I often think about the books I’ve started or thought about but never really got down to writing. Lawrence Block in TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT, said he had a friend who, on being asked where he got his ideas, said that he said that “there was a magazine published twice a month called The Idea Book,” and that he, as a professional writer, had a subscription. There isn’t any magazine called The Idea Book, but there are lots of stories in everyone’s life that can become novels or short stories.
I started to write a mystery novel a long time ago, set in a just post-colonial African country. I didn’t get very far, but it was clearly based on my experiences in East Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. I’d love to go back to that. I have lots of ideas about what would happen, and, because it would be a murder mystery, who was the victim and who the murderer. But when I started writing the story in the pre-computer age, it was so difficult to edit my work on a manual typewriter that I gave up.
How did writers manage before computers? I have to give them a lot of credit for perseverance. I know writers who still write by hand, but I would never have the patience. I want to correct as I go along, and having to rewrite paragraphs or put arrows directing me to some other section would be unbelievably frustrating.
Another idea I had, which began a novel that never got beyond the first chapter, was the result of talking with a woman I met on an airplane. I don’t remember where we were going, but she told me that she worked during the day as an attorney and had a night life as a rock singer. It may well have been something she made up for my benefit, but it gave me a wonderful idea for a novel. I worked on it for a while, but I never got very far. Not enough courage at the time, I guess.
The more I write, the more ideas come to me. I loved the report that fellow Ladies of Mystery blogger Jane Gorman wrote about on September 21st regarding the buried mystery train. That would make a great story. Murders reported in the local paper give me ideas for mystery novels. I kept a clipping for a long time about a man who was arrested years after the body of a woman he worked with was found in the trunk of her car. In a mystery story, the hero–cop, private investigator or amateur sleuth–would have found out much earlier that he was the murder. Fiction can be much more organized than life.
Most recently, I read a book called PSYCHIC JUNKIE: A Memoir by Sarah Lassez.The book made me think of creating a mystery about a woman who is addicted to going to psychics and letting them guide her life. This led me to write PSYCHIC DAMAGE, a thriller which is due out in early 2016. I hope you’ll look for it.
Ideas for stories are everywhere. You just have to look around you. What do you do with your ideas? Don’t throw them away! Save them for stories.