Where do Story Ideas Come From?

You’ve written a lovely story. You’ve edited said story. You’ve even submitted said story (and hopefully, it found a lovely home). Now what? Now you get to write a new story, but where do new story ideas come from?

The problem is that blinking cursor isn’t giving you any ideas. So you close your computer, and you pull out the book you’ve been reading. But you soon discover that that isn’t giving you any ideas either. Next you pull up the show that you keep binge watching way too late into the night, but that isn’t giving you any ideas either. Now what?

Here are some places that I go to when I’m low on inspiration.

  1. Writing prompts. I know that there are a lot of writes that hate writing prompts and occasionally I can be one of them. But I often find that if I combine 2 or 3 of them together they give me enough of a spark to at least get some words down.
  2. Listen to your favorite song and come up with a song to match it. I absolutely love music (and art). If I’m stuck without any fun ideas for a new story, then I’ll pull up my newest favorite song (or painting) and write a story using it as the backdrop.
  3. Pull out a collection from a single author or a anthology based on a theme. My latest idea for a novel came to me this way. It was time for another NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I was fresh out of ideas. So, I pulled out a collection of Irish folktales I bought way back in undergrad and began reading. Soon I had the makings of a new novel.

Ideas can come from so many different places. Maybe a quote from a conversation you overheard while waiting to checkout, or taking a single headline from the newspaper will send you down a road that you could have never dreamed up. The best way to discover new story ideas is to keep an open mind as you live your daily life. You never know when, or how, inspiration will strike when you live in the present moment.

Happy writing, friends.

Self Editing

Welcome to the never ending bane of your existence as a writer. Just kidding… sort of. Self editing is one of those skills that comes with lots, and lots, or practice. It’s very rare for me to meet a writer who loves the self editing stage. Still, it’s one of the most important steps in your story writing process. So, let’s start from the beginning.

You’ve completed a first draft (yay you!). Now what? Should you send it off to a beta reader? An editor? A publisher? Nope. Now it’s time to self edit that lovely but messy piece of writing.

There are so many different ways to approach a self edit. Some writers read the entire thing out loud and correct mistakes along the way. Some writer print it out and hand edit it. Others take it scene by scene. Still others will reverse outline it to see where the plot gaps are. What should you do? Where do you start?

On page one.

You had a story idea that you just loved. You wrote it all out. For weeks the excitement of the story kept you coming back to the computer until you finally typed “the end.” Sure, you know it has a few problems but ultimately how could anyone not love this story?

This is why self editing is so hard. This is the stage after the initial love affair with your story. It’s the time where that inner critic you’ve kept locked away in your mind gets a real chance to speak, and it can be frustrating and terrifying. But don’t give up. This is also the stage that takes a lovely story idea and gives it a chance to truly sparkle.

Start from page one, and go through it. Line by line. Don’t be afraid to recognize where the weak spots are, because this is just a draft. You can rewrite those weak scenes until they flow, but you have to be willing to really look at what’s on the page and not what’s in your head. You have to be willing to admit that maybe some of the writing techniques you’ve chosen aren’t doing what you need them to do. So pick up a craft book, or read a few blog posts until you have a better idea of how to wrangle those words. But most importantly, don’t give up! Keep going back and adjusting until you need a second pair of eyes on it, then send it off to your favorite beta reader and brace yourself for another round of editing. Because any story worth writing, is worth editing until it shines.

Happy writing.

Writing Conferences

Have you ever asked yourself if all those writing conferences or retreats are worth the price tag and hassle?

What if I told you that they were? What if I told you that they are a great place to make new writing friends? What if I told you that you don’t have to spend a fortune?

For the last couple of years, I’ve been a panelist at a southern convention. I’ve also attended AWP and plenty of other writing conferences and retreats. With that in mind, here are my two cents on writing conferences.

For a few bucks you can go from panel to panel and hear writing advice from some of the masters in this craft. They will talk about everything from the basics to the wildest parts of the writing. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can even raise your hand and ask them a question. Either way, it’s nice to hear that even the best writers out there struggle getting their words to do what they want. It’s a great place to restock your writing toolbox with new writing ideas and techniques.

These gatherings are a great place to make new writing friends. So many different kinds of writers, publishers, editors and agents go to things like this and they all want to meet you. All you have to do is walk up to their table and say “hello.” If you’ve got a book you’re hoping to submit, make sure that you come up with an elevator pitch. You never know when a publisher will ask you about your book.

Some of the more famous writing conferences and retreats can be pricey. Start by checking out your local writing resources, and branch out from there. Plenty of writing conferences work by volunteer manpower, so there is often an option to work a couple of shifts at the conference you want to attend in exchange for free admission to the rest of it.

Have any other questions about writing conferences? Leave them below in the comments.

Happy writing.