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More on generating ideas

Advice for writers and bloggers

In a previous post I talked about one method for generating ideas – making lists – there’s a quick recap below. In this post I take you through three more ways to come up with ideas.

1. Making lists

In this blog post, I talk about how you can grab a pen and list ten things you can see outside your window or around the room you are in. You can of course also make lists on other topics. Number 1 to 10 down a page and come up with ten things from the beach or from a forest. Number 1 to 10 down a page and write down ten things to do with productivity, or mental health, or the ten ‘rules’ of your profession / favourite pass time, or ten tools your clients / customers need to know about. Rift off each of the words / phrases you write down to come up with ideas for your writing. For example, these could turn into:

  • The first line of a poem
  • A blog post topic
  • An idea for a feature article
  • The beginning of a character sketch
  • The beginning of a lesson plan on writing poetry

2. Mindmapping

Here are a couple of videos of me explaining how to mind map to watch if you’ve never done it before.

One of the best books on mindmapping is Tony Buzan’s The Mind Map Book.

Here’s how it works – although this is just the bare bones:

  1. Take a central idea and write it in an interesting shape in the middle of a piece of paper.
  2. From this central idea, use colour to draw branches.
  3. Along each branch write a key word relating to your central idea.
  4. Keep adding subbranches, getting all your ideas down on paper.
  5. Draw dotted lines connecting any related ideas.
  6. Draw a line around any ‘complete’ branches.
  7. Order your ideas by adding numbers.

3. Ideas in a box (I talk about this one in the video)

Take a box or a bag and go around your home adding cards, ephemera, images from magazines, bookmarks, sketches etc. (A bit like Pinterest but off line!) When you need an idea, pull one of these from the box. Alternatively, write interesting phrases, sayings, overheard snippets of conversation, or inspirational quotations on bits of paper and add them to a box (an old tissue box is ideal). Some writing coaches call this a ‘spark box’ because it can ‘spark off’ ideas. Keep adding to your spark box whenever you overhear or come across an interesting phrase.

4. Use writing you’ve already done

Is there an article or blog post you’ve written where some of the ideas could do with further exploration? Could it turn into a series? Is there a short story with a character you’d like to write about again? Or a short story ‘world’ that you’d like to investigate some more? Have you interviewed someone for an article? What about a series of interviews? Written a feature article? Could you come up with an idea for a column? Have you got the draft of a poem knocking around that you could use to kick off ideas for other poems? If you’re working on a novel, could the problems the characters face later in the novel mirror the problems they faced early on? You can do this with phrases too – is there a particular phrase you’ve written that you’re proud of, interested in or curious about? Could you use freewriting to explore it some more?

Want more ideas like this? Take a look at my resources for writers.

Tomorrow I’m going to talk about what I learnt from failing at NaNoWriMo. Until then, happy writing!


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