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When a novel is done, it often signifies both an end and a beginning. The “beginning” is how the story will live on in your readers and the life they’ll add to it. The “end” is the conclusion of writing this book and a sudden feeling of, “Well, what next?”
Inspiration for your next novel can be one of the hardest things to find, and like a rare butterfly or bird, it can sometimes elude authors for months or even years. Finding a story at the right moment can be great, as though fate, God, or the universe is setting an idea down in your head—but this is not the only method in which fresh writing should come to you. If you’re the type to wait for the right story idea to bump into you on the street, always keep in mind that you’re the person who decides what street to walk down. Your novel is complete, yes, and congratulations; now go out into the world and actively search for your next story.
Here are some streets to try:
Visit Your Local Library
A wealth of knowledge is at your fingertips if you live even fifteen miles from a library, or if you can access ebooks online. In this case, it’s less the building itself and more the treasure trove inside that will assist you in discovering a new plot, characters, subjects—new whatever it is you need. Here, among all the great authors and not-well-known authors and anonymous writers and essayists and serial novelists, you’ll find that any book you pick up and read will spark at least something—a glimmer of an idea—within you. Once you have that glimmer, you’ll be able to nurture it, watched it grow, and turn it into your next great novel.
Go on Vacation
Pick an island and go.
All right, it doesn’t have to be an island, but it does have to be a change of scenery. On your first day looking for inspiration for your next novel, start with something simple, even if simple for you is just getting away from your desk and into a neglected part of your hometown. Getting away will help you relax and give your mind the time it needs to reset and come up with more cohesive thoughts.
Sleep more for a while and let yourself dream, and then let those dreams stir ideas within you. Go away with friends and pick their brains—not necessarily for a story, just listen to things they’ve heard in the news, things going on in their own lives, wishes they have, and anything else they might bring up. Take a long weekend, or even a week, with a loved one (or your dog) and show your muse a good time. If your muse thinks a good time is playing fetch and being scratched behind the ears, then so be it.
Find Your Passion
Passion is less of a street and more of a concept, but if it’s a concept that you haven’t quite cracked yet, then start giving it some extra thought. Evaluate your life to identify what you’re passionate about. In finding this seed of passion, you’ll also find others who are interested in the same thing. This means not only have you found something that is interesting, but you’ve also found a whole audience who’s passionate about a subject you’d love to write about.
Discover Inspiration from Music
Music contains all kinds of secrets and ideas. Often people don’t even focus on the music anymore, because it’s become such an integral background noise to our daily lives and jobs. For this idea to work for you, you might need to listen more and focus on the ideas and stories of a song. These might not be the stories you need, but music has a way of transporting a listener and inspiring the deepest parts of them. It uplifts and invites introspection. Music can even inspire the writer in you and send that writer back to the keyboard.
Become a Discreet Eavesdropper
If you suspect some great government plot, write about it instead of trying to stop it. Or maybe you’ve learned of an old family mystery (it doesn’t have to be your own family). Great. Weave it into a story and put it on paper. Writing what you hear can sometimes lead to great ideas and ways of thinking that you might never have considered before. You might even want to start keeping a journal of random things you catch people saying. Often, interesting little tidbits have enough allure to get a writer so interested that a book has to be born.
Try Something New
Maybe taking an ax-throwing class doesn’t seem as if it’s going to help you think of a story or become a better writer, but maybe something about learning the technique and meeting new people within the hobby that you might not have met otherwise will spark an idea or inspire a new character. So, get out there and do something unusual. You’ll be surprised at how many classes and clubs exist in your community that you didn’t know about.
Leave the Past in the Past
Finally, don’t consult your old work. Unless you’re writing a sequel, this older writing might be keeping you from finding a new story. Allow yourself to let an old book and its characters continue on without you—at least for the time being—and let yourself find the new characters waiting just out of sight. If you let yourself dwell on new characters or their story, they will whisper a fresh plot to you.
Generate a Fountain of Ideas
Regularly experiment with these quick ideas to find inspiration for your next novel, and see how they fit in your writing regimen. Expanding your repertoire and trying new ways of inviting a story will quickly turn each kernel of an idea into a full story that you can kiss on the head and send on its way. Better yet, developing these habits will help more new ideas come to life in your mind, until you have many more to choose from every time you begin a new book journey.
How do you find inspiration for your next novel? We’d love to hear in the comments below!