What’s up, everyone? I hope you’re all doing well out there, and welcome to another episode of Write On In!
I am your host, Andrew J. Stillman, and today, we’re going to go over a question I probably get asked more than almost any when it comes to writing books:
Where Do Ideas Come From?
If you saw my last video update, you’ll know I wanted to wrap up September and move into October with us putting our focuses on books for a minute.
Just in case you didn’t see that video, you can go check it out, or, long story short:
November is National Novel Writing Month, and I’m going to spend October getting you ready for it.
I’ll get around to more of the freelancing stuff later, but I’m excited to spend some time in book land over the next few months, as that is my first love and passion.
The next couple of months at least are going to have me seeing you on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, so if you don’t subscribe, make sure you pop in on those days to see what’s up.
I’ve also had some compliments over my theme song and some of the music, fonts, and backgrounds that I’ve used, so, as always, there’s also links to those in the description box, as well.
Apart from all of that, without further ado,
Let’s Get Write On In.
Have you ever been in the middle of a book and just thought,
“Wow, where did the author get this idea?”
If you have, you’re not alone, and if you haven’t…
Do you even read, bro?
Authors are no strangers to getting questioned about their stories, their intents, their characters, and everything else that makes up the words they’ve chosen to string together into the sentences that make up their book.
But, most of the time, when authors are asked where their ideas come, the answers come out as some sort of
Uh, duh, well, uh, er, uhh…doooiiii
That’s not because we don’t have an answer, it’s more just about… where do we start?
For example, if you were to ask me where I got the idea for the first book I ever wrote, I would say:
“It was a sunny day, I was walking down my hallway, and it just came to me.”
Or, of my most recent work in progress:
“I was walking my dog up the steepest hill in town and I had to run us home because I felt like it came on a bolt of lightning.”
(Side note on lightning: I filmed this during the California wildfires that started because of the craziest lightning storm I’ve ever seen in my life, and even though I won’t know the status of those when this actually airs, thank you SO MUCH to all of the firefighters, I love you.)
Those answers hardly leave the curious reader satisfied, but it’s the truth. I can remember exactly where I was and what was happening for the idea of every book I’ve ever written.
I was bored in chemistry class.
I was driving in a tunnel.
The title came to me.
The resolution of a series came to me.
The basement in a restaurant I worked at.
A shadow I saw in a bush that reminded me of a local urban legend.
That’s the simplest truth to what triggered specific story ideas, but since we’re taking this a little deeper here as we prep for National Novel Writing Month, I’m going to give you some inside tips on where those ideas really came from.
#1 Spend time with yourself
And when I say this, I don’t mean by putting on Netflix at the end of the day and relaxing while you watch whatever’s on.
I mean really, truly, deeply getting into your silent, genuine mind.
You might not feel a change every time, but over time, the experiences you have with yourself will help you reflect on certain things that will shape your stories.
Good ways to spend time with yourself are leaving your headphones at home and going for a walk, most specifically in nature, perhaps doing yoga or meditation, or just finding those little things you love doing that relieve stress and allow you to be with yourself at the same time.
#2 Pay Attention to Your Dreams
Don’t get this twisted and take this to mean I’m encouraging you to write dream sequences.
That’s a whole different topic.
I’m talking about the fact that dreams are the gateway to your subconscious, and sometimes your best ideas come from your subconscious mind taking control and sorting certain things out for you.
Not everybody remembers their dreams, so this one is pretty hit or miss, but the more vivid the dream, the more you should pay attention to it.
If nothing more than for treating it as an exercise to write out the dream and create a scene with it.
Again, little situations over time will build up and lead to this penultimate “idea” that will come while you’re sitting on the crapper.
If you’re not much of a dreamer, another option is to just
#3 Pay Attention to Random Moments of Euphoria
Write down what happens, how it made you feel, the effect it had on your life.
Even if it’s something small like getting a popcorn colonel out of your teeth that’s been stuck in your gums despite your attempts to floss and brush it away.
How annoying was that colonel?
How did it feel when it was trapped between the gum line and the tooth?
No, I mean, how did the actual colonel feel when it was stuck between the gum line and the tooth?
See, even little bouts of euphoria in your day to day can give you at least a prompt that gets the juices flowing.
The truth, however…
The bottom line…
The biggest source of inspiration…
#4 Is in the Every Day Life
I say that with hesitation because that also wraps around to the question of people asking if they can be in your book.
You’re going to find that, yes…
People often find their ways into the influence of your characters.
But it’s not always a good thing.
Everyday life is also good for setting building outside of character building. If you ever overhear certain parts of conversations, it may spark an idea where you create a conflict or want to pursue a conflict you’ve overheard.
While you’re coming up with all these ideas, here’s something else to remember:
Not every idea has to be novel length.
There’s a reason there’s short stories and novellas, blog posts all that.
The important thing is to practice writing out the ideas that come to you, because one day you’re going to get hit with an idea out of nowhere and you won’t have a choice but to write it down.
If you already have that idea, congratulations! Doesn’t it feel great?
Maybe it does, but you just aren’t sure where to even start.
Or you do know where to start, but you’re still curious about novel development.
If you fit into any of those categories, stay tuned!
We’re getting started with character development this Thursday, but like I’ve said, the whole month of October is dedicated to building up your novel.
If this will be your first attempt at writing a book, I’m so excited for you.
I hope you take the journey, even if it’s just for nothing more than writing a book to write a book.
Writing’s a lot less stressful when it’s just a hobby, believe me.
If this is not your first book, I still hope you join us for some development, and maybe we’ll all write a book together in November.
In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe, like, comment, and share!
I’ll see you on Thursday when we get our characters up and running, and then we’re off on our novel writing journey!
Dreams are fantastic for ideas. A few of my nightmares became fodder for short stories 🙂
Nightmares are the best/worst for writing sessions!