the next idea?

image courtesy of inshadesofscarlet.blogspot.com

I’m still editing my manuscript, but at the same time I’m thinking about my next big idea. And freaking out that I won’t have a next big idea. I think it’s a common concern: what if this is the end of the road? My goal is to be a full-time, published writer (fiction, non-fiction, either, both), but what if I can’t think of anything to write?

Barbara Kingsolver said in an interview that she aims to answer broad questions in her fiction. She ruminates on the world around her, comes up with a big question, and uses fiction to help answer that question. Or at least shed light on it.

Stephen King wrote that ideas come to him like lightning bolts. You either get an idea for a novel or you don’t.

My current manuscript, written during nanowrimo 2009, is a result of a lightning bolt. I don’t remember my train of thought but I remember sitting at my computer and thinking: aha, a Caribbean island, a murder or two, an unwilling detective, lots of local flavor.

The routine of daily writing and editing will soon be over and I’ll move on to the “attempt to get published” stage. Once I get there, I’ll need to start something new. But what? How do writers come up with new ideas?

In my writing journal I’m keeping a list of words that intrigue me and could be woven into a story. For example: secrets. Also, every time I go to Ikea I get the idea to write an immigrant novel–immigrants living in the US working at places like Ikea. How about a dry erase board instead of a paper journal–every time I pass by I can jot down a new idea or thought or inspiration. And when I’m feeling less than inspired I can stare at my previous scribbles.

How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have creative writing exercises and prompts? exercise? cooking? daily writings?

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2 responses to “the next idea?

  1. Hi, I found your blog searching for writing related posts.
    I once asked myself that same question, but I realised I don’t have to. I don’t know how not to get ideas. My muses wander into my mind, sometimes too many at a time, but there is always an idea for me to play with. The trick is to take that idea and turn it into a product.
    But I do get stuck. For that I like to take a shower (I get ideas while I wash my hair …), talk to others about my project (and sometimes they ask a question that triggers a whole new idea), and do weekly writing challenges in a writing group I’m in.
    I think the key thing is to listen for the ideas. I don’t know if my mind was trying to prove a point, but I actually just thought of something, and jotted down two lines about it. It won’t fit into anything that I’m doing at the moment, but maybe if I let it simmer, it will turn into something at some point. If it doesn’t, that’s okay as well. Keep in touch with that part of your mind that receives the lightning bolts. Sometimes it’s going to be rubbish, and sometimes it’s going to be a gem.
    Well, that’s how it works for me. I don’t know if it’s any help, but I wish you good luck!

  2. Kristen, having a mass retail store like Ikea germinate a story about immigrants and having one word (like “secrets”) start your mind wandering and wondering about possiblities . . . these are symptoms of having a flood of ideas, with a river of ideas behind it all, as yet untapped. The trick is to separate one idea from the rest, like focusing on just the guitar or vocals of a radio song. Which idea? Not necessarily the loudest. Maybe the ones that either repeatedly show themselves or are most interesting to you (it’ll probably be both.)

    James Cameron, who not only produced The Terminator, wrote the story after having a dream while he was sick with a fever. So ya, sometimes you get hit by lightening. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s a reason you (or anyone) returns to the same daydreams, or to different versions of the same daydreams. There’s something very meaty in daydreams, if only you can uncover it. Sometimes, novelists, just like daydreamers, make up a story not knowing exactly what it all means, and the point of the story makes itself known through the process. There are plenty of anecdotes about people writing a book or a play or song or painting a painting or anything else creative, only to get halfway through it before they realize that no, it isn’t at all the story that’s there to be told. It’s not a waste of time and effort at all: it’s the process, the work required to get it all stewing inside your head until it boils its essence up to the top. Example of this: my entire life and those of a ka-jillion others.

    Uh, maybe I’m beginning to ramble. Okay, I’m outta here . . .

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