Different ways to ask ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ or ‘Where did you get the idea for this book?’ They’re questions writers get asked. A lot.

Ideas are everywhere, though, and there’s also more to do it than that. What I always want to know about writers is not ‘where do they get their ideas’ but ‘how do they transfer them onto the page’. I love hearing about writing routines. Word count targets. Tricks and tips. Places people go to when they write, and whether they write by hand or on computer and whether this changes from draft to draft.

I don’t think ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ elicits the most interesting responses. It’s too vague, and too big. So. Here’s my list of suggested alternative questions – feel free to add your own.

  • Do you do anything – research, activities – to deliberately provoke ideas? Does this happen before or after you’ve started writing?
  • How much did you know/plan about this book before you started writing?
  • What aspects of the book came first and what came later?
  • How do you develop ideas? Do you jump straight into writing or do you plan?
  • How do you plan or outline? Does anything tend to change from the plan to the finished work?
  • What comes first – character, setting, story? Or is it all mixed together?
  • How much does your own life experience affect what you write?
  • Are there certain types of the day when you’re more likely to get ideas or certain activities (even if not intentional) that prompt ideas?
  • What does ‘getting an idea’ mean to you? Is it vague and in need of fleshing out or do you get fully-formed plots popping into your brain?

About clairehennessy

Writer (mostly YA fiction), creative writing teacher, tea drinker, book junkie. View all posts by clairehennessy

6 responses to “Different ways to ask ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

  • Derek Flynn

    I think it’s very interesting that as writers we have these kinds of questions about other writers. It’s probably because it’s such a solitary existence. Other forms of creative arts are often collabortive and the artist can see how another artist creates. As writers, we can’t. So, we wonder, does anyone else out there feel the same way as I do, or create in the same way as I do? And, if not, how do they create?

    • clairehennessy

      And I think there’s an element of always hoping for a shortcut as well!

      Questions from other writers tend to be more specific than “where do you get your ideas?” though, I think.

      • Derek Flynn

        I think most writers are more interested in the process of writing than in where we get our ideas from. Ideas are ten-a-penny; it’s turning them into a story or a novel that’s the hard part. On writing habits, I’ve always loved Joyce Carol Oates’ quote: “When writers ask each other what time they start working and when they finish and how much time they take for lunch, they’re actually trying to find out ‘Is he as crazy as I am?'”

  • James Joseph Emerald

    I’d be interested to see your answers to those questions.

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