1. Be creative – start with a character, an image, a place, a ‘what if’. Let’s play!
Sometimes you get lucky with a character. He or she hovers at the back of your mind, clearing their throat from time to time, reminding you that they’re waiting. Other times they’re more forceful than that, barging through, pushing the others out of the way, demanding to be written about. Evie in The Watchers was like that.
When inspiration doesn’t strike it really does help to just sit down and start writing. An idea for a whole book came from one of these writing sessions years ago –a teenage boy and girl sitting by a campfire in the middle of forest with a tired looking man. That’s one book I never finished but I’m determined to go back to.
If you’re struggling to find ideas, take a look at the world around you. Go for a walk and just pay attention. You might see a person, an animal, a place or an incident that makes you curious. Or sometimes the mere act of walking and moving helps get the ideas moving in your brain. Last summer when I was writing The Watchers I got into the habit of writing in the morning and then going for a walk on the beach. While I was walking I would be plotting, sometimes muttering like a mad woman into the voice recorder on my mobile. Action leads to action.
If you’re having a lazy day, flick on the news or check it out online. Pick one issue of the day and just start writing about it. Sit for a while and let the words take you wherever they want to go. Usually something you have written will snag your attention. Is it turning into a situation you could write about? Write for yourself, not for an audience, especially at this stage. Thinking about readers will make you self-conscious and that takes all the fun out of writing. This is just to get you started.
To be honest the ideas have always been the easy bit for me. People have asked me where I got a particular idea from. When I think about it, the idea usually started as an image or a bit of wordplay. Right now I have ideas for at least ten books –for me, the tough bit is sitting down and writing the story from beginning to end. I’ll be writing about that in the next post.
In the meantime if you’re really stuck, spend twenty minutes trying one of these three...
• Two men are talking intently in a bar. One looks sad, the other one angry. What’s going on?
• You’re walking on an empty beach when you see the strangest paw print...
• A group of teenagers go missing from a crowded town centre on a Saturday night. Weeks later they still haven’t been found. What happened to them?