You're all in on this novel writing idea. You're going to do it--you're going to write your first book.
There's just one problem: What will you write about?
Over the past few years of my writing journey, I've chatted with so many people who desperately want to see their name on the cover of a novel, who want to achieve the ultimate goal of writing a book. However, many of these people never accomplish their goal. It's not because they don't want to, they don't have the drive, or they don't have the talent.
It's just that "the" idea hasn't struck them.
So how do you get around this? Unless you're J.K. Rowling who dreamed up Harry Potter on a train or Stephanie Meyer who had a dream about Edward, most of us can't just wait for inspiration to fall into our lap. We have to find it.
I've been fortunate that the idea train keeps on driving through my brain. Right now, I have more ideas for novels than I have time to write. This power for inspiration, however, only unlocked after novel one. Honestly, the more you write and the more confidence you gain, the more you realize that ideas are literally everywhere.
As a new writer, though, I know it doesn't feel that way. Below are my five tips for finding inspiration and ideas to get your novel started.
1. Ask yourself what you find intriguing.
A novel is a huge investment of time. From writing to editing to marketing, you have to be passionate about your subject matter. Ask yourself what you find intriguing or interesting in the world around you. For me, my first novel Voice of Innocence came to be because I was always fascinated with wrongful conviction.
Once you have your topic, try to think of a different angle on your topic. Many books had been written about wrongful conviction, but few focused on the loved one of a wrongfully convicted person. I saw the potential for romance from the idea. Try to think about your topic in a different way, and you just mind find an angle that will work for a new novel.
2. Look to your real life.
While many see real life as humdrum or tedious, there is actually a lot of story potential in the world around you. Keep a notebook with you and jot down ideas, events, people, or places you find interesting. Sometimes even a stranger on the street can inspire your thought process if you're paying attention.
Our own lives can also jump start ideas. One of my novels came to be when I ran into my husband's best friend from elementary school. Just like that, an idea for a new romance came to me. You must be open and willing to see inspiration in order for it to come. Be receptive, be open-minded, and be looking for it. You never know when it might strike.
3. Look to your favorite authors and books.
Let's be clear--I'm not suggesting you plagiarize. If you are going to invest your time in a novel, you want to make sure it is completely your own. However, reading in your genre can serve to inspire you. For me, it's about seeing what "holes" there are in the market.
What are the tendencies of the books in your genre? Can you break those tendencies and still be marketable? Who is being left out in your genre?
These are questions that can create idea possiblities.
4. Free write frequently.
Even now, after publishing five novels, the best inspiration I get is from free writing frequently. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboards is the best way to keep the creative juices flowing and the storytelling alive in your own mind.
Don't force yourself to write for a purpose. Let your mind wander. Sometimes, just the act of writing will create inspiration for a new story or book.
5. Give an idea time to breathe.
Found an idea you think might work?
Excellent. Now take the pressure off and give your idea time to generate itself more fully.
The way I know I've found an idea worthy of writing about is that it continues to haunt me weeks, months, even years after I've developed it.
If this is your first novel, obviously you don't want to wait years to start writing. However, give your idea some time. If in a few weeks, it still is something you're passionate about, pursue it. If not, giving it time to breathe may help you develop it and make it more complex.
Developing an idea you feel confident enough to write a novel about isn't an easy task. For some authors, the idea simply seems to fall from the sky, the heavens, or any other transcendent place. For some of us, though, it takes effort to scavenge for the novel-winning idea.
Be patient with yourself, keep your eyes open, and don't be afraid to grasp at straws for a while until you find "the" idea.
All I can tell you is that when you do find it, there will be no doubt that you've found "the" idea you're willing to put your heart out there for.