Saturday, 23 October 2010

Where do you get your ideas?

This must be the most asked question of any author by friends, family and almost everyone else, but do any of us really know?

I am lucky enough to hear voices first and the plot comes later - each one of my novels started with either the hero or heroine talking to me about either a problem they were having, an argument with someone or worrying that they'd made the wrong decision about something. I then listened - hard!

Very soon, I have a premise forming and then I start the nightmare job of writing the five or six page synopsis - if I can give any aspiring author some advice, it's write your synopsis BEFORE your novel, not after. It gives you a referral point to come back to if you find yourself floundering a third or even half the way through the writing the book. It will act as a kickstart or give you a new idea and where to take it. Remember - this is little more than a guide at this stage, you can still write the book as you want it, change it and play with it.

I did and now I've written six full-length novels which I am very proud of!

If you change and rewrite the synopsis as you write the novel, at the end of it you will have a fully functioning synopsis, ready to submit to publishers or agents without having to struggle to come up with the synopsis after the hard work of writing the book - it's already done and ready to go, perfect!

Right, I'm off to start writing the synopsis for book number 8 - bit of an issue seeing as I am working on novel number 7 right now. But this damn hero will not stop talking so I'd better write down what he has to say!


  1. Personally, I can't write a synopsis before I write the book. It zaps my creativity and even if it's only a guideline, I feel little excitement. To me, it's like re-reading a book whose pages I just finished five minutes ago. I'd rather move onto something new.

    Trust me, I've got enough "new" ideas to last me for the rest of my life. I'm like you, Rachel - I usually get the characters and/or sometimes the situation before I get the plot. In fact, I like to go with the flow, discover new things as I go along and then worry about plot holes in a later draft.

  2. A handy insight in your writing style, Rachel. :-)

    I have a plot forming in my head - the characters then take shape by themselves. I write down a rough outline, no in-depth synopsis, as I know I add twists and turns as I write, often incorporating late night/early morning inspirations.

    I also get ideas when I do research for current WIPs, and then just jot them down as potential food for thought later. Historical research books are the perfect providers of plots, often in unexpected quarters.

    Happy Writing! :-)

  3. Nice post, Rachel. My ideas come in different forms, sometimes directly from the character talking to me, other times from an object or a dream. I also play the "what if" game with myself and that sparks lots of ideas. I technically don't write a synopsis before the book, I write a semi-outline, but I have to write the book first. One day I'll learn to do the synopsis before the book.

  4. Thanks for commenting, ladies - I love this sort of discussion! We all work so differently so there is no right or wrong way, it's just fun for aspiring authors to read discussions like this and have an 'a-ha moment' from any one of us.

    I've got to say, my synopsis might change countless times by the time I finish the book - I don't send it anywhere or let anyone see it until the book is well and truly finished!


  5. Although I do chapter-by-chapter breakdowns (writing the initial story in abbreviated "telling" format) I find sometimes small side-plots will develop while I write, so I change the breakdown as I go, if necessary.

    There have been a few occasions I've canned an entire novel to start over again. Then I don't usually bother writing a breakdown because I already "sort of" know what will happen.

    But I find when I go back to revise, it helps to write a proper synopsis at the end, after the fact. It helps me write my query letter.

  6. Hi Rachel,

    I'm such a "pantster," I never know where my main characters are going or what trouble they are going to get into. After I write a chapter, only then do I write down the main events in the chapter. But, I do like your thoughts of a better way to write the synopsis.
    I really wish I could do it this way, but alas, I still struggle.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. I'm like Lorrie. I never know what my characters are going to do next. It makes things interesting but also takes longer to write if I got stuck. I've been posting some ideas on how to get unstuck here: Naked Without a Pen

  8. Wow, Rachel. You are a busy girl. I have ideas swimming in my head all the time, but only bits and pieces. Never enough to really do anything with. I'm much more of a panster, so I agree that sometimes you never know what your characters are going to do until they do it. Sometimes they surprise you!

  9. Hi, Rachel. Great post. I typically plot a few scenes ahead of where I'm at, but the story so often goes off in its own direction, that I've learned not to get too attached to the plot line.