Writing tips – Coming up with a Story Idea

Hi all,

I’ve been chronicling my journey as a writer on this blog since NaNoWriMo of 2016, but I’ve been writing novels since I was 14 years old. That’s a lot of time spent a the keyboard, and along the way I’ve picked up a few tools and tricks that have helped me a lot. So I thought I would start giving you guys posts with a few writing tips every now and then. Because sometimes, we get stuck as writers, and I also want to have these here so that I can look back on them years from now and reflect on how my process has changed.

Disclaimer: I’m by no means a professional. I’m not published, or have a degree or anything like that. These tips are to be taken with a grain of salt. I always recommend researching any topic you need help with in depth, and from a multitude of sources, especially professional ones.

That being said, let’s delve into the subject that gets a novel started, and that’s the initial idea, the spark that is the first step into creating a whole book. The one thought that catches your attention, one that you think could make a story. I think that a lot of people would like to write a book, they just don’t know what to write about, and I’m here today to help you figure that out.

So, when I’m writing a novel, usually the idea for it didn’t come automatically as an idea for a book. It came merely as that – an idea. A thought that was cool, a tiny kernel of interest. I think a lot of beginning writers go under the notion that they have to come up with this grand idea for an epic series, with all kinds of world-building and a huge cast of characters right of the bat. But the truth is, most writers don’t even get to all the details until either the outlining phase, or sometimes not even until they sit down at the keyboard to write the first chapter. What I’m talking about comes before outlining, before the writing itself.

My advice to anyone who wants to write a book, is to not focus on wanting to write a book. Instead, find a really cool idea, something that you think might have a story in it – and spend some time thinking about the possibilities in it. It’s like an excuse to daydream.

For example, when I came up with the idea for One Between the Stars, I didn’t expect it to be a whole book at first. The idea, the spark that got me interested was the notion of space dragons. I’m serious. I thought about classic fantasy elements put into the realm of space: princesses who lived in planet-kingdoms, knights that pledged to protect the entire galaxy, dragons with entire planets covered in their treasure trove. And that excited me so much it inspired me to draft out what is now the prologue of OBTS.

So what does one do to find that spark? Well, I’ve recently been doing these things to figure out what to write next, after finishing OBTS:

1. Think about what kinds of things you like to read.

This is to be done with caution, because you don’t want to write a book that’s too much like another book you’ve read. But some of my favorite books over the years inspire me heavily in my writing. I look at broad concepts that I love: fantasy, magic systems, court politics. Or science fiction set in space with alien races. Things like that. You might find something you’ll want to write in thinking about the genres you like to read.

I hear all the time that you should write the kind of story you want to read. Think about a kind of story that you wished existed – and then make it exist yourself!

2. Keep a journal (or use the notes on your phone) to write down ideas.

I have a notebook that I keep for writing down ideas that might make for potential stories. To the average person, it might look like a disorganized mess, but to me, it’s perfectly organized. It fits the way my brain works, and I use it to brain dump things down if I have an idea for a story, or if I’m stuck in my current story and just need to brainstorm what to do next.

Had a “What if…?” thought recently? Good, those things are golden. Or potentially terrible ideas. It’s a toss up. But writing them all down really helps to sort through which ideas could potentially make a story, and which ones are terrible.

3. Think about what kinds of things inspire you.

Some people are inspired by music, others by art, and yet others by their own dreams. Use the world around you to your advantage – go out and see an art gallery, go listen to some film scores, keep a dream journal. Do something to get your gears turning.

4. Take a shower.

This is a weird one, but it worked for me when trying to figure out what I was going to write after OBTS. I had this feeling that there was a story in my brain, something that I was just on the verge of discovering. I took a shower, because that’s where I do a lot of my deep thinking, and by the time I got out, I had a spark of an idea. And then I immediately wrote it down, so that I could build on it from there.

Maybe taking a shower doesn’t work for you. The real logic behind it is to be alone, in a quiet place with your own thoughts. If going for a walk does that for you, great. Maybe you need to go for a drive, maybe you do a lot of your deep thinking at the gym. Or maybe sitting in your room with a bit of light music will do the trick.

So those are some of the things I do to think up a story to write. It’s the first step to writing, and a lot of people skip this in giving writing advice, I’ve noticed. So go out, find your story, and write it.

My book, One Between the Stars, is available on Wattpad, where I upload chapters every Friday. You can find it here.

And as always, have a lovely day and I’ll see you again soon. 🙂