The idea factory

One of the questions I see asked of authors most often is "Where do you get your ideas?" And to a non-writer, it does seem a mysterious thing. Heck, to many writers it’s a mysterious thing. The answer is different from author to author, and even from book to book, but from what I can tell the one thing most of them have in common was that it wasn’t a deliberate choice. The author didn’t set out thinking "What should I write today? How abooout…. this." I think that, for many if not most authors, the story idea comes to them in a spontaneous flash of inspiration, an unsolicited delivery from the idea factory. And oftentimes it’s not even a full story idea, it’s just a character sketch or an opening scene or an overarching premise. The author’s left to fill in the rest by themselves.

For 619 the idea came from a dream, while Magestone and Secrets were both pulled from the ether without a clear trigger. And then a couple of days ago I took delivery of a Shiny New Idea while reading the comments section of a blog post. Normally my muse sends me shipments once I’ve completed my previous manuscript, so she’s a bit early this time around since I’m still several days of writing away from finishing the first draft of Secrets. Given that, and that I’ve got 619 waiting in the wings for revision, I don’t think I’ll be following up on this one right away. However, it was an idea that intrigued me so I scribbled down everything the muse had delivered so I wouldn’t lose it. I might dabble with it a bit in between my other projects.

Something I find more interesting than how the ideas arrive is how the frequency of deliveries varies from one author to the next, at least among the writers I interact with regularly. Some people seem to be subscribed to the factory’s idea-of-the-month club, while others receive Shiny New Ideas much more rarely, and I can’t help but wonder what’s the reason behind the differences. When I started writing fiction three years ago I didn’t get a new idea till the last one was done, and they were well spaced out, six months or a year apart; lately I seem to be flooded with them, a new one every couple of months practically. I wonder if creativity (and the source of ideas) is like a muscle where the more you stretch it and use it (the more you write) the stronger it gets and the more it rewards you? Or maybe other writers are just more disciplined in focusing on their WIP than I am…

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