There aren’t many things as intimidating as staring down the blank pages of your soon-to-be new novel. Don’t worry, it isn’t just you. Many authors hate starting a new book–coming up with a good book idea can feel like an impossible task. However, finding your next book idea doesn’t have to be a headache.
With creativity and careful planning, you’ll have dozens of ideas to choose from for your next novel. In this article, we’ll look at some unique ways to find that bestselling idea.
1. Use a First-line or Plot Generator
Fear of the blank page should be a ‘just writer things’ meme at this point. Did you know, Ernest Hemingway used to stop writing in the middle of a sentence, so when he picked up again he’d know how to start? Sometimes If you’re struggling to come up with your next great book idea, you can turn to one of the many first-line generators on the web.
One of my favorite generators is from the conveniently titled Plot-Generator.org.uk. This site gives you a selection of first lines as soon as you enter the site, and you can keep hitting random until one of them strikes your fancy.
Here’s an example:
“I have two things on my mind: bowling and how I’m going to get home.”
Don’t know about you but this screams Lebowski to me…but anyway.
Remember, you aren’t married to the opening line the websites give you. You’re just looking for inspiration.
The crew at Reedsy have gone a step further and created a cool plot generation tool. This handy little generator has over a million different combinations of protagonists, secondary characters, and plot ideas. You can even lock-in a protagonist and keep clicking ‘generate’ until you find a combination you like. Here’s a plot I came up just by playing around with the tool.
Even if you don’t find your next book’s plot with these generators, they’ll likely get those creative juices flowing. Alternatively, you can use first-line and plot generators as writing prompts for short stories–you might spark an idea for a full-length novel by free-writing.
2. Use Keyword Research to Generate Ideas
You’ve probably done keyword research to market your books, but did you know you can use keyword research to find book ideas?
Don’t know what a keyword is? It’s a word or phrase that someone types into an online search bar to get the result they’re looking for, whether that’s a book, a car, or a trip to the Bahamas. For authors, keywords generally equate to phrases typed into search engines and Amazon that help readers locate their books.
The best part about using keywords to help find your next book idea is you’ll know that people are searching for the book you write. Think of it like product validation and idea generation all rolled into one. For Google, there’s plenty of free sites like Ubersuggest that can help you with keyword research. These sites give search data, along with suggested keywords for phrases you enter.
While search data can be useful, you’ll have more luck searching for Amazon keywords. After all, most readers are using Amazon to buy books.
To find your Amazon keywords, you can use the predictive text feature on their search bar. Take these steps to complete your keyword research:
- Turn on the private or Incognito mode on your browser. You don’t want your previous searches to influence your results.
- Select ‘Kindle Store’ as the Amazon category.
- Start typing phrases related to your genre and see what Amazon suggests as the auto-complete option. All these autocomplete suggestions are phrases that people have searched for.
- Once you’ve found a phrase you like, add each letter of the alphabet at the end of your word/phrase and see what comes up.
Using our Sci-Fi Western example from earlier, you may type in ‘Sci-Fi Western a’ then ‘Sci-Fi Western b’ and so on. If you’re thinking this will take a while, well, you’re right. Researching Amazon keywords is not a quick process…unless you use a tool like Publisher Rocket to do the heavy lifting and deliver keywords in just seconds.
3. Turn to Reddit
Another great place to turn for writing ideas is the ‘front page’ of the internet, Reddit. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, it hosts thousands of forums on every topic imaginable. Want to know why Haribo gummy bears are an internet sensation? You’ll find the answer here. And maybe more than you bargained for.
One of these forums is aimed more at writers and less at the gummies. It’s called r/WritingPrompts. This forum is packed with user-generated writing prompts. A quick glance at the feed will get your fingers itching to write.
Here are a few examples:
“Sometime between 13 and 17, every child is summoned to another world as a hero to save it from evil. Except you. You’ve never been summoned. But as you tell your daughter and her friends to quiet down their slumber party antics, a summoning circle opens and engulfs everyone. Including you.”
