From Writer Unboxed: Is It Sticky?
I’ve come to think of those ideas, the ones that should be written, as Sticky. Not like the mess your children leave behind after being fed, but sticky in the brain. An idea that won’t let you go, that you can’t move on from. One that haunts your dreams and your quiet times, that demands to be told.
For me, it’s not ideas. Or not the thing I think of when I hear the word “ideas.” To me, an idea for a novel implies a plot element, though actually, considering it now, I don’t suppose that is necessarily so. An idea for a novel could be a character, I suppose, or something else.
Anyway, for me, the “sticky” thing is almost always a scene, complete with setting and important characters and dialogue. The whole scene or a big chunk of it, not exactly as it will appear in the finished book, but nearly. A scene like that is the thing that haunts dreams and quiet times and … I wouldn’t exactly say demands to be told. I would say, That is compelling and that I most enjoy writing and that I frame the rest of the story around.
For me, the initial scene and some of the initial dialogue in TUYO was like that. So was the first night after Ryo and Aras crossed into the winter country. In fact, when I wrote TUYO, I jumped forward from the time they first encounter the actual antagonist to the moment they crossed the river and wrote most of the second half of the book before I came back and wrote those chapters in the middle.
In NIKOLES, most of Chapter 6 was the “sticky” scene. I wrote the whole story around that chapter. In fact, I think I wrote the opening scene, then most of Chapter 6, then the rest of Part I, then Part II.
I’m listening to the audio version of NIKOLES now, and wow, yes, Chapter 6 is still my favorite. Aras gets SUCH a chance to shine, in a very quiet, decisive way. It’s not an action scene … you know, I’m just now realizing that very few if any “sticky” scenes are action scenes. They’re all character scenes. I always have to work out action scenes when I get to them.
In TARASHANA, the “sticky” part included the first scenes with Tano. I wasn’t sure the Ryo-Tano plotline would work for readers until I started getting reactions from first readers — I knew very well I had made that plotline just as important as the Ryo-Aras plotline and I wasn’t sure how that would work for readers. But those early scenes with Tano were extremely complete and compelling to me. before I started writing. I didn’t write them first, but I wrote toward those scenes and then away from them.
The, um, the essential problem faced by Ryo and Aras in TARASHANA — I’m trying to be entirely spoiler-free here — was also very clear to me, but not as a complete scene or multiple scenes. In contrast, practically every scene involving Tano was complete in my head long before I wrote it.
A couple people have asked me if I’ve started the sequels. The answer is: No, and also Yes.
No, I haven’t written a single word of either Book 4 (offset novel) or Book 5 (direct sequel). I am busy doing other things. I have a couple of pages of notes, that’s all. But an astounding number of scenes are essentially complete in my head. These scenes are the “sticky” ones that will, first, encourage me to not lose enthusiasm before I have a chance to start these books, and second, help me frame the stories as I first move toward one such scene and then from that one toward the next.
I will just pause here to mention that another source of continuing enthusiasm is positive reviews. I’m just saying.
Anyway, the linked post also draws a line between “stickiness” and motivation:
Sticky ideas are also motivating to writers. For instance, Elyssa Friedland (The Floating Feldmans and The Last Summer at the Golden Hotel), says that she “feels a certain excitement in my fingertips when I’m writing an idea that has sticking power. Bursts of inspiration come to me—characters spring alive, plot points materialize out of thin air.”
Oh, I like this post now! It’s honestly a lot like that, or it can be. Sometimes amazingly important plot points really do seem to materialize out of thin air, even though I had no idea about them until they materialized. A startling amount of the end of TARASHANA was like that, including, hmm. Never mind. I can’t think of any way to be elliptical enough. I’ll just say, practically everything after Ryo has that conversation with Darra and goes to talk it over with Lalani. Nearly everything past that point sprang out of thin air when I got there — then instantly seemed both obvious and essential.