#SCBWISocial: From Seeds to Shoots: How to Generate Writing Ideas, by Lori Ann Palma

It’s the Third Thursday of September already! Seems that we’re having a little mind meld with our As the Eraser Burns sisters today, so be sure to read Laura Bowers’ post 50 WAYS TO GATHER BOOK IDEAS! Then, comment with either a link to a blog post of your own, or just something that inspires you when coming up with new ideas. Don’t forget to link up to both Eastern Penn Points and As the Eraser Burns in your own post, so we can all share the love. Now, here’s Lori Ann….
Sometimes finding great ideas for your fiction writing can feel like waiting for golden eggs that appear as infrequently as—well, golden eggs. Elusive and sporadic by nature, you might find yourself channeling Veruca Salt in the Willy Wonka factory, wanting your shiny, shimmering egg on demand. As wonderful as that would be, I’ve found that ideas never really drop in my hands like fully-formed gems, allowing me to sit down and write an entire story all the way through. Rather, ideas are oftentimes much more humble, and it’s my job to tend them until they shine.
I like to think of my ideas as misshapen seeds. They’re not much to look at, and I know there’s likely a dud or two (or three) that won’t produce anything at all. But all ideas take time and care, so rather than thinking of it as generating an idea, I treat it like I’m germinating an idea. Through writing and outlining, the idea gets its daily watering and begins to grow roots. As I keep working and it shows more potential, a shoot will appear, allowing the story to support more ideas, such as a second character, a subplot, or a fledgling theme. Not every thought will work out, but that’s okay, because there are always more to choose from.
You might be thinking now that you don’t have any new ideas, and to that I say, don’t wait for those golden eggs. An idea can come from anything at all—a snippet of conversation, a movie you really like, a life experience you had. When you read, listen to music, or come across a news story, you are surrounded by ideas plum for the picking. I recently watched a documentary on American whaling and thought about using some elements in a new project. Do I know anything about ships or the high seas? No. Do I know anything about being a whaler who lived in the 19thcentury? Nope. Has it stopped me from exploring the idea? No! That’s what research is for. All you need is a spark that says, “Wow, this is really interesting.” That’s an idea to be planted, and it will be just one of many.
As you start keeping track of the little sparks that cross your mind, jot them down in a notebook that’s by your side at all times, or take notes on your smartphone. Eavesdrop on an interesting conversation between two strangers that makes you laugh or makes you sad—write a note to yourself so you can think on it later and understand why it meant something to you. Watch a movie or show with a character that has a problem you might want to explore—write it down and see where you can use this idea for yourself.
Great fiction for children and young adults begins with one idea. And while it might not gleam like a golden egg, your time and energy will eventually give it a luminous shine.
Share advice on how you grow ideas from seedlings in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your methods! 
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5 Responses to #SCBWISocial: From Seeds to Shoots: How to Generate Writing Ideas, by Lori Ann Palma

  1. Nadine Poper says:

    The good news for me is that currently I am flooded with ideas that are all over the place. All have amazing potential. I agree with you about research. If you come across a topic that you want to incorporate into a book, research it. Information is out there in droves. Thank you, Lori. These are good tips for when I hit a brick wall.

  2. Happy to help, Nadine! It’s true that all ideas do have potential–that’s a great point for writers to remember. It’s a matter of choosing the one that’s most interesting to you.

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  4. Janet Bryce says:

    My good ideas often come from something a child says. I’m a pre-k teacher. My class gets to hear my stories and create with me. Sometimes I’ll just people watch at the mall. Best of all I get animal story ideas from watching nature. Research is great. So many ideas and you never know which one will lead you to that wonderful story. Thanks Lori for the good ideas.

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