Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ready, Set, NO!

When you're ready to write, do you ever suck it up and start working on an old project just to have something to work on- hoping that inspiration eventually takes the reins and makes it into ‘the’ project?

Or do you brainstorm? Look for that ever-elusive ‘high concept’ that all the agents and editors rave about?

Ask a ouiji board for a story idea?

Meditate in a forest?

Get a tarot card reading?

Make up whacky dialogue for the strangers around you until something sticks?

I’m at a loss. It’s like I’m sitting in a Ferrari, raring to go, only to realise I’m outta gas...in a new town where I don’t know where to get gas. Or even what the best gas for my car is!  Oh my God, I’m STRANDED!!!!

 (...Aaand there’s today’s writing analogy, people. Oh, how I have missed those gratuitous writing analogies that always seem to go just a little. too. far.)

I’m ready to start another book. I’m ready to discover a whole new set of interesting characters and accompany them around the twists and turns of a whole new plot. I’m ready to get lost in a brand new setting, to spend hours tap-tapping away at my keyboard, lost in the powerful throws of creation! You know, that- ‘in my little world, I am GOD! -feeling?

I’m ready to get excited, seeing those word count numbers jump up by the thousands in a matter of days and weeks. And I miss how a new work-in-progress brings me back to the methods, set-backs, questions, and curiosities that always pop up while I’m emerged in a state of ‘writer’ – giving me material a’plenty to spew out into the blogoverse.

There’s just one problem.

I have no book idea.  Nothing. Nada. N...(Nope, I can’t think of another cool ‘N’ word that means the same thing.)

Sure, I’ve got a few old ideas in the closet, if I rummage around enough. But none of them have inspired me to take the next steps.

At the same time, I don’t want to just sit around, waiting for lightning to strike.


Any suggestions?

49 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

I've been there and it's frustrating! Maybe write a couple short stories? Make a list of what if? Or just take the time and read great books and watch your favorite movies/TV shows. It's come!

April Plummer said...

Aw. I wish I could say I understand, but I haven't been there. Yet. At least, I have, but only during times when I've had other things to work on - edits and such.

The only things I can suggest are things that you've probably heard before - browse news headlines, Youtube clips, blogs, different forums ( politcial, writing, other arts, psychology, ANYthing) - and jot down things that interest you. Don't think about how to make those things into a story. Not yet. Just take note of the things that perk you up and make you want to know more, understand more. Or things that make you think, "OMG, I so get that" or things that make you think "WTH?"

Do that for a few days, a few weeks, whatever.

Then go back through all that and see what you end up with!

Tonja said...

I would work on an old one. As soon as you stop looking for an idea, it will come to you.

Justin W. Parente said...

I've been there too, Katie. My original manuscript, Bond of Darkness, was a 7 year project starting when I was a junior in high school. Then when I really started getting heavily into writing (through my minor), I really noticed just how bad my manuscript was. However, I was repairing it the wrong way. I kept editing on top of what I liked.

I trunked the project and drew out ideas for other ms length projects, but none really fit my bill. All of the sudden (and just in time for NaNo), a new plot hits me for Bond of Darkness. Like brand new. The inspiration came from playing a trading card game with some friends. The inspiration comes from all over and I ran with it then.

My suggestion is trunk it, wait, write some shorts or flash, and then come back. If you still aren't ready, try contacting a magazine to read their slush. That's what one of my crit partners did and they've hired her to read their slush. Anything is possible, really.

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's a frustrating place to be at. Maybe read for awhile for inspiration and just look around in your world to see if any ideas come. Laura's suggestions are good too.

Candy Lynn Fite said...

Nilch...there's another "N" word. Or you can add an "o" just to be cute...Nilcho! Oh, and I think the actual word is zilch, but we're writers, and we can makes stuff up!

Wow. I only wish I wasn't in the middle of revision. I have an idea that's been bugging the crap out of me for weeks. But, I'm only allowed to vent my creative gas (ha, ha) on Fridays and Saturdays...oh, how I wish it was the weekend now!

