Ideas for stories (and how to have them)

We once got a strange email from someone saying that he wanted to write a book. He was sure he was a good writer, though he hadn’t actually written anything and didn’t actually have an idea for a story. On the plus side, though, he told us that he had thought of a brilliant title: Ghost Enemy. Unfortunately, he said, he didn’t know what his title meant, and could we possibly enlighten him? (Not that he quite put it like that. His email was three lines long and had no punctuation at all.)

Now, that writer was probably rather extreme in his lack of obvious qualifications for the task ahead, but we’ve all been in similar places ourselves. Getting ideas – where the heck do they come from? And how do you know if they’re any good?

Humph. Big questions, but let’s see what we can do to help. What follows is our simple book ideas generator – patented by us, but free to all.

Book ideas – the good news

Almost certainly, you have the worm of an idea squirming away somewhere. It’s not a question of forming the idea, but of recognising the one you already have. So do this. Make lists of:

  • things you daydream about
  • your special interests (medieval churches, IT security, tattoos)
  • your areas of expertise (that might be something cool, like internet bank fraud, but it may well not be. Maybe you’re just an expert on swimming lessons for toddlers, social hierarchies at the school gate and how to get baby poo off a new dress. That’s still an expertise.)
  • your current passions – things that get you off on a rant or long-winded explanation
  • things you loved as a child – it’s amazing how often the child seems to predict the adult. Look back and see what you loved in the past.
  • books you loved as a child
  • books you love now.

Write actual lists of these things. Not in one single half hour session, but bit by bit, over time. Let things stew and bubble up. Almost certainly, you’ll find something nagging at you. Something that stays with you after you leave your lists. That right there is your idea.

Ideas for books – what to expect

The trouble with inspiration is that it never arrives fully formed. (My first novel was a partial exception – that did arrive pretty complete. All the rest have had to be hacked out of the rock.)

But that’s fine. Development is easy and fun. The first thing to know, then, is that ideas take time. You don’t get from nowhere to perfect in one leap. Indeed, calling this post a “Book Ideas Generator” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not a generator; it’s an incubator.

You don’t find your idea; you grow it.

We’ll talk a little more about that crucial process shortly – but first, a massive question:

Is your book idea any good at all?

For heaven’s sake, don’t embark on a project unless you are damn sure your idea is strong enough to carry you all the way to publication and beyond. Don’t go and write a 90,000 word novel . . . only to discover that it’s just not good enough.

The good news?

There are precise techniques for (a) figuring out if your idea is strong enough and (b) adding juice to it if it isn’t.

We’ve got a brilliant video on that exact topic – plus two more key tutorials. And the best part is? They’re totally free. You can get them here:

Know the market

For heaven’s sake, don’t try to develop your idea without knowing damn well the relevant bit of the market for fiction. That means you need to read the area you are going to write it. Read widely. Stay current. Know the new names, not just the old ones. It’s a massive mistake not to do this – and most new writers don’t.

Start developing

Get a sheet of paper and write down what you do know about your future book. That might be very little. It might be no more than this:

  • Antarctic setting
  • Scientific team
  • Weird earth tremors, totally unexplained by science
  • Some ultra-secret weapons testing

That’s not a story. It has no characters, no plot arc, no meaningful line of development. but who cares? It’s a start. So just stay with it. See what comes to you. Try out new things. Add new elements:

  • ex-SAS man turned seismologist is out there.
  • Has baggage from the past (a mission gone wrong?)
  • meets Olga, glamorous Russian geologist

Do these new ideas work for you? How do they feel as you mull them over? I jolly well hope you think they’re crap. The bits we’ve just added feel forced, cliched, bland, generic. So let’s try again. Scratch that last bit and instead add:

  • Leila is a seismologist & triathlete (British)
  • loves extreme adventure
  • sampling ice cores to track past earth disturbances
  • finds weird, inexplicable traces – far too recent
  • multinational team. Hunky Russian and American scientists are there.
  • The Russian seems spooky somehow (but will be the good guy)

Better? I hope so. Maybe we haven’t yet nailed it, but it’s that forward-back process of development that brings the rewards. The only test of whether something works is whether you have a deepending tickle of excitement about it. If that tickle fades, you’ve gone wrong somewhere. Find out which element isn’t working, delete it, and try again.

Remember to give yourself time!

If all this takes a week, it’s taken you far too little time. Three months would be decent going. If it takes six months, that’s fine too. My most successful novel took two years in development, then was mostly written within two months. Development matters!

