Asking “What If?” To Find Novel Ideas

Finding ideas for novels isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Yes, ideas are everywhere as long as you keep your eyes and ears open. However, are they good enough to be novel ideas?

Fiction is a genre of made-up stories. Unfortunately, animals can’t talk and dragons aren’t real. Still, there’s some truth to each and every fiction piece out there.

This can be a real-life location that’s the setting of the novel or it can be something as simple as researching sword fighting and going to war in the book.

In my opinion, ideas come in all shapes and sizes throughout the day. It’s just a matter of turning those ideas into stories with one simple question:

What if?

Mystery Month | Asking "What If?" To Find Ideas

“What if” makes you think about what could happen in an alternate universe (a.k.a. your book). “What if” makes you ponder what may possibly be. And most of this can happen through people-watching.

For example…

A young man and young woman are walking through the park. They sit down at a bench and chit-chat.

  • What if they’re brother and sister? Maybe they live in different houses with their partners and children and they’re catching up with each other.
  • What if they’re boyfriend and girlfriend? Maybe they’re talking about moving in together. Maybe an argument in unfolding.
  • What if they’re just friends? Maybe they’re two high school friends home on break from their respective colleges and they’re catching up.

Now ask: What if this happens…? This will create conflict and tension in your story adding more depth and a new direction to go in.

  • A brother and sister are catching up when one of them gets an urgent call from their mother. Something is wrong, they have to leave right away.
  • A boyfriend and girlfriend are discussing plans to move in together when an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend happens to walk by. And they decide to stop and chat with them for whatever reason. Maybe they say something their ex- doesn’t want their current partner to know.
  • Two friends are talking about their first semester of college when they realize they dated the same person the summer before going away.

It’s fun to go out and make-up stories based on what the strangers around you are doing. So, how does this imply to mystery writing?

You’re sitting in a coffee shop and there’s a man (or woman) sitting at the table opposite of you.

  • He’s sitting alone with nothing but a cup of coffee in his hand
  • He’s alone with a cup of a coffee and his laptop open and turned on
  • He’s alone with two cups of coffee

What if…

  • As he’s drinking his coffee, he gets a phone call? Little did you know he’s a detective and he just got a call about a new case or new evidence for a case.
  • With his laptop, he’s looking up news articles and trying to find evidence for a case. Maybe he’s a detective trying to figure things out or maybe he’s a civilian whose friend went missing and he’s trying to find them on his own.
  • Sipping on one coffee, he has the other in front of the second chair at the table. He’s waiting to meet someone. Maybe they come and it’s a fellow officer or maybe it’s a witness. Maybe this person has more to do with the case than the detective thought, or maybe not at all,
  • OR, he sips his own coffee constantly checking the time. After a while, he takes the second cup and either drinks it himself and leaves with it

When it comes to ideas and “what if” scenarios, anything is possible.

How many stories have you come up with by asking “what if” to real life situations? Let me know in the comments below.

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What Can I Do For You?

what can I do

Everything I do on this blog, I do for you guys.

I know the majority of my followers are writers and readers alike, so I post writing prompts to give you guys ideas. I write book reviews because who doesn’t enjoy reading? Seriously though, I also accept books from authors to help them out and get recognized for their hard work.

I also have guest bloggers on my site to promote other readers, writers, and bloggers alike. And what better way to help each other out than to promote and showcase each other? Plus, you all have different ideas and know things I don’t. You guys can teach my followers something I can’t. You guys teach me in the process.

I have plenty of other ideas to help you guys out as well as promote you guys for what you do. I’m not going to mention them now only because I don’t know when these ideas will be able to happen. Just know that I’m always thinking of you guys.

I have three specific days a week (Sunday, Thursday, and Friday) that I devote my time to working on my blog(s).

But I think of this blog every single day. I write down notes and ideas every day even if it’s not a “blogging day” for me.

I’m always coming up with new ideas, thinking of ways to improve my posts whether it’s the way I write them, the kinds of images I use, etc. I’m always trying to better my content and come up with new things that you guys want to see.

