The nights are drawing in, Christmas is just on the horizon (don’t remind us!) and writers across the world are gearing up for a marathon.
That’s right – NaNoWriMo will soon be upon us!
October’s the month during which many NaNo participants think about planning their story for the upcoming, keyboard-shredding insanity… so you brew a big cup of your favorite hot beverage, map out your daily and weekly word counts and…
You go blank.
Having no idea what to write is any wrimo’s worst nightmare. With such a tight deadline, there’s no time to lose – if you spend too long plotting or searching, it’s easy to let a week or even more slip right by you.
Luckily, it’s possible to conjure a winning novel idea in minutes – or at least, by the end of that hot beverage.
How? Here are six simple ways to do it:
Read your old notebooks
Many writers keep notebooks for ideas or practice and when these fill up, they stuff them in a drawer and start scribbling in the next one. This means the idea for your novel could be hiding in plain sight!
Dig out your old notebooks and revisit the memories, sensations, scraps and moments to find something that you may not have wanted to write about then… but could be the perfect idea right now.
Go to a public place
Real life is always the best source for novel ideas. People watching lets you dip in and out of others’ stories, without ever intruding or being privy to too much information. (Remember, you want to stay imaginative, and prying too deeply could cloud your own – more exciting – version of events.)
Choose a public space that has lots of people, but isn’t so busy that you can’t hear snippets of conversation – or your own thoughts, for that matter. A museum, gallery, or library is perfect.
Watch a movie (or play a video game)
It isn’t advisable that you rip off the plot of a blockbuster, but movies often have so much going on in them that an awful lot of potential is missed. Does a side character, or even an extra, stand out to you?
Could you change their name and the setting, and give them their own story? What about the events of the plot – how would you tell things differently within that same framework?
The divide between gaming and cinema is also getting smaller and smaller each year, with many blockbuster games capable of presenting their stories with just as much – if not more – depth and bombast than even the biggest budget Hollywood effort. Why not give yourself an excuse to sit down for an hour or two with a story-driven game (both modern and classic RPGs are chock full of potential inspiration in the form of side quests and multi-layered stories) and see if something sparks your creative interest?
Just remember, though – you aren’t playing just to play. Don’t let procrastination take hold. The moment that idea comes to life in your mind, stop playing and pursue it.
Use story prompts
Online generators, blog posts and even card games help develop random ideas that could fuel a brand new novel. Prompts come in all shapes and sizes: a suggestion of atmosphere, a line of dialogue, an elevator-pitch style concept – all to spark your imagination.
Some prompts won’t inspire anything in you, but that’s fine – read as many as you can until you find one that sticks.
Go on Pinterest
This social media site is a platform for people to create virtual scrapbooks using images collected from every source imaginable. Pinterest has everything, from crafty tutorials to garden and fashion inspiration, to art, product design and everything in between – it’s a total melting pot.
Explore Pinterest and you’ll be shown everything from little-known Renaissance masterpieces to how to carve a wooden spoon, so just let your mind wander as you scroll and save anything that inspires you to your own Pinterest board.
Read the news
The main stories are often harrowing, depressing and by definition very raw, so if you feel moved to write about those you can – but the best inspiration is often found in the small, local presses.
Odd happenings, regional rivalries, unheard injustices and human dramas unfold online and offline in magazines and newspapers. Real life is often stranger than fiction, and it may not take very long to find a story you can put your own additional spin on.
Do you have a favorite way of coming up with ideas? Any more tips on finding inspiration? Leave yours below in the comments!