Novel Ideas and Where to Find Them
This is part one in a multi-part series that will take you through the novel-writing process. From ideation to post-launch strategy, I’m going to cover each stage of the journey to authordom.
In this article, I’ll be exploring sources of inspiration for those who are uncertain of what they would like to write about. If you’ve already chosen a concept, going through this list is a good way to develop it further. Utilized properly, you’ll have at least a page or two of fresh novel ideas at the end of the process.
Let’s get to it.
1. Revisit Your Favorite Books, Shows, and Films
Take a look at the type of content you like to consume, then ask yourself the following questions:
- What drew me to this?
- Are there any common threads?
- What about this stuck out in my mind? (characters, themes, challenges, genre, style)
The point of this exercise is to identify elements that already inspire you that you can then spin or pay homage to in your own work.
2. GET TO KNOW YOUR GENRE
Hopefully, the previous strategy helped you figure out the type of book you would like to write. From here, it’s time to start reading other authors and books in your genre.
As you read, think about what you like, what doesn’t work, and what you might have done differently. Writers often mention other authors who their style is similar to or that influenced them (an actual Goodreads profile section.)
The more you study your genre, the easier it will be to identify your target audience, who, other than yourself, are the people you’re writing for. We’ll take a closer look at the target audience concept in the marketing part of this series.
3. SURVEY YOUR FRIENDS
Like step one, you can ask your friends what they enjoy reading most.
What are their favorite genres?
- Who are their favorite authors?
- What types of plotlines, themes, and characters are they into?
If it makes sense to do, incorporate their feedback into your work.
4. STALK (JOIN) ONLINE COMMUNITIES
There are entire communities and tribes built around the genre you’ve chosen. Join some Facebook groups and learn to make Reddit your friend (I’ll also be talking about this in the marketing portion of this series.)
For now, hold back and watch the day-to-day interactions of the group. Read any posted guidelines and get an idea of how to do things. Take note of any recurring questions, likes and dislikes, and recommendations.
If the members keep asking about the same type of story but are getting few answers pay special attention. You may have come across an unfulfilled need in the market.
Once you have an idea of how to behave, you’re free to join the conversation, but beware of any shameless self-promotion that doesn’t add value. The Redditers bite.
5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TWITTER POLLS
A Twitter poll is a handy-dandy tool that you can use to survey your audience. It’s as simple as asking a question and giving your followers answers to choose from.
At this stage, you can present some of your ideas and ask which one they like the best. If you’ve zeroed in on some books or authors that inspire you, you can poll the group and find out which book or author is the most popular.
Twitter polls will show up again as part of our marketing strategy giving you one more thing to look forward to. You’re welcome.
6. COZY UP TO HISTORY
I know, I know. You hated your high school history class. Bear with me here.
Our world history is filled to the brim with interesting and inspiring stories:
- Take a look at the great families of the past, such as the Borgia or the Medicis.
- Delve into different eras, like the Italian Renaissance, French Revolution, or US prohibition.
- Gaze into the minds of famous figures, such as Marcus Aurelius, Joan of Arc, and Marie Curie.
- Relive world-shaking events like the Crusades and the creation of the atom-bomb.
Some of the best books, such as Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, were inspired by real-world accounts (The War of Roses in this case.)
7. DON’T BECOME A SLAVE TO INSPIRATION
If you’ve gone through the previous steps and are still unsure, then simply start writing. Write whatever comes to mind or concerns you that day.
Real authors don’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. They show up and do the work, even when they don’t want to.
8. SET ON REPEAT
Not all ideas are created equal. You might generate dozens or even hundreds during this process. Don’t settle for whatever you come up with first. Keep going until it’s love at first.
Write the book that you wish existed.
That concludes part one of this series, The Author’s Journey. Hopefully, you discovered some novel ideas that got your creative engine going. Come back next week to take a look at strategies you can use to get the most out of the research process.