One of the most frequent questions I get as a writer is “where do you get your ideas from?” I’m always a bit baffled at first because sometimes I’m not really sure. It’s a difficult question to answer and I don’t think you can be a writer unless you have the ability to see and interpret the world around you in order to come up with your OWN ideas. There’s just something about it that’s hard to explain to other people.
Writers (or anyone creative) tend to notice things that other people don’t. It’s not that we’re better or smarter than other people, but we’re most likely much more introverted than the rest of the world. When you’re introverted, you spend a lot of time observing the world around you instead of directly participating in everything going on. You find solace in listening, watching, or hearing other people and their conversations. Ideas come from everywhere and we are more likely to notice them and turn them into something amazing.
However, if you are a writer and you’re finding it difficult to come up with fresh ideas, there are ways for you to improve this. I suggest you try a few of these things—
• Sit in a crowded area for a while. If you’re stuck, try sitting in a mall or a coffee shop or even a train station. You’ll see things that might make good story ideas. People watching is one of the best ways to come up with ideas and it’ll make your writing more realistic.
• Keep a notebook next to your bed. I always do this just in case I have a dream that makes me think in some way. You shouldn’t wait until morning because you’ll most likely forget all the details. If you wake up in the middle of the night from a dream or nightmare, write down every little detail you can remember. It will help you come up with your own ideas (technically dreams are YOUR ideas to begin with).
• Watch how people interact with each other. This is sort of the same as people watching, but you’ll learn a lot about dialogue and character relationships. It might give you some structure for your own characters and help you shape them for your novel. You might notice things you’ve never thought of before.
• Think about what you like in your favorite books. Why do you like your favorite books? What about them caught your attention? Were there certain scenes that really stayed with you? There’s something about those books that struck you in some way or else they wouldn’t be your favorites. Think of the dynamics between certain characters or details about the plot you loved. Use these ideas and make them your own. BUT DON’T PLAGIARIZE.
• Find a writing partner to discuss ideas with. Sometimes talking to other people really helps you out. They’ll be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes I just shoot out ideas to my friends or family and they tell me if they like them of not. They might not be the most reliable source, but you should be able to get some feedback.
• Have a brainstorming session. Just taking a few moments to dig into your brain might make all the difference. The ideas might already be there, you just have to take some time to get them down on paper and organize them. The potential to write a great story is lingering around somewhere.
Now Novel shows you how to write a book: a tailormade toolkit helps you find an idea, create structure and stay motivated while writing a book. Start right now!
excitedbreath asked: Hello! Do you know any Spanish writing blog?
Index of All Articles by Title:
Val Kovalin has also written books on describing characters!
Anonymous asked: Do you have anything on writing the first sentence or paragraph of a book? I’m writing one were my character got in trouble and is sitting in the principal’s office. I don’t want to start off using dialogue. Any ideas?
You might find these posts helpful:
We also have two Towels related to this subject which include several of the links listed above and more:
Thank you for your question!
It’s important to know that no matter how obvious and sensible a piece of writing advice might be, there are always going to be circumstances when it won’t hold true. Or when there are other, equally effective ways to tell the story.
It’s all open to debate and depends on context and specific examples. An unmitigated disaster for one writer, may be an unqualified success in the hands of another.
It would be a lot simpler if there were solid, unquestionable, carved in stone rules that we could all learn and then go from there. So here are three universally true things that apply to all writers at all times in every situation(I am 1,000,000% not exaggerating for effect).
‘What the fuck’ is probably the first thing you think when you read the title. Hang on a moment! There’s a lot of writing advice out there, much of it collected in books (which are great! There’s a lot I like!) or totally free on the internet. That, frankly, is awesome! Writing advice is why you guys follow my tumblr, and others too. That is also awesome.
My sister used to yell at me for reading writing advice books and not writing. And she had me pegged, for one; I read the books and didn’t write because I didn’t have confidence in my writing. If only there was some advice out there, something that would truly get to me! I spent a lot of time looking for it when I could have been spending that time writing. I could justify it by saying I wasn’t ready to write, but that’s a really shitty excuse
Also, there’s a lot of writing problems out there, and therefore a lot of advice specifically for those problems. You can spend time (and enjoy spending time) reading advice about all of those problems, some of which you have, a lot of which you don’t, and some you don’t have to worry about just yet.
You’re on your first draft - maybe you should ignore stuff about editing. Your problem is plot, not characters, so why read character writing advice? Sure, it’s fun, and there’s nothing wrong with reading it. But is it really helping you right now?
What I really mean is this: Writing is hard! Reading writing advice? Awesome. Reading writing advice about things you’re not focusing on at the moment? Hey, it’s advice, it’s all good! Reading writing advice while not writing? Still okay! But all of that advice out there, as helpful and great as it can be, isn’t going to make your writing better. Sitting down and writing is what’s going to make your writing better. Even if you hate it! Even if you think it’s shit (though it’s not)! Don’t talk yourself out of sitting down and writing.
Reading about writing doesn’t count. Talking about writing doesn’t count. Thinking about writing doesn’t count. You’re a writer! It doesn’t matter if you never show it to anyone, or immediately burn it to ashes after you’re done (although please don’t do that, your work is valuable!). Writers write, even when it’s hard. Don’t talk yourself out of writing, like I did. Just write!
“Hybrid author.” Sounds like we were made in a lab. A squirmy worm-mote in a test tube. Growing at an alarming rate. Genetics forged from a hundred different authors —… Read The…
Can we all just take a moment to reflect on the fact that hourlywritingprompts literally puts out a one-word awesometastic prompt every hour?