Technique matters too

By far the commonest reason why good, passionate amateur writers give up on a project is that they don’t have the technical skills needed to complete it. They start out in a rush, then notice that things aren’t quite working, don’t quite know how to analyse what isn’t working, then give up – probably convinced that they don’t have the talent.

And that’s rubbish. It’s a completely untrue conclusion to draw. Writing books is tough, and you have spent no time learning how to do it. So get the help you need. A course is probably the best way for total beginners (our online writing courses are absolutely excellent. Or, if you really want hand-holding, then our super-deluxe complete novel course is a possibility.)

Some tips on how to fail. (And some on how to succeed).

And finally – please, please, please don’t read this post and think it doesn’t apply to you. It does. And that means all of it. If you cherry-pick the bits of advice you like and reject the ones you don’t, you will probably fail.

If you rush your idea – you’ll fail.

If you don’t know today’s market for fiction – you’ll fail.

If you don’t have the requisite technical skills – you’ll fail.

If you expect miracles and are ready to give up if you don’t find them – well, guess what, you’ll fail. What’s more, you don’t deserve otherwise.

That’s the bad news. Or rather, it’s the good news: good news, because it doesn’t apply to you. You’re going to take this post seriously. You’re going to do as it says, develop your idea properly, build your skills, know the market – and then, with luck and a following wind, you’ll succeed more than you ever believed possible. We hope that happens for you, and if we can help, we’d love to. Good luck.


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  • what about love stories or friendships or ex lovers

  • Harry

    Sure thing, but there are two things you need to be careful about. First, as a legal matter, you’re looking for trouble if you start talking about real people. Secondly, as an artistic matter, you risk getting too stuck in the real life story with the result that your novel never has the freedom that it needs. On the whole, I’d recommend avoiding a real life love story in which you are one of the participants.

  • katy

    Dear Sir/Madam

    i am writing a book I’m only on the first chapter and I’ve quite good so far. It’s a murder mystery this lady while walking her dogs find a body reports it to police and police discover its might be the lady’s daughter, I am having one big problem I cant come up with a good title.

    miss wainwright

  • Sheona

    ‘My Aching Bones’

  • Sara

    I am giving a newsletter a new lease of life and want to really inspire the target audience [project managers] to read it and send in inspiring articles for others to read.. I am struggling to come up with a fun and captivating name for the bulletin, something that will get their attention.

    Sara Chines

  • Abigail Page

    I have this great idea for a book, but I still don’t know if it’s the right one. Every time I start to write, I end up crumbling the pages up. I know i want to write this book. So what do I do?

  • There is an excellent site called Ideas4Writers You could do worse than subscribe to it for life, a great investment as you can download books for future reference.
    and there is an excellent subject index as well. Also, build up a hard copy folder as well and set aside an electronic one on your computer, using the notebook or pad
    provided, even Word if you prefer so you can transfer your handwritten ideas noted – if your handwriting is anything like mine,you
    will be glad you did it.

  • Hi,
    I’m currently writing a blog about our rescue dog Louis, there are almost 800 people reading it, 10 are in the USA, 2 in Russia, 1 in Belgium and 1 in Germany. I’ve had many people say I should write a book, but I’m not sure. I find it really easy to write his Blog, and I would love it to be published but I don’t if it’s good enough.
    Any feedback would be great if possible.

  • thankyou, having just read this post, i realise what i’ve been doing wrong.But maybe i can correct it before coming to york. see you there harry thanks again

  • nathan

    I think you should name it THE CASE becuase that sounds like it would fit it

  • Jacob

    I used to have a large flow of stories that popped into my head everyday and I would write everyday some where good sellers about a hand full and the rest other 100’d i wou0dl just post on a fanfiction website or something like that. Now since this year started 2012 I have drawn a huge blank. I can’t even write a full sentence. I think my brain has been washed up.

  • Andy P

    Your line “By far the commonest reason”. Surely “By far the most common reason” is a better use of English?

    Maybe a bit over critical, but you’re the writer.

  • Nanditha

    Thank you for this article! I’m a thirteen year old girl who loves to read, as well as write. I read everything, books from Paulo Coelho, Jodi Picoult, and Khaled Hosseini to the fantasies like Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and Artemis Fowl. I just finished writing a fan-fiction for Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series and long to write an idea of my own. I’ve been stuck though, and pretty much guessed that if I was taking so long just to develop an interesting idea, that then I must lack any sort of imagination. Thanks for giving me hope by saying that it’s normal for ideas to form over long periods of time, sometimes up to two years, even though my initial reaction to the number was a groan typical of a lazy kid. πŸ˜€ I have a question though- do ideas come naturally or do authors have to work their brains and creativity for a good plot? Thanks again, the advice here seems very promising!

