Block, Craft, Fiction, Inspiration, Motivation, Tips, Writing

A lack of ideas is not the problem

Last night, during a phone conversation with my youngest sister, she asked what I’m writing now. My answer was, “Nothing.” Her response, “Do you want me to give you some ideas?” You can probably guess my answer.

I don’t have a lack of ideas. I have a file full of story ideas, some with opening lines or paragraphs, and maybe the ending. Unlike for many of you, it’s not even a lack of time that keeps me from developing those ideas. I have plenty of that.

It’s also not a lack of motivation keeping those stories unwritten. To be a successful self-published author, you need to put out good work often, at least until you’ve built up a reasonably sized back catalogue. That’s serious motivation.

I’m just waiting on that spark of inspiration. Wait! Don’t roll your eyes. I know the only way to write is to write. I know writing is work. Hard work. I know you have to get your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard. But for me, a lot has to happen before I get to that point.

Yes, I could review the notes I’ve made on one of these ideas and just start typing. I might get something solid—a paragraph of narrative, a bit of dialogue—but I’d also get a lot of garbage. I get impatient—overwhelmed—by garbage. I’m lazy. For me, it’s too much work to cull the few salvable bits from the reams of dross. That’s why I can’t participate in NaNoWriMo.

I think one of the hardest things for me as a beginning writers was to discover what method to use. Some authors write longhand on paper. Some write, then rewrite starting from scratch. Others plan out their entire story in detail before they write the first word. Still others, keep writing to the end of a draft without even a glance back at what they’ve previously written. It took me awhile to discover none of those worked best for me.

As I began writing this post, I had a particular short story niggling at my brain. I’ve been stuck writing it because I need to make a decision about the villain. However, halfway through writing this post, another story came to mind. It’s one I wrote almost seven years ago, but never felt satisfied with. I don’t know why it resurfaced now, but suddenly I have an idea how to revise it. I’m excited to get to work. My Muse will sort out that villain another day.

Be ready. You never know when inspiration will inspire strike.

21 thoughts on “A lack of ideas is not the problem”

  1. I’m not one to get ideas easily, I suppose why my first 3 books were largely autobiographical (or biographical in the case of Farm Girl). However I finally broke through that barrier, and my current work is just a free fall work that came from I have no idea. I started writing and the story came. (That had never happened to me before, but I hope it happens again!)

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  2. I love it when we suddenly know exactly what a story needs. I feel this way at the moment with my current WIP. It’s good to see that you’ve been bitten by the inspiration bug. 🙂

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  3. Hehe, see, my problem is ideas. I seriously don’t get any. It took me a full year to come up with the idea for my next novel. Now I’m dying to write it, but I have to finish Scales first. Getting there. 🙂

    I’d love to know more about your method, by the way. 🙂

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  4. I will think of a sentence, or a character will come to mind – or whatever, but if I try to plan it out or think about it further, it slips into the black hole – I can get to the event horizon, where everything that was before speeding to the black whole has slowed until it seems to have stopped. Ungh. Now, if I sit and start writing it, it may come, but it may not *laugh*

    THat I’ve books published at all seems a ‘miracle’

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    1. I’ve had that experience, Kathryn, and it’s not fun. I hate when I see these great characters and their story fascinates me, but it’s too slippery to force into words.Maybe it’s just not the right time. At least, that’s what I tell myself. 😉

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