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One Tip To Help You Come Up With Ideas For Novels Is To Widen Your Horizons

May 23, 2008
When you're considering writing a new story, just where do you get your ideas from? I have met many published authors and read interviews with countless more. Most of them confirm that this is the question that they get asked more than any other.

Many aspiring writers no doubt hope that the famous author will provide them with a web address - or book title - that will mean never having to think up an idea again.

Of course, successful authors don't have a secret place they go to find new ideas. Most writers I've heard can't even tell you where they find inspiration - it just happens they say.

Coming up with the idea is only part of the battle, as giving two writers the same suggestion and they'll provide quite different books. Give a successful author the same idea and they'll produce a much better quality book.

So what magic ingredient separates mere mortals from the literary greats? At this point, I'll concede that I don't believe there is a writing course out there that can turn a poor writer into a great one. It's an inherent talent.

Having said that, I believe that with the proper guidance, most OK writers can become published writers - although I still can't agree on one magic ingredient. I think it's a potion and all the aspects of writing go into that potion.

I'm going to go off at a tangent now, but I'll get back on track on coming up with ideas before the end.

I listen to a lot of podiobooks and writing podcasts. It's a close community. I also frequent many of the forums. In addition, I am an avid reader of 'How to Write' books.

One piece of advice always comes through loud and clear - in order to be a decent writer, you must read. Every source I ever reference says this.

So I was looking at an aspiring author's blog the other day and there was a link to their Amazon® wish list. As I'm always looking for new authors to 'discover,' I clicked on it. I had read works by half of the writers and had heard of about a further quarter.

What struck me - and produced a genuine 'light bulb' moment - was that I thought to myself, "You sure can tell what types of book this author wants to write."

It was as simple as that.

When I've read blogs or interviews from successful authors, they say something quite distinct. For most of them, only a fraction of the books they read are within their genre. One even said they never read the competition. Many list non-fiction as their chief source of reading, and most follow the recommended 'good books' and classics, regardless of the section of literature it comes from.

So now I can finish the detour and bring us back on the original path. Poor writers don't read much. Decent writers read a lot - but tend to focus on their genre. The good writers are the ones that read widely.

Take a look at your book collection. A few will have a wide selection, but I'm guessing the majority tend to read within a much narrower range. It's understandable.

Many aspiring writers start out as readers and wanted to add to the body of work they enjoyed reading. And most readers tend to have favourite genres rather than an eclectic taste.

So, if you want to become a better writer, start acting like a published author and read outside your chosen genre - especially non-fiction.

Which brings me back to my original point. If you only read within your genre, your stimulation for new ideas is dampened. You'll find yourself reworking plots from the books you read and you'll discard them as being too like this novel or that short story.

If you read more widely, you'll pick up inspiration from plots (or factual topics) outside your genre - which in turn will allow your creative juices to ponder, 'what if...'

Now I'm not advocating plagiarism, but instead pointing out that reading non-fiction and new genres will inspire you in a way that your tried and trusted field never can.

And it will improve your writing ability too. As a good example, many aspiring novelists will want to include romance in their book at some point, but how many have read good novels from this specific genre? I'll not ask for a show of hands.

So try reading some books that you wouldn't usually read. It will seem strange at first, but you do want to come up with new ideas and be published, don't you?
About the Author
Mark Walton is the author of 28 How to Create Ideas for a Story in 7 Easy Steps, a self-help guide for writers. If you want to improve your chances of getting a story published then visit http://www.betternovelwriting.com/Characters.htm and see how quickly and easily your writing can advance.
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