The Collaborative Writing Challenge & Generating Story Ideas

Story ideas are a dime a dozen. They pop into my head accompanied by bright flashing lights and signs that read Write Me! Write Me! I’ve learned the hard way that giving in to the shininess of a new idea typically doesn’t end well. (There’s more than a couple of started-but-never-finished Word documents in my story graveyard).

For an idea to be worth writing, it has to stick in my brain for the long haul. I’m pretty sure the idea for my most recent NaNo project was rattling around inside my skull for six months. And that type of staying power almost always translates to a story with the potential for nuance and subplots that’ll carry me to 75,000 words.

So here’s the situation: I signed up for the Collaborative Writing Challenge. It’s a competition/writing exercise where writers from all over the world write a chapter (or three) of a novel. The challenge portion comes from writing a 2,000 word chapter without having written the previous chapter and competing against three other writers also assigned to write that chapter. All of the writers are invited to submit a “starter chapter” that will act as Chapter 1 if chosen. The only requirement is that it fits into the genre of romance/fantasy/drama.

And that’s where I’m stuck. Those standby ideas that I’m just waiting for the right time to write don’t fit into those/that genre. And whatever new story ideas that’re currently floating around my headspace haven’t been there long enough to prove their worth. I know that I’m only going to be writing this first chapter and maybe three more, so I don’t necessarily need all the twists and turns figured out.

I really don’t need anything beyond Chapter 1. But I’ve done too good a job of training my brain to be picky about stories that it balks at every shiny new idea it’s presented. The starter chapter isn’t due until January 22nd, so there’s still plenty of time to shake loose any ideas hiding in my brain’s nooks and crannies. Besides, I always seem to do my best work under pressure.

How long do you cultivate story ideas? And where do you get your ideas from?

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