I post on here once a day, every day. That’s a lot of content to come up with.

I have my regular features on my blog. Short Story Sunday on Sundays, book reviews on Saturdays, and writing prompts on Fridays. But Monday through Thursday is a free-for-all in terms of content.

If you’ve been following me for a long time, you know all this stuff.

So–to finally get to my point–I need your help.

Instead of my trying to come up with new content ideas day-in and day-out, I need a huge favor from all of you.

In the comments, if you would be so kind to answer the following questions:

1. What do you enjoy most about my blog?
2. What kind of content would you like to see more of?

I have plenty of ideas to last me a lifetime, but I thought what better way to create meaningful content for you guys if I don’t ask you guys what you want?

Only you know what you enjoy reading about. Only you know what you want to learn more about.

Do you want more information on genre-specific writing? Need more grammar help posts? Are you interested in where I am on my writing projects?

If you have a specific post idea, I’d be glad to do it. Or try to do it, anyway.

Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee all of your ideas will happen and if it does, it might take a while. But I still appreciate your input.

I want to know what I’m doing “right” on this blog and I want to know why my followers keep coming back for more.

I’m not an expert in writing or reading or blogging or anything that I talk about on here. But I do my best. I speak from experience, I conduct research.

So I hope you’ll help me out with this little “survey,” I guess you can call it. I want to make sure I’m creating the best content for my readers!

Thanks, guys! I really appreciate it.

Inspiration Station: 6 Ways to Find Ideas

Inspiration Station 6 ways to find ideas

“Where do you get your ideas from?”

I get asked that question frequently from friends, other bloggers, and more. I never have a specific answer for them because my ideas come from everywhere and from everything.

I tell them, as long as you keep your eyes and mind open, you can find ideas all around you.

1. Movies and TV shows.

Most people watch TV in their down time–after work, after dinner, right before bed. Movies and TV shows tell stories. They have a plot, they have characters. Movies can be inspiring and spark new ideas. For me, I always get an itch to write something great whenever I watch Harry Potter.

2. Read a book.

This is pretty straight forward. Whenever I read a great book, I’m always motivating to come up with an idea that’s just as great.

3. People.

When you go out for a walk, go to the grocery store, or just stand in line at the coffee shop, watch the people around you. Observe how they look and act. You can probably come up with a story to fit those people. Just be sure not to judge a book by its cover too much.

4. Real life.

Did something hysterical happen to you and your friends that would only happen in a sitcom? Maybe something terrible happened that you’re still trying to get over. Write about it. Come up with a new ending. Twist and turn the events and make it your own.

5. Create new characters.

Base characters off of yourself, members of your family, some of your friends. Use real life people as guidelines to create a new character. Then see what kind of situations that character can handle in a story.

6. Hopes and dreams.

Do you want to have superpowers and save the world? Maybe you want to travel the world, but don’t have the money. Maybe you wish there were more hours in the day. Create stories based on what you want. We can’t extend the days longer than 24-hours, but in a fictional world one day might be 48-hours long. Think of all the possibilities if each day equaled two.

There are ideas all around us. You just need to get creative and let your imagination run wild with it.

How do you come up with your ideas?

What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada

What Do You Do With An Idea
Photo taken from Amazon.

I went to Barnes and Noble the other day and came across this children’s book, What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada.

I thought it was newly published, but later found out that it came out in February of 2014. So you may have already heard of this lovely story.

Kris and I read through the book together and it melted my heart.

It’s about a child who comes up with an idea and doesn’t know what it is or understands what to do with it.

The child says that he keeps it to himself because he’s afraid of what other people might think. Yet, the idea stays with him and won’t go away.

The idea looks like an egg and it’s the only object on the page that is colored. Everything else is black and white. The idea grows with the child as he gets older constantly following him around.

It isn’t until the child finds some confidence in himself and in the idea that the rest of the illustrations are filled with color showing what a wonderful thing an idea is.

This book has such a powerful message that I believe everyone needs to learn. As a preschool teacher and babysitter of various ages, it’s important to encourage our children to be creative, speak their opinions, and do what they believe is right.

