I've Got a Million of Them!
by Sue Ann Jaffarian
As I write this blog post, I am hard at work on my 12th Odelia Grey novel. Yes, you read that right - #12. Blows my mind.
I currently have 24 published books, spread across four different series. It’s been an amazing journey and there is no end in sight, thankfully.
One of the most common questions I get at book events is: How do you come up with so many new ideas?
Hmmmm, frankly, I don’t know, but I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth.
I am always puzzled when other authors say they have no idea what to write next. Not because I think that’s silly, but because I’ve never experienced an empty faucet. I have new book ideas stacked up like planes over Chicago, just waiting for their turn to land. Some are for current series, some are for new series, and some are for stand-alone novels. I hope to be writing until someone slips a toe-tag on me.
So how can a writer avoid the empty well problem? Here are my tips:
Be Observant. About everything. I look for plots ideas everywhere. And sometimes they strike me when I’m not looking. Once a billboard caught my eye and bingo I saw the beginning of a book plot. Another time I was in a restaurant, overhead a conversation, and an idea hit. I immediately jotted it down on a napkin, mid-meal.
Read and Watch. The news, TV shows, books, movies, commercials, magazine articles, social media, etc., are all great breeding grounds for new ideas. I’m not saying to copy those ideas, but sometimes the smallest detail or character trait in someone else’s writing can trigger an entirely new book idea for you. That’s happened to me many times. You’re watching a show and suddenly the old what if? hits you, and you’re off and running.
Dismiss Nothing. If you get an idea that you think is too silly or weird, don’t toss it aside. It might just be the best foundation for a book plot you ever had. Go down the path a bit and see what turns up. You might be surprised.
Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone. You don’t write romance? So, give it a try. You don’t write about the paranormal? I didn’t either until I got the idea for my very popular Ghost of Granny Apples series. If you write police procedurals, try your hand at an amateur sleuth novel. Don’t be afraid to write about things you don’t know about. You can learn.
Throw Nothing Away. If you find an article or idea that interests you, but you’re not ready to use it, don’t dismiss it. Write it down and save it. Print it out and save it. Save it in a hard folder or on your computer, but save it. Several of my books involved plots that came to me years before I actually used them. Ideas do not need to be immediate. They do not have a shelf life like milk. Even a lot of topical ideas can be written long after they occur in the news.
Add New Recurring Characters to Existing Series. This is a great way to bring in new plot ideas. Or beef up a minor character from earlier books and slowly weave them into the main fabric of the series.
Keeping it fresh. One of the biggest problems with writing a long-running series is coming up with new plots. Avoid regurgitating old ideas for lack of new ones, and look out for becoming too formulaic in your plots. Stretch your legs and your mind and be open to ideas that are different. If you don’t, both you and your readers will become bored with your writing, and it’s difficult to recover from that situation.
Now get out there and write and flourish. I’ve got a book to finish!
Amateur sleuth Odelia Grey tries to get a band back together—and get her mother off the hook—in book eleven of the award-winning series
It’s a rockin’ flashback for Odelia Grey when her mother asks her to look into the disappearance of her neighbor Bo Shank, the former lead singer for a band Odelia idolized in her youth. But when a body is found in Bo Shank’s house, everything quickly gets thrown out of tune.
For the most up-to-date list of all Sue Ann's activities, visit the calendar page at www.sueannjaffarian.com.