And then five minutes later, I’m like BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS IDEA? And then they’re like OH THAT IS GOOD TO!
And then the next day, BUT … WHAT ABOUT THIS IDEA?
And at that point they are all like *rolls eyes* YEAH OKAY THAT IS GOOD TOO.
As writers, I think we all fall under either the above category which I call Too Many Ideas or the Not Enough Ideas category where you stare at a blank sheet when it comes time to write the next short story or novel and come up with nada.
Neither is better or worse than the other, and both take up time. With Too Many Ideas you often start and stop multiple projects before finding The One. With Not Enough Ideas, you lament over that blank page and try and try to start until finally The One comes to you.
So, how do you find your next true idea? Try this trick. I’ve created a printable cheat sheet that you can use (PDF here). You can either print it off or write on it on your computer if you have Previews (aka Apple product).
How to Find the Next Great Idea, Three Step Process:
As you can see, it’s broken up to three category: location, concept, and character. You can start at any of these. Typically, I start with concept. Some people like character. Others have to have the setting just right to find the rest. There is no right or wrong way.
Pick your three favorite things—and by things I mean something you could actually make a book out of, which is pretty much anything. In this space, you can write all the favorite things you want though and just circle the three that seem to connect the best.
For this example, I am going to use my true three favorite things: dogs, coffee, and books.
So, for the characteristics—things that will help you create your MC aka main character—write down all your favorite characteristics or quirks. For example, freckly, geeky, badass. They can either be physical descriptions (freckly) or personality (badass) or hobby-centric (geeky).
For this one you don’t have to pick just three, but brainstorming your favorite characteristics in this box will help you see how some of them can connect and hopefully will help to get the ball rolling for your main character to appear.
Now, you generally have to know what genre you are going to write with them. If you are writing a contemporary, the location should be reality based. If you are writing a fantasy, you can either have it contemporary based, make up your own world, or go back in time to a epic/historical based reality. If you are writing a sci-fi, it can be in the now, near-future, far-future, or in space!
If you aren’t sure about the genre you want to write (so of us are one-genre sort of writers, some of us are all-of-the-place genre writers) then I recommend coming to location last. That way you at least have a good-ish idea what concept you want so that means you know at least what sort of genre-ish you want to write so you can find a place-ish for the story.
So for my characteristics, I have picked freckly, geeky, and badass. For my concept I have picked: dogs, coffee, and books. So that sounds like a contemporary sort of story, so when it comes to contemporaries I generally like to go with what I know. Either my Midwestern roots, my love for the Pacific Northwest via traveling, or where I am currently living (New York City, baby).
For this, I’m going to go with NYC, Manhattan, and specifically I feel like Tribeca. Because I am currently obsessed with Tribeca and it has all the coffee shops and it has a lot of books sorts and is also close to a lot of bookstores.
Now you are probably looking at my concept (dogs, coffee, and books), characteristics (freckly, geeky, and badass) and location (NYC: Manhattan, specifically Tribeca) and thinking what the heck that’s not a story.
But it really could be.
Think about it. My MC, let’s call her Janelle is a badass yet geeky freckly-faced girl who is a barista at a coffee shop in Tribeca. She spends most of her time haunting all the good local indie stores. She’s also an avid dog lover, and has a little bichon frise. Her parents (I write YA, btw!) hired a company to do the dogwalker for the bichon while Janelle is at school and they are at work. Their long-time dogwalker has left the company, and a new guy – a college freshmen majoring in literature at NYU – is now doing this as his part-time job. Janelle meets him and sparks fly.
It could be a romance.
Or, me being me, someone dies in the apartment building. Dogwalker Guy becomes a prime suspect, and Janelle who has fallen for Dogwalker Guy and is obsessed with Noire Mystery novels, decides to clear his name which will both impress him and win his heart over (she hopes)—except, the farther she digs into the mystery, the more she wonders did he really do it?
See! Now I have a new concept that has all my favorite things, which means I’ll be interested enough to write it. (Okay, I’m not actually going to write this—but now I kinda actually really want to write it.)
As a writer with Too Many Ideas, I find this particularly helpful in merging my ideas. I’ll write down the concepts I’m really interested in and see if there’s a way for them all to come together in a story. Sometimes having a New Shiny Idea is exciting, but when you sit down to actually write it – there’s nothing to write. It’s only a Shiny Idea that would work best as a subplot and not a main plot, or it doesn’t have enough umph to be a novel, but you don’t realize that until you’re 10,000 words in.
So, there you have it. My way of trying to find the new real idea to work on. What are your methods? Do you think this one would help you out?