How To Get Ideas for Writing Books
One of the most popular questions authors get is this: “Where do your ideas come from?” Many of us aspire to be like our favorite writers, but so many of us also get hung up on the fact that we don’t think we have any good ideas to write about. After all, wasn’t every book written in a feverish state after the authors received glorious inspiration like a strike of lightning?
Well, no. No, most books were not written in such states of mind.
Picture by Frederick Medina on Unsplash.
Ideas Are All Around You
So, where do good ideas come from? I wondered about this same question for years myself. Then I started to hear a few authors explain that their ideas came from all around them. Brandon Sanderson and M. A. Nichols give some fantastic advice about writing down anything that strikes you as an idea.
For instance, after Sanderson read the Harry Potter books, he wondered, “What would happen if the Dark Lord actually won in a story?” That idea was one of the seedlings that started the Mistborn series, which takes place in a world where the Dark Lord really did win and has been ruling for 1,000 years. When Sanderson had that first idea, he wrote it down in an idea file on his computer until he used it later.
Nichols has explained that she was simply watching Disney movies when she wondered what it would be like if the villains had a consultant to help them beat the heroes, eventually sparking the idea for her fairy-tale villain consultant series. She also keeps a file for random ideas and will even jot notes down on her phone when she’s on the go.
Without writing down these small ideas, these authors might not have written such successful stories. Have you gotten the hint yet? Write down your ideas!
No matter how small or insignificant these ideas might seem to you in the moment, they all have potential. And no matter how big or unforgettable an idea may seem, it needs a place to gain a sense of definition. The time you take to write your ideas down, even if you’re just jotting down temporary notes in your phone, will allow you to have much more freedom and creativity later on as you brainstorm and plot your books.
What To Do with Your Ideas
No story is based on one single idea. Each story has unique aspects of the setting, plot, and characters that interact through various conflicts. But how can you find interesting ideas for each of these working parts in your story?
The trick is to patiently continue gathering ideas, letting them sit in your subconscious (and wherever you’ve been writing them down) while they steadily grow. Sometimes, you’ll review these little bits of inspiration and realize that some of your ideas would work perfectly together. Two ideas might connect your setting and your character, or another set of ideas may spark a conflict in your plot.
The catch is that you can’t just wait for these ideas to come together. You still need to practice writing every day—even as little as a hundred words a day—and keep living your life so you’ll find more ideas to add to your list.
Practice the Principle
I hope you now feel confident that you can come up with great ideas for stories, too. It may take some time to create good book ideas, but the most important thing you can do is to be diligent in writing down your ideas, consistent in practicing your writing, and patient with developing these ideas to work together.
If you don’t already, go establish your own ideas folder, whether that be physical or digital. Make it a safe place to write down any idea, and start your journey to becoming a better writer today.