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Bob Nailor

An Idea Generating Exercise

Sometimes your mind will go numb and you can't think of anything to write. You've called on your Muse but she (or he) just hasn't answered the request. You sit at your desk and struggle.

Step back! It is time to go on an adventure.

This will be a multi-step process so grab your trusty notepad and a writing instrument. Yes, this is going to a rustic adventure. You're actually going to write. So, with paper and pen in hand, take yourself to the local bookstore.

Step One: Pick any section of the bookstore with novels. Stay out of the do-it-yourself, how-to, and biography sections. Try the best-sellers, fantasy, romance, science fiction, horror, poetry or even young adult or children's sections.

Looking at the spine -- no cheating, no looking at any covers -- read the title of the book. Now, did it conjure up an image? Maybe even more? If so, write it down.

Make a list of maybe thirty or forty titles that caught your attention and gave you a taste of possibility.

Step Two: Move to another section of the bookstore. Select random books and read the first sentence of chapter one. Did it grab you? Better yet, did it suddenly expand your mind with a possible story line? If so, write it down. Again, do about fifty of these.

Step Three: Go home.

Step Four: Slowly go over the titles and opening lines you wrote down. Which ones make you laugh? Which ones make you see a vision? Which ones excite you? Try to analyze the why?

Step Five: Now, write some opening lines of your own. They don't have to be anything you're going to use but do put some thought into them. Sit back and evaluate your line against those you wrote down from the bookstore. Which is better? And why?

Step Six: Take one of the best of your lines you wrote and see if you can expand on it. Give it a full paragraph. Push the boundary and go for a full page. Is the image 'clicking' and can you expound to either make it a story or perhaps chapter 1 of a novel?

Step Seven: Place the lists you created in a safe location where you can easily put your fingers on them at a later date. Allow a few days, weeks or even months to pass then pull the lists out and repeat steps four through six. This time, check to see if the lines match your previous thoughts. What is funny? Which one make you see more than just a quick thought.

Doing this exercise will wake up the Muse in you and get the juices flowing.

I read just the first paragraph (4 lines) of a novel about a viking. Between the title and that paragraph, I was able to expand and begin a new work-in-progress. The imagery was amazing and exploded in my mind as I wrote my first sentence. I continued with the paragraph and then wrote the complete outline for the novel which I may or may not use for this year's NaNoWriMo. Uh, in all honesty, I was given a great idea for another novel which I have outlined. These ideas have been saved to a directory where I already have a couple of other outlines for future projects. I know this exercise works.

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Onisha Ellis
Great tips and some I haven't read before.They almost make me want to write!
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LOL. That's the whole concept, Onisha. To get the juices flowing and the imagination running rampant.
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I often go to music when my Muse needs a wake up call. The right tune, the right lyric, the right voice often manages to break up the shades and let the story's light shine on the page for me. However, a trip to the bookstore may prove just what the doctor ordered.
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Love this! You always have great tips and I always learn something from your posts!
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