7 Ways for Coming up with Writing Ideas

While it may sound naïve, I used to assume that writers either were idea people or they weren’t. However, it’s more likely that prolific writers usually plan idea searches rather than just getting started and leaving the results to chance. With that insight, I did a bit of planning of my own and discovered some clever idea-finding strategies others are using.

The ideas are arranged from simple list-keeping to computer randomization. Although I’ve organized the ideas by title, each title comes from a complete article. Thus, clicking on the links will take you to the first page of the source article where you can then read all that article’s other ideas.

How do I count the ideas….

  1. In How to Come up with Ideas for Creative Writing, Grant Faulkner advises keeping “a log, journal, or diary” of the experiences and other activities of your writing life. This is one of those habits that works well with the traditional writing notebook many writers carry with them everywhere. Whatever you’re keeping track of, Faulkner says that having a written account of it will help with specificity you later may draw on to enhance a story’s believability.
  2. Writing for Writers’ Digest, 5 Ways to Come Up with Great Story Ideas, Brian A. Klems uses junk mail for inspiration. If you’re writing fiction and have ever created a lengthy character sketch, you no doubt found it a tedious process. However, numerous ideas for fiction might be lurking in email from politicians or marketers. Klems’ strategy is to “Take the next two pieces of spam mail you receive (either snail mail or e-mail) and use it to determine the profession on your protagonist and your protagonist’s love interest.”
  3. In How to Come up with Story Ideas: 6 Foolproof Strategies for Any Writer, Sarah Gribble explains “Writing for a call.” By a “call,” Gribble means magazines and short story anthologies that seek submissions for particular themes and genres, sometimes with prompts for topics the publication is interested in. Once the theme is announced, writers will know what is and is not welcomed for that particular issue and can then evaluate their ideas accordingly.
  4. Dianna Kelly Levey says, in Fun Ways to Come up with New Freelance Article Writing Ideas, “Think small. By that I mean read local newspapers and stories in small towns.” This advice works for small towns as well as for neighborhoods and sub-divisions which have their own local politics and traditions. Levey also suggests that you might want to set up Google alerts by topics and use them to follow neighborhood influencers on social media. Not only will this strategy keep you up to date, but it will also give you a handy way to stay in touch with people who are interested in what you’re doing.
  5. Quick Sprout digital marketing company offers The Top 15 Ways to Come up with New Content Ideas. If your job requires that you publish regularly, you might appreciate Quick Sprout’s advice to “Create topic lists in bunches.” The theory is that “When your mind is focused on one task, it’s much easier to brainstorm.” If that’s true, then it follows that creating topics one at a time on an as-needed basis is a poor use of time because it delays getting started on the writing process. Instead, set aside time to research a number of different subjects and then come up with “long lists of potential topics all at once.”
  6. For a change of pace, Capitalize My Title is a multi-task computer generator which can come up with topics ranging from the simple yes-no question to conversations. For instance, if used in its Random Topic Generator Conversation Starters mode, it produces questions that can provide the premise for a simple reflection. On the other hand, it can also be used to generate strict content such as Bible verses or new information such as blog or video or newsletter titles.
  7. One more computer-generated tool I like is The Story Shack Random Question Generator. Although The Story Shack works pretty much the same way as Capitalize My Title does, I’ve come across more sophisticated questions in The Story Shack’s database. For example, a Story Shack question like “How do you think your reality differs from others you know?” can lead to an extensive think piece as well as a brief blog post. It just depends on how far you want to take it.

A Couple of Final Points

Years ago I bought a book which separated phases and clauses into three-part writing prompts. I soon became bored with the book and, worse yet, ran across a scathing review of the segmentary-prompt concept. However, the resurgence of such works in computerized form emphasizes that nowadays, much of whatever has to do with generating writing ideas also has to do with technology. Thus, I’ve included these two tools in deference to that fact.

Second, in the above articles and dozens of similar ones, the writers advise readers to write every day at specific times set aside for the purpose. Some writers suggest that in planning your searches, you’re training your mind to respond to even the smallest seeds of ideas or to take the initiative in coming up with ideas without your prompting it to. The alternative, the writers say, is arbitrary results brought on by arbitrary habits.

Categories: Writing

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