Go for a brisk walk in the woods, forest, park...that always works for me. If that doesn't work, read the newspapers. I know, boring! But actually, that's where I got my last idea from.

Anonymous said...

ever try and rewrite high school English assignments? Or Creative writing 101 assignments?

Slamdunk said...

That is tough. I would continue to plow ahead with daily writing exercises and try to read lots--hoping creativity would descend upon me.

Tracy Jo said...

I don't have any great advice because I haven't even made it through writing my first book yet but sometimes when I am stuck...I will go for a run or do a different creative passion. Like I will work on my photography and then ideas come to me for writing. Sending you positive writing vibes!!

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh dear god. This terrifies me, because I've been working for so long on one book, I'm convinced I'll never have another idea. I mean I do intend for there to be sequels, but you know, I worry I'll never have another new idea.

Heather Kelly said...

I fear this day. When I think there is no idea for the next novel. But I bet there are some, right under the surface. I love Slamdunk's suggestion of daily exercises. Have you tried The Artist's Way? That is a good guide for tapping into creativity. :) Good luck. I bet those ideas are lurking right around the next corner!

Laura Marcella said...

I usually do writing prompts/exercises when I need a new idea. Writers Digest has some good ones here: http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts

This site is also good for generating ideas: http://archetypewriting.com/muse/idea_generators.htm

Or –shameless plug ahead– you can check out my Wednesday posts! :)

Oooo, and try making your own personal universe deck that one of my college professors had all of her students do: http://lauramarcella.blogspot.com/2011/12/creating-your-personal-universe-deck.html

It really works plus it's fun!

Good luck, Katie. You'll get out of this no idea funk, don't worry!

Suzie F. said...

I'm going through something similar right now. I do have an idea, and even the first 1000 words (from an earlier NaNo project) but I can't move forward. I've been blogging about it a bit and have decided to work on character development.

So I guess my suggestion would be to have fun creating random characters. Maybe people watch and let your imagination wander. Perhaps it will spark a story idea. Good luck, Katie! I know how frustrating it can be.

Tracy said...

Wow! That's got to be uber frustrating.

Are you reading a lot right now? Maybe trying reading even MORE. It's usually while I'm reading someone else's stories that my own ideas start vying for my imagination's attention.

Eve.E said...

oh no, Thats always frustrating isn't it? when it comes to starting a new project, it's hard to know where to start at times, but I'm sure you will do it!!! Good Luck xxx

Cherie Reich said...

Aww! I can't imagine how hard it must be not to have an idea. Perhaps try reading or watching TV for inspiration, or even reading over old work or writing shorter works can get the creativity to flow. Sometimes just doing something else can create an idea. :)

Good luck!

I like your analogy, by the way. :)

Angelina Rain said...

It must be frustrating not to have any ideas. I haven't had to deal with that yet, as ideas come at me constantly. I don't have the time to write all of them. You may want to try watching the news or reading a good book to spark ideas. Or my favorite idea machine is driving around town. I've come up with so many plots while driving, it's not even funny.

Connie Keller said...

I've had dreams inspire novels. If there's a particularly vivid image, I write a short story about it and see if there's enough "energy" to generate novel.

Actually, I've had a lot of short stories turn into novels. It lets me get my feet wet without a lot of emotional commitment.

BTW, loved the Ferrari image!

Connie Keller said...

I've had dreams inspire novels. If there's a particularly vivid image, I write a short story about it and see if there's enough "energy" to generate novel.

Actually, I've had a lot of short stories turn into novels. It lets me get my feet wet without a lot of emotional commitment.

BTW, loved the Ferrari image!

Old Kitty said...

Oh Katie!! I am yelling and making lots of noises in the hope that these would wake up your muse!!!! Wake up Muse of Creepy!! She needs you!!! Up, up, up!! Pronto! Vite!! LOL!

:-)

Take care
x

Marisa Hopkins said...

