I've been thinking a lot about ideas. How do we have them? Where do they come from? When we're trying to write, what kind of ideas stick and which ones get pitched before they've been fully vetted?
If you're like me, you have a new idea every other second. It's dizzying. I actually throw out more ideas than I work on because I just don't have time, energy, or money to complete them.
And honestly, it's disappointing not to work on them all. I'd really like about 12 hours more per day for the rest of my life. I think that might make up the difference, but enough about my ridiculous ambition...
But what if you struggle to have ideas? I've been in situations where I wanted desperately to come up with something and just hit wall after wall. Forcing an idea to happen feels impossible, but it can be done. The question is, will that forced idea be good enough to pursue?
So how do you come up with a good idea when you need it? The best way I know is to be systematic.
First you need to come up with problems to solve. So make a list of problems or types of books/stories you'd like to write. For me this was pretty simple. Last year I decided I wanted to write a stand alone book for adults. If I could, I wanted it to be science fiction. I came to this conclusion because I hadn't written any stand alone books yet, nor had I written anything for adults or anything in science fiction. Basically I wanted to see if I could do it (the key here was discovering the problem I wanted to solve - setting a goal of achieving something I hadn't done).
Then I had to figure out where it would get started. To come up with a location, I delved into places I knew. In order to limit my location possibilities, I decided I wanted to have the main character in graduate school. I thought this would be a good bridge age (you can still attract some young adult readers while appealing to a more mature audience). From there, I decided to pick the character's major. Most people pick graduate school based on one of two things - cost or quality. I wanted to eliminate cost as a factor for my character and so gave her a scholarship to one of the best programs in the country for her major.
I wanted to have a game changer in the middle of the book - a large twist that would throw sci-fi nerds through a loop (maybe a sucker punch?). So I did that. I incorporated some marginal ideas that I saw on a reality TV show and BAM! I had BELOW THE BELT.
Another thing I wanted was to have a book of short stories. While my stories have not developed into books yet (I'm still sitting on them waiting to get published in lit zines), I had to come up with a few themes. I could have sat down and brainstormed themes, but as it was, I started by writing a story. The story was about a political issue that bothered me deeply - women's reproductive rights. From there, it was easy to write several more stories about women and children. I picked one aspect of women and children's wellness for each story. I still have several more to write if I want them to be a biddable collection.
The next idea in writing I'd like to pursue is the interlude short story. This is a story that happens between books to main or supportive characters and often fills in the gaps that fans want filled. Currently I'm pondering possible stories in the Khloe Alwell saga. I figure one short could be about the Ceres-Lugh-Llewellyn debacle. Another could be about the writer of the Lilith-Ammon prophecy. These are points that were raised in my books, but could not be developed because of the chronology involved.
The best way to come up with ideas? Decide on goals. Brainstorm. Make lists. Ask questions and then answer them. These are different tactics that can be used separately or in conjunction with one another. The result is you'll figure out something that speaks to you - and if it speaks to you, it's probably a good idea.