My novel Dark City (which you can read about here) is reaching the final stages. That means that right now, I’m waiting for a few beta readers to get back to me before I jump into the last round of edits. While I’m waiting, I’d like to start a new project, but I’m struggling to pull an idea out of thin air. There are a couple of techniques I’ve come across that can help with this part of the creative process.
Reading is an essential activity for any writer, of course, but other forms of art can be valuable too. Movies, music, video games–inspiration can come from anywhere. Soak up stories like a sponge, and it will spark your own creative process. As for me, I’m in the middle of The Stand, and I’m playing the newest Mass Effect game, both of which have brilliant storytelling I can learn a lot from.
Write what you know
“Write what you know” can be really bad advice when people mean “write only what you know.” But your own personal experiences and expertise can be a jumping off point for a story. For example, I know a lot about rural life in the American West, and I’ve had a novel that took off from there.
Develop a single story element
For my novels Dark City and Light in a Dark Sky, I started with a character. I had very little figured out about the plot, or setting, but I was passionate about that character, so I jumped in. As I wrote about him, the setting and plot began to fill themselves in. For your book, it might be a character that inspires you, or a concept, or the setting itself. If you can find that one element that really resonates with you, jump on it, and you might be able to follow it to the rest of the story.
Easier said than done, I’ll be the first to admit. But we’ve got to start somewhere, whether it’s with an idea for a unique science fiction setting or an aspect of our own lives. Any tapestry, no matter how elaborate, starts with the weaving of a single thread. And now, I’m off to find mine. Wish me luck!