Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How I Create Shiny New Ideas

It seems like one of the most common question for any writer is: Where do you get your ideas? (I know I'm in awe of writers like J.K. Rowling and Melissa Marr who create entire worlds!) So I thought I'd share some of the ways I come up with my ideas. Here's the one that works best for me:


Really. One of my all time favorite quotes on writing (which I've probably shared here before) is by Toni Morrison and it says:

If there's a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet. Then you must write it.

It's this quote, more than anything that has pushed me into writing the books I'm writing rather than leaving them as scribbles in a notebook.

Sure, I get ideas from dreams, from watching the news, from music, from reading a book and wishing it had turned out differently. Sometimes I get really excited by them and start a notebook (and now that I have the super awesome-tastic Scrivener, a Scrivener file) for fleshing it out. But by and large, the ideas that have stuck with me to become stories are the ones I wanted to write even before I knew what they were.

For instance, my WIP SLEEPER came from an intense desire to read a book where a girl kicked serious butt. I couldn't find one, and I knew that I wanted to write one, but I had no idea what that story was going to be. Would it be Urban Fantasy? Contemporary? Futuristic? Magical? I had no clue. Only the desire to create something that involved butt-kicking action and excitement.

And this is where the sheer force of will comes in. I focused on what I wanted. I ignored other shiny ideas that were perhaps more complete, but not exciting to me. I asked myself questions. Who is this butt-kicking girl? Why is she kicking butt? How does she feel about being so butt-kickingly awesome? Whose butt is she kicking? And finally, as I let those questions marinate in my subconscious, she began to speak to me. And her voice was more clear than any other character I'd created. She told me the story of how she came to kick butt, and how it made her feel and before I knew it I was sitting down at my laptop and spitting out 7500 words all in one sitting! I was scribbling copious notes in my notebook about who she was, who her friends were, where she lived, what she wanted, and a surprisingly complex plot. It was all there.

From the desire to write the story, to knowing my MC and writing those first 7500, it took maybe two weeks. Does it always happen that fast? No. But are the ideas I come up with this way better than the ones that just pop into my head? So far, yes. They're the ones I'm most excited to write. It's weird, since any idea I come up with obviously comes from me. But somehow the ones that I create out of a desire to do something specific feel more powerful. Like I earned them somehow.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is if you don't have totally brilliant shiny new ideas falling on your head like rain, don't be discouraged. Think about the kind of story you want to tell and focus your energy on that. Ask yourself questions about why you want to tell that kind of story, what you hope to achieve, how you want it to make readers feel. It will come, and it'll probably be your best one yet!

What about you? What tricks do you use to get your ideas to the point you have to write them?


Candyland said...

I keep thinking about them until the idea manifests into something I HAVE to write. Sometimes dreams help but generally, for me, it's all about forcing the ideas to grow (like you).

Meredith said...

"Sheer force of will"--so true! When I get a shiny new idea, I tend to write down all sorts of questions and thoughts in a new notebook to flesh it out. I love that Toni Morrison quote!

Riv Re said...

Sooo right. It's ironic; I recently came up with an idea of a butt-kicking girl too, and started putting it down. One of my non-reading friends loves the 2-or so-thousand words I gave her to read.
Good butt-kicking? Kirstin Cashore's Graceling and Fire.

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