Finding a novel idea where none exists

“It’s all well and good that Nanowrimo is next month,” you say, “but how does that help me if I have no idea what to write?”

In spite of what you might think about arduous novel planning, many people start Nanowrimo each year with literally no idea what they’re going to write, and others start with only the most basic concept. While this isn’t the approach I’d recommend, it works for some and even the most basic—or non-existent—concept can be the foundation of a winning 50, 000 word novel.

What I’d recommend is to devote every spare moment of this month figuring out exactly what you’re going to write in November. If you can choose a genre you’d like to write in, that makes your life a whole lot easier and you can easily use one of these methods to get your novel idea:

1. Combine tropes from your genre. Are you writing a fantasy novel? Well, what can you do when you put dragons, elves and an evil sorcerer together? If you’re writing science fiction, perhaps it’s more interesting to find out what happens when you put robots on Mars. Some genres come with a bare bones story already built in, such as romance novels, where at the very least you’re going to have two people who start out disliking each other fall in love.

Take as many typical genre tropes as you need to find inspiration for a great story, and try experimenting with the different ways you can mash them together to create a workable plot for your novel.

2. Use an idea generator. There are tons of idea generators all over the internet. Some are genre specific, such as this fantasy plot generator and others can easily be applied to any genre. There are also tons of random name generators online, so if you ever get stuck for a name, this is a good solution.

3. Steal a story. Of course, nothing is truly original anymore and everything’s been done before, so no matter what you do your story will resemble others. But sometimes an even better idea is to steal a story whole. You can appropriate an old folktale or steal the plot of your favourite novel, or you can go to the Nanowrimo forums and check out the adoption society, where you can adopt plots, characters and anything else you could ever need to complete your novel.

If you’ve already tried all of the suggestions made in my post about filling the creative well, it’s time to see what you can create by building upon what other writers have already done.

How do you get your novel ideas? Do you have an idea for this November’s Nanowrimo novel yet?