“Your childhood was terrorized by ghosts and demons that only came out at night. Your solution was to never be where night falls. So you became a pilot and have been able to schedule flights to always be on the side of the world with daylight. But tomorrow, you’ll experience nightfall after 15 years”
“The owner of a small store that sells cursed items with terrible costs beyond the price tag is shocked that a customer comes in almost every day to buy a new item”
The forum is quite active with people adding to the discussion daily. Some prompts have hundreds of comments. The biggest benefit of being a part of an engaged forum like this one is that you can get instant feedback from other writers about your ideas. Over time, this will not only give you an endless supply of ideas but will make you a better writer too.
However… This is not a place to rip off another person’s idea. There’s a huge difference in gaining inspiration and building upon an idea vice straight up stealing it.
4. Browse Pinterest
An underrated source of inspiration is the social media platform, Pinterest. Some authors use Pinterest to market their books, but it’s possible to use the platform in every stage of your writing.
The beauty of Pinterest is you can check out other people’s boards and create your own. There’s plenty of cool writing prompt boards that you can browse. Boards like the ones below are full of great writing prompts.
You can create your own genre boards and stock them with relevant images. For example, if you write Sci-Fi Westerns, grab those gun-slinging, clone pics for later perusal. There are a couple ways you can go about this. I’d recommend a board for characters, one for settings, and another for general genre images.
A search for ‘Western Characters’ brought on these results:
If managing boards isn’t your thing, you can roll with one mega board and work from there.
Here’s what I found when searching for ‘Sci-Fi Western.’
As you can see, Pinterest boards could be your writing boon. Once you have cool pics, let your imagination off its self-doubt chain:
- Give the characters you find names and backstories.
- Figure out a few things about them: what problems do they solve? What are their conflicts? What do they stand to lose if they don’t reach their goals? What are their goals?
- Describe your settings and locations. What type of person do you think would live there? Why?
- What does a ‘day in the life’ look like for the people in your images? What makes them happy or sad?
The beauty of using a Pinterest board for book ideas is that you can keep adding to it over time.
5. Get Out and About
Getting out of the house is one of the best ways to beat writer’s block. Go for a walk, head to your local art gallery, browse the shelves at the shops, or do some good old-fashioned people watching–try not to be too weird.
There are loads of ideas out there, you just need to look for them.
When you run your daily routine, I bet you’re so focused on what you need to do–akin to racehorses wearing blinders. I know because I do the same thing. But next time, try taking the blinders off. You might find a cool piece of street art or a creepy old house, or maybe you’ll hear snippets of a stranger’s interesting conversation.
You can expand these ideas as follows:
- Think of the history of that item or who may have owned it
- Overheard a conversation? Give the speakers crazy backstories.
- Ask yourself a ‘what if’ question and expand on your response. For example, ‘what if we lived in a world where our money had lost its value overnight?’
This will take practice, and it’ll feel strange at first. However, I encourage you to stick with it.
Soon you’ll start seeing book ideas everywhere you go. You can record these ideas for the next time you’re fresh out.
Remember: Keep Your Book Ideas for Later
I’m a big fan of digging your well before you’re thirsty and having lots of ideas on hand when you need them.
Book ideas can sprout at any time of the day or night. So be prepared. Try keeping a small notebook on you or use your phone to note ideas that come up throughout the day.
Once you collect book ideas, you need to organize them. That way, when the time comes to start a new book, you’ll have an idea bank from which to work. Try nothing down ideas with these tools:
- A notebook or writing pad
- Trello Board
- Pinterest board
- Scrapbook (magazine and newspaper clippings)
- The notes app on your phone
- A Google Doc
Choose a format that suits your lifestyle and skills. There’s no point in learning how to use Trello just for book ideas when you’re more comfortable with ink and paper.
While the blank page is a daunting task for any writer, inspiration is out there. All you have to do is take the time to find your perfect book idea and start writing.