Where Do Ideas for a Story Come From?

I think every author in the world through the course of time has been asked this question. I believe that there is a general curiosity among readers to know how the author came up with the amazing story that is on the page. I also think that readers believe there is some sort of magic well authors are able to dip into to draw out their ideas.

The honest—and not incredibly magical truth—is that story ideas come from everywhere. A lot of my stories (Life After the Undead, Finding Eden, and Humanity’s Hope) came from dreams. I had to flesh out the ideas and make them more plausible (so many weird things happen in my dreams that are hard to put on paper!), but the main idea came to me while I was asleep.

Other times, ideas are influenced by other stories and how the world (or I) react to them. Sometimes, something happens in the news that spurs an idea for a story. It’s possible to overhear a conversation in public that will plant the seed for a story.

The point is that there isn’t a magical well that authors go to for ideas. We don’t have special or exclusive access to ideas. However, it’s what an author does with those ideas that makes all the difference.

A good author can take a mundane idea that they get from the news or an overheard conversation and turn it into something magical. The author’s world building and character creation can make the reader believe that this idea was handed to them from above by a creature bathed in an ethereal glow—and that is the real magic.

Ask any author and they’ll tell you that they have dozens of stories that failed because they couldn’t make the idea work. It may have seemed great at the time, but as they put it on the page, it wasn’t as wonderful as they imagined.

Ideas can be found all around us at any given time. As authors, we have to be aware and open to receiving them and knowing what to do with them. We have to know which ideas are going to create a great story and which ones are going to fall flat—and that often comes with trial and error.

Writing and Depression

Writing and depression go hand in hand. There’s a long history of writers being plagued by mental health issues, which contributes to them being brilliant creatives but tragic figures. There’s this notion that if you suffer from some kind of mental health issue, you’re destined to be a great writer.

On the other hand, there’s also this idea that writing can help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. In this case, you’re encouraged to keep a journal so that you can keep track of things that trigger your depression and find a creative outlet to deal with it. Writing can be a way to cope with negative emotions and improve overall health.

I’m a writer. I also have depression. I also deal with anxiety. Writing has helped me deal with my inner issues, and it absolutely gives me a creative outlet for the worst-case scenarios that course through my mind when my anxiety runs rampant. However, as much as depression helps me write, it can also hinder my writing.

Anyone who has suffered from depression knows that it’s not only an overwhelming sadness that overtakes you, there are physical issues that accompany depression. Depression can cause issues such as extreme exhaustion to pain to lack of interest in daily activities—including writing. When these symptoms take hold, it’s incredibly difficult to find the energy or desire to do anything.

Writing can be an incredible outlet for depression and allow the writer to release and deal with a lot of things that goes on in their mind, but it can also drain away any desire to put words on the page. This, in turn, can start a vicious cycle.

If you’re a writer like me, you are compelled to write. It’s more than a desire, it’s a necessity. You feel bad when you can’t create worlds and characters—like part of your soul is withering. But when depression has you in it’s control, even if the desire is there, you don’t have the energy, which then leads you to feeling guilty. This, of course, can make you feel worse.

Being able to write means you have to be in the right frame of mind. You have to be able to let your mind block out all distractions and delve wholly and completely into the world you’re creating. It’s incredibly hard to do that when the distractions come from inside your own mind.

When you’re depressed, it sometimes feels like your thoughts aren’t your own, that you have no control over what runs through your mind. If you have no control over them, you can’t stop them to write. Sometimes you regain control, but sometimes you don’t.

At times, writing can cause depression. The publishing world is becoming more and more competitive and is being flooded with millions of books every year, so it’s hard to get noticed. Rejections and bad reviews are par for the course in publishing, but they can weigh you down and make you question whether or not you should be writing—which leads back to the issue of needing to write. It can be difficult to deal with these emotions.

Every so often, we all need a break. We need to take some time to step back and look at what we’ve done and what we’re doing and decide if it’s right for us. When depression sets in and knocks you down for the count, it’s okay to take a moment to recuperate. If that moment means you need to sleep in and binge watch shows, then do it. If that moment means you need to write furiously about what is going on in your mind, then do it.

