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Where do you get your ideas from?


This is the most often-asked question and I will be talking about it at the upcoming Portsmouth Book Festival Writing & Publishing Weekend, details can be found at the end of this post.

Anyone else use this book? When I started to write seriously, with lesson plans for bored teenagers and then trying to make some money from short stories, I kept going back to this book. Good old Reader's Digest! Since then, I've asked other authors and they too not only use it but have well-thumbed copies. Or what else can you remember from childhood? I'm sure we did English folklore stuff at junior school and I think it all soaks in, like water through limestone.

The question that writers ask is really Where do original ideas come from? The answer is the mash-up that happens inside our unique brains. In my case, it could be one photo:

but it's usually a myth, linked to a family story, followed by walking the landscape. I have to feel a sense of place and let it speak to me. Who is here with me? What's her story? Where does she belong? Where is home? What beliefs does she have that stop her ... doing what? And there's the story.

On 3 March I'll talk more about where to find ideas - discussing the working methods of creatives like Thomas Joshua Cooper, Erica Wagner, Alan Garner etc - and plant some seeds in the memory for future use.


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