Whenever you write, you are generating fresh ideas – or you should be. But how can you come up with new ideas consistently? Everyone agrees, the Muse is dead or never existed, and we all need to earn a living. Nobody these days lives in an Italian garret, supported by private income until the inspiration strikes at the next blue moon. We need ideas and we need execution plans and we need to be creative on demand. Here are some ways to fire the forge.
- Challenge yourself to think of five new settings. Pick locations you haven’t used before. Grab them from things you’ve seen this week: documentaries, books, magazines. Shipyard, Byzantium, Versailles (I see a lot of history), Brooklyn, Swindon. Write down three things you know (or have just made up) about each setting.
- Challenge yourself again – this time invent five new surnames. Make names that honour parents, or places, or the personal traits of the gods your family once worshipped. Make names that sound evil or sound virtuous. Channel your inner Christopher Marlowe. Think Warthole, Bublum, Delicrat. Then write three things about the person who has each name.
- One more challenge. Think of five insurmountable obstacles. They might be geographic, like a glacier or a jungle. They might be personal – plague, or crippling agoraphobia. (Phobias are gold for writers). Write three crazy ways a character might overcome that obstacle. If you’re feeling keen, write three more ways in which the obstacle crushes the character to a tragic end.
You know what I’m going to suggest now. Yes: mix up your fifteen new creations and among them find one, just one, possible storyline. Write a paragraph describing how it might pan out.
Non-fiction – blogging
Oh, blogging is the worst. You really have to pick a topic you love. If you just pick something which you think would be good on a blog, you’re sunk. No: you need the thing you go on and on about to your friends, the thing that draws you into internet discussion every time, the thing which, without realising it, you have researched to death because you cannot stop thinking about it.
Then you need structure. I can recommend a challenge, like the AZchallenge I’m doing right now. Check out this post for other challenge style structures. But here are some other ideas.
- Theme – FlyLady has a monthly habit which she encourages her followers to adopt. She says a habit takes two weeks to learn, but for regular people with busy lives, four weeks is a better target. Love FlyLady! For blogging try a theme that matches your content. Writing themes might be Editing, Submissions, etc. If you have a book review blog, you could go genre – Horror Month, Fantasy Month etc – or by author, say, Dickens Month. But that tight focus, perversely, gives you more scope to really explore your chosen theme.
- Make master lists. I love master lists because they save me having to do all the gathering of handy links for later use.
- Have a rant. Use this one with caution, but if there is a topic which pushes your buttons, write about it. Obviously don’t be abusive towards other people’s ideas, but feel free to express your own. I can’t stand on-the-nose dialogue. can’t stand it. Something on that is for sure coming your way. Frustration and fury make great motivators to write. If you only make a list of all the things you can’t bear about your theme, you’d have blogging diamonds.
- Share the love. What has helped you? name them and put links in. A monthly We Love post is a great reminder for you, gives ideas to your followers, and is a nice gesture for the blogs/resources you link back to.
And if all else fails – invite a guest blogger to contribute. (Hint: guest bloggers coming soon to a blog near you … interested bloggers, comment below!)
PS. Half an hour ago I had no idea what to write for this blog post. I challenged myself to come up with three ways to generate fresh ideas for non-fiction and fiction (you see – theme and structure are key!) and it seems to have worked. Thanks for reading. -Sef
I’ll be back tomorrow with G – Goals, how dreary they can be – and how to fix that