Writing Fiction: Keep Your Idea Factory Humming From Idea To Novel

When you’re writing fiction, everything starts with an idea for a story. Your story idea ends as a published novel, or as short story… Or even perhaps as a series, or a serial.

Let’s look at the process of getting and using your ideas:

  • Get ideas;
  • Manage your ideas;
  • Write: take your idea to a published book.

Writing fiction? Everything starts with an idea

An idea can come from anywhere. Write them down; if you don’t, they’ll quickly fade because they’re ephemeral, like dreams.

Give your ideas time to gestate, but not too much time. Use the ability of your subconscious mind. As we said, the subconscious mind works in mysterious ways:

Your muse (subconscious mind) takes an active part in your writing. Give her time to do her part of the work.

Let’s look at how to manage your own idea factory.

1. Get ideas: you’ll develop your own favorite idea sources

I get most of my ideas while I’m writing fiction, or reading nonfiction.

One of my current novels is the second in a historical series. While writing the first book, I added snippets of characterization which coalesced to form a BIG idea for the second and third novels in the series. Moreover, suddenly I could see hints of a fourth and fifth novel in the series.

It’s wonderful when this happens, but I almost gave up on first novel: for endless time, I hated it. Writing was torture. I doubted not only my concept for the novel, but also the major characters.

Big tip: when your energy fades on a book, keep going. You’ll be rewarded.

Every author finds ideas from anywhere and everywhere. You might come across a great idea when you’re doing genealogical research, as one of my writing students did.

Over time, as you keep writing, you’ll find your own favorite sources for new ideas.

2. Manage your ideas: flesh each idea out a little

As we’ve said, ideas are ephemeral. You need to flesh them out a little. I like to review my ideas on the weekend; it takes an hour or so. Often, you’ll find ideas will combine to form a fresh idea.

Now’s the time to decide whether you like an idea and how you’ll use it. Can you use it in a current or a projected novel? Could an idea be the seed for a novel, or a short story?

It’s September, so it’s time to get started on your Christmas-themed stories and publish them asap. Writing a couple of Christmassy stories is a wonderful way to boost sales of your older published novels and series.

Slot your ideas into projects. If you’ve been writing fiction for a year or two, you’ll have a publication schedule for the next 12 months planned.

3. Write: take your idea to a published book

When you take time to manage your ideas each week, developing your publishing schedule and writing fiction becomes much easier.

You’ve got ideas to support your schedule, all that’s left is the writing and publishing. While there’s a LOT to the publishing process, it’s all manageable.

We’ll look at the publishing process in more detail in the coming months. But everything starts with your ideas. You need a process to make your ideas work for you and to do that, you need to be writing consistently.

Look on each idea as a little kiss from the gods, or from the muse. Ideas are mysterious gifts. Use them.

At times, writing can be fun (truth to tell, it’s fun most of the time.) When it’s not fun: when it’s torture, only engrained habits will help you to keep writing. Finally, you’ll get to the other side of the torture, and you’ll have gifts awaiting you.

November will soon be here; many authors will be tackling NaNoWriMo. Get your fiction idea factory into full production in preparation for November and beyond.

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