Thursday, October 08, 2015

Story Ideas - Drought or Flood?

Exploding Head by Keith Haring
I am always baffled when I hear another writer say they have no ideas for their next book or a new series.

Really?

Other writers will say they have tons of ideas but not enough time to get them down on paper.

Okay, now I've found my tribe.

This second category can be divided into two camps: those who prioritize their multiple ideas and those who have a melt down by the shear weight of all the creative goodness in their heads. I stand between these two groups, a foot in each camp, depending on what's going on in my life at the moment.

I don't want to complain about having too many ideas out of fear that one day the Idea Gods might build a dam upstream and stop the flow. For now they are constantly raining down on my brain while I run around with a bucket trying to catch the best ones.

For those of you who are having trouble coming up with new ideas, I have a few pointers:

* Relax. A relaxed mind opens up like a flower to the sun. When I'm writing and hit a road block, I do something physical like a household chore, go for a walk, run an errand, or even take a shower. Or even listen to relaxing music. I find when ideas or words are stuck in my head like woolly mammoths struggling in a tar pit, I need to direct my thoughts elsewhere for a bit. Most of the time, those words break free when I stop clawing for them, unlike the unfortunate woolly mammoths.

* Look for story ideas in the most unlikely places and don't pooh-pooh crazy ones. There are gems in them thar nuts. Trust me. I got the idea for A BODY TO SPARE while sitting at the car wash waiting for my car to be finished. The opening of BOOBY TRAP came to me while eating a veal parmigiana sandwich in New Jersey. The opening of TOO BIG TO MISS came from a billboard on a highway. Get my drift. Nothing is out of bounds or too crazy.

* Follow the news, watch TV, observe situations going on around you. You never know when a story happening half-way around the globe, or in Washington, or even up the street, will spark an idea for you. Our minds work in the most wondrous ways. Things that seem totally unrelated just might be the catalyst for a new plot or even a whole new series. I find I'm my most creative when I come out of myself. I'm not that interesting, but the world and people around me are. Pay attention. Be observant. Your next protagonist or villain or the quirky best friend might be inspired by the person standing in front of you at the grocery store or having dinner at the table next to you.

*Pay attention to the void. The idea for my Winnie Wilde steamy romance series came to me out of the blue. I knew I wanted to write a romance series, but it wasn't until I read several that I realized I wanted to write one that followed a different path from those I'd read. I saw something missing and decided to fill it with my own take on the genre. The next time you think "someone should really write about that," change it to "I should really write about that."

*Write your ideas down as soon as you have them, even if they are just a few words or a sentence. Keep them in a notebook, a file, on your computer. Anywhere as long as you can refer back to them later. (And back your crap up!) I tend to start books or stories as soon as I have an idea for one. My computer is filled with manuscripts, some only one or two pages, along with a paragraph or two of notes.

I just counted. Not including works in progress that are under contract, I have manuscripts for 4 novels, two short stories, and one novella already started and in various degrees of progress just waiting for me to have time to get back to them. Every now and then, when I find I have a bit of time, I open one up and add a page or two. Eventually, I'll turn my full attention back to one of them and knock it out.

*Don't panic, prioritize. Recently, I woke up burning to work on a short story I have in progress. I'd been stuck on it for a bit and now it's full blown in my head. The problem is I'm on deadline for two novels that are under contract to publishers. What's an author to do? I jotted down the notes in my brain so not to lose them and will circle back to that story as soon as my deadlines are met. At that point, it should be an easy ride to the finish.

*Don't worry, it will keep. Recently I got an idea for a whole new paranormal series. The first thing I did was groan. Loudly. When in the hell was I going to get to this idea with all my other projects stacked up like lemmings standing in line to jump into the abyss? You know what? I'll get to it when the time is right. That's what. Unless your idea is extremely time sensitive (and few are), it will still be there when you get around to focusing on it. Let it simmer in the back of your creative mind while the front of your brain takes care of your works-in-progress. Both you and the new idea will be the better for it.

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