I’m so glad you asked! Because whether you’re stuck for ideas, have a fledgling idea, or are working with ideas in an existing manuscript, the practical tips I’m going to share with you will have you bursting with creativity and your story will soon begin to take shape. Before we get started, you need to grab some of the below tools of your trade (two are optional and the others should be chosen based on your preference for recording ideas):
❤ Scented candle or diffuser (optional)
❤ An instrumental playlist and headphones (optional)
❤ A marker and sticky notes in seven different colours, or
❤ A big square of butcher’s paper and seven different coloured markers, or
❤ An Excel spreadsheet or a table in a Word document
Here we go . . .
- The first thing I want you to do is revisit your work from the first four steps. Using the materials you’ve chosen to record your ideas, I want you to note down in big bold letters your chosen subgenre, the trope you want to tackle, your themes, and your thematic statement. These are the overarching big picture elements of your story, so it’s important to have them at the centre of your focus. If you’re using sticky notes, put each element on a separate sticky note and stick them somewhere visible (a big blank wall near your workspace would be ideal). If you’re using markers and paper, use the same coloured marker to write each element in the middle of the page. If you’re using a computer, type the elements across the top of the document, enlarge the font and make it bold.
- Next, I want you to create an environment conducive to creativity. Light a candle or turn on your diffuser, play a soundtrack and pop on those headphones. It’s time to focus and get those ideas flowing!
- Now, keeping those big picture elements in mind, start brainstorming. Jot down ideas for characters — both the protagonist and the love interest — their goals, settings, the main story problem (the one your protagonist needs to resolve), and keywords you associate with your themes (these might bring forth ideas that fit into the other categories). Use a different coloured sticky note, pen or column for each category. Go wild, don’t dwell on one idea for too long, and don’t judge.
- Once you’ve exhausted your well of creativity, let your ideas sit for a day or two — as hard as that may be — then come back to your list and add more ideas.
- Start looking at different combinations of ideas from each category. (The benefit of using sticky notes is that you can move them around!) Mix and match your protagonist and love interest. Put them in different settings. Switch out the story problems to see which one has the potential to last for 300-odd pages of a novel.
- Create a shortlist of two to four of the strongest ideas, the ones that stand out as unique and interesting, the ones that speak to you, the ones that will help you get your point across (a.k.a the heart of your story). Again, let them sit for a day or two.
- Take a look at each of your shortlisted ideas. Could they be made stronger in any way? Can you eliminate any? Does one stand out more than all the others? This is the idea you’re going to develop further.