You want to write a novel. Unfortunately, you don’t have any ideas. Every idea which comes to you seems trite and unoriginal. You want a great idea, a perfect idea… an idea which will create a best-selling novel.
Sadly, if you’re looking for an original idea, something that’s never been done before, you may be looking for a long time. Don’t let the notion that “it’s been done before” stop you from writing. Your idea may be unoriginal… but perhaps that’s what readers want.
Seemingly trite ideas sell, and they sell well. In the hot-selling romance genre, thousands of authors have written “secret baby” and “pretend marriage” stories. They keep selling. Feel free to write your own secret baby story. Once completed, it will be original, because you wrote it.
When you’re looking for ideas for a novel, you’re looking for one thing: the spark of inspiration. An idea which excites you. You never know when that spark of inspiration will hit. (Oddly, I seem to get my best ideas in the shower.)
And of course, you never know whether or not a book will become a bestseller. Uber-bestsellers tend to surprise people; the Harry Potter series is an example. It’s reported that the first Harry Potter novel was rejected 12 times.
Write a novel: writing is easy when you’re inspired — what strikes sparks?
A good idea for a novel for you to write will strike a spark. Something about the idea won’t leave you alone. You may not even have a fully-formed idea. It may be just an image:
“Fowles described his main inspiration for The French Lieutenant’s Woman to be a persistent image of a ‘Victorian Woman,’ who later developed into the novel’s titular character Sarah Woodruff… He said he had an image during the autumn of 1966 of “A woman who stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea.”
But how do you find that spark?
1. Read nonfiction you enjoy: try biographies (read anything you ENJOY)
My ideas for novels come from reading nonfiction, especially biographies. That said, I have a couple of authors whose novels I read if I need an idea which strikes a spark. I read a couple of pages — and ideas start flowing.
One of the authors I read when I’m idea hunting — whether it’s the spark for a novel, or just some ideas for scenes — is PG Wodehouse.
Wodehouse is a humorist, and a master of the English language. His books make me smile, and the enjoyment I get is probably key:
“Creative people have apparently mastered the art of turning off this part of their brains (judgment) to let their ideas flow more smoothly, unleashing their imagination…”
Read what you enjoy — or listen to music, or watch movies. You need to relax the judgmental part of your mind.
2. Play “what if” with ideas: have fun
You can play “what if” with anything.
Try playing it with stories in the news, or with gossip. Or even with the weather. 🙂
We’ve had a lot of storms lately where I live. What if a woman is on her way home, and a bad storm hits. Roads are flooded. She lives on a rural property, and must get home, because her child is there alone…
Allow yourself to day-dream. Much of writing fiction involves staring into space, and day-dreaming. Jot down any ideas which come to you in your journal.
Grab a newspaper, or a magazine, and write down five “what if” scenarios. It’s a useful exercise, because it triggers your creativity.
3. Keep a cache of ideas in the cloud, and actively hunt for ideas
Some authors have more ideas than they could ever write. They collect ideas. They may never write even a fraction of those ideas, but they’ve trained themselves to watch for book ideas, and so should you.
Try this. For the next week, set yourself a goal of getting five ideas for a novel a day. At the end of the week, you’ll have 35 ideas. More importantly, you’re nurturing your creative self, and you’ll find more ideas flowing to you, often at unexpected times.
I use Evernote to store my ideas, so I can access them anywhere. You can use the Notes app on your phone, or any other app. You need to have your ideas cache available to you, because ideas are everywhere. The more you look, the more you will find. Happy hunting. 🙂