“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?