Where Do Ideas Come From?

ideaI don’t know any writer who hasn’t been asked “Where do your ideas come from?” I’m also not sure I know any writers who don’t cringe (at least a little) when they hear that question. I’ve been thinking about where ideas come from and how they grow into a book. So far, here’s where the ideas for my manuscripts have come from:

  • A friend saying, “you should write a book about…”
  • A dream
  • Trying to answer the question “What if” while out with my husband walking the dog
  • A tragic news story that has haunted me, in various forms, for years
  • Needing to get the tragic story above out of my head and turning it upside down to write a funny sarcastic character who deals with a whole different set of tragic circumstances
  • Another dream although the entire story changed in the process
  • An era in history that has always fascinated me
  • A story on Mysteries at the Museum.

Five of those are complete (you can define “complete” in whichever way you choose. I’m not sure I have a blanket description, myself). Two of them have sold, one will never see the light of day, and one might be saved from the circular file through a collaboration with one of my amazing crit partners if we can ever find the time to do it. The other is probably my favorite and I have notes to use in revising as soon as I come up for air.

Another is 90% completed, but something has been stopping me from writing the ending and until I figure out my own hesitation, I’m going to let it percolate. Finishing things isn’t something I have problems with, so I’m assuming there might be a reason for this.

The historical, which should be the easiest because it is about a time I’ve been studying for years and a character who is probably the most like me out of any I’ve written, is vexing me. “Write what you know” might be great advise, but I sometimes think that if you know too much, it’s hard to write the story.

The final one is wavering between genres, so I have to see where it leads me. But I'm kind of in love with it at the moment.

I’m sure, in some later post, I’ll try to describe my totally unorthodox writing process and how I got to the point of giving myself permission to OWN that process.

But for now, I’m kind of fascinated by looking at my own list and knowing that it’s possible for two words like “what if” to turn into an entire book.