Writing and depression go hand in hand, and some of the best stories have been created by authors who have been plunged into dark places. Writing can be great therapy, but depression can overtake any desire to be creative. When it comes down to it, you need to do what is best for you and take the road that is going to make you feel better. The most important thing is how you feel and making sure you’re doing what’s best for you.

How Long Should a Story Be?

Determining how long a story should be depends on several factors. Is it flash fiction? A short story? An epic novel? Each of these varies in word count and length and determines how long a story should be. Below are the average, accepted word counts for the various types of fiction.
  • Micro-Fiction: up to 100 words
  • Flash Fiction: 100 – 1,000 words
  • Short Story: 1,000 – 7,500 words
  • Novellette: 7,500 – 20,000 words
  • Novella: 20,000 – 50,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000 – 110,000 words
  • Epics and Sequels: more than 110,000 words
However, knowing what type of story you want to write is only part of the equation; there are other parts that have to be incorporated to create a story. And what if you don’t know what length of story you want to write? What if all you have is a story idea, but you’re not sure if you can tell that story in 50 words or if it needs 50,000 words. What do you do then?

It’s important to keep in mind that every story—even super short ones—has to have a beginning, middle, and end, along with a climax, events that lead up to that climax, events that bring the reader down from that climax, and then a conclusion. It’s also important that your main character(s) change through your story.

Your main character(s) needs to have a problem, and they have to solve that problem. How long will it take them? That depends on how complicated their problem is. You’ll also have to decide how developed you want your main character(s) to be. Readers don’t have to know a character’s entire life story to relate to them or be emotionally involved with their plight, but if you want to share that information, you can.

You’ll also have to decide how many characters will get points of view in your story. If you’re telling it from one perspective, it might not take as many words to write. However, if you have different perspectives from numerous characters, each one will need a story arc, a beginning, middle, and end, and have to change from the beginning to the end. How you handle each of those perspectives could lengthen the work.

You’ll have to develop your setting(s) too. If your story takes place on a world your reader isn’t familiar with, such as in a fantasy or science fiction work, it might take longer to develop that setting. If your story takes place in more than one setting, depending on how important each one is to the storyline, you’ll need to take the time to develop each place so the reader feels what the character(s) feel when they are there.

It’s possible to write science fiction micro-fiction. It’s also possible to write fantasy micro-fiction. These certainly don’t take lots of words to develop character or setting, and the reader still gets a sense of place and people. The stories also evoke emotions.

In addition to developing character and setting, you’ll need to decide the pace of your story. This will help you decide how long your work needs to be. The pace of your story determines how quickly you reveal information to the reader, how long the scenes in your story are, and how fast the action moves. In shorter works, all of these have to happen at a faster pace than a longer work.

The easiest way to decide how long your story should be is to start writing it. If you find that you are taking a lot of time to describe your characters and your setting, you might consider writing longer works. If you tell your story in as few words as possible, shorter works might be up your alley.

When you’ve finished your story, you need to make sure all the important details are included. You need to make sure that your story incorporates the needed elements (beginning, middle, end, climax, resolution) and that it makes sense. If readers walk away from your work wondering what they just read and feeling confused and lost, you probably failed in your attempt at writing a story. If you can evoke emotions, a sense of wonder and/or awe, or excitement, then you’re on the right track with your story—no matter how long it is.

The Holidays Are On Their Way…And I’m Trying to Be Excited About That

Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays. What’s not to like about spending time with friends and family and indulging in delicious food? Plus, there’s the added bonus of not having to worry about getting the right present for everyone on my list. 

This year, though, I’m having a hard time mustering any excitement for Thanksgiving. This is the first time my boys and I have been so far away from our extended family, and it’s definitely settling in. While I’m excited about the four of us spending time together, I’m going to miss hanging out with everyone else. It’s going to be very different without my extended family and friends around.

I noticed at Halloween that the weight of being in Nebraska was getting heavier. Halloween is another holiday where my kids and I used to spend time with extended family. For the past several years, it has been my sister and I taking my kids and her kids trick-or-treating. We’d even make it to my mother-in-law’s neighborhood, so I got to hang out with her too. If my mom was in town, she would hand out candy at my house while the rest of us walked the streets. That didn’t happen this year, and it made me incredibly sad.

