Inspiration is one of the most common things writers struggle with. It either rains or pours. We know about the drought times, aka "writer's block" but not about the buffet time. It's frustrating just as much, and if you've never experienced it, picture this: you had a big lunch at home and are stuffed when a friend calls you up and invites to you a $2.00 all you can eat steak buffet, but you're so full you feel sick, and now you feel pissed off in three ways. That is the feeling of having too many ideas to write at once.



Fucking muse...every time you feel like this the bitch offers you one "wafffer thiiin miiiint"


 
Most writers go in cycles and balance is the key. Like most things in life you have to plan a little bit ahead to enjoy the moment. So to solve the anguish of too much inspiration and provide a cure for writer's block, you'll need remainders.

What are remainders? Aren't they the things that piss you off in grade school math? Well, yes, but it's also a term commercial writers use. I work as a copywriter and we often work on projects where we need lots of ideas. We sort them into 3 camps: great, usable but not right, and are you fucking retarded? The last group gets discarded, the first group goes into the project, and the middle group is made up of good ideas that just don't fit this current project, but are too good to throw out. So they become remainders.



I wish all marketing worked in the same system copywriters use


 
We save them as a file in a remainder folder clearly labeled. Organization is the key. For then when you have no ideas at all, you check your remainder files. Good labeling and organization makes searching easy, and often you can grab one or two things and get the ball rolling.

How can we apply this to fiction? I'm sure all writers have had that moment where you're in the middle of writing something and then an idea hits you. What if the apocalypse was brought on by Tamagachi that discovered time-travel? And then you have a meal and think, what about a story where a PI and a food critic have to team up to discover the killer in a restaurant? And then you're fapping before bed and think what about a story where sex androids turn out to be aliens seeking to merge our races. 

Now before we get to remainders, a key word about inspiration: THERE ARE NO STUPID IDEAS. In fiction, every single blasted idea that crosses your frontal lobes has merit. Maybe not in its infant form, maybe it needs work, but it has merit.So write that fucker down! I carry pen and paper with me wherever I go, same as most writers or comedians (in general anyone paid to make stuff up) and you wouldn't believe how often I use them.



Let me clarify: there are no stupid ideas for story premises


 
Now, how to make a remainder file? First, you have that idea, and you write it down barebones. Next, when you catch your breath, write down a 3 paragraph summary. What's the basic premise? Who are the principal characters? Do you have an ending in mind? If so, write it down, if not, don't sweat it. If you have a specific setting, character, or dialogue/passage write it down. Now save it, and label it. I suggest the title should have the date, the genre, and a quick note.

I'll give you an example of one. The saved title was "12/3/2004_Fantasy-Erotica_Alien-Regency-Barbarians_Female-Supremacy"

Here is what it contained:

Female general returning from war, member of aristocracy, finds a man in the rain by dead female guards. He has amnesia, may be of the defeated enemy, takes him home, solves mystery. Sex in hot tub (underlined, because, well, hey, that's how I roll).

If you have read any of my erotica, can you guess which story this became? I'll give you a hint: it's about a female general returning from war who finds a girl with amnesia on the road, which leads her to a male sorcerer. Tracking his mentor's killer he teams up with her as the killer is now married to her mortal enemy. The sorcerer and the general get married, and have more sex in water than a dolphin orgy.

It's Hidden Magic (the penultimate chapter went up today and the ending comes next week).

Now the remainder file was clearly labeled with the highlights of what I wanted to hit: aliens or another dimension, female supremacy, post-war setting, and barbarian technology and regency culture. That came to me as a daydream while feeding my pet spider back in 2004. Then in 2011 I had writer's block, was bored with my old stories, and couldn't think of anything new. I went to my remainders, saw that gem, and thought if I tweaked it a little, I could get a more erotic/adventure plot out of it and less mystery, which I was burned out on the time.




 
NEVER challenge rule 34b (if you can think of it, porn exists of it). As soon as I wrote "dolphin orgy" I just knew this would happen. please don;t try to make this a story idea, though probably there are 17 slashfiction sites devoted to it already


 
So if you remember that every idea has merit and jot it down, then fill in the important aspects of it you desire, and label it accordingly, when writer's block strikes, you have a treasure trove of ideas.

I only wish I could hit my remainders now. There's a story about a warlock I've been wanting to write since 1999, and one about a female assassin I've been dying to write since 1997, and about a thousand more. I simply don't have the time now. But it's nice to know when I do have time, and the Muse is being a little cocktease, I have backup.

Remainders are the doggy bag and freeze-drier of the writing buffet. Every writer should use this, and it's good practice. Often when a writer has multiple simultaneous ideas, they try to write them all. Using this system you can figure out which intrigues you the most, and focus on it, and know the other ideas will be waiting for you. In short this way you can make your ideas work, and not turn out incredibly fast half-assed schlock.



Otherwise you write crap that can only be promoted like this...on your MySpace page. Don't...just don't


 
For reading there's a similar process I like to use. I am also an avid bookworm with limited time, so what I do is make lists of all the books I want to read, and organize them by genre. When I am writing fantasy I try to read fantasy novels to stay in the right mood. I just go to my reading lists and select a title and go. I know the mysteries will be waiting for me when I'm writing that genre.

Even if you don't write I suggest organizing your reading list this way. Keep the books in a flow of mood. Don't ever try to read a Cormack McCarthy and follow it with a Kim Harrison...let Stephen King bridge that awkward gap. Balance and flow are the real goals whether creating or appreciating any art form.