Are you struggling to find your next big novel idea? Don’t know where to find inspiration?
Sometimes our creative juices need a little lubrication. Especially if you don’t regularly keep your creativity flowing, it can be tough to get it going again. And even when you’ve been using your creativity on a regular basis, sometimes the perfect idea just isn’t coming.
Are you looking for inspiration for your novel because you’ve already finished the last one? Then check out this free resource on moving from rough draft to queries!
So what can you do to find your next big idea? Keep your senses on and your mind open – always and for anything. There’s inspiration for your next novel everywhere, and I’ll show you where to find it.
Let’s start with the so-obvious-we-always-forget-about-it answer – writing prompts! You can find these everywhere. Google ‘writing prompts’, buy a book of writing prompts, search for them on Pinterest, ask your friends (writerly or not) to create one for you. Even if the actual writing exercise doesn’t turn into your next novel, it will certainly get those creative ideas working again.
Have you ever been outside and paused at something that caught your eye? The way the trees bend over the path to create a tunnel? A cave in the side of a cliff? Two birds flying in circles around each other? What made you pause? What questions do those images make you ask? Where does the tree tunnel lead? Who or what lives inside that cave? What are those birds saying to each other?
In a similar vein to receiving inspiration from nature, different types of buildings might inspire questions that can lead to stories. A dilapidated farmhouse fading away in the middle of the prairie. A castle still standing tall at the top of a mountain. A mystery building with peeling paint, broken windows, and sagging steps. What stories live inside those buildings?
Pay attention to your dreams and, if you’re lucky enough to remember them when you wake up, write them down as soon as you can. I’ve had a couple odd dreams that led me to experiment with putting them down into a story.
I put this down because the inspiration for the novel I’m currently drafting came from playing the Legacy version of the second Pandemic board game. But there are lots of heavy duty board games that have intricate background stories that could be fleshed out into a full novel.
To give you another example of my own inspiration journeys, I read a book by Debbie Travis about her journey from being a TV personality to finding a new chapter in her life running a retreat centre in Italy. The book itself was lots of fun and it made me want to go on one of those retreats immediately, but it also got me building a potential story around that setting.
Pictures and Paintings
I love going to art galleries – especially those filled with centuries-old portraits – for the story potential in the artwork. Who are those people in the portraits? Did they know each other? Did they live in that house painted into the meadow? You could build your whole cast of characters and plot by tying together the paintings that catch your attention.
This isn’t necessarily just for the historical fiction authors. Historical battles could inspire a conflict in your fantasy novel. The politics of an era could inspire a modern day workplace. It doesn’t have to be as simple as writing a story set in a certain historical setting.
This is where being generally open and aware of the things going on around you is important. A woman and her elderly mother are arguing at the table right next to you – what are they saying? A family of six just piled back into their van at the gas station and are pulling back onto the highway – where are they going? A woman with bright blue hair, long black fingernails, and a rainbow backpack is shopping at Michael Kors – did she go in there willingly or did someone drag her there? There’s a pandemic happening all across the world – how will that affect the life of a high school graduate who doesn’t have the knowledge to back up her free credits?
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It’s important to note that the inspiration you get, no matter where it comes from, might be inspiration for your entire novel, or it could just inspire a character, a side plot, or a setting. Inspiration is meant to help spark ideas, it’s not meant to do the work of planning and plotting and writing for you.
But the trick of it is to always be open for inspiration. Watch for beauty, wonder, and curiosities. Listen for interesting conversations and sounds. Pay attention to the world around you and to your own experiences. And if you do, you’ll find inspiration for your next novel.
Enjoy the journey!