I keep an idea jar - this is from Ray Bradbury's book on writing. I get an idea, I write it down, it goes in the jar. Usually that idea isn't picked up again, by the way, but it's nice to know they're there. If I was in demand and writing on a daily basis like he was, I would raid the jar. Instead, it's a place to park my thoughts so they don't interfere with what ends up being the real idea.
The real ideas have been -
- alien Kristallnacht (that's Untrustworthy, which is published)
- a tripartite near-future society of humans, somewhat sentient robots and aliens, with murders as the backdrop (that's The Obolonk Murders; it's a trilogy with each book about each group. Not published yet)
- first contact with an alien life form similar to Australopithecus afarensis with the backdrop being ugly political unrest at home, takes place about 400 years from now (that's The Enigman Cave)
Current real idea, to be written this November which will kick off what I hope will be a series: Gangs of New York meets Men in Black
; e. g. aliens live among us in nineteenth century Boston. It will be called The Real Hub of the Universe
I am also published in some anthologies and those are also what I call 'real ideas' although they're smaller. I don't make any money from these; they are all for various charities:
- lesbian lovers, one human, one not, get stuck after a night of passion (that's Complications, it's in an LGBT-themed anthology called Discovery)
- Props is about a woman who thinks she's been abducted by aliens but it turns out she has Alzheimer's; it's in an anthology where the proceeds go to Alzheimer's research, called The Longest Night Watch
- Cynthia is about a man with Alzheimer's, told from the perspective of Cynthia, his black Great Dane. That's for Longest Night Watch 2, coming out this September
- The Last Patient is about a teenager and her therapist, who is dying of lung cancer. That's in Stardust, Always, where the proceeds go to St. Jude's cancer research.
- The Jungle is about an attack on an abortion clinic; it's for Black Heart Magazine and is for gun control. Proceeds will go to Everytown for Gun Safety.
- No trip to Jupiter is about a woman whose disabled sister is mentally ill. This was written for a mental health awareness anthology; charity not yet determined.
- Getting Over It is about a teenager obsessed with a man who doesn't know she's alive and is for the same mental health awareness anthology.
It helps to write about a million or so words to get the crap out of your system. I ain't kiddin'. Best way I've found to do that has been to write fan fiction as it can't be published anyway. So I have tried out a number of themes over the years. Some of these were adaptable to these bigger ideas.
In any event, some people are plotters, where they plan much of their stories. Others are pantsers, who kinda fly by the seat of their pants. Both methods are great if they work for you. I find I am something of a hybrid as I will get the gist of it planned and will do the research in advance, but when the time comes to write it all down, I improvise, and sometimes that plan falls apart or it gets moved around.
Eek! I have written a novel here - but these have been my experiences. Hope they help - all of this has been going on for maybe 10 years from when I first started to write fan fiction until now. I first started writing seriously for publication in 2013.