Monday, December 24, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Every shopper likes a good deal; every writer a good idea. Most of us see lots of great ideas, but forget most of them. That’s why I “coupon” them.

Is “couponing” a real word? I'm not sure, but there are certainly lots of “guides to couponing” found on the WEB and in popular women’s magazines.

Maybe couponing should be one of your New Year's resolutions. I substituted the word ideas for coupons into a composite guide for couponing. My examples will focus on the development of my two novels Coming Flu, a medical thriller published by Oak Tree Press in July 2012, and Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, a medical mystery to be published in April 2013.
         1. Look for ideas everywhere. Printed materials, TV, ads, etc. I like to include bits of science in my novels to add authenticity. So when I read Science and other scientific journals weekly, I pull pages that look interesting. I save maps and menus when I travel. Now for the hard part
2. Identify a use for ideas. Write on each saved item an anticipated use when you clip it. For example in April 2010, I read an article “The Microbes Made Me Eat It” (Science 328: 179-180) and labeled it, in my messy scrawl, “novel on obesity.
3. Focus your collection activities. Random collections are difficult to use and bulky to store. That’s one problem with computers, most of us save too much unsorted (or poorly sorted) fluff. 
Throughout 2010, I looked for and found interesting articles in medical journals on how the trillion microorganisms in our guts influence us, including our weight control or lack of it. The result was Dr. Izzy Roth and Dr. Richard Varegos, the diet doctors in Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight. Unfortunately for them, Izzy is killed in the first chapter of this medical mystery and Richard is suspected. 
          4. Don’t save stuff that is easily available on the Web. To emphasize how difficult it is to lose weight, I set many scenes in Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight in popular restaurants in the Albuquerque area. I used the menus published on the web to give descriptions of food.
           5. Review ideas regularly and purge. In 2006, I started saving articles on mutations in the flu virus, the development of vaccines, epidemics, and the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act with the intent of using them in a novel. Re-examining the file when it was a half-inch thick finally gave me the incentive to start writing Coming Flu. Yes, I did use this information to create a realistic (certainly not optimal, but not a worst case scenario either) of what could happen if a new and deadly mutation of the flu virus hit a community before vaccines to the new virus were available.
You know what bugs me about my couponing system? It's easier said than done, especially the regular purging part. That's why my office is a mess and I have two file  cabinets of semi-sorted ideas waiting to be used.  


JL and her faithful Bug