There’s oodles of advice on the internet and elsewhere about planning a novel’s structure and analysing everything from plot to characters, but where does the original idea for writing a book come from? Does it arrive in a flash of inspiration or the result of hard work and brainstorming?
By all accounts, it seems to be a combination of both – this is the real world folks, nothing is black or white! The good news is that the process doesn’t have to be one way or the other. The craft of writing adapts nicely to every author’s whim.
Personally, I think the first seed of the idea does indeed come in a flash, which is then finely tuned by asking those ‘what if’ questions around that first basic scrap of inspiration. A famous author once said:
‘Inspiration is for amateurs. Professionals get to work!’
It sounds a bit brutal, but that’s about the size of it. Once you think about a possible idea that just might grow into a great book, you need to work on it, organise your thoughts and approach it like a boss.
How To Get Ideas For Writing A Book – One Author’s Perspective
Hello everyone. I’ve decided as some of you may know to start a little series on my Youtube channel called ‘How to write a book’, (remembering that there isn’t one way to write a book) and essentially everything I say you can actually ignore, because you can just do what you want!
I get a lot of questions about writing books because I’m an author. I’ve written two books. I got published and I was quite young, and people starting writing, just want a bit of advice and I thought I could just address like every little part of writing a book in just a series of videos.
A simple series of videos definitely not, so when I keep getting asked the same questions I can just link them to videos instead of having to explain the same thing over and over again. On Tumblr a question I get asked a lot is ‘how do I come up with ideas?’ and that’s like the very first point you will be at before starting a book, especially if you want to write a book but you just don’t have an idea.
I mean, sometimes you have the idea at first and you’ll be like ‘that would be a good idea for a book’ I’m going to go write bit but sometimes a lot the time you just feel like I want to write something but you don’t have any ideas. So I’m gonna talk a little bit about coming up with ideas.
This is a whiteboard. Yes, I have a whiteboard. You know, just seeing and talking on YouTube is fine but is anyone else, like, obsessed with whiteboards? I actually love whiteboards. Every moment in school when I got to write on the whiteboard just made my day.
I just made this word, I mean I’ve had a real thing about this, and I think there are three main things that you need to consider if you want to try and come up with an idea. The first one, which apparently is red, and I have three colors for the three different things.
I know this is ‘Wow’, this is YouTube to the max everyone. The first thing that you should consider is inspiration. Gonna write it down. Sorry about – my oh god! I just forgot how to spell. Okay, so satisfying, sound inspiration when you’re coming up with ideas, only if you can’t come up with ideas.
If you don’t have any ideas, you want to try and get inspired by something, because the thing is about ideas is that there’s no such thing as an original idea. Every single idea you have will be influenced by things that you have seen in your life.
Anything from things have happened to you, people you’ve met, things that you’ve done, TV shows you’ve seen – literally anything that you have experienced in your life that is going to influence the ideas that you have.
And that’s why originality doesn’t exist. Yeah, it can be quite hard to find inspiration because inspiration in its nature tends to be quite a spontaneous thing. It tends to be this moment of, like, I’m inspired, rather than you like you can’t just force it to happen.
But I think there are several ways to kind of go out of your way to try and get inspired and in my opinion that’s mostly kind of experiencing new things. Personally, if I’m lacking inspiration I like to do things like go to the cinema and see your film I haven’t seen.
Or go to the theater and see a play I haven’t seen. Maybe listen to a new album that people have been talking about and I haven’t listened to yet. Basically, for me, it’s just kind of consuming other people’s art and that usually inspires me to think of things.
Let’s add that to a bubble map shall we? Consuming art. That sounds like I want to eat a painting. That can be a metaphor for something. Yes, good and there’s lots of other things that can inspire you. Like as I said, things in your life life experiences.
You don’t have to wait around for something dramatic to happen to you, because dramatic things happening to you are quite rare, but you can think about if you want to write this sort story. You could think about, you know, things that have affected you in your life.
Things that have made you feel deep emotions and a good sound. Yeah and those can all kind of feed into your ideas and inspire you to want to write them down. Because writing is a form of emotional expression for many people, so that could be good.
So to summarize, yeah those are like, for me, those are the two main things but obviously inspiration can just come from anywhere. So you know, be open to pretty much anything. If something makes you feel something, think about why it makes you feel that way and think about whether it would be a good and fun thing to put in a story.
Then good – one thing down. You can go down, the red pin. Okay, so the second thing um leads on quite well from inspiration and yes this is going to be the blue pen everyone. That wasn’t as satisfying. Blue pen is disappointing so far.
The second thing that I think is good for coming up with ideas is thinking about purpose. Strong word – very good. Look, we’re getting some nice colors now. Very very nice indeed. So what I mean by purpose is just having a think about, you know, you want to write a book.
