Where Novel Writers Really Get Their Ideas
As we finish the "Where do you get your ideas?" blog series, here's a short recap. Previously we learned that ideas are everywhere and story ideas often come from observing something. We also learned how to play the "what if" game to generate ideas, and how to go "in search of" an idea. In this blog, we'll find out how to let ideas come to you.
Ideas are like butterflies…the more you chase after them, the faster they seem to flutter away. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to find a good story idea or the plot twist you've been searching for. This is what most people call "writers block" or getting "stuck" on a story. It's a common ailment that happens to every writer, no matter what his or her experience or career level. So, how do you fight this blockage and move on with your story? That's easy. You don't.
Although this may sound contrary to getting your writing completed, every once in a while you have to let ideas come to you. Trying to "force" a story idea or plot element is counterproductive to the creative process. In most cases, it will leave you frustrated and banging your head against your desk. So instead of trying to hunt down the creative muse and make it give you what you're looking for, let go and let the muse come to you.
How? Stop writing and do something else. Go for a walk, do yoga, meditate, take a nap, or listen to soothing music. (If you're very motivated, you can even do housework.) Basically, you want to stop thinking about your writing. By giving your brain a rest and doing something else, you're allowing your subconscious to mull over the problem.
Usually within a few hours (or sometimes overnight) the creative side of your mind will come up with the solution to your writing issue. Sometimes your answer will come to you in a dream. (If it does, be sure to write it down right away!) Giving yourself a break allows your "writing mind" to relax. Once the pressure's off and you've had some down time, you'll feel more energized, motivated, and inspired.
A great way to bring ideas to you is to practice freewriting. Get a piece of paper (or open a blank computer document) and just start writing whatever pops into your head. It can be groups of words, your stream of consciousness, or random thoughts. (You can even write a letter to your muse explaining the writing problem and ask for results.)
Practice freewriting for five minutes (or longer, if you enjoy it). Don't worry if you can't think of anything to write-you're not trying to be creative or coherent, you're just trying to let your mind relax. If you get stuck, try these prompts:
"Today is… (day of the week) and I am… (wherever you are) freewriting."
"Yesterday I… (fill in with what you did, where you went, or what you ate)."
"I really like… (let your mind wander and write whatever you feel like)."
"I can't stand… (rant and rave here - nobody needs to see it!)"
"Now I am doing freewriting and…" (fill in with whatever comes to mind, even if you write
"nothing, nothing, nothing" or "blah blah blah" for five minutes).
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to let ideas come to you. No matter what you're writing, or how you go about finding ideas for your stories, you can't force inspiration to appear-you have to allow it to gently flow to you. Once you have the idea, run with it and see where it leads you.
I hope you enjoyed this "inside look" on where writers really get their ideas. Every short story, magazine article, and novel starts off with a spark of an idea. But once a writer has the idea, he or she puts a personal spin on it and makes it his or her own. Put fifty writers in a room and give them the same idea (woman walking down the street carrying a suitcase) and they'll come up with fifty (or more) different stories. Ideas start a story; it's the author's plot, characterization, dialogue, tone, and voice that bring it to life.
Happy Reading & Writing!
Kelli A. Wilkins
Read previous posts in the "Writing Tips for Everyone" series:
Secrets of Success blog
Always Wanted to Write a Novel? Writing Tips for Everyone
Deb Bailey Books blog
Where Writers Really Get Their Ideas - Part 3
Where Writers Really Get Their Ideas - Part 2
Where Writers Really Get Their Ideas - Part 1
Kelli A. Wilkins divides her time between writing romance and horror. Her romances vary in genre and range from sensual to super-sizzling hot. Kelli invites readers to visit her website www.KelliWilkins.com and blog http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com to catch up on all her writings.