J-A’s Writing Process – Step 1 – The Idea

I have a confession to make – I’m not an ideas person.  I’m not one of these super-creative people who have ‘light bulb moments’ when an innovative idea comes to mind out of the blue and fills me with inspiration and passion.  That’s why I don’t writing science fiction – I don’t have any idea what the future will look like until someone tells me. 

So when someone asked me ‘how do you get ideas’, I had to really think.  The answer for me is that over time, I get a small collection of things I’m interested in, and then when I need an idea, I sit down and play around something off that list.  This is why a notebook is important.  Because it’s hard for me to come up with ideas, I need to note where I’ve had an interesting thought and then I can maybe use my knowledge of the writing craft to drag an idea out of it.

Examples of where I get these ‘pre-ideas’ from are:

  • dreams
  • a place I’ve been to
  • emotional intrigues in something I’ve read in a newspaper or seen on the news
  • interesting jobs or settings from history I’m reading about

Anyhow, you get the picture.  Then I sit down and work out what characters in these scenarios might be like, what fantasy setting I can apply to it and what kind of conflict might happen in it. 

Alas, no light bulb goes off and sometimes it can take ages to pull it all out.  Perhaps that’s why I write fantasy, so I only have to go through this idea generation thing every 3 books (provided one sells!).

If anyone else has ideas of how to get ideas, would love to hear about them.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Graham Storrs
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:43:30

    I met a writer at a conference who said when he needed ideas, je just opened a newspaper and looked at the headlines. For each one, he tried to re-phrase it as a ‘what if?’ question (sometimes negating the original.)

    There’s a blog I like called Paperback Jack that tries to come up with lots of different ways to stimulate writers’ imaginations (http://paperbackjack.net/). And another (which I’ve lost the link for!) that posts interesting pictures each day as a spur to imagination.

    Personally, my thoughts are roughly summed up here: http://grahamstorrs.cantalibre.com/28/10/2008/where-do-you-get-your-ideas/ but something I’ve been keen on lately is looking at anthologies.

    Every so often, a new anthology is announced and a call for stories put out. The editor describes the theme and people submit stories that match. I’ve written quite a few short stories lately by looking at anthologies and thinking, “Now, what could I write that would fit?” Even when the anthology is well outside my preferred genre, I try to imagine a story in my genre that would fit – which is how I come to be writing a hard sci-fi werewolf story at this moment!


    • J-A Brock
      Sep 02, 2009 @ 19:36:26

      hard sci fi werewolf? cool! i’d like to read that – let me know when it comes out! thanks for the tips by the way.


  2. janettedalgliesh
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 14:09:35

    Hm, I reckon your notebook is like a collections of glowworms – they illuminate your creativity without needing those loud and clunky light bulbs!!

    This is a great idea and I am going to steal it immediately.

    BTW I don’t get light bulbs either. I get little squibs which go off at the most inopportune moments (in the shower is a favourite) and if I am very lucky, I remember them long enough to incorporate them into the story I’m dragging into the light of day…

    Hm, maybe a waterproof notebook is the trick for me 🙂


    • J-A Brock
      Sep 02, 2009 @ 19:35:14

      i read years ago on sara douglass’s website that she does her thinking in the bath. maybe you could try that – might be easier to keep the notebook dry!


  3. Trackback: The Ideas Bag « J-A Brock – A Blog for Beginner Writers

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