Ten Tips to Generate Ideas for Your Next Novel, Short Story, or Poem

Ten Tips to Generate Ideas for Your Next Novel, Short Story, or Poem

Matthew Gurteen

Are you struggling to come up with ideas for your next story? Sometimes, finding inspiration for your next novel, short story, or poem is hard for a writer. If you follow these ten tips, however, you will be working on your next big idea in no time.

1. Try a writing prompt

Writing prompts are handy tools to get you writing when you don’t know what to write about. They can be about anything from seemingly simple ideas like ‘Snow’ or ‘Day’ to longer sentences and personal reflections like ‘A character has just been told the world will end tomorrow, how do they respond?’ and ‘Your favourite character is transported back in time, where do they go and who do they talk to?’. Writing a short story or poem based on one of these questions or prompts is sure to get your creativity flowing.

2. Read

Perhaps the best thing you can do if you struggle to generate ideas is read. As Stephen King, author of It, Pet Sematary, and Carrie, says, If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. There are so many great books out there. Find out what makes them great and write from there. Maybe you can even adapt a story that an author has already written or take an interesting idea and make it your own. Although you should not plagiarise, true originality is a myth. It is okay to find your inspiration in somebody else’s work.

3. Brainstorm

If you are still struggling after reading and trying a writing prompt, it is time to break out the mind map. Brainstorming is another helpful tool to organise your ideas and generate new ones. Try starting from a character and mind-mapping the people around them. You could also brainstorm a setting by mapping all of its features. You can get as creative as you want with them!

4. Write Anything

Similar to brainstorming, sometimes the best thing you can do if you struggle to generate ideas is just write anything. Write about what you had for breakfast that morning or the last time you took a taxi somewhere. There is no need for a prompt. Just start writing! Describing something else is often all it takes for your mind to devise your next big idea subliminally.

5. Keep a notepad close

This tip is more for when that idea finally comes, no matter how big or small. Make sure you have a notepad – or even just the notes app on your phone – for when that idea strikes! It doesn’t matter how insignificant you think it is. Part of being a great writer is taking those small ideas and turning them into big ones. If you don’t write down even the little ideas, you will forget them, and then you’re back at step one.

6. Connect random words

Similar to writing prompts, you can start with a list of nouns and adjectives and try to connect them to form an interesting story. Try writing a story with the words ‘ice, skull, safe, pet, tall’ in it in that order. As soon as your mind makes those connections, it generates ideas, and it will be easier to develop more.

7. Use hypothetical statements

Another fun exercise you can do to generate ideas is to ask yourself – and write stories based on – hypothetical questions. These can be historical, such as ‘What if the dinosaurs never went extinct?’ or ‘What if we had landed on the moon a century earlier?’. You can also ask theoretical questions like ‘What if the president suddenly disappeared?’ or ‘What if someone decided to walk to the nxt galaxy?’. Questions like these generate ideas in our minds instantly. Write a story based on your response, and you’ll be creating new ideas in no time.

8. Paint a picture

Sometimes the best way to generate a new writing idea, however, is not to write at all. If the previous tips have not worked, try painting a picture or do any other artistic medium besides drawing. Maybe your ideas aren’t manifesting as words because they aren’t words yet. Try drawing what you imagine it would look like on another planet, or compose a piece of music for a new character. Whatever it is, create first and let the writing come second.

9. Use visual images

Once you have painted a picture from the last tip, you can use these images to generate a new story. You can also use images you find online or in books and base your story on those. Visual images are great ways of making new stories. Try connecting three or four seemingly random images in an exercise, or insert your favourite character into the picture.

10. Take a walk

If all else fails, sometimes the best thing a writer can do is take a walk or do anything besides trying to write. Generating ideas is complex. Some days, it just comes more naturally than others. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have not yet found your next big idea. Instead, take a walk and get some fresh air. Who knows, maybe your next idea will be out there too.

If you follow these ten tips, reasonably soon, you’ll have more ideas than you know what to do with. As John Steinbeck, author of Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, wrote, Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

Ten Tips to Generate Ideas for Your Next Novel, Short Story, or Poem