Hop Aboard the Idea Train!

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we had ideas churning in our heads all the time? There’d be no end to the books we’d set sail to. What’s that, you say? You’ve got plenty of ideas? Well, what are you waiting for? You should be writing.

But what if ideas don’t flow so easily? That’s what I was asked by attendees during one of my library appearances. They wanted to know where I find my story ideas. I’ll get to that in a moment. But even when ideas aren’t sitting around, waiting to be picked up, we should still be writing. Forging ahead often gives direction to the train ideas are traveling on. Words and ideas have a swell time hanging out together.

With my latest, MURDER: DOUBLE OR NOTHING, I had a pretty solid sense about how the story would begin. I knew exactly where heroine Corrie would be and what would unfold…but after that? I wasn’t so sure. One thing I did know was that I needed to push ahead and not fall into any lurking black holes.

I start by sitting behind my laptop, wondering where Corrie is going or doing next. Corrie needs to move almost all the time to propel the story forward. Nancy Drew fans: did you ever see Nancy sitting idle? No way. She was a woman of action.

If I’m not happy with the creative direction of my writing, I wander around the house for a short time, performing mindless tasks. I may look like I’m doing the laundry, but I’m really wondering what Michael (Corrie’s long time best pal) will do to help investigate the latest crime. Or what Veera (Corrie’s no-nonsense, tells-it-like-it-is legal assistant) is up to? Mundane tasks sometimes lead to interesting ideas.

I also scan online news articles. Headlines. But not from the usual news sources. Everyone reads those. I look for the more obscure, buried headlines in smaller news sources. While I search, I gather possibilities that may lead to the creation of events and characters. News stories involving con artists, stunt dummies, FBI agents and monkeys made it into my third book, thanks to online searches. All of which makes us writers kind of like Nancy Drew, too. We’re action takers!

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