Anonymous asked you:
I’m a big fan of your blog and I don’t know where else to turn ^^; I’m having a lot of trouble getting the motivation to write, to work and to exist in general. I thought it was just procrastination, but it’s gotten to where I’ve completed 0 assignments all week and haven’t written anything for a whole month. I could really use any help or advice you’ve got, even if it’s just yelling…
First of all, I’m super glad you turned to someone about this, because I know it’s not always easy working up the nerve to ask people for help. Also, I’m a big expert on how to get myself (and my lovely partner in crime) to work beyond what I call our “brain rebellions”.
The brain rebellion is simply when we’ve fried ourselves by overworking for extended periods of time. Lots of people will tell you this is just bullshit and you need to learn how to “work through it” like “everyone else does”, but if you’re stressed, then you need to de-stress, not make yourself even more stressed. Don’t listen to those people, because, chances are, they don’t know a thing about your inner workings.
Here are some things to help you cope and de-stress:
- Know your limits. Everyone’s different and, consequently, everyone needs different things and works at different paces. The important thing is knowing how much you can take. Never think of it as “giving up” or “giving in” when you reach your limit. Think of it as, “My well-being comes first.”
- Be realistic about what you can handle. It’s okay to challenge yourself, but don’t tell yourself anything like, “Okay, yesterday I wrote 500 words, today I’m going to write 5k!”
- Don’t compare yourself to others. If you see someone who regularly writes 5k words a day, don’t kick yourself because you can only write 500. Your circumstances are likely so different from theirs that comparing yourself only hurts you with feelings of inadequacy.
- Take care of yourself first. Eat. Sleep. Take breaks to watch mind-numbing television or look at pretty artstuffs. Your brain is telling you it needs to turn off for a while, so let your brain turn off.
- Change your routines. If what you’re doing now isn’t working, consider changing it up. Work somewhere else, at different times of the day, in public places or in private. Sometimes our default working environments aren’t very good to us for various reasons.
- Go someplace new. Take a little mini-vacation. Go find your nearest state park. Take some friends (or a significant other, or, heck, go by yourself) and stay at a place in the mountains or by the river. Find your nearest old towns and do some window shopping. Give your brain a chance to think about other things and detox from stress.
- Treat yourself. Reward yourself with something you love but you don’t have very often.
- Find a community of people similar to you and connect with them. Support groups are awesome and the right people can help talk you out of bad places.
- Know that you’re more important than the work you do or put out. You must always, always come first.
- Ask for help. If you fall into one of those bad places, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak — it actually takes a great deal of strength to ask for help. A school counselor should be able to direct you to where you can find help, or you can always try hotlines.
There will always be school and there will always be something to write, but you’ve got to fulfill all your mental health needs before you get to that. When I’ve a friend who’s clearly been overworking themselves and is considering whether or not to just shut the book for the night and do what they want, I will be the first supporter.
Once you’ve done the things above, then here are some tips to get yourself working again:
- Set small goals. A lot of the time, we think about ALL the things we need to do and it haunts us as one giant entity. Sometimes making “to-do” lists to organize projects in order of importance can do this as well, because then you have a full visual of how much needs to be done. Write your to-do list, take the first thing, and divide it up into manageable segments. Then —
- Organize your time. Work for maybe a half hour, then take a work-free, mind-numbing tumblr break or whatever you please (or you could write or doodle or look for new music — it’s okay to be productive on your breaks because sometimes productivity in any form is what it takes for us to feel good about ourselves). Then take this process and repeat.
- It takes seven minutes for you to fully fix your concentration on something new (at least, that’s what I’ve heard). The first seven minutes are the hardest when you pop open a school book to do homework or open up a word document to write, but give yourself seven full, uninterrupted minutes of focus.
- Train yourself to think positively. This’ll take time. My father says it takes 21 days to make or break habits, but this is of necessity. When you finish your working increment of thirty minutes, don’t go, “Oh hell, I only read two pages and I still have to read 17 and answer the response questions and alkdsfl.” Get yourself to start thinking, “Two pages are out of the way. Now I get some free time.”
- Take walks. If you’ve got nature around you (green belts or anything similar), then take a walk. Negative ions are said to be good for the body, and nature secretes loads of negative ions. If you don’t have nature, then get away from technology (which secrets positive ions, said to be draining) with a book or a notebook or a drawing pad.
- Talk to people, whether in person, on the phone, through AIM or Skype, Tumblr or forums. Connecting with people gets you to hear voices other than your own, and it also gives you the chance to unload all your thought vomit. Just make sure you find some positive reinforcements, not negative.
- Build yourself up. Work with smaller segments an increments at first. Work for ten minutes, then give yourself a break. Then, as you get more comfortable, challenge yourself to do fifteen minutes.
- Cheat a little. Oops, you got to this part in your story that you’ve been waiting for and you wrote for fifteen minutes longer than you should have. That’s cool. You might match your next work segment time to make up the difference.
- If you feel like giving up, stop. Repeat the first set of bullets. Don’t start working again until you’re ready.
Your writing may be suffering because you’re simply overworked and overstressed, but it could also be because of guilt: “I haven’t done any work, I don’t deserve to write,” or, “How can I do any writing if I haven’t done any work?”
Your creative process might be poisoned by this stress. For now, you could do little things for your writing that help inspire you. Between your work segments, look at art, listen to music, plot and plan. Try to keep yourself in creative habits, and when you feel confident again, start writing little bits and pieces that excite you.
Here are some additional links that might help:
- Backhanding Procrastination
- On Editing
- On That Note: Accomplish All The Things
- Breaking Down the Wall: Overcoming Procrastination
I hope all this helps, and thank you again for the ask.