Any writer knows ideas don’t always come at convenient times.  A brand new character might pop into your mind while working on a deadline for something else.  You might dream up a fantastic plot twist that simply doesn’t work with your current wip.  These idea mushrooms murder focus.  But they’re valuable, all the same.  How do you deal with these little gems without getting off track?

I’ve mentioned before that I like to jot down quick little notes when something ill-timed pops into my head.  Here’s how I do it.


Step 1: Get a little recipe box.

Fill it with blank index cards (I like unlined because then I can draw as well as write).  Then mark the dividers with categories such as plot points, characters, settings, etc.  You might want to leave a blank divider for a new category you haven’t thought of.

Step 2: Stash index cards wherever you get ideas.

In your nightstand, in your purse, your desk drawer at work, your glove compartment – make sure you have your cards and a pen handy for any ideas that might pop up.

Step 3: Take a second to jot a quick note.

Use a couple of words and/or pictures – just enough to remind you of your idea.  Then put it aside and get back to work.  You can file your cards when you’re done your task.


That’s my system in a nutshell.  What about you?  How do you deal with mushroom ideas?