I’ve got a very busy mind to put it mildly. I constantly zip from one thing to another. Sometimes it spills out to what I say. Most people who know me have been baffled by seemingly random mid-conversation direction changes. It makes perfect sense to me, but most people don’t make an immediate connection between say, a ball of wool and a witchdoctor.
When it comes to writing, I have no shortage of ideas. I have notes written to myself about dreams I’ve had, podcasts I’ve heard and people I’ve seen. Sometimes ideas just pop into my head seemingly from nowhere.
Stories usually start off with a picture in my head. I can vividly see an entire scene, and from that I describe the setting and people. That only gets me so far. It’s the making it into a story that people want to read bit I find more difficult.
Luckily, I’ve never really had writer’s block. I have many, many ideas. Even during NaNoWriMo, when I wrote 1666 words a day for 30 days, I still managed to keep going, only occasionally struggling for the next event to occur. I did it without planning too. It’s not a very good piece of writing, but it has great nuggets of ideas.
So, if you want to write something, and don’t know where to start, here are a few ways to generate ideas:
Look at newspapers, including the small stories at the end or obscure news outlets. Eric Carle wrote ’10 Little Rubber Ducks’ after seeing a newspaper article about rubber bath toys falling overboard from a container ship and washing up in Alaska
Make notes on your phone as and when ideas come to you – on my phone currently I have ‘acorn in pocket gets put away in child’s jacket. Later sprouted and grew through roof of house’. I transfer these ideas into my notebook or into a word document I have imaginatively called ‘ideas’.
Listen to snippets of conversation that float past as you walk along. My writing group friend loves hearing snippets from cyclists who ride past her house in the summer. I walked past a guy once in Winchester who said “You need to give him £30 on payday or you’re going to have to take a bang”. So intriguing.
Spot interesting people. I wrote a short story based on a man I saw walking along on a cloudy Autumn day wearing a suit, old fashioned black trench coat and sunglasses
Ask ‘what if?’ What if Miss Marple was a serial killer? What if everyone died in the car accident except one person? What if someone could suddenly understand the noises dogs make?
Flick through a magazine and choose a photo as a prompt. My writing group have written pieces on ‘red shoes’ and about a photo of a girl sat at the end of a jetty into a lake.
Open a book at random and stab your finger at the page and write something from the first sentence you see. Poetry books work well for this. I wrote a story based on this line from a book of poetry about birds “And all mankind that haunted nigh, Had sought their household fires”
Having ideas, however, is only half the battle. You need to actually make them into a meaningful story with realistic characters the reader can relate to, rich dialogue and a satisfying ending. No mean feat. Most of the pieces I have written are not finished, because I have a better idea, or go off on a tangent or think the idea is fully formed enough.
I don’t know whether it’s better to not have enough ideas or too many. My aim is to try and just make a note of any new ideas that come up and try and finish some of my pieces in progress. Who knows, there may be an idea in there that can win a competition or get published, neither of which is going to happen unless I stay with it, get it finished and submit it. Hopefully by writing this blog post, it’ll prompt (shame) me into actually doing it.