From Blank Page to Golden Egg by Matthew Taylor

From Blank Page to Golden Egg by Matthew Taylor

Where do ideas come from?

Without ideas I wouldn’t get very far, so it makes sense to try to understand where they come from. They are ever so slightly out of my reach, floating above my head like little clouds. I can’t force them down against their will. That wouldn’t work, that would have them rise higher. The trick I have found is to invite them in by creating an environment they might like. To understand them, to lure them knowing their likes and dislikes. Their likes include tea, Jaffa Cakes, long walks and meditation. Their dislikes include being on time, rules, guilt and gherkins. Nobody likes gherkins.

And it helps to talk to them. But if I don’t use their language then my ideas won’t understand me. They don’t respond well to thoughts, they much prefer feelings. Knowing this I understand that thinking can be a hindrance. Thinking has me staring at a single line for ten minutes, wondering where the best placement for each word might be. Feelings are much wiser than thoughts, they have been around longer and they know what’s up.

Given that ideas don’t like being on time, they will arrive at their own leisure. That might be as I am coming out the shower, while I am drifting off to sleep or as I make my way to a meeting. So the key is to have a way to catch ideas when they do arrive.


Catching ideas

My own memory is terrible, it only allows me to remember one thought at a time. So I upgraded that to a Post-it note and a pen. Then to a notepad, an iPhone and finally an iPad Mini. I can’t praise the iPad Mini highly enough, it’s wonderful. I downloaded the App called Pages (similar to Word) which allows me to store my work in folders and to organise my ideas as they come. This syncs automatically to my iPhone in case my iPad is lost. I password protect my work, email it to myself once a week and print it out once a month. This soothes my paranoia that I will accidentally delete everything and it really doesn’t take long. My iPad fits nicely into my bag which I take everywhere and daydreaming throughout the day gives plenty of opportunities to catch some ideas.


Structuring ideas

I start with the title, then I ask a series of questions in the order shown below.

  • Given the title, who is the main character?
  • Given the title and main character, what is the conflict?
  • What direction does the character/ conflict push the story? How does it end? What am I trying to say?
  • What is the opposite of the ending? This will be how the story begins.
  • What happens at the climax, the midpoint and the inciting incident to link the end to the beginning?

During the planning stage I work backwards. By being clear on where I want to finish it means I can find the most direct route. Planning from start to finish, for me at least doesn’t work, it would be like setting out on a journey without having a clear destination.

I plan for months, filling in as much detail as possible, I use Golden Egg’s marvellous Book Map for this and also a lighter version I call a Book Frame.  Same process, less columns. When I begin writing I work as most people would, starting from chapter one, but using the frame and map as a guide. This needs to be flexible to adjust to new ideas that develop along the way, but it should still retain its shape. This frame is in my Twitter account (MJTaylor_writer) where I also mention all the resources I have found helpful, if any eggs are interested.

The bench in the park where I sit on lunch-break with my iPad catching ideas like elusive butterflies


My First Experience of Golden Egg – The Introductory Book Mapping Course.

When I sat down at the table there were small chocolate eggs to the edge and two large eggs in the middle. Sadly those weren’t also made of chocolate, but they did look pretty. Around this table were the other new members. My first impressions were, beyond how lovely everyone was and how supportive and helpful the course leaders were, was how nice and ego-less the other writers were.  I also noticed that I was the only bloke, call me incisive (!), which might also help explain the lack of egos!!!  But hey, perhaps the writing process filters big egos out because everyone I met at the book mapping course was open, friendly and genuine. Good people, each with unique ideas that I could have never imagined myself.

When it was time to read our three line summaries I found it surprisingly difficult. Vanessa, our course leader, flagged up that this was coming, suggesting that some people might like to read theirs. I met this with a stern shake of the head but after the others had their turn I would have felt silly if I’d kept quiet. I thought I was confident in my work, but in that moment I wasn’t so sure. The feeling passed and they were all kind with their nods and smiles. But it does show how self doubt takes hold when it comes time to share your work. It is very difficult to be objective.

We’re so lucky we have Imogen and her crew to help us on our way.

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