“Where do you get your ideas” is a question all writers get asked fairly frequently, and it’s a hard one to answer—for me, anyway. It’s like there are all these pinballs pinging around in the back of my brain while I go about my daily routine and, at some point, they synchronize in some strange way and coalesce into a book or series idea.
And you can’t force those suckers to synchronize when you want them to in the way you want them to. The more you try to force them, the more they zing away from you.
I recently turned in the last contracted book in one of my series and, for the first time in a couple of years, I found myself sitting around and wondering what to write. Well, okay, for about a week I celebrated not having anything to write, especially on deadline, but once that wore off and I sort of caught up on sleep, I started shuffling my feet and looking for pinballs.
I’d been trying to force a couple of ideas—two particular sets of pinballs—into book ideas for quite a while and they just weren’t working. I’d even tried writing a few chapters of one of them, thinking that would get me in rhythm and make the pieces fall into place. Nope. Didn’t work.
That one was a good idea. There were wacky titles and spoiled animals and sassy veterinarians and crazy Southern relations. It was going to be such fun…in theory. I still might pursue it one day, but not now. You just can’t force these things.
The other one hasn’t quite died. There might be aliens in it. Or we might be the aliens. Or…well, those pinballs are still pinging around and haven’t come to rest in any pattern recognizable as a coherent story.
Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear but some pinballs I hadn’t consciously acknowledged were even in play. They hit me between the eyes and demanded attention. I swear I hadn’t thought about these characters or their jobs before, and yet there they were. They had names. They had backgrounds. They had stories that wanted to be told in books that needed to be written.
So, where do book ideas come from?
I don’t have a freaking clue. But in the meantime, I thought I’d offer up a little musical salute to those pinballs.