Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Should I Write Next?

image by haraldr via Flickr
When I first started writing, my brain was bursting with stories to be told. I never had to worry about what to write next—I had to hurry up and finish the manuscript I was working on so I could dive head first into the next shiny, new world.

Jump to today: I've just sent my current WIP to my critique partners. So now's the perfect time to start lining up what I want to work on next. But whether it's having written eight manuscripts or the personal stress of the past two years or just learning more about what works and what doesn't, I'm kind of stuck.

So I thought I'd share my methods for finding a new story to work on.

The first thing is my "story ideas" Word document. I've been jotting down ideas here for years. When I reviewed it yesterday, I was delighted to see the single paragraph description for the story that got me my agent.

Here's the final pitch, if you're wondering how the original idea metamorphosed into a full-fledged novel-length story.

Some of the ideas in my story idea file are interesting, but none bowled me over with that must-have impulse, so I tried another method. I cut scratch paper (recycle/reuse!) into pieces and jotted down topics that were on my mind, whether they're from the news today like health insurance, propaganda, and civil disobedience or items that strike my fancy like magic forests, bio technology, or secret societies.

Then I started grouping the cards. Which ideas could turn into a story? Which card group ignites that spark in my mind?

I'm still working on this, but I just had another idea, and that is to combine the two methods. Take a line from my story idea list and see which cards would work well with it.

Once I know the general premise of my story, it's on to creating long lists of What If questions to detail it out. I'd planned on providing a picture of a What If list, but ithat would be too spoilery. ;-)

If you're a writer, what method do you use to come up with story ideas?

all pictures by me unless otherwise specified


  1. I love the idea of using cards for this. This is basically my approach to brainstorming ideas, but typically it's just in my head -- jotting them down and seeing the possible combinations on paper sounds helpful. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Shari! I'm glad you found it helpful. :)

  2. Usually a scene comes to me and I need to find the reason that scene took place. But I also have a list of these scenes and try find a character that fits. It's complicated. :-)

    1. Thanks Patti! That's how my Word doc of story ideas came to be. I see a scene or a character or situation, and I write it down. Then I try to build on it in brainstorming.

  3. I have a notebook I keep random ideas in. More often than not though, a new idea will ram its way into my brain and not let go until I've written it.

  4. Thanks for dropping in, Miss Cole! That's what I missed this time around - that idea that didn't want to let me go. But following my brainstorming sessions, I now have one. :)