Five ideas to help get the ideas flowing. Also a few tips on making time to write, and a bit more. Learn The Coffee Game, Mind Map, Eno's Trick and a few more.
- The Cofee Game
- A Café Conversation
- Enos Trick
- The Continuing Story
- Mind Map
- Making Time For Writing
- Random Ideas
Has nothing to do with coffee. So named because I invented it for amusement when my friends and I go for coffee.
Write down a number of really random things on a sheet of paper, I like to keep them to one or two lines (with plenty of whitespace between the entries). You could write down a provocative conversational fragment. If you're in a mall write stare at three different advertisements and just throw the words together. You could write down a bunch of essay topics too, anything you want. My preferences is to try to completely unhinge my analytical mind and just write really weird things down, too not necessarily make sense, but you might be different.
Try and come up with a couple sheet-fulls, then cut the strips up individually and place them in a can or something. When you're later looking for an idea, inspiration, or you're bored pull a couple out of the can and see where the ideas lead you. You could make this a group exercise and have other people throw random thoughts into the can, and maybe you return the favor.
Derived from a creative-writing night-class exercise. Go to a coffee shop or restaurant or mall. Sit quietly and unobtrusively eavesdrop on other people's conversations. One idea is to listen to their conversation and speculate on what came before, what came after. Maybe see if something they say triggers some idea in your head - free association is really great here. A variation I came up with is to just write the odd sentence or fragments you hear, from various tables or waitresses. Don't write them one line after another, place each fragment somewhere else on the page, write some stuff at an angle so when you stare it it, it resembles more the pepperoni on a pizza than some bizarre free verse poetry. Stare at the unconnected sentences and try connecting them in your mind. Where do these fragments lead you?
When David Bowie and friends went into the studio to work on his album Outside, producer Brian Eno recognized he was dealing with a group of very proficient musicians. Guys and gals with a lot of technical skill and able to play next to perfectly. To try to introduce some organicness, some sloppiness, make them work a little differently then they were used to and just generally get the juices flowing he had each of them play 'in character'. Before their sessions he invented a few characters, gave them a small background and described their playing styles: were they extravagant, self-indulgent, error-prone, etc. Giving them characters could also free them from embarrassment. The piano player could purposely miss a few notes, or try something they might not otherwise do all in the name of exploring their character's musical description. [and it's a great album by the way]
So maybe try something similar. I once saw a number of short films, each of which showed someone drinking a glass of water, each film done in the style of a different director. Try writing in the style of you favorite author. Try writing in the style of your least favorite genre. Be extravagantly over-descriptive, be very minimalist, focus on dialog, focus on scenery. Be Shakespeare, be Neil Gaimen, be Donald Duck. Write gothic, write romance, but most importantly, explore and make a few choices you might not otherwise
To be played with one or more other people. This one's actually really well known.
Start a story, write a page or two - then pass it on to someone else, who continues it, they pass it on to someone else, or back to you, or whatever. Variations can be introduced by writing only writing a paragraph, or only a sentence at a time. You can try it one word at a time, but that tends to get silly.
I think the real possibilities occur when you start introducing rules into the equation. Without guidelines, it's easier for these exercises can degenerate into a lowest-common-dominator thing - which can be just fine if you just want to have fun or see what happens. But guidelines can serve to either focus the writing, or to present challenges to the writers. You can do things like setting the genre, characters or major themes and events ahead of time. Or you could just agree on some basic "what we are trying to accomplish" things. Are you going to discuss what's happening in the story and ideas while it's being worked on? Or will you absolutely not discuss it, and just see what other people do - this can be really important to do if you don't want the writer's ideas to converge. It's an interesting call because discussion might cause ideas to really converge, and then you're working from a pre-defined outline, but not discussing it might cause opinions to vary too widely and introduce way too many plot twists or other undesirables.
Will it be drama? Will it be humor? Silly humor? Sophisticated humor? Is this something anyone can work at, or do you want only writers with a certain skill level (whatever you determine that to be).
I feel it's important to remain a gracious author throughout. If you had a really great idea that just became impossible thanks to the latest installment, don't re-force it into the story. Take any unexpected developments as a challenge to work with: Don't think "how can I get my idea into the story" think "where do these new developments lead me?" Also, continuously introducing wildly unexpected plot developments gets old fast. There's only so many times a character can switch sides, or unexpected twin-brothers can appear.
Although I've never tried it, you could also try things in a non-linear format. Where you don't necessarily continue where the other person left off. Instead you contribute pieces that will fall within the timeline, somewhere. Then try to assemble them. Seems interesting, but also really really challenging.
Write down an idea in the center of your page. Let your mind roam freely and see what ideas come to you. As you think of something, write it down somewhere near the first idea or word and draw a line between them. Concentrate on the first or second idea, what comes to mind? Write it down and draw a line between the two.
The idea is to encourage you to free-associate. Don't get wrapped up in wether the ideas are related or not. Just keep going and see where the exercise leads you.
- Pick out ideas you can complete and work your way up to bigger projects. If you've never written much before, maybe a 600 page novel isn't the best place to start
- Go somewhere else to write (in the name of removing distractions)
- Try dedicating a specific time for your writing, or committing to a certain number of hours per day, or week. Having a set time might help
- Set mini-deadlines for larger projects (helps if your a last-minute type). Having a due-date can cause time to miraculously appear. Promise to show your works-in-progress to someone. Not necessarily to review, but to get that external-pressure going. Due-dates with no penalty don't always provide the required motivation.
- Listen to music, let your mind wander
- Sleep on it. Suggest to yourself before sleep that your subconscious will find the answer.
- Go do something else for a while. Go for a walk, do housework.. but be careful it doesn't turn into procrastination
- Keep an idea journal or get a tape recorder.
- Take judicious notes in case you have to take a long break or are prone to forgetting (most of us are)
- Idea: Don't write until you're out of ideas - save yourself a place to start next time. Sometimes it can be easier to write once you're on a role.
- Crosswords and cryptograms. Playing with words helps sometimes.
- Stare at the blank screen/page and just begin writing whatever comes to mind. Maybe it isn't even the story you're working on, maybe it is. You can always edit later, and maybe it'll get the flow back.