Writers have ideas for stories that float around in their head for long periods. Some of these ideas are snippets that will never develop past one small scene.  Still other ideas come in the form of a specific character, who the writer then has to work a story around.  A writer understands what “I let the character talk and tell me his story” means.

Unfortunately, there is no magic charm, or perfect formula for creating and plotting a story for a novel. Every single writer is very different when it comes to story compilation, there’s that little thing called "sequence of events."  No matter how great the premise of a story is, if we only have the beginning, the middle and the ending, it’s not really a novel.  Not yet.

Here are some tips for someone who has parts of a story but needs to come up with the next scene, series of events, characters or is blocked so bad their laptop is floating in the pool. 

First Tip:  Start with something totally obscure that makes no sense and work it into the story.  I will illustrate. Let’s say I’m stuck with my heroine driving in a car down a long road…what should happen next?  I look around the room I'm sitting in and spot a few things that make no sense.  My cat, a cup of tea and my cell phone.  Aha!  Her cell rings, it’s….it’s her best friend giving her bad news. The hero is missing; he’s signed his own a death warrant on himself by running.  The heroine pulls over after spotting a restaurant and orders a cup of tea while she sorts where to head to next, through the window she spots a cat that reminds her of how her friend's cat went somewhere secure when he was scared. Bam!  She’s got it. She knows where to find the hero!  Yeah, it wasn’t that easy, but I swear it really works.  Sometimes, I end up tossing the whole thing, but it gets my juices flowing!

Second Tip: Go for a drive.  I prefer back roads and being that I live in Georgia, there are lots of those. I can let my mind wander and not worry too much about paying attention.  I run away from home on a regular basis.  There are many small towns within an hours drive. So I go and stop to get a snack or check out a cute gift shop that catches my interest and chat up the people.  If I don’t get ideas from spotting things along the way, people will definitely give me some of the most interesting story ideas.  Recently I drove to Washington, Georgia. I stopped to take a picture of an abandoned boiled peanut stand next to a long dirt road.  Besides a good country song, this setting would make an interesting first meeting for a city girl and a cowboy don’t you think?

Third Tip: Freewrite.  I have to admit; I do this even when I don’t realize I’m doing it. What you do is start with a simple idea.  Example: “She walked into the room and instantly realized she was the only female.”  Now for ten or fifteen minutes (yes set a timer) just type what happens next. Don’t worry about misspellings, sentence structure or grammar.  Just write. This is an exercise that is used by many writing coaches, you may end up crying from laughing so hard at the stuff you write, but it will get your brain going.

Last Tip:  Relax and talk.  Yes talk.  Invite a few friends for a glass or two of wine.  Then ask them to brainstorm with you while your sit at your laptop and write their ideas down.  I’ve done this before and not only have I gotten some great ideas, but the thought of their suggestion being published made my girlfriends giddy!

Go on now, get your Write On!  Good luck!

Hildie McQueen's debut novel Desperate Betrayal is available now at Amazon.com!  Visit her blog for musings, interviews and funny stories!  A member of Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers!


  1. Nightingale // November 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM  

    Hildie, I love the Boiled Peanuts picture. You don't find boiled peanuts around Houston, and I miss them. Also, I enjoyed your tips on getting started again. I'm stuck on a novel at the moment, and think I'll take my character for drive!

  2. Mary Marvella // November 2, 2011 at 12:58 PM  

    Great advice, Hildie. The ideas seem so simple, but they are effective. I don't think any writing is wasted time. Some fab ideas come from writing silly stuff. Like Linda, I love the boiled peanuts photo.

  3. Patrice // November 2, 2011 at 3:32 PM  

    Hi Hildie,
    I'm more of a pantser, and start a story with only my characters, a beginning, a conflict, no middle, but a guaranteed happy ending. How they get there is as much a journey for me as for them! When I get stuck I go for a long walk and that usually generates some idea! I also like to stop writing a scene before I finish, so I have a jump start the following day!

  4. Pamela Varnado // November 2, 2011 at 4:24 PM  

    Hildie, my stories always start with the character rather than a situation. I see the character in my head then the plot somehow magically unfolds. It's strange but I have to make a connection with the character before I can begin writing. Maybe that's why I have so many false starts. I love your ideas for plotting and plan to try them.

  5. Barbara Monajem // November 2, 2011 at 8:36 PM  

    I have heard that if you want to write something different, you have to chuck your first five ideas. What comes after those is likely to be less obvious. Your idea of picking something that makes no sense is another way to come up with something unexpected. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Hildie McQueen // November 2, 2011 at 9:26 PM  

    Thank you ladies for your great comments.

  7. Beth Trissel // November 3, 2011 at 12:26 PM  

    Excellent post. Great tips. And I need them.

  8. Josie // November 3, 2011 at 2:12 PM  

    These are excellent tips. I'm a pantser, not a plotter, so I can use all the help I can get.

  9. Judy // November 4, 2011 at 2:26 PM  

    Great tips, Hildie! It's fun when bits and pieces come to you from within or from suggestions and you can pull the story together!

  10. Mary Ricksen // November 5, 2011 at 2:03 PM  

    Great blog! And boy can I use some of your ideas! Thanks for the blog at PFS, we are so happy you posted!