You know you love writing. You want to write but you don’t have the idea. Purpose is figuring out why you want to write a book and think like and from that what sort of book would you want to write. I think the ‘why’ is quite important personally, because there are so many different reasons why someone would want to write a book.
Which is why there are so many different genres of fiction. For example, the person who wrote, James Joyce who wrote Ulysses, probably had a very different reason for writing a book than E.L. James, who wrote 50 shades of grey.
But they both wrote a book. They just both had very different reasons. There’s two very odd examples I chose there. Then probably thinking about why they wanted to write the book, that the type of book that I wanted to write was probably a very big part of figuring out what actually happens in their books.
So you want to write. You need to find your purpose. So from some examples, some people write because they want to explore a theme which is one of my big reasons for writing. Like in solitaire, I explore isolation and loneliness and feeling like different from other people and then in radio silence I explored like school stress and kind of expectation.
You might also want to write a book to express a message and to kind of teach people about something not in life a preacher a but just in a edge sort of educational way. Like I immediately think of only ever yours by Louise O’Neill, which I’m sure Louise wrote.
I mean, maybe it’s a bit presumptuous. I don’t know why anyone writes what they do, but I’m sure Louise wrote that because she wanted to teach people about feminism and about women like having rights over their own bodies and things like that.
So yeah but you know those took two quite serious things. People might also want to write books because they want to give people fluffy warm feelings. Like you know, if you write a very cute romance novel.
That’s not really exploring any deep themes but you’ve still got a purpose for doing that because you’re letting the reader feel lots of nice warm feelings. So yeah, have a sit down, think about, you know, you want to write book but think about the why.
Why do you want to write and then leaving on from that, what would that entail? What to genre would that mean? What characters would you need? What setting would you need to explore? That cool, t nice little flow chart. Now we’ve got bubbles. We’ve got a flow chart and Mr. McCauley from Rochester Grammar School would be proud.
One last thing – I’ve left the whole half the board to do this. I’m not, I’m gonna try and fill up the board third and final thing is brainstorming. This green pen. All right everyone, the green pen is disappointing and I can’t fit the full word brainstorming on the whiteboard.
Just a disappointing final round everyone. That is weak, weak. The final thing I want to talk about brainstorming. Coming up with a book idea , it’s not gonna happen immediately. I mean, you can get that spark of inspiration, you can get like a sudden idea for a character or a theme or a be even a plot line, but you can’t come up with a full book plan in just like in one night.
I mean if you can, good well done. Why are you watching this video? I mean, if you don’t brainstorm, even if it’s just happening in your head, I don’t really know how you would write a book unless you brainstormed.
And so if you don’t know what brainstorming means (I’m sure you do) it just means just coming up with loads and loads of different ideas but miniature ideas. Coming up with loads of these little miniature ideas. Images, words, phrases, quotes and just collecting them all.
That’s right. Words, images, phrases. Wow, I mean this is top quality education. My handwriting is really deteriorated. I’m blaming this pen. Words, images, phrases and quotations. So brainstorming is so much fun. Like you can pretty much do it any way you want.
You could do it like this. You could do a bubble map, loads of bubble maps. You could just get a notebook and write down loads of words and ideas in a notebook and I tell you what is fun. What I always do is I make an inspiration blog like a Tumblr.
I just I collect images on Tumblr. I also make playlists, that’s a good form of brainstorming. So just anything that kind of spurs your imagination. Let’s give you some examples. Here we’ve got playlists ,notebooks, Tumblr – just Tumblr or you could use like Pinterest.
I’d never use Pinterest. I don’t really know like what Pinterest does. I think it’s like move boards. Oh bubble maps, I’ll try and show you some examples or I’ll insert them here, some images of my brainstorming methods. But this needs to go in a bubble continuity everyone.
And oh one more thing about brainstorming – important! You need to give it time. Don’t feel frustrated if you start brainstorming and you don’t immediately have a book idea. Just keep brainstorming . Keep working on those ideas and eventually something will just click.
That was a weak click. Ideas don’t arrive fully formed and complicated in your head. Plots don’t arrive fully formed complete in your head. Neither do characters. Everything starts small. So hopefully I’ve given you some starting points.
At least for me, those are kind of the three main things I think help me come up with ideas but as is the motto. I’ve decided in this series, you don’t have to listen to a single thing I say because writing is art and art is subjective and you can pretty much do whatever you want.
Okay I hope this is helpful. I’ll be back soon with the next one, which i think is gonna be on hold on. I’m gonna check planning. Let me know if this was helpful. Let me know if the whiteboard was a success. I think it was and I’ll see you in the next video. We’ll talk about planning. It’s gonna be good, yeah. Bye.