How to Get Ideas: Titles

Writers are always asked how they come up with their ideas, but it’s often hard to know exactly where a story idea comes from. Ideas seem to come from anywhere and everywhere, and they sometimes come when you’re not even trying. But for those who are newer to writing and for those who are having trouble figuring out what to write next, ideas can be hard to find and you might have to force yourself to come up with them.

That’s what this blog series is all about—how to get ideas and how to develop stories from those ideas. Last time I wrote about what if questions, and today I’ll be digging into titles.

How to Get Ideas

I don’t pick up books based on their covers. I choose to read a book based on its title. A good title asks a question, and if that question intrigues me, I’ll choose to read a book.

For example, one of my favorite titles ever is Thirteen Reasons Why. The title of Jay Asher’s novel poses so many questions: Reasons why what? Did something bad already happen? Why are there 13 reasons? Does the number 13, which is usually thought of as unlucky, have any significance? The title alone makes me as a reader want to know what happens. And that’s what a title should do.

Because a book’s title can pose so many questions, titles are also a great place to develop story ideas.

When I was young, I kept a notebook of story title idea—of things that sounded cool but that didn’t really have a story to them, at least not yet. One of these titles was The Means. I thought The Means, as in “do the ends justify the means” would make for such a cool book, even if I didn’t know at the time what that book would be. But in my capstone fiction class when I was in college, I turned back to that title and started writing a book. Even though it will probably never be published, I wrote an entire novel based on that two word title. I took The Means and built an entire story around it about a reality game show where anything goes and the goal is to win by any means necessary.

Writer’s Digest’s July/August 2017 issue had a wonderful article about titling books called “Naming the Baby” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Mitchard suggested many strategies for naming a book such as places, common phrases made new, borrowed turns of phrases, and religious references. Titles can come from anywhere, but they must stand out and make people want to read the book.

What I’m suggesting is that you take something you think would be a good title and use that as your foundation to build your story around. Take a title that poses an interesting question, and then write a book to answer that question. Anything can inspire a book—why not the title itself?

Even if you have already got a seed of a book idea, you might want to come up with the title before you truly get started on writing the book. I have to know the title to be able to work on something. Having a title helps make the story seem more real, and it will also help you pinpoint the main theme you want your book to emulate.

What titles have made you want to read a book? Have you ever come up with a story idea from a title?

Ready for Spring!

Spring is my favorite season. I love sunshine and flowers and warmer days. Spring is so beautiful and full of new growth and fresh starts.

Because I live in Ohio, even though it’s officially spring already, the weather is still up and down and as I’m writing this it is still pretty cold outside. So to cheer myself up I wanted to write about everything I’m looking forward to this spring!

  • Egg the City
    My church puts on an amazing egg hunt every Easter called Egg the City. This year there’s going to be 100,000 eggs. I was on the setup team last year and this year my husband and I are leading the setup along with another couple. I can’t wait to cover the football field with eggs tomorrow and see all of the excited children! It’s going to be a great day followed by our Easter services that night and Sunday morning!

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  • Disney World
    My sister has been working in Disney World since January as part of their college program, and I finally get to go see her in a week and a half! I love Disney with all my heart, and I’ve been dying to go back since our last trip in December 2016. I’m also really looking forward to this trip because it’ll be just my mom and sister and me. We’ve never had a trip like this with just us girls, and we’re all really looking forward to it.

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  • Flowers
    I don’t care if I’m allergic to everything that grows, flowers are beautiful. They make me smile. I love this bouquet that my husband got for me last week when it snowed even though it was supposed to be spring.

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  • Books
    I’m always looking forward to books! Some of the books on my spring TBR are Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson (again, I can’t get enough of this book), Called to Create by Jordan Raynor, and Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch.

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What are you looking forward to this spring?

Somewhere Only We Know’s New Cover!

My publisher updated Somewhere Only We Know’s ebook cover, and I wanted to share it here with you. I love the book’s original cover, but this new one is so beautiful!

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I love how the fog in the picture covers the forest and gives you an eerie feeling. I also love how they used the lowercase font for the title and my name, like on the original cover. This new cover definitely stands out and makes me want to read the book all over again!

