This weeks post is by the amazing Kerry Barrett. I’ve known Kerry for a few years now, and her ideas and drive keep me constantly in awe. She wrote three books last year, THREE. She has an imagination I could only dream of, and so it’s pretty apt that her post today is about where she gets her ideas from.
Some ideas about ideas.
Like all the best ideas, I find the first seeds of a novel often come to me when I’m thinking of something else. In the shower, on the train to work, when I’m at work (and when I should be working!), when I’m cooking dinner or often when I’m running or swimming. In fact, the only time they definitely don’t come to me is when I sit in front of my laptop ready to come up with an idea!
People ask me a lot where I get my ideas from and always give the same answer: I get them everywhere. And that’s one of my favourite writing tips – ideas come from everywhere, you just have to listen to them (and listen to other people’s conversations – loads of my ideas come from earwigging) and keep a note of them.
Crime novelist Ian Rankin snips interesting stories out of newspapers, jots down sentences on post-it notes and scribbles ideas on pieces of paper, shoves them into a folder and gets them all out when it’s time to plan his next book. I love this idea and I try to do a similar thing. I normally make notes to myself on my phone, though that sometimes backfires when I find myself trying to make sense of a few seemingly unconnected words that I was convinced I’d understand later.
I think the best ideas often come from a throwaway remark, a story I hear, a snippet of a conversation, a song I hear, or something I see when I’m out and about at work or on the school run. Sometimes it’s a simple as wishing something – I wish I could be on Strictly. I wish I could waggle my fingers and make a cup of tea appear. I wish I could give up my job and live in a house by the sea. I hope if I can’t stop thinking about something, then it’ll grab readers in the same way.
My last book, A Step In Time, had a historical story within it, and my next two books are going to be the same so now I have an added dimension of thinking about a time period I’m particularly interested in and finding a story within it – which is a lot of fun. One of my future novels is set in Soho in the late 60s and was inspired by the Save Soho campaign that’s currently running. I’d seen lots of pictures of 1960s Soho on the campaign’s twitter feed and I was thinking about how brilliant it must have been to work in Soho then – and suddenly I had another plot.
So basically, when it comes to inspiration, I’d say the most important thing is to be nosy! Be interested in people’s lives, people’s stories, people’s history. Listen to conversations, watch the news – and watch the people in the background as well, read books, talk to everyone (well maybe not everyone, but you know what I mean!). Open your eyes, your ears, and your imagination and the ideas will follow.
Kerry’s latest book, A Step In Time is available on Amazon just click here.