Ideas are always occurring to me. They might never make it onto paper. They might become part of a single paragraph, or be the basis for a whole novel. But ideas are not limited to first drafts.
Take, for example, my work in progress MUTUAL WEIRDNESS. The initial idea for it was a girl that eats capsicums like a fruit. She just munches on them. This doesn’t sound like a promising beginning for a story, but I built on it and built on it until an entire novel came out of that tiny idea.
In the five drafts since then, I’ve kept adding things. I’ve kept an eye out for new ideas that I could apply to MUTUAL WEIRDNESS and make it better.
I keep track of ideas in a Scrivener folder, but you can just as easily do it in a Microsoft Word document. Anything that appeals to you at all? Write it in your ideas folder. Some of my ideas are ridiculous things like “Carrots in the Ocean, about three fake-tanned teenagers who find themselves marooned at sea” and “The red brick road (Wizard of Aus).” Some are more sensible, like “A pencil case takes over the world” and “girl has sewage artist for a dad.”
I’m joking, by the way. None of those are very serious. I looked through my ideas folder and discovered that not many of them were genuine ideas. But that doesn’t matter. The things you write down might one day appeal to you in the weirdest way possible. Save the interesting pictures you find on Tumblr, and the weird facts you see.
Save anything that might be useful. And when you’re finished your first draft, keep looking for ideas. A first draft is like the end of the brainstorming, the base of what will one day be something amazing. Your ideas might change drastically to get it there. But it will be worth it.