If you’d like to get the ebook version of Somewhere Only We Know with the awesome new cover, check it out here.

When I’m Not Writing: Serving

I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of my favorite activities when I’m not writing, like jewelry-making and watching muscials. And while crafting is probably my favorite of my other activities, serving is the most important.

Engage City Church is amazing. My husband and I fell in love with this church when it launched in fall of 2016. We couldn’t believe how loving this church was and we were blown away by the difference it was making in our community. We feel so blessed that God brought this amazing church to our community, and we’ve loved all of the opportunities we’ve had to get involved.

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Over the year and a half that we’ve been attending Engage, I’ve been trying to do more for my church and my community. I’ve been trying to make my faith a big part of my life because God is the most important part of my life. And the best way to show my love for him is to serve him and to serve the people he’s placed in my life. I try to do this with my writing by creating books for people to enjoy and with my babysitting by caring for little ones. And now I try to do this with my serving at church.

As we like to say at Engage, we get to do this. We get to love on people. We get to help people. We get to create an amazing church-going experience for the people in our community.

At my church I watch babies in the nursery. I hold open doors and greet people. I help clean up after the service. My husband serves on the church board and helps run the lights for worship. Our small group spent our last couple meetings stuffing thousands of eggs for our 100,000 egg hunt in this Easter. (Yes, 100,000 eggs.) I try to do whatever I can to help out church and I want to keep growing and keep doing more.

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Serving others is the best way to show people God’s love, and “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19, NLT). I want to live out my faith with what I do every day, so I try to serve others whenever I can.

Favorite Book Feature Leftovers, Part 2

On the last Friday of each month of 2017 I featured one of my favorite books. Because I have way more than only twelve favorites though, I thought I’d do a couple posts on the leftovers with short features about each of the books left on my favorite’s shelf. Click here to check out part 1. Here’s the rest of my favorite books:

The Giver and its companion books by Lois Lowry

I was first introduced to this series in the fifth grade when my teacher read Gathering Blue to my class. We were all amazed by the book, so she also read Messenger to us. But I didn’t end up reading the first book of this series, The Giver, until I was in college, and it is hands-down my favorite dystopian story.

Twelve by Nick McDonell

Twelve is definitely not a book most people would like, and most people have never heard of it. But I found this book in my library when I was sixteen years old and it blew me away with its power. And when I saw that the author of the book had only been seventeen when he wrote it, this book became a major source of inspiration to young-writer me.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This book is on my favorites shelf mainly because of how innovative it is and how impressed I am by it as a writer. Spanning centuries, this book tells six different but connected stories. My favorite of these are of course the ones that take place in the future, but each of them are beautifully told.

1984 by George Orwell

This is the only classic on my shelf besides Fahrenheit 451, and I love it for many of the same reasons. Plus I had a pretty eccentric high school English teacher who covered the room from floor to ceiling with “Big Brother is Watching You” posters, so it was quite a memorable experience when I read the book for the first time.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This book is as beautiful as it is haunting. The Lovely Bones is narrated by Suzie Salmon, a girl who was brutally murdered but who watches the aftermath of her death from her new home in heaven. This book has been a huge source of inspiration for my writing.

Unwind and the rest of the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman

Like with [Everlost, Neal Shusterman blows my mind with everything he writes. This series takes place in the future after the second civil war was fought over abortion. Now children cannot be aborted, but from ages 13-18 they can be “unwound,” a process which results in 100% of their body being donated, so they’re not technically dead. These books are eerie and exciting and wonderful.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

This is one of the books that made it’s way straight to my favorites shelf after reading it for the first time. This book is about a girl who was raped, and it’s a beautiful story about healing. Check out my What I’m Reading post about it here.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I found Olive Kitteridge used and free, and I never would’ve picked it up otherwise, but my little beaten-up copy is one of my favorite books. A novel in stories, Strout tells the story of Olive and her Maine town. This book is beautiful and sad and just perfect.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of big books. I have trouble focusing for a long time, and so it took me a long time to read The Book Thief, but this is one of those books that stays with you. Told from the perspective of Death, this novel takes you through Nazi Germany and the story of a young girl who fell in love with words. This story will also always hold a special place in my heart because I watched the movie version while waiting to meet my boyfriend on the night he ended up proposing to me.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Unlike The Book Thief, Zusak’s other novel is fast-paced, funny, and still deeply meaningful. I Am the Messenger is the story of Ed and his friends who live in Australia and are just trying to get by. But then Ed receives a playing card in the mail with addresses listed on it, and he realizes he’s been chosen to deliver something important.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed all of my favorite book features! I’ve loved looking back at all the amazing books on my favorites shelf and telling you all about them. Check out the My Favorite Books page on my website to find links to all of my reviews, and let me know if we share any favorite books!