  • Harry

    Hi Nanditha – nice comment! I’d say that the answer to your question is usually a bit of both. You can’t force things too much – but at the same time, if you don’t consciously spend time thinking about the ideas you have, they’re unlikely to come to proper fruition. So it’s a combination of (in my case) hard graft and taking the dogs for long walks. Needless to say, I prefer the second part of that regime!

  • Mr BC

    ‘Kin ‘Ell

  • Victoria Renwick

    Hi Harry. Wonderful advice in this section. I have a query though – is it possible to put too much new information/learning into a book for a reader? I have started developing a fantasy adventure aimed at ages 11+ but if you look at the likes of Harry Potter and the amount of learning involved in those book (creatures, spells, objects, enemies, languages etc) is it possible to put too much new information / fantasy detail into a book? Or worse – not enough? I’m nervous about finding a suitable balance between exciting/valuable and plain old information-overload. Thanks in advance for any assistance.

  • Harry

    Yes, there is a balance – and it’s possible to put in too much or too little. It’s hard to give a clear rule of thumb in answering the question – basically, you need to do the best you can yourself then, when it’s time, get some decent feedback on your writing from someone who understands the YA fantasy market. (A service that we can offer, needless to say …!) Sorry not to be more helpful, but it really does come down to a matter of judgement on the specific story you’re writing.

  • Katrin Plain


    I am having trouble with a story idea. I don’t have any ideas. Sometimes my mind goes blank and that’s when I have no ideas. Please reply and give me an idea because I’m only 10 and I love writing stories.

    Katrin xxx
    Ps. Please reply and give me an idea.

  • Harry

    Katrin – you do need to come up with your own ideas. That’s sort of the point! But what are your favourite things? Or your worst day at school? Try writing about those. Good luck

  • Karl

    I am having trouble coming up with ideas for my second book, i am 12 and my first book was called predator in the snow, I have run out of ideas please help me .


  • Minahil

    Thank you!
    I think my problem is that I start a story, get writers block about a quarter of the way through and then start a new one (note that the previous one is then forgotten and will probably end up sitting inside my drawer for years to come).
    I’ve joined a website called Wattpad and I think that’s helped a bit because people are relying on me to finish my story.
    Another problem is that when I struggle to come up with chapters or even sentences sometimes I tend to copy other authors without realising it. Do you have anything that could help me with that?

  • Kiaira

    I’ve been writing ever since I can remember from short stories to novels but my problem is im having a hard time following through I have about 4 stories unfinished and every time I go back to them, I find myself stuck and not knowing how to continue the story. What would be your advice on how to finish my books?

  • Harry

    It’s almost always a technical issue (often to do with plotting, or points of view) that impedes your progress. Basically, you find things collapsing at the point where more confidence in how to manage your plot would get you through the difficulties.

    Your best bet is to go on a good course – any one of ours, for example – and get the skills you need to complete the story you’ve started.

  • Hope

    I was born a writer by blood. My mother was a great writer and it goes on from there but I don’t really have the patience or time to say how far. Anyways, I really want to write a book, and I always have millions of ideas but I can’t seem to pick a dreaded idea and go on from the there, so really what I am asking is if you can help me find a way to make my idea choosing at least a bit simpler.

    Thank you,

  • Harry

    Hi Hope, most people who start books and can’t finish them have a problem with the technical aspects of writing: turning that initial idea into a full blown plot, peopled with characters, with points of view all well-managed etc.

    In other words, the ideas are OK, but they seem to run out of steam because you don’t yet have enough technique to develop them fully. By far the best bet is to take one of our novel writing courses – you’ll be able to go from idea all the way through to final draft. Best of luck!

  • Hope

    Thanks so much. I’ll try the courses.

  • Claire

    Hello Harry,

    Your article was an interesting read.

    I have been writing since I was a child and have always been surrounded by books.
    I have not, to date, written a full length novel but it has always been a niggle in the back of my head to do so. General life, children, general life, children (you get the picture) etc…made it easy to keep the desire on a safe back burner.
    Now I have stumbled across an idea; it came out of the blue and was prompted by some family news.
    I have the underlying psychological concept of the story. I know the style and format in which I would like to write it. I’m not worried about the technical process of arranging a story.
    What I am struggling with is this – do I take the fundamental elements of the real story and apply to a separate fictional story or do I just write the actual story ?
    I would prefer the former.
    So, I’m struggling to come up with a story framework, when I already have the psychological background. I don’t want to force a scenario out of nowhere, but not sure where to start.


