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Sheepy-Pie

What do you want to write?

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After coming back to write after the xmas break (and before that both nano and nano planning, so I haven't written anything "new" in quite a few months now) I have been thinking about how to continue on. I have a bunch of short stories I want to finish and I did manage 100 words of a new one but it tailed off too quick, so I have taken a step back and gone to the question I have seen a few times: What do you want to write?

I don't bloody know 😐

I have tried tackling it before, listing things I like to write about, magic usually comes up a lot, maybe tackling some more LGBT+ characters (but I let them come to me I never force), stuff like that, but that never seems to get me anywhere either.

So I'm asking everyone, how do you answer it? What do you want to write? What don't you want to write? How do you start the ball rolling again for ideas? 😛 I have a bunch but nothing is yelling at me right now.

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That's a good question. I haven't written any actual prose since NaNo. I've written tonnes of notes, and have made progress in figuring out some rewrites for a novel WIP, but I haven't actually sat down and WRITTEN. Part of that is because I'm feeling pretty intimidated by the amount of work this novel needs, and I have a thought lurking in the back of my mind that I'm using note taking to avoid actually working on it, but that's like... a whole ball of trouble that I won't get into.

So actual writing. I'm thinking of trying a writing prompt maybe, not working on existing things that have requirements and expectations. Just some writing exercises to get me 'back on the wagon' and to get things moving again, give myself a boost of confidence that this writing thing is still working for me. And once I get some prose down, I can look at my in-progress projects and pick something to work on. It might be better for my self esteem to work on some smaller projects and get something completed than getting discouraged trying to work on something big...

Edit: I realized I just talked about myself this whole time, so I hope you can read between my ramblings and see the suggestion to work on writing prompts/free write/blather to get the creative juices flowing 😛

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I haven't run out of ideas in a while, just out of time to actually work on any of them 😛

Instead of brainstorming setting and cast elements (like magic and LGTB+), have you considered brainstorming conflicts and themes that interest you? I took an online writing course a while ago and they had one exercise that was about brainstorming the things that matter to you in life and the things you read or watched in media that resonated with you or that stirred you emotionally - those are the themes that will show up in your writing. Doing that exercise was an eye-opener for me, hope it helps spark some inspiration for you as well!

And to dig into some neuroscience: Our subconscious will work on stuff for us while we do something else, and every time it has figured out something, it will cross the border to the conscious and manifest itself as that super-inspirational idea that came seemingly out of nowhere. Our subconscious will work on the same things we work on consciously - that's how it knows what the priorities are. So in order to make our subconscious generate ideas, we have to work on generating ideas consciously. So even if you're sitting in front of a blank page, try to brainstorm something, no matter how crappy it is, just to let your subconscious know you want it to work on that!

More neuroscience when it comes to brainstorming: Write down all the crap ideas. If your brain has come up with an idea, it will circle around in your head because your brain doesn't want to forget it. Unfortunately, keeping crap ideas alive uses up ressources and makes it less likely that you'll come up with a better one. The solution is to externalize the crap idea by writing it down - it rewards your brain for coming up with an idea, and it frees ressources that your brain can then use to generate another idea. Also, the brain is like a muscle in some ways - it needs to warm up by generating crap before it generates good stuff. Some common brainstorming exercises work with that - write down 15 ideas, then forget about the first 10 and work on the other 5. Or write down all ideas that come to your mind (usually related to a prompt), when you think you're done, come up with 5 more ideas.

Hope there's something there that will work for you!

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Very timely question. I just gave up on my supernatural dystopia story, an idea I've been carrying around for a few years. I still like the backstory, but I just didn't get anywhere. I realised, it's not what I want to write. Dystopias; not so funny, apparently. Who knew? 😛 Instead I went for a new idea. It just flows so much easier and I can feel there is an ending there (that's usually a good sign). It's an idea where a lot of comedy and adventure can fit in nicely. It seems I really need those two ingredients to enjoy writing a whole book, and I can't (and don't want to) write stuff that's too solemn/bleak, gritty/violent, or ethereal. 

