Writing Fiction: Find Great Ideas For Your Next Novel

One of the biggest challenges in writing fiction is finding truly good ideas. We discussed finding great ideas in a recent writers’ group meeting.

Several authors maintained that the perfect idea hit them after they’d started writing about a character who intrigued them. Some authors relied on inspiration and others said that they had too many ideas; with an embarrassment of riches, which should they choose?

Writing fiction: finding the “perfect” idea

Many authors procrastinate because their ideas don’t seem big enough. They want inspiration to flash down like a bolt of lightning, hitting them with an idea which delivers a bestselling book.

Unfortunately, even after you’re inspired with an amazing idea, you’ll need to develop it and that may be difficult.

One author in our group said that she’d worked with an idea for six months before she gave up on the novel. “I got bogged down in research,” she said. “Time passed. I wasn’t writing. Finally I realized that I could spend another six months on research and still not feel comfortable writing the novel.”

So, how do you find ideas which are great and which you can write? Here are some ideas.

1. Find great ideas from the news and history

Bad things happen. Browse the online news sites, and within five minutes you’ll have a slew of ideas which will work if you’re writing mysteries or thrillers.

Local news sites are great for finding ideas for contemporary fiction of many different genres.

A tip: remember that many writers scour the news sites for ideas. If you find the seed of an idea, other writers will be working on it too.

2. Remember your own history: every family has a black sheep or two

People love to talk, gossip and speculate. Any family gathering will provide you with enough gossip for ten novels. If you have children, you’ll find plentiful gossip at the school gate, and at school events.

Consider celebrity gossip too. Most of this is professionally-created spin, but you may find a speck or two of book-idea gold amongst it.

3. Kickstart your novel with fan fiction

The benefit of writing fan fiction is that you’re writing in an environment which inspires you: the setting, characters and story elements have been created for you.

E.L. James, of Fifty Shades of Grey fame, allegedly first wrote her novel on a fan fiction site, as fan fiction for the Twilight vampire series.

Amazon had Kindle Worlds, a fan fiction site, which ran for five years, then closed in 2018. Kindle Worlds provided a a home for authors who wanted to write fan fiction under official licenses.

Bestselling authors occasionally invite other authors collaborate, writing new stories in that author’s story world.

Should you write fan fiction? It can be good practice. There are many fan fiction websites, like Wattpad. Be sure to read a site’s Terms of Service for what you can and can’t do before you become deeply involved.

Writing fiction: can you start writing without a “great” idea?

Can you start writing without an idea in your head?

Yes, you can. Many pantsers (authors who don’t create outlines) start writing with no real idea of where they’re headed. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that you can write several thousand words before you realize that your story isn’t going anywhere.

Where do you find ideas which work for you?


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