Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where do ideas come from?

People tell me all the time they have the perfect idea for my next book. I politely tell them that idea belongs to them. What I don’t say out loud is that I have so many ideas already, I couldn’t begin to write all the books rattling around in my head. I think most career writers are the same way. Oh, we may go through a dry spell for a short time, but those ideas will start pestering us if we slow down long enough to listen.

So where do these ideas come from? And if they aren’t coming, how can we encourage them?

The last time we talked about organizing our characters. Today let’s talk about plot lines and where to find them.

Ideas are everywhere. One night I couldn’t sleep because my dog wouldn’t stop barking. I started scribbling in a notebook about a woman who couldn’t sleep because her dog wouldn’t stop barking. I had no intention of starting a book that night. What I scribbled in that notebook became the first chapter of my book, A TENDER REED.

Another book idea came from walking my dog along a stretch of road. I wondered what would happen if a car veered off the road and hit me. Then I wondered what would happen if the person had meant to hit me and make it look like a hit and run.

Sometimes little snippets of storylines will come because a conversation I overheard or a newspaper headline. I am inundated with ideas after a trip to the library and reading the spines on the New Releases shelf. Talking with other writers is another great way to get the creative juices flowing, or just talking about the creative process.

Like my character sketches, I keep a file in my Documents for random thoughts and to record dreams that stick with me after I wake up. I’ve actually had a couple dreams that I think would make great stories. Even if they have no future or make little sense, I record them anyway and date them. They are good for a laugh later and leave me wondering what could’ve been on my mind before going to bed that night or what I might have eaten for dinner.

As far as storylines, you can find them anywhere. Get in the habit of asking yourself “What if?”. What if a car veered off the road and hit me? What if my dog stumbled across a freshly dug grave during her early morning wanderings? What if the leader of my PTO used to work for the CIA?

Many of your questions will lead nowhere. But it’s helpful to record them and see where your musings lead. Not to mention, fun. I always say if you aren’t having fun at this writing thing, you’re not doing something right. Either you’re writing for the wrong reasons, you’re in the wrong genre, thinking you’ll write what’s hot instead of what’s on your heart, or you simply need to take a step back and re-examine your calling.

Whatever you’re doing, relax and let yourself have fun. We should find joy in everything we do. That’s God’s desire for your life. Find abundant joy in your life today and happy writing.

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