss interesting snippets from the news, lyrics to songs that sort of linger in the mind, phrases I have run into. None of them are fully formed story ideas. I also have a separate file for themes and another for photos (usually landscapes, animals, or quirky fashion shoots).

I've probably had the most fun with an idea I got from James Scott Bell - coming up with story ideas solely from a book title I've made up. Since I write fantasy, and the Turkey City Lexicon has great fun lampooning the fantasy genre's overuse of emotional buzzwards (like dream, song, tear, etc etc etc), I made a list of all the words I found in fantasy book titles and started scrambling them up. Some were hilarious. Other results were actually rather evocative and cool. Out of about 100, I selected 50 or so and noted several common threads that made the titles line up nicely with four separate worlds that had been simmering in the back of my mind.

I recommend this game to anyone who writes genre material and is running a little low on ideas (or interesting ideas, anyway). After all, every genre has its standard title phrases. At the very least it should be fun.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves.

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Re: The Tickler File

Post by gonzo2802 » April 6th, 2010, 11:20 am

I don't have a Tickler file, as much as I have an old story idea graveyard. I've been writing for years off and on, but it's only been this past year that I've learned how to write well and finish a story line through to the end. Most of the old ideas are sitting there in that graveyard waiting for me to come back some day and breathe them new life. Right now, I'm not having any problem with new ideas rolling into my head, but I like having the graveyard there in case I ever get Idea Blocked.

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Re: The Tickler File

Post by dios4vida » April 6th, 2010, 11:54 am

Instead of a file I have a 4x4 foot dry erase board hanging in my office. It's divided into columns with each detailing as much as I know about the storylines waiting to be written. The very bottom corner is reserved for words/phrases/random ideas that have no home yet but I'd like to use one day. I like this system because then they're always in my vision (somewhat). I'm very much an out of sight, out of mind person, and this way I won't forget what I've started.

I have another board of the same size on the opposite wall where I have my current WIP's outline, characters, and thoughts/ideas. Anything that needs work or doesn't make sense is in red, everything else is blue or green depending on the character or subplot. It's a great system.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: The Tickler File

Post by Colonel Travis » April 6th, 2010, 11:04 pm

When I worked in journalism I was so damn busy I didn't have a folder - I had a giant pile of crap on my desk, under my desk, in my desk, on my computer desktop, in my car, in my house, in my head, and a bunch of other places I can't remember. These days I keep everything stored in OneNote by MS Office. Wish I had it back then. Best organizer on planet earth, as far as I'm concerned. You can also save audio, video, photos, other files. You can link anything in your notebook to anything else that is linkable - other stuff in your notebook, a different notebook, a computer file, the web. And you can organize everything however you want. Total customization.

I have never been a huge MS fan, but I have said this many times in the past and I will say it many times in the future - I could kiss Bill Gates on the mouth for this program. I don't know why more writers don't use it.

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Re: The Tickler File

Post by JustineDell » April 7th, 2010, 10:28 am

I wish I didn't, but I do. And it's HUGE. I don't even put everything in it, only the ones that really won't leave my mind. Each idea has little file on my flashdrive, just in case I ever get around to it. Right now, the files include:

2 - comtemporary romances that follow my current wip (like a themed series, I guess)
1 - entire 3 books series of a paranormal romance (that I will never get around to writing, but the idea was to cool not to write down).
1 - entire 3-4 book series of another paranormal romance (shorter novella type length)
2 - short contemporary romances (these two actual have a few pages written)
1- my daughters requested YA book
5- short novella length erotica stories (two are actually done, three more to go)
And this doesn't even count the snipits of ideas I have written down in my cherished "little yellow notebook". There are way to many in there to even list.

Hmmm...I think that's it. Like that's not ;-)


"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

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Re: The Tickler File

Post by KellyWittmann » April 8th, 2010, 5:57 pm

I find old tickler files-- whether they be on my computer or hand-written in notebooks-- all the time. They usually look something like this:

Support from the left side but not too plastic! Make girl 3 brunette because of the happy yogurt. Click click click on the stairs and then parade comes down the street. Turtle child!!!

Yeah... A lot of "WTH" moments around here.

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