As a writer, it’s important to roll with the ideas we think of and be creative with our thoughts. Writing is a risky business and not everyone may not like your ideas, but there will be people out there who will love your ideas and support you and your ideas.

A new year is going to begin soon. Next year will be all about you. Spread those ideas around, do what makes you happy, do what you believe is right.

Some ideas may not work out, but that’s okay. The worst kind of failure is not trying at all.

Outlining: Tips And Ideas

To outline or not to outline… that is the question.

Last week I wrote a post called, “Why Outline?” The title is pretty self-explanatory. Why should you outline your novel? I gave a list of a few (good) reasons, but ultimately the choice is yours whether you want to outline your novel or not. It’s no big deal if you decide not to.

However, if you do decide to outline your novel here are a few interesting ways to do so (if you don’t already have a particular way to outline).

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The Snowflake Method: Show of hands: who has heard of this before? I have, but have I ever used it? No. I had to do a bit of research for this one because I didn’t really know what it’s about. Basically, it’s a 10-step process on how to organize your writing. You start from a small summary of the novel and go from there. The last step is to begin your first draft.

Now I know it seems like a lot of steps just to go from idea to first draft, but the idea behind it is to start small and take baby steps in organizing your mind and thoughts.

This is to ensure you don’t miss anything while you write the story. All the scenes will be laid out for you, all the characters will be unique and have a certain purpose, and (hopefully) there will be no plot holes.

Does this mean you won’t have to do any editing when the first draft is done? Of course not.

That would be too easy.

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The Skeletal Outline: You know that pyramid thing you learn in elementary/middle school? Well, some people actually put that to good use when they write their novels.

They use this pyramid (plot diagram, according to the picture) to summarize each part. Each part being the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. By summarizing, you write certain scenes you want, describe what the characters are going to do and what’s going to happen to them, etc.

Some people use bullet points to highlight key concepts in each part. Personally, I think the bullet points would be easier. Then again, it wouldn’t be as detailed… unless you use a lot of bullet points.

Like the Snowflake Method, I do not use this method. To be honest, I don’t even think of my novels in terms of exposition, rising/falling action, climax, resolution, what have you. I just kind of go with the flow and write the scenes in order as they would go.

However, if I had to choose between these two methods, I think I would go for the skeletal outline. I enjoy making lists and the pyramid seems to do just that. Then again, I’m sure you could modify each method to make a unique one that works specifically for you.

20150124_151016Chapter Summary: This is how I used to outline. Way back when I wrote fan fiction. 11 years ago. Wow.

Anyway, I have no idea if anyone has ever outlined like this before, but it worked for me way back when. I don’t use that way now, but I still think it’s a decent way to outline your novel.

All I did was summarize each chapter. It’s that simple. As you can see from the picture, it ultimately looks like a block of letters (especially with my handwriting). The highlighted parts show a new chapter. Everything written after each highlight is a summary of that chapter.

I explain what scenes are going to be in the chapter, sometimes I add in some dialogue I would like some characters to say… I even have notes that say things such as: “foreshadowing… yay!” You know, so I remember how to write my plot so readers can figure out the foreshadowing, symbolism, and all that fun stuff. I especially make those notes when I realize I foreshadowed without meaning to. It’s like your subconscious is smarter than you.

There you have it. Three different ways to outline your novel, plus more (if you click on the links below). Two I’ve never used and one I used to use all the time. Everyone works differently and at their own pace. So the outlines listed above may or may not work for you; especially if outlining isn’t even your thing. However, it never hurts to try.

As stated before (many times, actually) I use my own method I made up. Well, I thought I made it up, but I have seen it floating around on the Internet. It’d be pretty cool if I had my own method, though. It’s different, but similar to the chapter summary I used to do.

But more on that tomorrow.

Further Reading:

The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel
8 Ways to Outline a Novel
7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story

Goodbye 2014!

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I feel like I wrote Goodbye, 2013! just yesterday. I blinked and now the end of 2014 is here and 2015 is right around the corner. Time sure does fly.