  • Anonymous

    It sounds interesting. Go for it! The worst that can happen is that you don’t get published.

  • ajay

    how to know the market for this?
    please reply

  • Harry

    You know the market by going into a bookshop and seeing what’s selling. That, and reading lots and lots of current fiction.

  • Danielle

    Hey I am ten and I have been writing and reading ever since I can remember. I have a vague idea of what kinda book i wanna write but I can’t seem to make much sence of it. I mean I always seem to be adding ideas from other books. I want my book to be about murder. But not like someone found a dead body. More like a nuclear war has started and America has taken over. They make the people compete for their lives in some sort of battle. Please help what could they make them compete in ?


  • Harry

    Hi Danielle – I think that’s your job, figuring it out. There’s no right or wrong answer, so just have fun!

  • Danielle

    Thanks harry

  • callum

    Hey I’m 14 and still in school, I have always had a passion for writing as well as enjoying and being talented at it; consequently I get really good grades the only problem is writing long stories…
    I never like short stories and always want to write a long novel that keeps the reader hooked and develop a close bond with the characters but I always seem to hit writers block.
    I like novels like “Eragon” and “The deed of Paksenarrion” exciting fantasy novels about castles, soldiers and the medieval age, and would write things like this, (maybe even modern warefare) but I can never continue after chapter 2 (700 words) or so; HELP please.

  • Harry

    It’s your age, that’s all. Keep writing. Keep reading. And one day you’ll write a novel!

  • callum

    mmm thanks but asking that question made me think and I have some new ideas I want to expand on will post my results thank

  • Interesting article.

    How to write short stories.

    How to write biography?

  • Ojas

    I wish to write a novel related to fantasy.But,the thing is,I have never ever written before, and I am interested in starting a long story directly rather than writing short stories.I have even thought of an idea,but I have developed only half of it.And I have not even thought of a proper beginning.Now this time consuming process of thinking is reducing my confidence and has really frustrated me.Please Help.

  • Harry

    You probably need a beginners writing course. Try our Creative Writing Flying Start or our How To Write A Novel course. The full menu is available here.

  • callum

    I don’t know what others think, but I like writing long stories but never seem to be able to finish them. But I wrote loads and finally came up with a good sketch of a background and am still writing it…
    Sometimes it’s best to see where the book takes itself write what comes into your head and then improve. If you write something your bound to think; oh but if that happened this could be a dark secret in the storey or something

  • Tony

    I start with core idea and an appreciation of how my characters would react to various situations and then I write. I love the way that whilst writing some situations just evolve. I know it sounds corny but sometimes I finish a chapter surprised at the way the story went. I thought it would go one way but, once in the zone, the characters reacted differently . It did not make sense fro them to react in the way I originally thought they would. I am not advocating just free form writing. I writing the chapters out before I start. A paragraph per chapter is my rule. If i can not make enough chapters up, then I have not got a strong enough story.

    The key is to write. It is easy to browse a site like this when you are dreaming of being a writer rather than actually writing. Please do not get me wrong. I love the website but sometimes I use it as an excuse not to write. If i find myself on this site, I actually tell myself to write at least one page and then reward myself with the web afterwards (did exactly that this morning, 4 pages and now I’m resting with a read of the site. )

  • dagazar

    not an title idea but u should have a plot twist and have the lady kill her daughter

  • =========

    I have to write a book of 200 pages wth 20 chapters (as a skul assignment).
    Frictions my theme but i dono how 2 get started… could you help mi out?

  • Elsie

    your advice a brilliant

  • princess14

    i have written over 10 books they all start off great but i just dont know how to end them

  • elizabeth

    you should probably get further in your book before you give it a title. that way you can be open to more ideas, and it doesn’t have to just be the thing in your title.

  • Rhianna

    Is there an ideal amount of main characters in a book you should have? Two or three maybe? Also I always find it difficult to develop my characters and I feel I do not know them so how on earth will the readers know them? Is there anything I can do to get to know the characters that I create? I’m not sure my questions make sense so apologies, basically how do I successfully portray my characters to the target audience?
    Thanks πŸ™‚

  • Harry

    You probably want between one and three principal characters in your book. As for how to get to know them – may we suggest our Ultimate Character Builder? I think you’ll find it exactly what you need.

