Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Should I Write Next?

image by haraldr via Flickr
When I first started writing, my brain was bursting with stories to be told. I never had to worry about what to write next—I had to hurry up and finish the manuscript I was working on so I could dive head first into the next shiny, new world.

Jump to today: I've just sent my current WIP to my critique partners. So now's the perfect time to start lining up what I want to work on next. But whether it's having written eight manuscripts or the personal stress of the past two years or just learning more about what works and what doesn't, I'm kind of stuck.

So I thought I'd share my methods for finding a new story to work on.

The first thing is my "story ideas" Word document. I've been jotting down ideas here for years. When I reviewed it yesterday, I was delighted to see the single paragraph description for the story that got me my agent.

Here's the final pitch, if you're wondering how the original idea metamorphosed into a full-fledged novel-length story.

Some of the ideas in my story idea file are interesting, but none bowled me over with that must-have impulse, so I tried another method. I cut scratch paper (recycle/reuse!) into pieces and jotted down topics that were on my mind, whether they're from the news today like health insurance, propaganda, and civil disobedience or items that strike my fancy like magic forests, bio technology, or secret societies.

Then I started grouping the cards. Which ideas could turn into a story? Which card group ignites that spark in my mind?

I'm still working on this, but I just had another idea, and that is to combine the two methods. Take a line from my story idea list and see which cards would work well with it.

Once I know the general premise of my story, it's on to creating long lists of What If questions to detail it out. I'd planned on providing a picture of a What If list, but ithat would be too spoilery. ;-)

If you're a writer, what method do you use to come up with story ideas?

all pictures by me unless otherwise specified

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My Personal Top Five in 2016

Honestly, almost no one I know loved 2016. From deaths of famous and beloved people, to an election that deepened the already existing wedge between people in America, to scenes of suffering around the world, many of us will be glad to leave this year behind in hopes that next year will be better.

But not everything was horrible and it's important to remember that. So here are my personal Top Five Great Things from 2016:

1. Last year around this time, I blogged about my hopes for 2016. The most important one came true: a family member with a years-long illness is doing much, much better. This alone was enough to save the year for me.

3. We adopted this adorable little guy from a shelter! Thanks to him, I get exercise in all kinds of weather. Plus he's a very talented cuddler.

4. I pulled myself out of a writing slump, and my current work in progress will be ready to send to critique partners within days.

5. In the spring, the family and I had a quick trip to the Bonn/Cologne area. She here, here and here for some fun pictures! A few months later, we enjoyed our summer vacation in the beautiful Bavarian Forest.

How about you? What wonderfulness came out of 2016 for you personally?

Bonus picture: surprising view on my walk with the dog when I took a path I'd never been on last week. Yes, that's a skull.

All images by me.