Why I Love Writing, Sometimes

Today I had planned out in my blog calendar that I was going to write a post called “Why I Love Writing.” I tried writing a draft of this post, but, like everything I’ve tried to write lately, it just wasn’t working. And I had to stop myself because I wasn’t being honest.

I do love writing. When I know where a story is going, the words seem to flow out of my fingers and I can write stories quickly and easily. I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. Growing up, stories were where I found comfort and friends. Books helped me to see and understand the world. And since I am a creative person, writing stories of my own was the next step to reading them. I’ve also always found it easier to communicate in writing than in person, so writing is the best way for me to say what I have to say to the world.

But writing is really hard sometimes. And when I don’t know what’s next in a story or what story to write in the first place I just feel stuck. And I hate everything I try to write. And then I forget why I even like writing in the first place.

Winter is hard for me. I don’t like the cold and dark days. I’ve been dealing with health issues. And I’ve been stuck for months with my writing—wanting to write desperately, but not knowing how to get started on any of my ideas.

But it’s March now and today the sun is shining (even though it’s still cold outside). And so I’m taking a step back and reminding myself why I love writing. If you don’t remind yourself how amazing writing can be, then you could give up and let yourself stay stuck until you stop writing at all.

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I have the best job in the world. Every day I feel grateful and blessed that I get to stay home and write. I get to hang out with my puppy, surround myself with books, and create stories. So even when I feel stuck and am having trouble getting going on a new book, I just have to remind myself how awesome writing is and how wonderful my job can be.

How to Get Ideas: What If?

One of the most common questions a writer gets asked is how do you come up with your ideas? And one of the most common answers writers give is I don’t know.

For writers, ideas seem to come from anywhere and everywhere, and you might not always be conscious of where exactly an idea comes from. And sometimes ideas come to you when you’re not even trying. However, for those who are newer to writing or for those who don’t know what to write next, ideas can be hard to find and you sometimes have to force yourself to come up with them. So I wanted to start a new series on my blog about how to get ideas and about how to develop stories from those ideas.

The first method of getting ideas I want to write about are what if questions.

What if

What if questions are my favorite way to come up with ideas for stories. Writers are naturally curious, and they ask and attempt to answer questions about the world with their writing. Fictional words and stories allow writers to explore different questions and situations. What if is what writing fiction is all about.

My current work-in-progress came from a what if question—what if written language was taken away? This question popped into my head one day, probably prompted from a love of linguistics and written language, and I couldn’t forget it. I pondered the question for a while, and eventually a girl came into my mind. She wasn’t a writer, but an artist, and the story idea exploded from there to become a dystopian trilogy.

What are some what if questions you have about the world? What sorts of situations or possibilities could you explore by asking what if? For me, my question came from something I was interested in—linguistics. There could be a million what if questions about linguistics, just as there could be any number of questions you could ask of all topics.

When trying to come up with a story idea, look towards things and topics you’re interested in and ask your own what if questions. Interested in music? What if there was a magical world where the music you played were spells? Interested in art? What if a teenage girl’s drawings came to life?

What if questions don’t only work for science fiction and fantasy. Those are just the examples I came up with because those are my favorite kind of stories and you can be so imaginative with them. You can just as easily ask what if questions about the real world, whether contemporary or in the past.

Once you have your what if question, try to come up a character who would be involved with the question. I usually have to come up with stories this way—I take a general concept and then find a character to base the story around. After you have your character, let your creativity take over. Ask more what if questions to find out about your story, its world, and what could happen to your character.

Asking what if could unlock any number of story ideas. See for yourself what’s possible.