Last year, I decided to go through all my blog posts for 2013 and highlight them in one post in an attempt to recap and say goodbye to 2013. I am going to do that again to say goodbye to 2014.

Let’s see what happened in 2014…

January:
-I went over my New Year’s resolutions
-I continued to write Detective Florence and completed it
-I came up with the Short Story Sunday feature on my blog
-I started writing Inspiration Station
-I had a schedule of writing 5,000 words a day and changed it to writing 5,000 words Monday-Thursday, editing Friday-Saturday, and relaxing on Sunday
-I discovered the Reading Bingo and challenged myself to it
-It was Kris’s birthday

February:
-I decided to write only 1,000 words a day when school started
-I completed two Reading Bingo squares by reading Coming Clean and The Hobbit
-I continued to post my Short Story Sunday throughout the month

March:
-I planned on editing more than writing to help prepare for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo
-I completed another Reading Bingo square by reading I, Robot
-I was nominated for the Liebster Award

April:
-Camp NaNoWriMo started and I wrote Diary of A Killer
-I discovered the website Noisli
-I was nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award and the Howler Award
-Easter happened plus I was busy with work and school… I got behind on Camp NaNoWriMo
-I got 1,000 followers on Spilled Ink

May:
-I lost Camp NaNoWriMo
-I discussed what “Success” is
-I joined Critique Circle
-It was Spilled Ink’s two-year anniversary

June:

–Edited Detective Florence in preparation of Camp NaNo

July:

–Camp NaNo: wrote Detective Florence 2
Trying to balance life, writing, work, school, etc.
–I accidentally saved over my Camp NaNo novel (150 pages and 44k words) with my Short Story Sunday with five days left of Camp NaNo
–I wrote 50k in five days to beat Camp NaNo

August:

–I beat Camp NaNo in, more or less, five days
–I updated my Reading Bingo with many novels
–I discussed how my English degree is basically in nothing
–I got a new job
–Lucky Seven Challenge with Detective Florence 2
–I currently had 15 WIPs… yikes.
–I came up with a writing schedule for the rest of the year
–I went to Disney and discovered the “Writer’s Stop” store and met Peter Pan
–Reality checked back in after vacation with school starting, work, Sunday school, etc.
–I wanted to enter some contests, but missed the deadlines

September:

–I turned 21
–School started with a few creative writing classes
–Cookie the Beagle joined the family
–I tried to come up with a routine to balance homework, writing, etc.
–I discuss why I became a teacher, go to school, became a teacher/director or the Sunday school, write, etc.
–I updated everything in my life with my sister’s wedding coming up as well as November NaNo.

October:

–I decided to edit Take Over and plan to write Far Away for NaNo
–I started editing Take Over which I noticed I’ve grown as a writer in the past year or so
–I watched “Authors Anonymous” and the screenwriter contacted me. It also inspired a new potential story idea
–I watched a NaNo video on Blurb
–I decided to give myself a reward of one dollar for every 1,000 words I write for NaNo
–I changed my mind again and decided to write short stories for NaNo

November:

–I bought a new fish named Nano
–NaNoWriMo started and I wrote Short Story Collection and came up with new ideas for novels
–I did my best in balancing homework with NaNo
–I planned on finishing NaNo by Thanksgiving and did it
–I came up with a new novel idea called Fire and Ice
–I won NaNo
–Thanksgiving happened and I made a list of all I’m thankful for
–I compared NaNo 2013 to this year’s NaNo
–I edited while on vacation and discussed how that’s the best time to write

December:

–I came up with a plan for my Detective Florence series
–I finished typing the second draft of Detective Florence
–I wrapped up yet another semester of my Bachelor’s degree and made it out alive and with good grades
–I hand edited the first draft of Detective Florence 2
–I changed the title of my blog, bought the domain name from WordPress, and made some slight layout changes

So much has happened in one year. Some good, some bad, but I think it was mostly good. I’m happy to be where I am right now. I have a wonderful job, I’m going to school, and I’m on my way with my writing. There’s nothing for me to complain about.