  • Allan

    Hi Harry,

    I have started planning out my first novel, I have built up my main idea and characters using advice from this site and your excellent book on how to write for publication. I think my idea is saleable. A pupil arrives at a new school and is subjected to a hate campaign that results in him bringing a gun in and taking hostages. There is a lot of background issues, like his mother being an alcoholic, his father leaving after finding her in bed with another man, the reasoning behind both of these situations, and the effect they have on the protagonist.
    I do have an issue with characters, how many is too many? I have my three main characters: the protagonist, his mother and his father. The story will be written in the third person, mostly involving the protagonist, but some essential chapters need to be written from both parent’s point of view. I feel this is ok. However, there are also three other pivotal characters: the bully, the love interest (his and the bullies) and the unexpected villain. Each of these has their own story arc that also directly affect the protagonist, but I don’t want to use six points of view. Surely this is too many?
    So my issue is, do I give any of these chapters from their point of view or do I simply work them in through dialogue and interactions with the main characters.

    I hope you like the general idea. I do have a follow up that could be written from the point of view of the unexpected villain. If you think the idea is rubbish please feel free to say so (I know you will anyway). Any simple advice on how best to deal with my characters would be appreciated.

    Thank you in anticipation.

  • Harry

    Hi Allan, That does sound like a strong idea, yes. I would guess that you want to work with just the three POV characters you mention, and let the others appear in the book only through their eyes … but that’s not an absolute rule, simply the safest option. If you do try to juggle six characters, then you’ll need to be extra strict about maintaining a strong narrative focus and not letting yourself get sidetracked by things that are, in truth, subsidiary to the main tale. Hope that helps!

  • Allan

    Very helpful advice. Thank you.

  • Sofea Shabani

    Hello, Harry!

    I find your post extremely helpful so I’d just like to thank you for that. I am twelve this year and I started getting interested in writing books when I was ten. I write professionally with great vocabulary and my friends have given me positive remarks about my drafts and short stories that I have written. I have over thirty (literally) book ideas in my computer and they all seem pretty great. That is, until I decide to write it. I have been getting major writer’s block and it’s really hard to come up with a plot and an idea to write. Any tips on that? But after reading your post, I had been inspired to write a book about a thief who steals for the good and a prince who wants to make everyone believe that royalty don’t necessarily get everything. I am stuck with the title, though, but everything -according to your advise- is going very smoothly! I am glad I read your post and I really hope this book (or any other of my ideas) gets published and you might end up reading it someday! (I don’t know, maybe. A girl can dream.) But until then, thanks a lot. πŸ™‚

    ~ Sofea Shabani

  • Lois

    I just want to thank you because you made my day! I was looking up articles of how to think of a book idea, and I came across yours. Your article spoke to me. Thank you.

  • Siobhan

    Hi I have a story to tell id like to be able to write a book because if my story could help even one child grow up to feel able to cope with what the world throws at them I’d be so happy. Any idea how I’d do this ?

  • I cant overcome my fear of ruining my novel so i always start over how do i overcome this

  • Harry

    (A) accept that your first draft is going to be a carcrash. It is for 99% of writers and that doesn’t matter. It’s what happen next that counts.

    (B) take a course. Most inhibitions about that first draft come down to a lack of technical expertise in crafting a novel – and that’s the sort of thing which is tackled by one of our courses – probably one of our How To Write A Novel ones.

  • Harry

    Um – either just start writing it. Or take on of our courses if you need ot build your skills & confidence. The thing is to DO it!

  • also I need your opinion on ideas so in my book I’m having some ideas about spaceage gangs comprised of multiple races wich were thrown into a galactic Civil War creating the gangs which are more like different armies the problem is I’m having hard time figuring out how to connect them and what the different beliefs should be thanks for the help

  • how much do they cost…the writing courses

  • Have been writing poems, the title of my poetry blog is Grace’s nest universe ,my ideas come up when am experiencing emotional imbalance or triggered by touching stories. I would like to start writing a novel, am a bit confused because am not sure of consistency and flow. Every idea i think of seems like i may not write so many pages.
    i have a picture in mind of a country experiencing crisis, people are displaced from their homes, so the journey starts for this family who were terribly affected by the war, from lavish lifestyle to nothing..Am thinking of focusing on a girl in that family, about her life style, education, relationships, hardships n how life gets better. will also talk of other children in the family. Later she helps her family out of poverty or i may decide to live it in suspense.
    Please advise me on how i can broaden content without getting mixed up also coming up with introduction seems to be a problem..

    Have read some comments and questions discussed and its interesting that i got to know things i didn’t initially understand.

