5 Steps to Generating Fabulous Ideas For Your Next Novel by Elizabeth Andre

5 Steps to Generating Fabulous Ideas For Your Next Novel
by Elizabeth Andre

Where do you get your ideas?

I get asked that question all the time, and I confess that I tend to be a smartass and say, “K-Mart. Blue light special.” This betrays both my age and a certain lack of respect for the fact that idea generation is a skill. And it is a skill that can be taught, learned and practiced.

Idea generation for me is as natural as breathing, but after some deep thought, here is how I really come up with my ideas. I don’t really get them at K-Mart.

My father, who was also a writer, used to always tell me, “Bad writers borrow. Good writers steal.” Yes, plunder this blog post for whatever you can use.


Step 1

Commit to generating new ideas. Create one or more documents where you can just dump whatever comes to your mind. Yes, it’s okay if those ideas suck. You have to come up with bad ideas before you can come up with good ones. I’m a big fan of Google docs and the iPhone notes app, but use whatever works for you. You may even decide to carry a paper notebook and a pen with you for periodic scribbling. To borrow from xxxx and the Artist’s Way, sharing creative work prematurely is a form of masochism. There’s always someone out there and maybe in your own house who would be happy to give you some “realistic” feedback. Unless you’re ready to either take in their feedback or let it roll of your back like it was covered in teflon, don’t share your ideas.

Step 2

Pay attention to the world around you. I am currently on a business trip, and while I was walking through the airport, I saw a Chinese ski team. I’m in the USA and in the Midwest. You can see really random things if you pay attention, and some of these things can lead to good stories. I write primarily lesbian romance. What if one of the skiers on that team is a lesbian? What if she’s in love with a skier on her own team, but the coach wants to keep them apart to keep them focused on winning their next competition. What if she’s a serious contender for a gold medal, and she has a crush on  her nearest rival. Not only is the object of her affection her main competitor, but she’s from a country that has historically had very bad relations with China?

Step 3

Pay attention to your world around you, even if you don’t leave the house, and make stuff up about it.  A Facebook friend of mine just posted that the CIA was hiring librarians. Oh, I can so run with that. How about a spy novel where a lesbian librarian is the hero? She receives a series of information requests and links them together realizing that a high ranking official is the target of an assassination plot. Her wife is a secret service agent protecting this official, and there is the possibility that her wife is in on the plot or in great danger or both. Somehow, the Dewey decimal system and a card catalog play important roles in this story. Yep, that’s another one for my idea file.

Step 4

Take a memory and re-write the ending. In my story, The Beauty Queen Called Twice, Volume 7 in the Lesbian Light Reads series, I took something that really happened and changed how things worked out. In real life, I was in college and working for the college newspaper when I got the opportunity to interview someone competing in the state beauty pageant. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen up close, and she called me to have coffee after the story was printed. I did not call her back, something I have regretted ever since. I thought she was too straight and too pretty for me. In the story, the character based on me reunites with her beauty queen, and they, of course, fall in love and have fabulous sex. I enjoyed writing that story so much. Being able to control your own story is part of what makes writers so powerful.

Step 5

I know I said in step 1 not to share ideas, but what I really meant was don’t share them with just anybody. Have one or two friends you can trust who will play with your ideas with you like kittens play with a ball of string. Between you and your friends, you should be able to unravel that ball of string until it is a great, giant beautiful mess, and you can start writing the first chapter. Where do you get these friends? KMart blue light special? But seriously, friends come from all sorts of places. My wife and I play with ideas all the time. She’s a fellow writer, and I met her at a journalists’ convention. Sometimes my best friend and I have fun tossing around an idea, and I met him on a swim team. Whoever your idea buddies are and where ever you meet them, their job is not to poke holes or find flaws. Their job is to help you develop your idea until it is beautiful and all yours.

Have fun!

the beauty queen called twice amazon coverIn honor of this blog post, the Beauty Queen Called Twice, volume 7 of the Lesbian Light Reads series, is on sale. Usually $2.99, it is reduced to 99 cents. Link: myBook.to/beautyqueen

Elizabeth Andre writes lesbian erotic romance, science fiction and young adult stories. She is a lesbian in an interracial same-sex marriage living in the Midwest. She hopes you enjoy her stories. She certainly loves writing them.



  1. Unfortunately, there is a small error in this blog post that I take full responsibility for. The Artist’s Way is by Julia Cameron not xxxx. It’s a great book about creativity. I regret the error. Lots of love! Elizabeth Andre.


  2. Great tips – especially loved the one about rewriting the ending to one of your own true stories!


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