Since last week I wrote about my progress with Mercy Hospital, I thought this week I’d publish a bit about what many new writers dread: ideas for a story that don’t go anywhere.

Thanks to a constant reader for requesting this installment theme.

“Where do you get your ideas?” is likely the most common question asked of writers. When you’re just starting out writing, it can also be one of the most frustrating things:  trying to think of something to write.

There are many approaches to coming up with ideas, but I’ll focus on just two of them and how to combine them: one, write by the seat of your pants; two, make a general outline of what you want to happen in a story.

Yes, you can actually combine these two approaches. It will help you drive your story and make it work.

When facing the blank page, write any sentence. Anything.

Here’s one off the top of my head:

Dave recoiled at the cold cup of coffee.

Okay, so that’s a start. I can go on talking about Dave and introduce a new character.

But then what? Where does the story go?

The first approach: With the first draft, don’t worry about it. Write it out until you can’t write anymore, and then worry about where the story is going.

The second approach: Don’t even attempt to write by the seat of your pants. Outline this first. Dave is at a diner and Cindy is supposed to meet him. The waitress wants him to leave, etc.

The combined approach: Write the first few paragraphs or a chapter, and then move to your outline to “direct” where these characters are going.

When I write, I use a mix of all of the above, depending on where my weak points are. When I have a clear idea of what I want to happen, I will outline the whole thing from beginning to end. When I don’t know what to write, I just write by the seat of my pants and allow for nothing to make sense until I’m editing. But most of the time, I combine the two by writing the first chapter and then outlining/directing the rest.

Most importantly, if you work with an outline, take your time getting to each point. It will help with the pacing, and you can always edit it later.

Happy writing!

This Halloween, give the gift of reading to a friend who loves horror. Pick up a copy of Now Entering Silver Hollow. And stay tuned for next week’s October Frights Blog Hop, courtesy of A. F. Stewart.