  • Brooke

    You should finish the book or at least get deeper into the book before giving it a title.

  • B Jones


    I wanted to know how you stay motivated when writing. I usually get up to about chapter 8 in a book and then I get bored. This causes me to start another book and the cycle repeats.

  • Harry

    Very good question. I’ll write a full length post on this topic and schedule it for the end of the month. Excellent question.

  • Thompson

    Thanks for this advice
    I also like the talks of Kether Acha and in one of them he talked about ideas.
    I hope I can one day organise my ideas to write a good novel.

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  • Faizan Mehmood

    Hello .. I just want to say that I like writing stuff . I have like many ideas and stories in my mind … And I always wanted to share them with other even though they are really bad but what I am trying to say here that i like writing … Non of my friend likes writing or reading . I cant share my thought with them . well what I really wanna ask you guys is that I finally start writing … MS Word helps me a lot with my grammar which is sucks btw… but now the question is that i have the whole story in my mind i know how it is and how it suppose to be but what i don’t know is how to put it on papers so the others can see what i am imagining i really don’t know how to explain every single detail cause its just a story in my mind ……. and please forgive me for my bad english . Its not my mother language …. thank you

  • Harry

    Best thing you can do is take a short writing course – it’s the best way to get started. We’d suggest probably this one as a first step.

  • Hi am Merriam , writing a book is my ambition so I am now writing a book called The Journey of Mahlatse and The Family,which it is pointed on the reality things that they are happening to us as the younger gerenations and worse things that has happened to my life in the past years and how i survived in those dark clouds ,hopefully it is going to change the 80% of our youth who are in this current situations and their parents as well. That was just a glue of it so I needed a person who’s going to help me plan and recorrect my mistakes before I do some copies of it and get motivated…thank you.

  • Jimmy

    First off, capital at the beginning of a sentance. Second, you have a run on sentence. Try using periods and/or commas. Also, use better grammar. As for the title, think of something that really fits your book. It is good to have a title before you begin writing because it gives you an idea of where your writing will go.

  • Nikita

    I want to write. I know I’m a writer. I feel it. But my brain explodes from ideas and I really don’t know which idea I got to use for my first novel. I usually make discisions pretty well, but I haven’t found the ‘perfect’ story yet. I want my first book to be special and I want to make people cry over my book and say: “She is a true writer.” I know I have enough fantasy and imagination, so that’s certainly not the problem. But I don’t know what the perfect story for my first novel should be.

  • Hannah

    You should wait til the end of the book and give it the title with a clue in it, for example if her father who supposedly died a few years ago did it the it could be called ‘back for you’ or something that suggests he’s come back. The idea for the title will come to you when you least expect it

  • What are some ideas for books I got one in mind. I really don’t think its good but it’s new and no other book has the idea so that’s a start. Do you think a story about being famous is a good idea?

  • Danielle

    I’ve been writing on and off the last couple of years, but a few months back all the ideas went blank. Now, I’ve been looking up writers block, as I’ve not had it before, but all the “writing promps” and stuff hasn’t been working? Do you have any advice I can try?

  • Harry

    Well, the advice is as above, really. But here’s a tip: WRITE STUFF DOWN. Even ideas that are part-formed, feel crap, and won’t go anywhere. Write them down. Tinker with them. Change your mind. Expand your notes. Let it be slow and organic. But if you do that stuff in your head, you’ll remain stuck at square 1. If you do it on paper, your mind can move forwards. Also: one of our starter courses (Reading for Writers or Creative Writing Flying Start) would be fab for you. Link here:

  • Danielle

    Hey, Harry,
    Thanks for the advice. I’m quite surprised it can so quick. I’ll look into the courses you suggested. Thanks again. I’ll definitely do as you suggested.

  • Alison

    I’m Alison, and I am eleven years old. It has been my lifelong dream to become an author. I know that I am young, but I have been writing stories since the age of four. Most of them are short stories, but the rest are unfinished because I didn’t like the plotline. I also have written some plays, but those I haven’t shared with anyone.
    I feel that I am at the point where I can write a book. I have the time and dedication needed, but I don’t have any ideas. All the ideas I come up with are immediately shut down. I don’t know what to do to get inspired.

  • Sasha

    I’m 16 and its my dream to finish a novel. I’ve written a lot of stories but usually get bored after about chapter 2 and start a new story. How can I
    actually stick to a story?? Help….