Oh man, I so know the feeling! And when you get that idea, you'll probably get a slew of them at once and then have to pick one - which is almost as hard as not having an idea to pick!

I'm not a short story writer, but to get over a bit of block between projects, my CPs have been sending me picture prompts to play with - and the results have been pretty fun. Maybe giving that a try will help! And those short story ideas might grow into the perfect novel!

Good luck gathering ideas!

Meika said...

I had this problem for NaNoWriMo. I settled in an old idea and ended up fizzling out because I wasn't excited about it. I always fear I'll never have a new idea. It's scary!

Meika said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Van Helsing said...

What about aliens disguised as clouds? They float around above us and nobody takes any notice of them. Your hero could work for the weather board or something. (I want paying if you use this).

Meredith said...

Spend a few days looking for inspiration. Go on walks. Read random magazine articles. Listen to music you normally wouldn't. People watch. Sit in a cafe and mull over a pot of coffee. Good luck!

mshatch said...

I suppose I'm lucky that I'm never at a loss for ideas. I have so many half started and 'finished' projects that need revision not to mention the numerous snippets I've jotted down in my folder of new ideas.

But if I were looking I might check out the news, preferably the lesser known stories and possibly the foreign news. Sometimes there's interesting things that spark an idea.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I think you have to think about your preferred genre, then come up with a concept/idea you feel strongly enough about to write a book around it. Do you want to write from a male POV or female? What kind of person is he/she? That kind of thing.

Funny that you posted this today--I spent last night trying to come up w/the opening lines for my next book. Thankfully, it's historical fiction, so I'm basing it on actual events. That gives me more of a framework/plot.

All the best to you--the ideas will come!

Anne Gallagher said...

Ha! Been there, done that, just this week as a matter of fact. Did my usual, write a million pre-dated blog posts, finished up a couple of other little things, and then nada, nothing. Looked at an old project and realized it was too large and I wanted something small to take my mind off my beta's having my latest WIP. So, I decided to write a short story. Don't know how it's going to turn out, don't even know what I'm going to do with it, but it's little enough to keep me entertained for the time being. And hey, who knows, maybe it will turn into something else.

Janet Johnson said...

I've been there (all too recently), and it's no fun. I guess I would suggest looking at a book or a subject that gets you excited and focus on what it was about that that excited you. Then brainstorm your guts out.

That's what worked for me. Though I've just finished outlining the project so I've got a ways to go to see if the inspiration sticks. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

That's such a difficult place to be, and SO frustrating. When I'm desperate, I turn to my hubby. He's full of creativity.

Cynthia Lee said...

I try to do something that involves some kind of repetitive, meditative movement, whether it's yoga or walking or whatever, while listening to music.

From some reason, this will occasionally jiggle something loose.

Stephsco said...

I'd start with tinkering with an old project, or work on a piece that's completley new. Take one of your favorite TV shows or a recent movie and write an opinion piece. Do something out of the ordinary to get some ideas going.

Melody said...

Ack. I have been there. (I may still be there, I'm not sure. I may be getting out of it. I think. Possibly.) My fixes?

Write anything. Whatever captures my fancy, even just a little, I write. It could be an old story, or a new one. Anything. It could be totally cliche. It's okay. I just write it for a certain amount of time a day, just to once again feel what it feels like to put words on paper for the first time. (After all that editing, it's been a long time since the first time.)

Also - fanfiction. I'm not kidding. It won't make you any money, but it really helps the creative juices start flowing. :)

Scarlett said...

People watch ~ That's my advice.

There are a multitude of stories just aching to be discovered and craftily manipulated ~ all in the faces, and spilling forth from the mouths, of complete strangers who have no idea you are there observing.

Besides, it can also serve as good therapy. I mean with, 'Who wants to be THAT guy'... and 'That poor, poor woman' running amok in our tired brains, we take home a small gift of appreciation for our own problems.

It's a win-win.

Nicole L Rivera said...

