TAP002, How to Come Up With Great Story Ideas
Do you dream of writing a novel but don’t know where to start because you believe that you don’t have any great story ideas?
If so, then this episode of The Authorpreneur Podcast is for you.
First of all, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
Often when you first start out in your writing career you can fall prey to comparison syndrome, where you start comparing yourself to other writers and authors. It’s natural to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others but what you’re doing is comparing your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. What you’re not seeing are those days your favourite author struggles to come up with an idea for their next book. Everyone struggles with this.
So, how do you come up with great story ideas?
TAP002, How to Come Up With Great Story Ideas
So, you don’t have any great story ideas!
The truth is you do have great ideas, but you need to learn how to listen to them. However, I do feel it’s important to point out that it’s unrealistic to expect your first few ideas to be award-winning. The chances are your first ideas will fall short, and that’s okay, but I want you to know everyone starts off where you are right now. These no so great ideas are an important part of the creative process. The most interesting thing about the creative process is ideas lead to other ideas. So, in theory, crappy ideas lead to other better ideas. Think of ideas like a viral plague; if you give it room, it will spread. In light of this, how do you learn to listen to great story ideas? In this video, I will share with you the exact steps you need to take to come up with great story ideas.
Understand the truth behind writer’s block
Writer’s block is often painted as this epic battle between a writer and the blank page. It’s a hurdle that a writer needs to overcome every time they write a chapter of their novel. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. A lot of writers don’t understand what writer’s block is and what triggers it.
Once you start understanding this and taking action, then you’ll have a bigger problem. A problem that I consider to be the reason why there are so many unfinished manuscripts collecting dust. This problem is procrastination. That age-old dilemma where you know you should be writing, you want to write but you don’t feel inspired, and you can’t motivate yourself to sit down and write your story. Procrastination is all about creating a habit around writing. But, that’s a different problem for another day.
Writer’s block is a symptom of a much larger problem, an empty creative well. A lot of writers let their creative well run dry then attempt to draw ideas from it. I prefer to refer to this as the consume-versus-create ratio, but I love the analogy of a creative well because it paints a perfect picture in your mind. The various types of content that you consume eventually germinate over time and become seeds in which your great story ideas sprout forth. So, an empty creative well means no ideas and leads to writer’s block.
Change your perception on originality
The reason why most first time writers fail to fill their creative well out of a desire to create an original story. In pursuit of an original story, they stop consuming content because they don’t want other peoples ideas to affect their own work. This whole notion of a truly original idea is like the holy grail for writers. The tragic thing is, originality doesn’t exist, it isn’t real. Over the years, various story experts have mentioned there are seven different types of stories. So, if there are only seven different types of stories, then you can assume that all stories have already been told.
If most stories have been told, then what you need to focus on is creating a unique story. What do I mean by creating a unique story? What makes your great story idea unique? For example, say if your great story idea was red riding hood re-telling. If you were to do a quick search on Amazon for Red Riding Hood retellings, then you would soon discover this idea is not original. Nevertheless, how you choose to tell the story is what will make your idea unique and no two writers will tell a story in the same way. How you present these story elements will be unique to you:
- The portrayal of the characters
- Use of point of view
- Elements that you add to the story
- What you choose to leave out or add to the story
- Your Character’s world
- Story Subplots
- Twists and obstacles
All of these elements will make your Red Riding Hood Retelling unique, even though, it’s the same story as all of the other versions on Amazon. If you focus on telling a unique story instead of a truly original story, then coming up with great story ideas will be a little easier.
Fill your creative well
Consider the different types of content you love to consume and make time to engross yourself in these activities. Think about reading books, listening to audiobooks, watch films and tv, visiting art galleries and museums, or even consuming news content. The point of filling your creative well is to simply follow your curiosity. Follow what interests you and not what you think you should consume.
There’s a lot of writing advice around writing what you know. To me, this sounds incredibly boring. According to this advice, I would need to do a whole list of things before I could start writing my book. If you want to write an espionage thriller, this advice is redundant unless you’re secretly James Bond.
My best advice for you is to write what you’re interested in not what you know. When you create ideas from what you’re interested in, then you’re more likely to follow it through and become excited about starting to write your novel. This way your writing career will feel less like a job, this is important because you will end up devoting many hours to honing the craft of writing.
Write down your ideas
I’m often surprised by the number of people who want to write a novel but fail to document their ideas in some way. The only way you will discover your great story ideas is by writing them down and looking back over them. In the review stage, you flag the ideas that stand out to you, and the ideas you can’t stop can’t get out of your head. It’s really important that you chose a method of recording your ideas that you can sustain long-term and be consistent. The last thing you need is to develop the habit of recording your ideas anywhere and struggle to find an idea when you need it the most. Consistency is your friend.
So, those are the exact steps you need to take to come up with great story ideas. Over the next week, I want you to focus on filling your creative well and writing down your ideas. But, remember to be consistent with your method of documenting your ideas.
As always, I have an important question to ask you. Are you struggling to come up with great story ideas for your book? I want to hear from you. Let me know how you get on with the actionable step by sharing in the comments section below.
Thank you for listening, reading, commenting and sharing with such enthusiasm.
I’m Amelia. When I’m not hosting the Authorpreneur Podcast™️ and the Book Nerd Podcasts, I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Suspicion, the Lawn, and the Candidate.
On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process.
Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Suspicion, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.