    Thank u,

  • Dave

    I am a retired gent who has just written 150 odd pages of a drug type gangster novel based in Southern Africa. Who can take a quick read and let me know if I should maybe give up writing or alternatively find a copyrighter . Ha Ha what should I do from here ?
    Regards Dave

  • Missy

    I have an idea for a book, complete with characters and a plot. My question is how do I put it into words that someone other than myself will understand? I was also wondering if being over critical and constantly editing is normal? I’ve been writing poetry for years but writing a book is something different altogether.

  • TeenGeek

    I have the exact same problem as you Sasha. I guess maybe you don’t get interested in the books ur writing. Try to write about something you are passionate about or really like. Make something up about another kid a bit like you. Use your life and experiences as inspiration. Bye πŸ™‚

  • Harry

    PLenty of (purposeful) editing is fine. And ” words that someone other than myself will understand”? Uh, try writing in English: it’s a very popular language, or so I understand . . . or, more seriously, just write good, plain, clear English. See as clearly as you can, then express clearly what you see. Bingo!

  • Wade

    I would like to pitch my idea to a someone and co write it?

  • Harry

    Not a chance. Ideas are plentiful and cost nothing. Doing the work – that’s hard and that’s what you get paid for.

  • shruti

    Thanks – this is a great post. Would any of this (like the list-making part) apply to incubating a non-fic idea?

  • Harry

    Yes, definitely! Good luck

  • Margot

    Hey Jacob sorry if I’m only reading this now, by now you’ve probably solved your problem anyway but if anyone with the same problem stumbles on to this..
    I’ve had the exact same problem and it drove me insane. I stopped writing at some difficult point in my life, and if I tried to wright anything it would just be bad. It lasted for about a year. And then I started to do exercices regularly, imposing myself to work on my writing and it triggered it back. I got my inspiration and my style got better, I even started to think clearer. So if you’re going throught one theses periods, it’s only normal. You can be talented but talent doesn’t always work when you want it to. Just give it a little bit of time and fight for it and it will come back πŸ™‚

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  • Kelly

    Hey, I’ve started writing a book called ‘Being Normal (Not)’ about a girl whos world is changing beause of some doctors who try to make supernatural hybrids on teenagers, but the thing is that I’m only 12 so do you think that I should be writing something like this? Or is this too much of a task for someone my age?

  • Harry

    Hi Kelly, your book is unlikely to be of a publishable standard, just because even copper-bottomed geniuses don’t normally get published until their early 20s. But write the book anyway. (A) it’ll be fun, (B) you’ll be proud of yoursef, (C) you’ll learn a ton. Good luck. Let us know how you get on.

  • Emma

    Hi! I’ve been trying to write a book for a while but every time I get somewhere, I realize that I have re-written a part of another book. I have my own idea and even characters but I just can’t seem to actually write something that isn’t like a book I have already read. Along with that, I am 13 and mostly read young adult fantasy/dystopian books which all seem to be similar to each other in some way or another (she’s actually the queen, this trusted person is really bad, the boy she likes is her brother…). I am scared that if I end up writing something and actually finish the book that it will be too much like the others and have no originality.
    What should I do about it? Thanks,


  • Harry

    Don’t worry too much about it, Emma. All plot ideas have been written before: just make sure that the execution comes from YOU – your voice, your creativity – and the story will feel fresh and original.

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  • Faith

    I’m a 15 year old girl, who really wants to write as well, looking at your comment date i’m guessing i’m the same age as you πŸ™‚ I love your choice of reading! I love those books, although I haven’t read Jodi Picoult yet. I want to write books too and am glad to see i’m not the only teenager who wants to write. Keep up the wishing to write and an idea will come. If none do, then you can always do what my friend and I did. We had a story idea together, and we had turn about to write chapters, that way it was written from two different view points, and it turned out quite well written actually πŸ˜›

  • Melanie

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    I am writing a book and I am on my first few chapters and it is about this girl who is a freshman in high school and she gets into a plane crash and looses her leg and I don’t know what to name the book and also I can’t come up with an ending.

  • Steve

    Some say you only learn how to write a book by writing a book – in other words you treat it as a learning experience. It may be that the way your mind works means you are better planning in detail before writing too much – thinking through all the potential things that could happen to your protagonist and picking the ones that appeal. But sometimes if you develop a rich cast of characters you find that their interaction takes the story in directions you hadn’t expected. You will need to drop quite a bit of what you write in the edit anyway, so just write. Maybe your high school freshman knows the story already… just give her the opportunities to tell you!

