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Avoiding the brain freeze...

I often get asked where all the ideas come from for my stories, so I thought I would take a few minutes to pop out a blog on the subject. I am not sure I totally understand it myself, but I will explain the process I go through, which seems to keep me productive, and helps me avoid the brain freeze of writer's block.

I often have lightbulb moments in bed on the cusp of sleep. These would tend to be a story's overarching idea: a murder mystery set in a boy's boarding school, for example. I don't have a paper and pen by the bed, and although I have been known to make a note on my phone occasionally, I prefer to let the ideas rest with me as I sleep. If I remember them in the morning, I feel they must be worth further exploration.

The next stage is to constantly think about this idea until I have a straw man for the flow of the story. Ideas can come at any time and be drawn from many sources. A lot of what anyone writes is in some way based on their lived experience, and I am no different. My school days, relationships, happy times, sad times, loss and trauma are all excellent sources, but there is a massive amount of imagination too. The aim is to write something original and exciting, but before it gets into the hands of a reader, I have to like it myself.

I like to have a structure, so I usually have a complete chapter guide before I start the writing proper. No great detail, but some notes of the key subject and where it takes us from and to in the story, and then I am good to go. But the ideas never stop. I am currently writing chapter twenty-one of my twenty-three-chapter third novel, and things are still fluid. New ideas for little threads of detail or elaborations are being worked back through, but on this occasion, a significant plot change brought together two separate stories I had been working on. Who knows where we might end up!

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