Sometimes, the hardest thing about being an author is coming up with a solid idea for your next book.
Have you ever experienced that?
If you have, you know how painful the mismatch between the desire to write and create something, and the lack of idea as to what you should create, can be.
Maybe you start to come up with an idea before realizing it’s been done before or it doesn’t have the potential to form a full book. Or perhaps your creative tank is totally dry and you simply have no idea what to write about.
One of the worst things you can do when going through a period such as that is to allow yourself to sink into that mentality. The more energy you give to the state of being without an idea, the more embedded it becomes and the harder it is to get out of it.
Instead, a far more productive approach is to switch from focusing on the problem and how bad it feels to focusing on ways to solve it.
Easier said than done, right?
Well actions speak louder than words, so here are several proven action steps you can take next time you are struggling to come up with a solid book idea.
Check out writing prompts
Writing prompts tend to divide the author community.
On the one hand, you have writers that can’t live without them. They make prompts a part of their daily writing routine. Prompts are a way to keep their writing fresh, their brain active, and to avoid the monotony of writing about the same old thing all the time.
On the other end of the scale you have writers who would rather do almost anything than write from a prompt. They see them as uninspired, generic, and totally antithetical to their creative process.
Where do you fall on the scale? Do you love or hate them?
Well, unless you’re absolutely averse to writing prompts, and nothing we can do or say has any chance of changing that, we urge you to at least consider them.
Think of writing prompts as a seed. They are by no means a complete book idea, nor are they intended to be. Instead, a writing prompt contains the potential for a great story. It’s up to you to bring your unique experience and skillset and develop a prompt into something full and worth reading.
You could give the same prompt to a room full of writers and come up with a whole range of different stories. That’s because writing prompts are a little more than a spark. It’s up to you to ignite the fire.
Some of the ways you can take a writing prompt and make something special from it include:
- Fleshing out unique characters. A lot of writing prompts don’t mention characters at all. Those that do probably provide bare bones information. You have total creative liberty to breathe life into a character that readers will fall in love with.
- Creating plot twists and turns. Many prompts contain a basic concept for a story, such as a scenario or a what if question. It’s up to you as the writer to expand upon this basic premise and come up with a well-structured story that is likely to grip readers from start to finish.
- Applying a new genre. Every genre has its own tropes, conventions, and moods. The great thing about writing prompts is they can often be written in a variety of styles. In fact, some of the best prompts come from taking a scenario and playing around with the expected genre. For example, you could take a prompt that, on the surface, would appear to be for a romance story and instead twist it into a horror tale. Get creative and don’t be afraid to break the rules.
Like any other type of writing resource, there are good and bad writing prompts. Don’t be afraid to take the time to find a source of prompts for writers that you vibe with. You’ll always be able to turn to them when you are in need of a book idea.
Start with a short story
When you’re struggling to come up with a book idea, the thought of creating an entire plot for a novel can seem overwhelming or even impossible. At that point, you might feel tempted to abandon your urge to write a book entirely and spend your time and energy on something else.
Instead, why not consider a productive middleground? If thinking of and outlining a plot for a full novel seems too much, consider a short story instead.
Short stories are a lot easier to write in terms of time. By the nature of their brevity, they often have a far less-complicated structure than a full-length work of fiction.
The other great thing about writing a short story is there is far less need to outline. You can go into your short story with as much or as little of the plot in mind as you want. It’s a lot shorter distance from start to finish, so if you wish to adopt the pantser approach to writing, you’re far less likely to go astray than you would be with a novel.
If you like the idea of writing a short story, but aren’t sure where to start, consider reading several to get your juices flowing. If you search online for the name of your favorite author, as well as short story, you may well find some free options available. Alternatively, you could search for your favorite genre as well as short story.
After you’ve successfully written a short story, you might find one of two amazing things happens:
- You now have the creative inspiration and drive to go on and plot out a full book
- You actually see enough potential in the story you’ve just written to use it as the basis for a full novel
Don’t overlook the power of the short story, If you’re struggling to think of what to write, it can be just the bite-sized project you need to get your creative juices flowing.
Listen to audiobooks
If you’ve been burning your eyes staring at a blank document named ‘novel ideas’, sometimes the best thing you can do is change tactic entirely.
Instead of forcing yourself to come up with a book idea, allow yourself to go in a different direction. Fire up your favorite audiobook service and listen to whatever appeals to you the most.
It’s kind of like when you’re trying to sleep. Often, forcing yourself to stay in bed is counterproductive. It’s often best to get up and do something else or be in a different location until you feel tired again.
Listening to an audiobook is kind of similar. It allows your brain to get into the mode of hearing and processing a story, while subconsciously your brain is still churning away, coming up with your next great book idea.
During the course of your listen, you might hear a turn of phrase, empathize with a character, or be blown away by a plot point that sparks something that turns into a full story of your own.
And if not, taking the time to listen to a quality book never did a writer harm! It’s a win no matter what the outcome ends up being.