How to Generate Hundreds of Writing Ideas

By Ali Hale

Do you ever feel completely out of ideas? Sometimes, I’ve got time to write – but I’m just not feeling inspired. I might want to write an article for one of my blogs, or work on a short story. I may just want to write something personal, perhaps a letter to a friend, or a journal piece, but for some reason I can’t think up a topic.

Inspiration doesn’t always come easily. But for any writer, it’s vital to be able to generate ideas and get on with the work. I’m going to cover some great ways of coming up with more ideas than you’ll ever be able to use …

Brain-Storm or Spider-Chart

I like to brainstorm ideas on paper, though there are lots of pieces of software available – these might be useful if you want to develop an idea into a full article, as they allow you to move things around.

For the low-tech method, though, just grab a bit of paper – a full blank sheet of computer paper works well, as it’s good to give yourself plenty of room! Write your topic (maybe the name of your blog, or the subject for a short story writing competition) in the center … and start jotting ideas around the edge.

Timed Ideas

Set a stopclock for five minutes and start writing. Scribble down as many ideas as you can in that time, and don’t let yourself stop – keep your pen moving, or keep typing, until the timer goes off.

The pressure of time can force you to be creative: you’ll find yourself jotting things almost in desperation, but when you look back over the ideas that you’ve written down, you may well find some gems in there.

Lists of 50 or 100 Ideas

When I’m coming up with topics for blog posts, I often start by opening up a new document and typing “50 Ideas for My Blog” and then sitting there until I come up with all fifty! For the truly brave, 100 is even better. It’ll take you a while to get there, but the more ideas you write down, the more you’ll find yourself coming up with new and different possibilities.

If you really want to challenge yourself, combine this with the stopclock idea above (I’d suggest allowing at least fifteen minutes).

Joining the Dots

You can use your list or your spider diagram for this. Draw lines to connect related ideas together: sometimes one thought won’t in itself be enough for you to write a whole article from it, but several points could combine together well. Alternatively, one topic may be far too broad – so jot down sub-points around it.

If you’re brainstorming for fiction, try combining ideas from opposite sides of your page – you could even stick a pencil in at random. Juxtaposing two very different elements can give you that spark you need to come up with something truly creative.

Using Other People’s Ideas

There are hundreds of ways to find ideas ready for the taking. If you write fiction, try using writing bursts or writing prompts. You could try picking two novels at random from your shelf, choosing a character from each one – and then combining those characters. Or how about borrowing the plot from a fairy tale or traditional story? (Think that’s cheating? Shakespeare did it…)

For non-fiction writers, try using a list of famous quotes to spark off new ideas for articles. Responding to someone else’s words – whether you agree, disagree, or go off on a tangent – can start to get your own ideas flowing.

How do you come up with ideas? Do you ever feel uninspired and plough on regardless? Share your tips in the comments. If you try some of the above methods, it’d be great to hear how you get on!

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22 Responses to “How to Generate Hundreds of Writing Ideas”

  • cmdweb

    Post-it notes are a god-send for hard copy brainstorming. You can move them around, group them, colour code them – the fun is endless…

  • Dwayne Phillips

    I find lots of short story ideas in the Bible. As someone once said, “The copyright has expired, so you are in no danger.”

  • Michael

    I would have more ideas than I could ever use, if I would only write them down when they come. Years ago, an author said that he doesn’t use a notebook, because if you forget an idea, it probably wasn’t very good anyway. That makes less work, but I’m not sure if it’s true.

  • Meryl Evans

    You could have a list of 1000 ideas and still be stuck… the challenge comes in expanding on the idea for a strong article.

  • Ali

    Great point, Meryl — the idea for an article is very much just the starting point, the seed for the finished piece.

    Michael, I sometimes find that the ideas I write down are rubbish, but I also find that the act of writing down ideas helps me to come up with better ones. Also, you might find that you go back to an old idea and it sparks off a new thought.

  • Stan Zebell

    I keep a running list of ideas for projects, character points, scenes, etc. on the computer. As I make my way through the day I will jot down whatever I find intriguing, interesting, strange, whatever into my notebook and in the evening I will transfer these to the running idea list.

    Whenever I am stuck for a new project, a character trait, a description setting, a motivation, I will open the file and peruse what is held within.

    My biggest problem here is that I have more ideas on the list than I have time to write. After a couple months doing this, you probably will also.

  • Miguel de Luis

    @Dwayne, in the Bible and in many less known classics, myths and legends.

    At the risk of showing I’m from a little island, what’s computer paper?

  • Mahendran R

    All the tips you have given here, work.. not less than 100%.

    I’m getting most of my ideas from different sources mainly from things happening around me. People! people!! people! they always talk /live with so many ideas when i listen to them… no doubt I’ll get so many Ideas. Remaining thing left with me is convert those ideas into stories.

    If I cannot find new ideas, I use to start reading my old works or the works i like so much… almost 90% of time I’ll get new ideas from that.

    finding solution for converting every ideas into stories is the main difficulty with me / with most of the writers.

  • Ali

    @Micguel: I probably should have written “copier paper” or “printer paper” — I just mean the sheets of blank stuff you put in a printer or photocopier! In the UK we call it “A4” paper but I know other countries have different standard sizes. Sorry for any confusion caused!

  • shilpz

    very gud article to boost someone to write a good blog on any of the topic g8888 keep it up with gud work …………….

  • myco

    Dwayne, am hundred percent behind you. The bible is a manual script for all humanity and thus we ought to derive most of our ideas and mimic from it.

  • Madison

    All your tips and etc. always work for me! Now i have over 32 storys, coming from just listening

  • maredith

    i have to start writing down ideas..oftentimes ideas are running spontaneously on my mind..so i’ll never forget to always bring a pen and paper with me..

    thanks for the post..i’m glad i found this website..there are a lot of topics that i really need..

  • maredith

    i’ve corrected my email..i missed 2 letters..

  • Aminul Islam Sajib

    Thanks for the fantastic post about generating ideas to write about. I’m going to apply it.
    ~Sajib

  • Jamie

    You list random memories and choose one to write off of.

  • Victoria

    Actually , I am just a beginner for this programme . I have just subscribed daily tips for writing . Altough I haven’t tried that out ,I am much confident that I can improve my writing in just few weeks .

  • shuyin

    sigh…..it just deosn’t seem to work. i don’t know how everyone can say it works. everything i write is crap. my teacher told my topic had to be about something in the writing process and give my own angle and perspecitve on it. I have the freedom to choose, but the topic still limits me. i just can’t get any ideas out. i’m so stressed and i’m going crazy over this. its been 6hrs and all i do is sit here and right crap ideas because thats all that comes to my head. none of it is useful, and the more my deadline draws near, the more hatred i feel and the more hatred the ideas can be seen for the writing process in my perpective.

  • Hector Cisneros

    Awesome article! I am always looking to find way to get into the writing grove and your article provides the the perfect info I needed to break my slump. Thanks, i will be keep up with your writing.

  • Jarod Online

    Hmm… I like the quote one! Great idea, and I’m gonna take note of that!!

  • HobbyIsWriting

    I would love to become a better writer.
    Someday I want to publish a children’s or self-help
    book. Any advice for a beginner? Any websites that
    can really help me develop my writing skills for no
    cost/membership?
    Thank you this was helpful 🙂

  • Charles Seaford

    Always carry index cards. When an idea pops into your head, jot a note on the card. You can even keep them next to your bed. Every morning or evening review your index cards and add them to your list or incorporate them in your spider or bubble chart.

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