Finding The Idea and running with it

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Before you begin to write, you have to have something about which to write. D’uh, right? Except finding The Idea isn’t that easy. At least not always. Or it begins as a good idea but then fades and ends up in a desk drawer or trash bin.

Having a good idea for a story, one that hasn’t been told before, seems impossible some days. Most days. I’ve found stories in family stories and rumours, news stories, snippets of overheard conversations (I used to collect them in a notebook; one of my favourites, still unused, is “And that’s why you should never steal a taxi cab.”), and, as is the case with the novel I’m currently writing, reading other books.

Most often, I’ll start scribbling a few lines to see where I think the story will go, make a rough outline maybe. I like knowing where I am going with a story. It gives me something to work towards, even if I do end up off course. Talking out loud, strangely enough, also helps; it is like I’m having a conversation with my characters to see what they want.

Okay, so let’s say you have an idea, a good idea with potential, now comes the writing. Sit down. Computer on. Let’s go. But then the excitement withers as the work builds up. And the blank white page is so much longer than you remember. Where has the spark gone? Where is the inspiration? Where is your muse? 

I’ve tried a lot of things to get my writing in gear: prompts, daily journals, literary magazine subscriptions, classes, coffee shops, walks. The more frustrated I feel, the farther away from my computer I seem to get.  For me, leaving my writing when I am at a good part has helped jumpstart my work the next day. It makes me excited to get back to it and, often, I’ve thought of the next words or next scene while I’ve stepped away. I make mini-bargains and mini-goals – write 500 words and you can have a coffee. Mostly it is just work. If I wait for inspiration that page will stay a cold white for a long time.

The work vs. inspiration problem is one of the reasons I started this blog. I’m hoping that reading great books will improve my own writing and provide some inspiration to keep going.

So, what about you? Where do you find your writing ideas and how do you keep your writing up? Let me know in the comments.

BJL

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