  • Angela

    Hello Harry,
    I have recently completed a book and put it out for friends to read. They have given useful criticism which I accept gladly, but there are two conflicting views about it. However, all say they get enthralled by it and can’t put it down, which helps, lol.
    The conflict is the explicit passages, some say it needs to be much more explicit while an equal number say it’s fine as it is. I am torn and undecided.

  • Franco

    Is there a post in answer to this question? I wasn’t able to find one.

    I, too, have this issue after a few chapters and would be interested in reading the thoughts of a published writer.


  • Natalie

    Hi all, I have a few book idea’s that have been going around in my head for some time now, one is a child’s book and one is a mystical adult book, how ever I don’t even know where go start, im my head the book is pretty much wrote but putting it to paper is another case, I didn’t really go to school so I’m not great with punctuation etc and putting it in to the write words, and I don’t even know where to start with publishing and who to trust with my story etc, does anyone have any advice, would appreciate it, thanx πŸ™‚

  • Franco

    One step at a time.

    If you have the plot/story in your head, then just start writing scenes from it. Don’t worry too much about your grammar and punctuation, that can come later, and you can get specific help if you struggle with this aspect of writing. The important thing is to just do it; the writing that is. Everything else can be developed down the line.

    I can’t (won’t) begin to tell of the number of mistakes and errors I find in my work when I read through it. It doesn’t matter, as long as you get what you imagine and picture in your mind onto the page. Write first; edit later.

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  • Sally A Lee

    Hi i have many ideas for a book with all the experiences in my life, i am so confused to what subject i would start with please can you give me some help. (I have always wanted to write a book about my life,) as i have been told it would make a best seller and good reading that is if i could write it down . I have lived through some harrowing experiences AND SURVIVED i am in my fifties and think it is time to tell my story it might help other people and i think many people would relate to this book, i am a mother with four children and five grandchildren whom i dearly adore. yours sincerly Sally lee

  • Olivia

    Hi, I’m 12 and I’m trying to write a book but I can’t quite grasp what I want to write about. It’s there but I don’t know how to turn the idea into a book. Can someone please help me thanks.

  • ThaiMermaid

    Yeah, i get what you mean. But sometimes I play ‘role-playing’ games to get ideas because it isn’t just you getting to ideas, you know what I mean? I’m also trying to write a book that I got inspired from in a role-playing game I did. I scribbled down what happened in it so I wouldn’t forget and now I’m actually trying to write a book now.

  • well there are different writing courses that cost different amounts

  • Kasra

    Do we have to read many books related to our idea? Because sometimes it puts a limit to our mind and we fail, what do you think?

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  • Adam

    I have written a book. I self-published through Amazon late last year, but have had next to no success.

    I think the lack of marketing, advertising and preparation of the ground before publication was its downfall. There certainly is a market for the basic time travel concept, but maybe it is saturated to the point where my novel just sinks to the bottom.

    My question is will any agent touch it or should I persevere with my other projects and move on?

  • Harry

    If the book is good enough, then by all means seek an agent. You don’t have to say anything about your self-pub adventure – and if the MS is strong enough, then it’ll be picked up, no problem. And if you have no luck with agents (probably via – the best site out there) then you probably need a manuscript assessment, which we can happily provide for you. The trick is quality! Best of luck.

  • Anku

    Hi, First of all thanks. I have a great Ideas to write the stories but the problem is again the same as you’ve mentioned in the blog. the technical skills, of course the thing is that not knowing how your own ideas are going to do well or may fail to give a good taste to your readers. I’m a little worried for my life without being a writer in my life. I’m really stuck with the things I’m facing, actually I’d written some stories say contents unfortunately failed to come up to the level- up to the mark, thus the problem with my stories or my write-up most probably seems to be with the technical skills. please let me know the things I must do from here on. As I’ve written the contents that are not are not up to the mark, please get me a solution on some technical issues that I must work on. I know I can do better, however, after been rejected with some articles I feel like have lost the ideas. Please Provide more colour on this. thanks again. hope to see a decent feedback that do some electric sparking in my useless brains. Lol…….thanks.

  • Lienke

    I have been trying to refine (in other words actually write a book) in the last few years. The problem is I have a mind that can go from focused on one task, to not really being able to concentrate at all. The different ideas I have come so often that I can’t choose between what I want to write about, as in my mind they all seem pretty good. I have recently started a new idea, which is based on a girl who isolates herself. I am trying to do the plot and decipher how the story line will go, but I want to ensure that I can complete a book (even if it doesn’t get published). Is there anything that I can do to ensure that I complete it?

  • khloe del

    your book should inspire or have a purpose so whats your favorite thing then add a plot and you have your book