When Inspiration Strikes

Ideas are a very important part of a creative person’s life, be they a writer, designer, or someone just looking to redecorate their office. All three of those labels apply to me, but I only have trouble generating ideas for the first one.

People often ask “where do you get your ideas?” A common writerly response is something snarky, along the lines of “from the idea book” or “I have a monthly subscription to Ideas-R-Us”, when actually writers get idea from everyone and everything. The entire world is fair game. Overhear a juicy conversation at Panera? Spin it into a book! Find yourself in a situation that’s too unbelievable not to share*? Make it happen to your main character!

Unless you’re me. I can’t go out in public without coming up with a backstory behind all the people I encounter, but the stories end as soon as they walk away. I struggle with coming up with an idea worthy of an entire novel. Add to that my inability to begin a story unless I know how it ends (even loosely) and I can count on one hand how many plausible ideas I’ve had for a novel.

So color me surprised when last week a new idea came to me while I was working out (a kickboxing video, for those curious). Before I’d finished a full circuit of jab-jab, cross, hook, kick I had a main character, a love interest, a group of protagonists, two “earth-shattering” dilemmas (this is YA so everything is earth-shattering), and the big climax at the end. That evening I wrote several pages of notes, and the ideas continued to flow well past bedtime.

All this happened as I was working on edits to FRACTURE. My plan has been to start outlining book three, tentatively titled FADED, as soon as I sent book two out to my next group of beta readers, so I’ve been dutifully brainstorming that book.

But the new idea won’t shut up. My only solution was to outline BOTH books. At the same time.

Outlines are my lifeline when I’m writing, yet I don’t always devote the time to them that I should. I decided to kick it old school and bust out a pencil and paper. I sketch when developing new design ideas — and even when I’m figuring out a new layout for a room — so I don’t know why I never considered it for a novel. I do write notes in a notebook but that uses a different part of your brain. Sketching out an actual line for a timeline helps keep the story arc… well… arc-ing towards the end of the novel.

Two hours later I had two well-developed outlines!


Now I just need to decide which I should work on first…


*A couple weeks ago I was meeting with the president of my company when he spilled a full cup of coffee all over his desk. Needless to say, that will soon be happening to Biz in book three, with a few subtle changes. This is one of the RARE times I’m working a real-life event into my fiction.

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. Melanie's mom

    I think you should finish the Trilogy first. If you get involved in another story and then back to Faded, you’ll have to reacquaint yourself with all of the factual details about the characters . I think it would be easier to finish the series before going another direction.

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