Creativity and imagination can be a curse. Yes, you heard me!

You can have a zillion ideas for your story or novel which can overwhelm you. Alternatively, you can sit staring at a blank page because your creativity just decided that it wants nothing to do you or your editor’s deadlines. We have all been there and done that.  

Jotting down ideas is one of the best ways to avoid writer’s block. It can help in almost all kinds of writing situations. Think of it as an Idea Bank to which you make regular deposits. When you need an idea, you can visit your bank and pick an idea to flesh out!

Situation 1 – You need an idea for your novel, story or article:

The best way to collect ideas is to carry a small notebook—or use your smartphone’s built-in notepad—where you can pen down your ideas as they come to you. Although effective, this method cannot be practised all the time. It would be rude to interrupt conversations just so that you can note an idea you find thrilling. Nonetheless, try to follow this practice as often as you can. If you don’t have time to type it out, make a quick voice note.

Try to fix a time period you would spend coming up with ideas; a few hours or a couple of days, whichever suits you. The idea is to limit your time and hence tackle your creativity when it decides to overwhelm you with too many ideas. Whatever idea strikes your mind in that period jot it down. It can be broad like He still remembered every detail of the day he first saw her; or a detailed one like—She was sitting in a corner with a pile of literature and Jane Austen novels. The table she chose was strategically placed beside a large window – not too close for the wind to ruffle up the pages but close enough for her to enjoy the petrichor.

Create an idea board or assign a wall in your room. You could allocate a specific time during the day when you would write your ideas on pieces of paper and pin them up on the idea board. This allows you to see all your ideas at a glance and perhaps choose one which inspires you to flesh it out with more details.

Writing prompts are a great idea for short stories. They can be very helpful in coming up with ideas for your novel too! Instead of picking up prompts from the internet try writing your own prompts. Imagine writing the prompts to help someone else. When there is no pressure to think of the plot and details the ideas come around faster making this a fun exercise.

Situation 2 – You have a central idea but don’t know how to proceed

While trying to figure out the plot the best thing you can do is to figure out the climax. Once you have a juicy climax probably peppered with an unforeseen twist, it gets easier to build up your story up to match the ending.

A great way to do this is to create a chronological circuit of ideas. On your idea wall pin up the central theme of your story and keep brainstorming. Categorize them—on one side have events that should happen towards the beginning of the novel and on the other side pin up ideas that should take place at the end of the story. Everything else should fall in between.

This exercise may also help you come up with a climax if you haven’t yet. For example, if you are writing a love story does it end with a happily ever after? Does the girl turn out to be a psycho killer? Or was your guy in love with a ghost instead of an actual person?

Once you join the dots from one end to the other and find a circuit that looks great as an outline, you can now start writing to fill in the gaps and complete your first draft. Resist the urge to change your plot while you are still working on it. Don’t fall prey to a vicious cycle of distraction because your creativity doesn’t know how to stop churning out ideas. Always write down your alternative plot ideas but think very long and hard (maybe even for weeks) before abandoning your current story and moving on to another idea.

How to save your ideas from drying up

Ever written down ideas which do not inspire the same enthusiastic inspiration when you read them later on?

It is very difficult to pick up the line of thought where you left it but it can be tackled to quite an extent. When writing down ideas try and sketch it out with the five W’s – Who, What, Why, Where and When and use words and contexts that help you remember the emotional experience when you thought of this idea. For example, use excerpts from books, scenes from movies or general themes of these stories that relate to your idea. Maybe a song reminds of the first-date-feeling that you want to capture in your story.

Use an automated plot generator:

The first time we came across a novel plot generator, we were zapped. If you Google the term novel plot generator you will find a gazillion results thrown up. We aren’t sharing any specific one because most of them are equally good—and this isn’t a sponsored post.

Most of the plot generators we checked out are free to use. Though they aren’t a substitute for true human inspiration, they do help you out of a sticky spot. Look upon them as prods to get your brain to start the storm. You might combine two or more ideas to inspire you to zero in on your next novel idea. In any case, what’s the harm in trying?

How do you keep your ideas trickling in constantly? Do let us know your tried and tested strategy in the comments below!