Blog How To Find "THAT" One Idea To Start Writing A Story
So, you want to write a story, but you don’t have any ideas. Or maybe you have lots of ideas, but you don’t know where to start. Should it be an intergalactic adventure with dinosaurs? An underwater world in which an evil lobster emperor holds sway over an army of penguins? A love story in which star-crossed lovers…
There is a possibility your brain might actually explode.
Now, breathe. I am going to share with you my favourite writing tip, and it’s the simplest thing in the world. All you need is a pen or pencil and a notebook. If you don’t have a notebook, a piece of paper will do (but a notebook is better). Got them? Ok, close the door, set a timer fourteen minutes, pick up the pen and paper and start the timer. Now write the first thing that comes into your head, and don’t stop writing until the timer goes.
Mind suddenly blank? Try using a prompt. For example:
Bonus tip: 6 tips for getting over writer's block
What I want you to do, once you have written these initial words, is not think. The point of this exercise is not to write beautiful sentences. It’s not even to write sentences that make sense. It’s quite literally to warm up your brain, in the same way you warm up your muscles before doing sport. It may feel hard at first, but it will get easier. And it may be gobbledygook, but that doesn’t matter. Remember – and this is important. This is YOUR notebook. NOBODY SHOULD EVER READ IT BUT YOU. You can be as silly, as truthful, as wild as you like.
Now, the timer’s gone. Put down your pen or pencil and re-read what you’ve written. Pretty random, right? But is there a sentence in there that catches your attention more than others? Or even a word?
Now start a new page and copy that word or sentence at the top of it. If it’s caught your attention, the chances are it means something to you, however far-fetched it might seem. And if it means something to you, you should write about it.
If you’re still stuck, you could start with a visual prompt. For example, something you’ve found outside – a pebble, an acorn, an interesting leaf. Start by describing it, its colour, its texture. Is that orange colour really made of pink and yellow, does the object have a smell, is it smooth, prickly, slimy, hard? You could imagine it a magical property – what powers might it give you? What would you do with those powers? Again, just write anything for ten minutes. Then go back, pick out what you think looks interesting, and begin the second stage.
This is a nice exercise to do at the beginning of every writing session. Even when I’m very advanced in writing a book, I use it almost every day. I might even start my pages with “Now, where are we today? What are my characters up to?” My mind will wander – do I want toast? Should I buy those jeans? – it doesn’t matter. Gently, I’ll bring it back to the story, and after a couple of paragraphs, I’ll usually be in the zone and on my way.
It seems so easy, but don’t worry if you find it difficult – a lot of people do, because it’s harder than it sounds. We always want to give our very best, and we’re scared of making mistakes. These are hard habits to undo, but the truth is all good writing starts with lots and lots of mistakes. They’re nothing to be afraid of: they’re just showing us the way to the story we want to write, and to the best way to tell it.
You can pre-order a copy of Natasha's new book, 'The Rescue of Ravenwood' here!Published: Mon 13th Feb 2023