Not that you need anymore advice, but I say go for a walk or two or ten. Don't write for a bit, get somewhere quite, stop thinking about writing, and see what happens.

Either way, I feel you'll find your groove again soon. Sometimes we need a rest.

Many blessings,
Nicole

Jess said...

Go to a library and flip through magazines until something strikes you as bizarre/unique enough to be the next big blockbuster :)

WhisperingWriter said...

What I do is browse the internet for ideas. You'll be surprised on what can come up.

Or I just grab a notebook and start writing down all sorts of ideas. Eventually one makes sense.

One idea came to me in the bathroom, of all places. I was like, "I need some paper! I need to write this down before I forget! Hello? Anyone?"

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Katie, I was there for six months after completing my second book and sending it to my publisher. Make it a trilogy - but what else would I write about? Took a few comments from those who've now reviewed the second book for an idea to finally strike.
Crap, that probably doesn't help you any...

Helena said...

Maybe pull out your favorite daydreams from childhood (Sheena Queen of the Jungle is mine) or from adolescence, because for me there's a mental and emotional freedom when I put myself way back in those days. Then write some deliberately goofy first sentences because hey, you're a kid again writing in your cheap throwaway notebook so you have no literary inhibitions. Hope that helps...

Angela M. said...

I've gotten ideas usually from people. I get characters in my head, sometimes inspired by real people or pictures or even cartoons. I recently stowed away two more story ideas from watching documentaries on tv. My latest WIP came from the title of a song. I thought, "That'd be a great title for a book." And then the story idea popped out from just that little seed. I keep a file of people, places, objects and situations that interest me so when I need an idea, it often comes from there.

Hope the funk goes away. It sucks to be blocked. It never lasts, though. Stay strong ;)

DL Hammons said...

Nil...(your other N word)

Sorry, I've never been in that position. But I'm willing to brainstorm some idea's with you, if you like?

Nancy Thompson said...

I'm in a similar boat -- er, Ferrari. I have the characters and the premise, but no real plot as of yet. It's so frustrating. And I seriously cannot work on my first book anymore. It;s done and ready to go. So I sympathize, Katie. May we both find out mojo soon!

Jade Hart said...

Hi creepy query girl :) Love it. :) I'm a new follower and really look forward to your future posts :)
I don't really have any advice. How about taking a look at your life: What would you most like out of everything? Powers, time... perhaps make something up about a mundane thing but with a twist..like a kettle that makes a cup of tea, but actually boils a life giving elixer that you make millions off? lol.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Yikes. What can I say after 43 other comments that would be useful?

I know how you're feeling. I've even felt the same way -- recently -- WHILE working on a WIP that I'm not sure is up to snuff. (Sorry, WIP!)

I think it's worth taking up an old idea and moving forward with it, even if it's just to allow newer, better ideas to percolate to the surface. I'm here to brainstorm with you -- if you're willing to do the same with me!

(I cheated today -- on my WIP and on my job. I spent my planning period OUTLINING an idea I have ...)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

You could try writing a character sketch or two; that's always been a good writing prompt for me. And didn't Anne Lamott write in her book Bird by Bird to focus on character first and then just let the plot develop from there?

Susanne Drazic said...

Pick a couple of current topics and play "What if?" That might help get some ideas flowing.

You can also do some people watching. Try and figure out what their life is like, where they are going, where they've been? What is their home life like? Stuff like that.

Shirley Wells said...

You have my sympathy. I hate it when my editor asks about the next book and I don't have a clue. I tend to sit and brainstorm until I come up with a vague hopeless sort of notion. Then I take the dogs for long walks and hope that inspiration strikes. What a pity we can't get ideas at the local supermarket. Buy one, get one free would be good. :)

Nicole L Rivera said...

Sorry, one more suggestion. Writing and the Spirit by Ken Kuhlken. I recently found this book and it's been an inspiration.

Steven E. Belanger said...

I go back to old projects--some of them so old that I forgot they were even there. I do that enough, usually, and something else will come to me, or at least I'll get another project done. Sort of.

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