How To: Generate Ideas

Yesterday I talked about why writing is important, and that it is important to write, no matter how much or how little you do each day, so long as you do something. Today I want to continue on with the NaNoWriMo theme and, now that we know why it is important to write, talk about how to kick-start your writing.

Today I want to talk about how to get started – how to get the creative juices flowing to come up with ideas of things to write about. To me, that is probably the hardest part of the whole process, generating ideas. So I’ve come up with a couple of ideas to help get you started.

Carry a Notebook

You know that saying you come across so often about carrying a notebook and jotting ideas down wherever and whenever you find them? Well, I know I regret it any time I forget to take a pen and some paper with me anywhere I go. So much so that I’ve taken to using my cellphone and iPad for this purpose.

What kinds of things should you write down as ideas? Anything that catches your fancy that you think is interesting or unique: overheard snippets of conversation, something that happened to you or someone you saw, an interesting setting… whatever you can think of goes into your notebook, to be consulted when you are stuck for ideas.

Notebooks are also extremely handy when you have a sudden brainwave. You can jot it down in your notebook without worrying about forgetting the idea in the buzz of the everyday things everyone has to get done.

Sentence Starters

Write a bunch of random sentences and pick two at random to include in a story. These could be anything from “The cat sat on the mat…” to “Once upon a time in a land far away…” to “Mary crept up the steps slowly, careful not to make a sound.” For each sentence starter you come up with, try to write an opening paragraph for a story.

Random sentence generator

How this works:

Column A: as many names as you can think of, both male and female. (eg, Mary, Michael, Elisha, Amy, Charlotte, Carmel, Matt, Sam, Chris, Jack, Harry…)

Column B: as many verbs (doing words) as you can think of. (eg, sitting, crawling, creeping, eating, sleeping, running, playing…)

Column C: as many places as you can think of. These can be specific places such as Tauranga, New Zealand or generic such as a bedroom (eg, USA, New Zealand, Ohio, bedroom, closet, attic, bathroom, under the stairs…)

Column D: random objects (eg, table, chair, fork, scarf, egg, cheese, window

Pick any word at random from each column, (eg, Mary, sitting, USA, table) and incorporate all four words into your story.

Mary sat at her kitchen table in the United States and wondered, “What am I doing here so far from home?” This is incorporating all of the elements into one sentence but it also gives you an idea of the many different directions the story can take from here.

Are there story starters that you use that are different to the options I have listed above? How do you generate ideas for your writing? Share with me in the comments.