A lot of people have asked me over the years where the stories I write come from. I have talked about this before, but the fact is the answer is never satisfying. I think, when I talk to young writers, they always always want to know. I think they think there is some magical place where they can go, or some mystical incantation they can recite, and the stories will always be there,
The fact is - you just need to remain open to the idea of stories. Then, you need to do whatever process you feel is the right one to then make your story. If you need an outline, great make one. If you want to write the ending first, or key scenes that are already worked out in your head, fantastic. If you want to carry a notebook around with story ideas, then carry it with you.
The fact is stories can come from anywhere. In recent months, I have had stories come from a nightmare. I woke up from this very vivid nightmare that, I realized was my brain's way of trying to process my mom's death, but then it became obvious with a few tweaks this would be a great short story. Thus, my story SACRAMENT came into existence.
Months ago, a friend and colleague at work was talking about how much she did not like her friend's boyfriend. She said, "The first thing you need to realize is that [insert name] is the worst person in the world." That immediately sparked an entire idea about murder and mayhem among a group of friends. Thus, my novella AMONG FRIENDS was born.
Sometimes the stories come from news reports or other things I read about or hear. I wish that there was a magic place, or an idea store, I could direct you to, but the fact is, it happens the way it happens. This is why I say you need to be open to it all. Your brain and your imagination needs to be like an antenna, taking in the things around you and letting that imagination process it into a story.
For me, there is almost a physical sensation that happens when a story suddenly hits the right way. I can feel something happen inside my brain when the story hits the right way. As for the "rules" in this area, there are none. Whatever class you've taken or whatever book you've read that claims to give you the magic formula, throw it out. Throw it out, but also embrace all of the ways others can find their muse.
I cannot stand authors who dismiss pop fiction as if it were nothing to be serious about. As if writing a novel that 4 people read is something to brag about or some badge of honor, but the author who sells millions is somehow a "hack." Danielle Steel has been producing bestselling novels for decades now. She has a novel a month being published through the end of 2022. People chastise her for her books having a "formula" that each follow. However, why dismiss that? She invented the formula, found a way to make it work and has achieved tremendous success. I may not read her work, but I admire her ability to keep doing it successfully for so long.
Writing takes a leap of faith at some point. You remain open to the ideas, you write the books however you want to write them, then you have to take the leap and let them go. Stop tinkering. Stop editing. Let others read it, even if it's just a few, and then let it go. Open yourself up to the next thing.
When you need to take a break, do it. Maybe you only write 4 books in 10 years. Great. Stop comparing. Stop worrying. Just flow with your process. And, yes, it is very okay to have other creative outlets.
Now go, catch that idea. Then write that thing. The world needs it. I need it.