Ideas – where does that next great book come from?

I write this now because I’m struggling.  I’ve finished revising books two and three of my Inspector Kirby series and I’m searching for ideas for book four.  I’ve got two other books to revise, however, I feel I need the inspiration of attacking something new.

The first three Kirby stories have a been a doddle in terms of that first idea of what the story would look like.  The first and third books developed out of short stories written for my writing group and the inspiration for those came from a “word of the week”.  The second Kirby book grew out of the first and seemed a natural follow-on, especially as Kirby is set in Northumberland.  If you read Inspector Kirby and Harold Longcoat you’ll know what I mean.   However, the fourth is proving more of a challenge.  At the moment there is nothing obvious, nothing screaming “write me, write me”.  I have a couple of ideas fermenting in my head, it’s just I’m not certain about them.    Both are possible stories for later in the series, however, I’m not sure they fit at this point in the series’ evolution.

So I’m still looking.  As well as those “word of the week” moments I also subscribe to the Stephen King idea (if you haven’t read his book on writing I recommend it, even if you’re not a Stephen King fan) of asking yourself those “what if?” questions, as in “what if such and such happened?”  However, at the moment even that isn’t working.

What now?  I do have some good ideas for a follow on to my science fiction book Bleak.  They’ve been bubbling away for a while.  And often I have my best ideas for books when I’m concentrating on something totally different.  It’s worked in the past.   You know how it is, you get that “Wow, that’s great” idea when you’re half way through another project.  I’m a real believer in letting the subconscious have a go i.e. although you’ve turned the conscious mind to something else, the subconscious hasn’t forgotten and it’s quietly churning away ready to lob ideas back at the conscious mind which likes to take all the credit with a “eureka!” moment.  The trouble is a new, unrelated book is a four month commitment when I want to keep the Kirby ball rolling, as I’m loathe to stop writing a book when I’m half way through.

The other thing that sometimes works, for similar reasons is to leave the desk behind for a while and as luck would have it I have a week away booked somewhere warm and chilled, followed by a few days walking in the English Lake District.  As holidays go they couldn’t be more different.  However, each in their own way might provide the inspiration I need.  I won’t go away with any specific writing plans, I’ll let my subconscious have free reign and see what it comes up with.  It’s worked before.

The other big advantage of the week’s chilling is the amount of reading I will do.  There’s nothing like immersing yourself in other great works of fiction to reignite your own passion for writing.  It’s like giving the brain, and that subconscious again, a shot in the arm, a jolt of imagination that gets the synapses buzzing.  So if you’re struggling to come with an idea for a plot or where your story is going, find ways to switch off from it or even from writing altogether and let the subconscious have a go.  It works for me.

As always comments are welcome.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

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