Here’s to another great year in 2015!

NaNo 2013 Vs. NaNo 2014

I won NaNo two days ago on the 26th. I completed NaNo in 17 days last year. Just looking at the dates alone it seems as though last year was easier. But was it really?

Last year l wrote Detective Florence and l loved it. Half of it was outlined and planned. When l ran out of outlines, l outlined as l wrote keeping track of everything for my edits later. For a first draft, the novel was pretty well done (if l do say so myself).

This year l wrote a Short Story Collection. This was because l was unsure what to write. I thought about doing short stories to come up with new novel ideas and just try different varieties of characters, genres, etc. It didn’t go as well as l thought it would. A few days into NaNo l wanted to continue writing my Detective Florence series, but l needed to do some edits first and the next novel wasn’t outlined yet. With that series, l feel it better to have it outlined before writing.

Point #1: l wasn’t as enthusiastic about my story idea this year as l was last year.
Conclusion: last year was easier for NaNo.

Last year l was working at the private preschool because it didn’t close until December. I was a lead teacher position and l worked 10am-6pm. Some days l got out earlier, some days l stayed a bit later prepping. Sometimes l took things home with me to work on.

This year l have a new job. I’m an aide so l don’t have any “teacher responsibilities” like staying late, going in early, or taking things home with me. Plus, l work 8am-2:30pm. So l’m home earlier and l’m working less hours in the day.

Point #2: I was working less this year and had less responsibilities.
Conclusion: this year was easier for NaNo.

Last year l was working on my bachelor’s degree. I was taking five full-time online classes. Five is a lot; especially when you’re basically teaching yourself (and some of your teachers aren’t that good at their job…).

This year l am still working on my bachelor’s degree and again l took five full-time online classes. However, one of the classes was accelerated so it ended November 8. For the majority of the month, l only had four classes.

Point #3: school was less work this year.
Conclusion: this year was easier for NaNo.

But wait! There’s more…

Last year, even though l had five classes, l barely had any homework.

This year, even though l technically had four classes, l had a ton of homework. It was hard to balance homework, life, writing, work, etc.

New conclusion: last year was easier for NaNo.

Do you see how much has changed in one year? Some things got easier, some got harder. I don’t know which year was easier for me, but l won both years and that’s all that matters.

I wonder what NaNo 2015 will bring? Where will l be one year from now?

Yesterday

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The only form of writing I did yesterday was post on my blog. I wanted to write more than that, but of course I didn’t. I could have edited a bit, but I didn’t. No, yesterday I went back and forth between playing Mario Kart 8 and binge watching Pretty Little Liars. My Wii U was certainly tired by the end of the night. I didn’t go to bed until 12:30 a.m.

I kept complaining to Kris that I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure what to write. I don’t even think it was that I didn’t know what to write, I just had too many ideas that I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to start.

When I lost my flash drive about a year and a half ago I lost so many novels. Some finished, but the majority of them were only halfway done. I accepted my fate and decided to make the best of it. I told myself I was going to finish everything I started so I wouldn’t have so many unfinished manuscripts. It worked for a little while and then I got back into my usual groove of not finishing what I start. I am, after all, a Virgo.

So, I was flipping through all my novels yesterday trying to figure out which one to work on, despite the fact that I now have six novels that need to be edited. However, I was in the mood to write yesterday, not edit.

I tried to figure out what to work on and discovered that I have 15 works in progress at the moment. Yes, 15. Where did all those novels come from?

I have a list of story ideas and I think the amount of novels on the list is roughly about 90. It’s a lot. Will they all get written eventually? I don’t know… I all ready went through the list a few weeks ago and knocked off some ideas because I couldn’t remember them. I did keep the titles and I wonder if that was why they were on the list to begin with; they were just decent title ideas. Of course, the new list–with 90 novels on it–are all legitimate plots that I remember and have many ideas for.

Needless to say, 15 out of 90 isn’t bad, I don’t think. If I had 50 out of 90 started, but not finished I think I would be concerned. Maybe I’m just making excuses for my lack of focus.

