Starting a New Writing Project: The Frankenstein Approach

 
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So there I was coming into the fourth phase of my revision process, and a thought hit me — what next?

With all my attention wrapped up in completing my first polished manuscript for submission, thoughts of ‘after’ were far from my mind. Until the ‘end’ of my revisions peeked around the corner and I started to freak out that I had no other projects on the table.

That’s not to say I didn’t have story ideas noted, or drafts floating about, but none of them inspired me to start fleshing them out or start revising.

Cue freak out.

What was I going to write? What if I never come up with another idea worth writing? What the heck do I do now?

Since my ‘new idea’ breakdown, I’ve encountered other writers experiencing the same phenomenon. They too had approached a ‘dead end’ in their writing where getting a new idea off the ground seemed impossible.

These momentary setbacks have a way of causing us to question if we’re truly writers, and I am here to tell you — yes you are.

Inspiration comes to those who seek it. In many cases, writing success comes down to you being intentional with your actions. Some days the muse will turn up on a white horse, and on other days it’s up to you to grab the reigns of your creativity.

“Grabbing the reigns” for me equals research, and I found the key to unlocking a shiny new idea from one of my go-to sources, Well-Storied.com.

The Inspiration for my Breakthrough

Source Blog Post: Three Powerful Ways to Brainstorm Story Ideas by Kristen Kieffer (the mastermind behind Well-Storied.com)

Up until I read Kristen’s blog, I had one method for coming up with new ideas — letting them pop up at random.

Of course, this worked out fine while in the middle of an active project. There wasn’t any urgency for these random plot bunnies to transform into full-fledged stories. They came; I jotted them down and continued on with my WIP.

It feels strange saying this but — I’d never sat down and intentionally brainstormed a new idea from scratch. Most of my stories developed from plot bunnies and fragments of dreams. In the past three years since I’ve taken up writing seriously, I’ve discovered curious nuggets about myself, and this was one of them.

Being a passive creator, however, no longer brought me ideas I connected with enough to expand on. And if I planned on writing full time I couldn't take a "passenger" approach either.

So here’s where I became proactive about hunting down my next big idea.

Stealing like an Artist

In her blog, Three Powerful Ways to Brainstorm, Kristen mentions ‘stealing like an artist.’

Some people may see this and think “gasp, plagiarizing” but it’s nothing like that.

As Kristen puts it “[by] intentionally allowing ourselves to be influenced by stories and other forms of art, we learn to shape and transform those influences into unique new works.”

This she notes, is the “power of influence” or as I call it inspired creativity.

We all do it whether consciously or not. After analyzing the plot bunnies I’d collated plus my WIP. and my deserted drafts, I could clearly see elements from my favorite books and television shows and movies. Historical events I studied during my time at University bled into the creation of my epic fantasy world.

Writers make comparisons to known works in their pitches, and others revamp old stories into fresh, fantastical retellings.

One thing I often do these days is research the creative influences of my favorite authors. I’m always intrigued by how they weave the elements of their stories together and from where they gather their inspiration.

Armed with all the necessary information, I blocked out time in my schedule to get intentional with my brainstorming.

 

Inspired Creativity:
The Frankenstein Approach

 

Things you’ll need to complete this exercise:

  • Notebook / New Document

  • Pencil / Pen / Marker

  • Index cards / Sticky notes

  • Patience

  • An Open mind

  • Coffee / Tea / Wine / Snacks

  • The internet

 

As a History major, I have a thing for research which spills over into my absolute love for worldbuilding. But you can’t build a world without a concept, and you can’t put together a concept without elements for inspiration.

Brainstorm Steps-01.png

Tools
Notebook / New Document
Pencil / Pen
Coffee / Tea / Wine / Snacks

These influences have no limits whether they be artistic (books, movies, television shows, etc.) or real world (settings, locations, news stories, histories, etc.).

 

Writer tip: I am always collecting interesting pictures and facts on my Pinterest boards and on Instagram. Always be on the lookout for creative inspiration and hoard them like the writer dragon you are.

 
Brainstorm Steps-02.png

Tools
Notebook / New Document
Pencil / Pen
Patience
Coffee / Tea / Wine / Snacks

Write out the elements of each that captured your attention. Themes from your artistic influences can also be noted.

Take your time with this step and create as detailed a list as possible, but don’t fuss over it. No matter how out of place all the elements may seem, write them down. We’ll organize in later steps.

Again — no second guessing! No over thinking! Trust your creative instincts.

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Tools
Pencil / Pen / Marker
Index cards / Sticky notes
Patience
An open mind
Wine

In this step, we’ll test the elements for compatibility. Note the definition of ‘compatibility’ is at your creative discretion.

From the list you created in Step #2, jot down individual elements on your index cards or post-it notes. Think of them as puzzle pieces you’ll shuffle to create your Frankenstein. Combine at least three items, each from a different influencer and see which fit best together.

I say at least three because I found below that threshold didn’t allow sufficient wiggle room for splicing. What you don’t want at the end of this exercise is a carbon copy of your artistic influences. Consider mixing in some real-world influences if you haven’t selected any.

Once you’ve whittled down your list and have decided on your combo, you can move on to Step #4.

 

Writer tip: While you’re going through the steps note all the ideas they shake loose. Don’t be the “I don’t need to write it down I’ll remember it later, but then you don’t” writer. Every nugget is the beginning of a magnificent new world.

 
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Tools
Your chosen combination
Notebook / New Document
Pencil / Pen
Patience

With your initial (always allow for changes) combination decided, take some time to learn more about each element.

Researching will open the door to new knowledge and inspiration. Take notes during your research, and by the end, you’ll have the beginnings of a writing notebook for your new story.

 

Writer tip: I’d suggest you include in your research the creative processes of your chosen influencers. I always walk away feeling inspired by the stories of my favorite creators and this spark of inspiration will help you flesh out your new idea.

 
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Tools
Your combination and research notes
Notebook / New Document
Pencil / Pen
Patience
An open mind
Coffee / Tea / Wine / Snacks

It’s time for the fun part — sewing your ideas into the beginnings of a new story.

Write out a synopsis for a story that includes all of the elements you’ve chosen and researched.

You may find that additional influences come to you while you’re in this phase, let them. Note them.

The influencers you started with may not be the only ones you end with, and that’s okay. You’re building on your world and plot one layer at a time.

Your creativity is limited only by the walls you build around it.

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There you have it, the steps that helped me shake loose a new idea for my next WIP.

During your brainstorming phase, you’re gathering some of the pieces you’ll need to create your story. As you write and get a better feel of where all the pieces fall, you'll add and subtract until it all fits. So have fun and dive in with an open mind.

From here you’ll need to consider who your Protagonist and Antagonist are, their motives and the core themes and plot of your story. These elements will give your Frankenstein personality and heart and bring it to life!

New ideas don’t always flow as smooth as we want them, but that’s okay. Trust your process and yourself as a writer. Be patient with yourself. Quit comparing yourself and your pace with others. Having a slower pace doesn't mean you're a lousy writer.

Go forth and conquer my friends. May the words forever be in your favor!

 
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