Whatever kind of writer you would like to be, whether it’s a journalist, a novelist, or a fantastic blog writer, you’ll need an abundance of ideas to use. While there are a few naturally gifted people out there who never run out of ideas, for some of us it’s not that easy. We have to search for our ideas, saving them up for future usage.
Here are a few great ways to do this and a few general tips to keep you writing in the long-term:
1. Keep a notepad (AND USE IT)
Make it small, easy to access and jot down anything from settings, moods, interesting names and places, to common clichés to avoid. You can gather plot ideas, bad, good or amusing situations and just generally
anything of any use.
Some of the greatest writers took their ideas from the world around them. I once watched a documentary which speculated that Robert Louis Stevenson got the idea for Dr Jekyll from listening to people talk in bars. He had often heard of well-known rich criminal who put on a pleasant front by day but who committed brutal robberies at night purely for the heck of it. Robert Louis Stevenson also suffered from recurrent health problems particularly with his lungs and experienced nightmares which were also known to have greatly influenced his writing.
It was said by his nurse:
One night he had a dream, and on wakening had the idea for two or three
scenes that would appear in the story. “In the small hours of one morning,” says Mrs. Stevenson, “I was a
by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had a nightmare, I awakened him. He said angrily, ‘Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.’ I had awakened him at the first transformation scene.”
2. Keep card-index files
These could be specifically for plot ideas or for funny names of strange job titles etc. This way that idea you had six months ago but forgot about might prove useful.
If you’ve done this and are still struggling to write, then maybe you are being too structured. Be less organized, let yourself write want you want to write for a while until you get into the flow of things. Bottom line – sometimes we can try too hard.
3. Change the rules.
Have you ever watched those shows explaining the rules behind `Horror Flicks’. One of the rules commonly known is that people are often killed in spooky log cabins or camping sites but never seem to
`Know the rules but know when to break them.’
Sometimes you’ll want to stick to the rules and there’s nothing wrong with that. After all the reason they became commonplace is because they work. But sometimes it’s more interesting to break the mould and to set new trends.
Sometimes it’s better to forget the rules completely! Think about it.
4. Don’t stress yourself.
While some of us thrive under pressure others go to pieces. So if stressing out prevents you from thinking up any new ideas take a step back and relax. Take a soothing bath or go for a walk. Just be careful, sometimes it takes very little to distract you from getting down to work. Don’t stress but keep working at the same time.
Some people sit down and just start writing. Others like to plan every minute detail before starting at all. Either way is fine but sometimes writers spend too much time planning and not enough actually writing. I’ve been very guilty of this one myself. If you’ve spent several months and months just thinking up a great plot but not written anything maybe it’s time to get down to it. Incidentally, leaving a particular project for a long period makes it all that much harder when you do want to get back to it. I always make a point of writing frequently even if it’s just a rant or a random scene.
Practising will improve your writing even if you’re just scribbling odd sentences and words here and there (or blogging!) Whether you’re on the bus, you have an extra minute at work or you set up a MySpace blog, any practise at playing with words will keep your writing fresh. But be warned, don’t try too hard to write stuff for the sake of it. The key is finding your passion again not your product.
6. Avoid too many distractions.
I’ll admit I tend to get distracted far too easily when I start to write. I’ll sit down and all of a sudden I’ll have this overwhelming urge to see what’s on TV or to check my email or to get something to eat. This is often just a way of avoiding writing. Sometimes it’s better to avoid buying too many new books and dvds until you get some work done.
Or you could try using this as a reward system and not allowing yourself to get that nice, new book you’ve been after until you’ve finished. Also don’t forget that the opposite is also true. Writers need stimulation and it’s hard to come up with new ideas if you are never exposing yourself to anything new.
Which links to my next point…
7. Learn from others.
Having discussed the dangers of distractions books, dvds and television do have their ways to help writers. You can find all manner of ideas and techniques by examining other people’s work. If you have a favourite fiction author and you aspire to become a fiction writer, analyse what it is that makes you keep reading their books. Do they have a particular style or plot that keeps you going back to them or is it just that the characters were presented in a way you liked? If you watch a film you really like and you’ve watched a hundred times over, sit down with the notepad and think about how the story comes across. Is humour used? Are there threads at the beginning that lead to the conclusion? What is it about the story that keeps you enthralled? Films are just as good a resource as novels are, for learning new plot and character techniques.
Again this can be both beneficial and detrimental. It’s all about balance. If you are becoming too focussed on others and details you won’t write what you want.
8. Accept when it doesn’t work.
Sometimes you’ll try and try on a project, you’ll have fifty pages written out and all you’ll suddenly realise that it just isn’t working out.
Nothings a total loss. For one thing you’ve had the practise from working on it and you can learn what to avoid next time. Another thing to remember is that sometimes you can keep it and re-work it for a future project or change the story’s direction. Look at it again: Can you salvage something from it? Does it really need throwing out or does it just need a new perspective or format? Sometimes its better to stash away old projects than to just get rid of them outright.
9. Different Genres and Perspectives
There are many types of genres in the writing world, from novels, scripts, poems to articles. If it isn’t working out as a novel maybe it would be better as a script. Similarly try new genres within your writing. If you usually write first person look at second or third person. Examine the benefits and limitations of each method and work out which one you feel will work best. Everyone has a favourite way to write that works for them but it doesn’t hurt to experiment.
10. Enjoy It (THIS IS THE BIG ONE)
Like any hobby or occupation writing can be a lot of fun or it can be feel like a chore. Sometimes the thought of writing that complaint letter you have to send to the phone company or filling out that form at work can fill you with dread. Most people will at some point have to write something they really don’t want to write.
But on the positive side, you can also go home and write whatever you want to write. If you’re bored, fed up or just generally pissed off, get to a pen or get to your piece and start writing. It doesn’t have to be spelled right, it doesn’t have to make sense just write. You’ll be surprised at what you can write on the spur of the moment.
Above all, remember that writing isn’t just something to do for publishing. No matter how much you want your stuff published remember to spend some time writing just for enjoyment too. Revision can come later. Enjoy yourself.
- Are Dreams Good For Inspiring Fiction? (lissawrites.wordpress.com)
- How Social Media Can Improve Your Writing (bardicblogger.wordpress.com)
- Invisible Ink: No 67 – Robert Louis Stevenson (independent.co.uk)
- My Writing Weekend (plotmamas.wordpress.com)
- “An Aim Is the Only Fortune Worth the Finding.” (happiness-project.com)