Either way, I think it’s time that I start getting something done every day and not just during the NaNo months. Whether it’s editing, writing, or a little bit of both.

Lost And (Hopefully) Found

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Does anyone remember when my flash drive died about a year and a half or so ago? I lost just about everything. All my manuscripts and ideas. There were a few novels I didn’t lose because they were all ready printed out, but I lost about 85% of my writing. Yeah, that was not a fun time…and I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m bringing that up again.

So…Camp NaNoWriMo ends in about three days. I have been writing my novel Detective Florence (Book 2). I wrote a little over 3k words yesterday bringing my to about 44k. After that, I decided to write my Short Story Sunday because it was getting late in the day and it needed to be done.

Well, I have been working so much on Detective Florence that I have been in the habit of clicking on that document when I hit the “save” button. So when I was working on my Short Story Sunday and I hit save…

Yes, I saved over my entire 150-page-44k-words-so-close-to-being-completed-for-Camp-NaNo-and-the-entire-story-line manuscript. The worst part of it is that I did not do this once, but three times. Yes, three. When my flash drive died, I had no back-ups so I got Dropbox and fairly recently got Google Drive. Every time I work on something–writing, homework, anything–I save it to all three. Therefore, when I did my Short Story Sunday, I saved it to…all three.

However, I have overcome the initial shock and sadness of this tragedy. I have been taking notes and writing the scenes as I write them on sticky notes so I have all the ideas. Plus, the story wasn’t going where I originally wanted it to go. So today I moved around some sticky notes, got rid of a few, and added new ones. The story (hopefully) will make much better sense.

Kris was good enough to get back the very first draft from when I saved it the first time, so she got me back the first 5,012 words of my story. This means I have about 45k left to write in order to validate for NaNo. With five days left (including yesterday and today), I decided I’m going to rewrite the entire novel. That’s about 10,000 words a day.

Since I all ready had the 5k I just needed to write 5k yesterday and then 10k for the rest of the month. Except I was too discouraged yesterday so I decided to start fresh today.

It took me from 8 in the morning until a little after 7 tonight, but I wrote 15,029 words. My novel is now back up to 20,041 words. I can only hope I can keep up this pace for the next three days (seriously, pray for me!).

A Great Day

A Writer Needs To Keep Busy…

I did very well today! I had the entire day to stay home and just write. I wanted to get a lot of editing done on Hunter. Honestly, I didn’t get much done on that, but I was still very productive.

I started off with Hunter. I said I had an epiphany with that novel and decided to outline each chapter on individual index cards so I can play around with the chapters to re-order them. Some chapters just might have to be completely re-written. But we’ll keep it easy for now.

I added a prologue to Hunter which was great because it added some background to the marriage of Cat’s (the protagonist) parents. Her mother is dead, but the prologue shows just how much Christina and Charles were not on the same page most of the time. Plus, there’s a part in the novel where a mutant has a message for Cat and I don’t think I ever explained it…yeah. So the prologue kind of added some insight to that, as well. It’ll force me to write that message in some where. So the prologue is actually helpful. I did not add it just because I felt like making the story longer.

I then outlined chapters one, two, and three. I have the entire novel edited on a hard copy, but I’m in the middle of re-typing it all up with the new edits. I add new edits that I didn’t put on the hard copy as I type it up because it’s as though I’m going through the novel a second time. So once I finish typing a new chapter, I’ll write the outline for it. So I was going to try to outline at least up to chapter four, but…I only typed up two pages of chapter four. Oh, well.

As I was going through this, I kept getting  a lot a new ideas for the sequel, Hunted. So I decided to start writing that even though I told myself I was going to wait until Hunter was completely edited. I wrote the prologue and chapter one. I’m on page 20 with 5,775 words. I think that’s an excellent start so far.

Tomorrow I plan on at least getting through chapter four on Hunter and maybe write chapter two for Hunted. Of course, I had a large mocha frap from Starbucks to help me get through today. So we’ll see how productive I am tomorrow.