What Can I Write About?
Dying to write, but short of ideas? Here’s some ways to come up with stories.
If you’re very lucky, the idea strikes hard, in the middle of the night. And you wake and scribble down a story and bang, that’s it, you’re ready to go. Like me, when I had a dream of a girl, fighting in a forest. (You can read more about my dream, and what it led to here)
There might be a ‘what-if’ moment:
– What if a whole planet is sentient?
– What if the world was just a computer programme?
– What if a necklace could destroy its wearer’s heart?
Sometimes there’s a feeling of ‘tell-me-more’. Alexander McCall Smith developed Precious Ramotswe after meeting an extraordinary woman.
If you’re short of material, idea generators are available on line or in writing magazines. Tumblr has a few. I like Pinterest (although you have to watch you’re not being the same as everyone else). Here’s an image from my plotbunny folder!
Develop your idea
Your idea becomes the premise of your novel. It’s the 5 minute plot summary, the elevator pitch.
You can do a lot with a premise. You can elaborate it into several paragraphs, into a short story, into a novel. Randy Ingermanson has an interesting technique called the Snowflake Method. I’ve played with this concept, and while I quite like it I haven’t yet extended it from basic premise into full-blown plan.
Just remember, that an intriguing idea is only that. You need characters and conflict to make a novel. Also, you need patience.
Some people advise checking to see if there’s a market for your idea before developing it into a novel. In an earlier blog post I said: “Markets are fickle. Write what you like.”
Two years on, I have to admit (albeit rather sadly) that this was naive.
After four years of writing and selling books, I have learned a hard truth: ignore the market at your peril. Obviously, don’t write crap. Don’t plagiarise. Don’t try to write something just because you think it will sell – mostly, you’ll be wrong – but also, don’t ignore what is selling. And if you’re considering competing story ideas, it’s helpful to think: what’s doing well.
Because if people like a work similar to what you write, chances are they might like your work, too.
4. BONUS: Extra Resources
Here’s a short e-book crammed full of resources to kick-start your writing ideas. Feel free to download!