Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

“Where do you get your ideas?”

This question was reportedly posed to Stephen King at a writers conference in New England.

His answer may seem harsh, but it’s illuminating: “If you have to ask, don’t become a writer.”

Most working writers have little trouble coming up with ideas. In fact, most have more ideas for writing projects than they could possibly complete in a lifetime.

Ideas can come from anywhere: from lessons you have learned, from difficulties you have overcome; from hobbies or memories; from something you’ve read or someplace you’ve visited; from a distinctive accent or anecdote you overhear on the bus or in the grocery store; from asking “what if?” or “why not?” as well as many, many more places.

The first book I ever completed, a teen novel titled They Call Me AWOL, was based on my own experiences as a high-school truant who skipped his first two-and-a-half years of high school but who, when his girlfriend from church found out, had to squeeze four years’ worth of classes into the next two-and-a-half (the girlfriend is now my wife of forty-two years).

Long ago, because I’m a Shakespeare nut, I created my own daily flip calendar that paired a short quote from Shakespeare’s works with a corresponding or contrasting verse from the King James Version of the Bible (which was produced in the same era, country, and city by men who knew each other). One morning as I flipped to a new page, I thought, Why haven’t I pitched this as a one-year devotional? The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional was the result.

The idea for my novel The Bone Box  came from a news article about an archaeological discovery. My historical novels Northkill and The Return are based on events in my family’s history. My nonfiction books Life Stinks…And Then You Die and How to Survive the End of the World arose out of my reading and study in the Bible books of Ecclesiastes and Revelation, respectively.

Ideas are all around you, if you just pay attention. Where have you found your best ideas?


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When to Fire Me As Your Agent

Until recently, the only time I was fired from a job was when I worked for a department store, drilling the holes in bowling balls. Apparently, you can’t put the holes just anywhere. Since becoming a literary agent, however, I have been “fired” a few times—not by He Who Knows …

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Even the Best Get Rejected


I’ve written about rejection before and yet it is a topic that continues to fascinate.

Recently Adrienne Crezo did an article on famous authors and their worst rejection letters. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple highlights of that article and some additional stories I have collected over the years.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by Alfred Knopf saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
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Writers Give to Others

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The gift of time is precious as we are given a finite amount in this life. To mentor another writer. To blog freely. To teach at a conference or school setting. All are example of a beautiful way to both give and receive.


To use your talent to its fullest is a gift to others. To hone that talent so that it crescendos into the heart of a reader should be the goal of every writer. This talent must be shared. To hoard it for oneself would be a travesty and tantamount to the deadly sin of greed.

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The Book That Changed My Life

Books have changed my life, many times. The Bible has done so, of course, on an almost daily basis, as it has done for so many others. But, while it tops the list, other books have had huge impacts on me. Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle introduced me …

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Lessons Learned As a Literary Agent

Dan is leaving the agency at the end of this month to focus his attention on the work of Gilead Publishing, the company he started in 2016. Here are some parting thoughts. _____ I’ve been a literary agent for about 2,000 of the 13,000 total days spent working with and …

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