Advice for Writers: Finding Your Idea

If you’ve ever experienced an overwhelming desire to write, and yet you’ve found yourself in the throes of a drought of the imagination, we promise that you’re not alone. This happens all too often, to writers of all ages and levels of experience. (Even when it comes to our weekly posts, we’re desperate to write them, but we don’t always know what about!) To help any aspiring writers who might be trying to navigate such a creative block, we’ve put together a list of tips that will hopefully help you find your next idea and fill the sad and empty-looking Word document that is currently staring back at you.


1. Write something you’d want to read yourself

This may sound like a given, but it’s important and worth considering when dreaming up exactly what kind of story you want to share with the world. Not only will this help you write something you’re passionate about, but it will keep you interested and focused on your writing when inevitable distractions try to deter you from your work.


2. ‘Write what you know’…?

If you’ve previously sought writing advice before finding this post, you’ve almost definitely encountered these four words before. This phrase is often treated as the gospel of writing, and we’re not sure we’d recommend following it like a commandment. Writing what you know and what you’ve experienced is no bad thing, but neither is broadening your horizons and attempting to write something you don’t necessarily know but want to learn more about. We’re never going to discourage innovative and imaginative writing!

For more on this topic, we’d recommend you check out this post by to see what 31 different authors have to say about this old idiom.


3. …Instead, write what you wish exists

In lieu of ‘write what you know’, we think a better ideal to stick to is write a story that you can’t find and that you wish existed. If you feel that the market is missing something that represents a certain type of person, story or experience, write it yourself, because there’s almost certainly someone else out there wishing the exact same thing. Don’t let anyone else beat you to it.


4. Be wary of your research

If you do decide to plump for a story that’s outside of your sphere of experience, make sure your research is thorough, but not all-consuming. We actively encourage you to make sure your writing is a valid representation of a world you may not know, but don’t let procrastination masquerade as ‘productive research’ if it’s stopping you from putting pen to paper.


5. Read before you write

This is yet another piece of advice that’s frequently passed on to aspiring writers, and for good reason. Reading the works of others is one of the best ways to learn about your own writing style and the type of stories you want to tell. However, exercise caution if you’re prone to existentialism – make sure you’re learning something from everything you read, rather than getting jealous that you didn’t write it first.


As journalist and writer Emma Forrest puts it, ‘I used to cry myself to sleep because I didn’t write ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allan Poe, until my Mum pointed out that there were other people who also had not written ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allan Poe.’ Us too, Emma. Us too.


6. Third time’s the charm

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was from one of my university lecturers, who herself first heard it from writer and satirist Alan Coren. Unfortunately, I can’t find the quote verbatim, but the core message is simple and easy to remember: don’t go with your first idea, because that’s what the lazy people have done. Don’t go for your second idea, because that’ll have already been pursued by the people who tried to outsmart the lazy people. Instead, go for your third idea, as it’s your best shot at originality.


As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN if you found any of these tips helpful, or if you wish to share some of your tips with us!