I of all people know what it’s like to have to come up with an idea for something to write about. There are so many pieces that have to fit: setting, characters, themes, plot points. I mean, it’s either going to be the easiest or hardest part of the writing process. In the case of this post, I’m going to talk about how to get started when it’s hard to get those ideas to stick.
I have one huge life saving trick for you. It’s pretty simple, too.
Get a collection going. I’ve talked about this briefly in another post, but I’ll give some more specifics and how to use this collection. You want to get a good junk-pile of ideas all in one place, so at least you have something to work with.
How? I’m glad you asked.
It always seems like ideas come at the most inconvenient of times. Either you don’t have anything to write it down before you forget it, or you are already writing another story. And when you try to summon all of that previous idea-mojo when you actually need it, it decides to go on vacation.
Whenever you see something that interests you, write it down. Whenever you have a particularly interesting idea, write it down. Whenever you hear an interesting name for a character or town, write it down. Whenever you get that rare life experience that you could use in your writing, can you guess? That’s right. Write it all down. And if you can’t write it down, like if it’s a picture or video, then print it or save it on a flash drive. Document it.
Even if you are writing something else. Get it down for later.
Even if you are in the middle of a conversation with someone. Maybe they said something funny and you need to write it down for your next story.
Even if you are in the middle of an exam. I’m sure if the teacher accuses you of cheating because you have writing up and down your arm, they’ll reconsider after taking a look at what it said. When I was in seventh grade I came up with the idea for Deception in the middle of an exam, and my teacher saw my arm full of pen. I was all like “read it” and then he probably thought I was crazy for the rest of the year (mainly because I had some conspiracy theories written down that hadn’t even happened yet, according to the original idea for Deception‘s plot).
So get all of those ideas and write them in a journal. Personally, I have a little basket filled with doodles and ideas and characterization exercises on little scrap pieces of paper. And napkins. I’m pretty sure I wrote on a business card, too. But I doubt I could fish it out now.
The point is, you have ideas. They just escape you at the very moment you find yourself staring in to the eyes of a blank page. So get a collection going. That’s your one tip. Thank you and good night.
What’s that? Oh, yeah.
What can you do with this collection? Well, I’m sure you’re smart and can figure it out, but I’ll tell you anyway.
One of your ideas might be amazing enough to stand on it’s own. J.K. Rowling said that the entire idea for Harry Potter started out with the words popping into her mind of, “Boy doesn’t know he is a wizard, goes to wizarding school.” Also, I love that spell check is trying to correct me on “wizarding”. If you idea can stand on it’s own, great! Write a best seller.
Odds are, you aren’t going to be that lucky. Sorry.
But I’m an optimist. It’s possible. Then again, every idea is going to get better with a little work, anyway, so keep reading.
This is where my favorite thing comes in! If I’m in the need of a good idea for a story, I just reach in my basket and grab a few things. Whatever I come up with I try to connect in a logical and believable way. Say I draw out a plot idea, a sarcastic quote that I wrote down from one of the many interesting conversations I find myself in, and… how about a character name? I try to connect all of these. Why would this name have to do with that plot idea? Maybe it isn’t even the name of the character, but the name of a street where something important to that plot idea happens. Maybe the quote is said by the enemy of the main character, who is waiting on that street to meet someone.
See, now I’m already outlining in my head… Dang. Now I’m going to have to write my idea down and toss it in the basket. This is what blogging does to me… Thanks guys. I’ve got my next book already rolling.
And if you can’t combine ideas? Then grab one of those ideas and try to put a twist on it. Try to come up with the craziest thing you can think of in relation to your original idea. If you wrote down the definition of… I don’t know, time, because you thought it was interesting a month ago, and you draw it out of the basket, just go crazy. Time traveling. Aging. Turning back aging with time traveling. I don’t know, get creative. Even if you don’t use whatever crazy thing you end up with, like an ape traveling through time to correct the evolutionary path of mankind, maybe it will lead you to another idea that ends up as your next book.
Whatever it is, just try to get that idea ball rolling. If you just stare at a blank page, then you aren’t going to get anywhere.
So even if you are all stocked up on ideas right now, start your collection. The sooner the better. You’ll thank me later.
And if you don’t have a collection, and still need an idea? You don’t need your own collection, so to speak. There are ideas everywhere, an entire collection out there that you don’t even need a journal or basket for. It’s called the world… Scary, I know.
Go up to someone and ask their name. Tell the waiter to surprise you when they ask your order. Walk into a random store somewhere, pick a person, and try to come up with the story of how they got to where they are. Here’s the crazy one: Go to a library. There are so many interesting things there. Don’t steal anything from the other writers! Respect originality, please. But if you see something interesting, something you could write about, then by all means, chase after it.
Today’s challenge for you? Easy. Start your idea collection! Get going. There isn’t a second to waste when there is so much to write…
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!