When I tell people I am a writer, one of the first things they ask me is where do I get my ideas from, and I am always stuck on that answer because I don’t really know. Form my head. That’s all. One thought starts another and then another, and off we go.
As I am writing this, I am also writing my fiction book Skin, Trade and although I have that plotted to the end, new ideas come up for it all the time. But I don’t seek them out.
The truth is that everyone has ideas for writing, and everyone has more ideas than they could ever hope to write in their lifetime. Still, people get stuck.
I am sure you’ve heard about the dreaded blank page. It is that moment when the writer faces the vast unknown and has to start writing, only where do you start? And this doesn’t matter if you write fiction, non-fiction, medium posts, blog post etc., we’re all writers and we all have these moments.
I remember my early days of taking my writing serious and wanting it to be more than a hobby. Craft book, upon craft book, always told me I needed to have a solid idea. I have even taken writing courses and the very same thing. They all assume you have the idea ready to go.
Non-writers often have the false idea that writing comes from sitting down and inspiration strikes (I wish). They think that prolific writers sit down and voila, an idea pops into their head and the magic happens.
The truth is though, we have to work at ideas, and the best way of generating ideas I have found is writing itself. I know, I know. That sounds nuts. But it is true. Sitting and waiting for an idea to hit you is the best way not to get a good idea.
I tell people when they’re stuck on a story, journal it out. Because I write mostly fiction, what I mean is, take your character who you’re stuck with and have an on the page dialogue with them. If you’ve written yourself into a corner, ask your character what it is they want to do next. As crazy as it sounds, this does work, and they do tend to answer you.
In my Society Series, I had a character, Cade. He needed to get someone pregnant. Which is simple enough, but he’d never do it because he was sworn to another. So I journaled with him. I had to dig deep into him and see in what circumstances he would do what was required of him in the position of responsibility he had. Between us, we came up with a great idea that didn’t make him look like a cheating arsehole, but also gave my story what was needed.
Two Years in Morning Pages
You may have heard of them; you may not. I know I have written about them a couple of years ago on my blog. They’re a…
Do this for ideas. You probably know what you want to write. What genre you want to write in, what kind of book. My next book is going to be an urban fantasy book. My next article is going to be another piece of writing advice. Write a dialogue with yourself, dig into yourself to see what matters to you and what you want to write. It might take a page or two for your mind to open up and give you the answer, but it’ll be there.
Start with little story ideas. These could be things you find of interest, anything from a character who you fell in love with in something you read, maybe you can emulate them, a place you love to visit. It doesn’t matter really.
Watch the news.
Write down your dreams.
Ask yourself what if about something
Do something mundane (This is a great one for letting your mind work on ideas)
I read once that Stephen King had been in a motel watching the news, and he saw this story about a woman who saw the woman her husband had been sleeping within a queue for something. She got so mad and drove her car into the line of people.
From this, he got the idea for Mr Mercedes and decided to write a short story based on this idea. As stories do, this one grew and went from something King saw on the news, to a three-book story.
Ideas are everywhere.
Mix up your topics. I was recently watching Dan Brown talk about this in his Masterclass. And he talks about how he takes two interests that don’t usually go together and combines them. What happens when you bring two things together?
Get off your phone and pay attention.
There is a world of characters around you; you just have to pay attention to them. Eavesdrop if you want to and then take what you heard home, write it down and then add to it. See where it takes you.
Oh, and don’t forget to read. Your brain needs fuel.