Determining What to Write About

October 17, 2016
Flat design style modern vector illustration concept of a manual vintage stylish typewriter with share your story text on a paper list. Isolated on stylish color background
Flat design style modern vector illustration concept of a manual vintage stylish typewriter with share your story text on a paper list. Isolated on stylish color background

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Many people believe that authors just have ideas that come to them, or that authors are so intelligent that they are able to create something unique that has never been seen or thought of before. In reality, neither scenario is entirely true.

Most of the time, authors decide what to write about from examining their personal lives and interests or by examining the work of other authors and making parts of existing material into something new and different. Many authors also collect tidbits of information and stories and that inspires them to write their own.

Writing in these ways is important for a couple of reasons:

  • It usually makes writing much easier: if you are writing from personal experiences, you can spend more energy on adding creative twists to a story that is already familiar.
  • If you are writing about something you care about, you usually have a deeper understanding of the subject and will have more information from which to write. Choosing topics or experiences that you care about will develop a sense of “you” and create your voice for future writing endeavors.

Here are some strategies for coming up with ideas for writing:

  • Make lists of topics or things that you are interested in—hobbies, issues, things, places.
  • Draw a floor plan of your home and make a list of three memorable events that happened in each room.
  • Make a list of problems that you have seen characters face in movies, TV shows, or books, and use one as the basis for your own story.
  • Make a list of your most memorable experiences and determine which might be the basis for a piece of writing.
  • Maintain a personal journal and collect thoughts and descriptions that might be used as the basis for a piece of writing.
  • Think about “small moments” of life to expand and explore rather than creating large, involved stories.
  • Read and re-read the authors that you are fond of. Look for places where you can pick up where they left off or think of how the story could be retold from a different character’s perspective.
  • Take elements from an existing storyline from a book, movie, or play and work your own real-life or past experiences in to create a new story.
  • Make a list of your favorite movies or books and look for patterns in the storylines or look for storylines that can be combined or changed.
  • Read, read, read—all great authors are readers who constantly look for ideas from other authors.
  • Join a group online that sends writing prompts to users on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
  • Chart out an idea prior to November and join in on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo).
  • Purchase books that offer hundreds of writing prompts and exercises. You can use these to practice and develop multiple points of view while finetuning your voice.

If you try any of these approaches and like what you’ve written, consider sharing it with us either via the comments or the contact form.

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