How to come up with story ideas

Writing a book, but struggling to come up with story ideas? Our crew of YA writers and a authors shares how we come up with story ideas for novels. Click through to read it!

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Today, we're talking about how to come up with new story ideas.

The idea or premise is the first step to starting a new project, and it can be a different process for every writer - and for every story. If you're struggling to come up with new ideas, then we can help. 

Read on to learn how our crew members come up with our ideas, plus three tips for making (and making the most of) new ideas:

1. Step outside. 

Getting outside of your normal routine, your comfort zone, or simply out in nature can help you find inspiration for new ideas. Try reading outside of your usual genre, listening to podcasts (see below for Curly McGee's favorite podcasts), or spending time with new people. You never know what might spur a new thought - a thought that might become a story.

Curly McGee (a.k.a G. Myrthil):

I'm not one of those writers with a notebook full of ideas. It usually takes me a while to brainstorm and I have to let an idea simmer for a bit before deciding to commit. One of my favorite sources of inspiration is actually storytelling podcasts! My current favorites are This American Life, Radiolab, The Moth and The Mortified Podcast. Hearing stories about people's real-life experiences always gets my brain churning. 

Jas Ketch, Siren of the Seychelles (a.k.a. Kris Oliver): 

I’m one of those people with piles of ideas. Some of them good, some of them terrible. Inspiration for new ideas comes from everywhere and everything, sometimes the unlikeliest of places. Random fragments of conversation, the perfect song on the radio, I even pulled one scene in a book directly from a dream I had. (no joke) I also come up with a lot of ideas just being out in nature. For some reason being out in the wilderness stimulates that creative part of my brain. The trick is to make sure you take notes, jot things down and save them for later. Even if it’s just on a bar napkin. You never know when you might need it.

2. Write it down.

Whether it's a snippet of an idea, a bite of conversation, or a name you love - WRITE IT DOWN. These might not feel like story ideas, but that's okay. Don't second guess yourself. You can always brainstorm or free write later to find out if the idea has merit. 

Guppy Guts Skullcracker (a.k.a. Heidi Sinnett): 

I keep a notebook of ideas. Sometimes I'll watch a movie or tv shows and get an idea. Some of the ideas are good, most aren't, but sometimes they lead to a better idea. 

Dread Pirate B. (A.K.A. Bridgid Gallagher):

Most of my story ideas start as "What If?" questions. For my Middle Grade Fantasy manuscript, my first question was, "What if the Goblin King's son didn't want to steal children?" Much later, I had another thought (on a hike in the mountains), "What if city kids walked into the woods behind their school, and stepped into an alpine forest?" Those two ideas seemed to have nothing to do with one another. Only later (a year? two?), when I was outlining a NaNoWriMo project, did they come together. So my advice: don't outrule any idea (you never know if/when you might use it), and there's no need to rush - some ideas need time to become something you could actually use in a story.

3. Let it percolate. 

Want your teeny, tiny inklings of an idea to become full-blown stories? Let them sit, simmer, stew, percolate. Give them time. Keep your ideas in the background of your mind and they just might surprise you.

Bonny Kitty Cutlass (a.k.a. Kathryn Holmes): 

My ideas come from all sorts of places. THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND started with me wanting to write a book set in East Tennessee, where I grew up, but I didn't know what it was about until I had the main character's name: Hallelujah Calhoun. Once I knew Hallie's name, I knew who she was, and once I knew who she was, I was able to start crafting the journey I wanted to take her on. 

HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, meanwhile, came from me wanting to write about a specific topic: a teen ballet dancer with body image/eating issues. It's a subject near and dear to my heart, but it took a long while for me to figure out who the main character was (beyond being a ballet dancer with body image/eating issues) and what story I needed to tell about her. In fact, I wrote 30,000 words of a false-start manuscript about the same character in a totally different setting/situation than the final book, which comes out in June 2016. 

And my *next* YA idea—actually this month's bootcamp project—came from visiting a place: Venice, Italy. My husband and I were there on our honeymoon and I told him, "One day I'm going to write a book set here." That was four years ago, and I only recently figured out what that book is about. (Hint: sisters, grief, isolation, ghosts...) 

In general, I have an idea "germ" that I can't get rid of, and the other details fill in over a period of months... 

Now it's your turn! How do you come up with story ideas?