If I definitely don't know what to write I go wild online and look at random stuff, articles, lists, writing-blogs, forums, ghost-videos on Youtube, anything... I hate not having something to write. It's hell. I sometimes go genre-hunting (sub-genres of speculative fiction mostly) on TV Tropes. Or I look at tropes that I don't like, and see how they could be twisted into a story I would enjoy. The stuff I hate to do irl, or really boring places, can inspire too, like "What could happen that would make this a lot more interesting?" I usually don't have to list stuff I'm generally fond of, they seem to appear in the stories anyway. It's more the premise I hunt for, the What If?-question. 

I hope you'll crack your idea-block soon. It's tough to be without a writing project while itching to write, I totally feel that. Good luck!

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When I’m stumped for ideas, I generally just throw myself into reading—or watching TV. Sometimes I’ll hit upon a concept that I feel like I could have done better or that I want to try myself. 

Failing that, I go looking for prompts and try some short stories, or look through Pinterest for designs that spark my imagination. 

I also go through old works/ideas to see if one catches my attention. Could I make it better? Could I continue it?

Lately I’ve also been looking and my stuff and looking for common themes; then exploring things I can do with these themes—and if any of those things catch my eye. 

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I've got several novels in the planning stages, so I already know what I'll be working on when I've finished my latest round of editing and completed two partially-written novels.   I also want to explore a concept which is very much in the development stages and has only been mentioned in passing in some of my novels.  It's the sort of concept which could spawn a whole new series, so it will give me plenty of material.

For those who need new ideas, I'd reiterate what Livvy said about trying prompts and looking for images.  There's also the "adopt-an-idea" forums.  There used to be one on here and on the main Nano site.  There's also one on the site that I admin and I'm sure you can find them elsewhere.

Another suggestion is to take a side-character from a novel you've already written.  Try writing their back-story or giving them an adventure of their own.   Take the under-developed character and fill in the blanks.   Re-write scenes from an existing novel from their POV.

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Mind-mapping usually helps me.  I did this the other day when I was bored at work and had already written and emailed myself scene ideas and a blog post (there really hasn't been much for me to do this week...).  I wanted to keep writing but I was bored with my current project.  So I mind mapped an older project I'll eventually get around to working on again.  I started with the main character's name in the middle of a piece of paper and then branched off with bubbles for people, themes, events, and word associations until I filled the page.  When I do that I usually find several key roots of the story and come up with some semblance of a plot around the character struggles.  It almost feels like I'm playing a game so my mind relaxes and I'm refreshed afterwards instead of drained.

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1 hour ago, Xanxa said:

There used to be one on here and on the main Nano site. 

When we moved onto the new forum, we condensed the writing prompt stuff into one forum, which you can find here. NaNo still has theirs, too.

Pinterest is a whole treasure trove of writing prompts. Example: here's the Worldsmyths profile with lots and lots and lots and lots of boards that @Sheepy-Pie created and has been adding to, and here's one on my personal profile with lots and lots of prompts, too, some of which are probably in the Worldsmyths ones, too.

Right now I'm focusing on my NaNo, trying to get it into shape and then I plan on continuing it (after I figure out the last half of it). Like others, I haven't actually written anything since NaNo. When I was originally planning to get back to my main project, I was planning on trying to do little side stories to get back into the characters' heads again, because it's been so long. When I do get back to that main project, I'll do that.

Whenever I get stuck on an idea, I go through my idea journal, which I have tons of dialogue/writing prompts/plot ideas written in, and I make lists of the plots that stick out to me. I'll go on Reddit, the NaNo forums, anywhere else I can think of to try and get some inspiration. This is another one I like to go to. I've also made lists of the tropes that I like and want to use. I made a list of the projects that I know I want to work on in the future. i.e. I eventually want to go back to my Mageborn story, but that's probably a loooong ways from now.

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