The boys in their costumes.

Sure, we still went trick-or-treating, and the kids (mostly) had fun (my youngest got cold and didn’t see the point in going door to door; he just wanted me to buy candy like a normal person), but I felt the void of not hanging with my sister and niece and nephew or seeing my mother-in-law. 

Life is full of adjustments and changes, and I have to face them. I’m allowed to be sad and upset, but I can also look for the positive in each and every situation. Sure, it’s hard, but despite the changes and emotions that will likely come with Thanksgiving, there are also many things to be thankful for. Again, I have my immediate family to share it with. I’ll have a feast laid out on the table, and a roof over my head. I’ll get to talk to my extended family on the phone, even if I won’t be able to hug them. I have my health, and my boys have theirs too. 

Yet Another Giveaway!

This one is for EPIC YA/NA sci-fi and dystopian. You also have a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! Check it out and enter for a chance to win!

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Urban Fantasy Book Giveaway

It’s a week of giveaways!

I’ve teamed up with 26 fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of urban fantasy novels to two (2) lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!

Oh, and did I mention you'll receive a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering?

You can win my novel Wucaii, plus books from authors like D.N. Erikson and Kendrai Meeks

It has been 500 years since Aelana has been home, and a lot has changed in that time--including her. As a half-dragon, half-human hybrid, she has been traveling the universe destroying worlds. Both anxious and excited to return, she wonders what she will find. Her memories of home are filled with pain and loss, especially for her first and only love. She knows he won't be there, but will his memory? Will her anguish remain?

What waits for Aelana on her home world? Find out in this exciting urban fantasy novel by Pembroke Sinclair.

Enter the giveaway by clicking here.

Good luck!

YABC Around the World Book Giveaway

I am participating in the YABooksCentral.com Around the World in 30 Days giveaway!

There are 45 authors participating from all over the world, from Indonesia to South Africa, Guatemala, the US, UK, Europe, and Australia! It’s an amazing collection of books. Join in on the fun!

For a chance to win, you can enter here.

The book I have entered into the giveaway is Humanity’s Hope. I’m super excited to be part of such an amazing group of authors. I hope you’ll join in on the fun and discover YA authors from around the world!

What happens when humanity's hope rests on the shoulder of a teenager?

Caleb didn’t come out of the zombie uprising unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm has never left his mind.

Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.

This book can also be found at Amazon.

The giveaway lasts the entire month of November, but don’t delay. Again, if you want to enter for a chance to win, you can find the link here.

It’s Exhausting Always Thinking the Worst About People

It’s no secret that the world can be cruel place. All you have to do is turn on the news to know how bad things are—and it doesn’t seem it will be getting better any time soon.

Because the world can be full of shysters and those looking to take advantage of others, we have to be careful who we become friends with and let into our lives. Because of the popularity of social media and how easy it is to connect with people around the world, our vigilance has to be at the highest setting.

No matter what you do in life, you have to be cautious that you’re not taken advantage of, but as an author, I know firsthand how cruel and manipulative some people can be. It’s hard to deal with, and its especially hard to get justice for.

I always say that I’m a cynic, and in many ways I am, but I’m also trying to fix that part of me and focus on the positive. It’s exhausting constantly looking for the bad in people and the world. Questioning and monitoring their intentions takes time away from being able to live my life.

I know this means I’m looking at the world through rose-colored glasses and that I can potentially get taken for another ride, but I can’t shut myself in my house and not talk to anyone. How is that a better way to live? My glasses are only rose-colored on the edges. The inside is clear.

There have been some recent events that have happened with my writing that made me think back to those days when I was taken advantage of. One of them was an email exchange with a newsletter subscriber. Red flags were definitely raised with that one, and I did what I had to to ensure the requests didn’t continue.

Another event that took place occurred on Twitter. I had posted on the site earlier this month that I was looking for a narrator for my young adult zombie book Life After the Undead. My first attempt at making it into an audiobook fell through (I will tell you that story another time), so I was trying again. I received a comment from another user that they were interested in narrating the story. We chatted through DM, and then I emailed a copy of the excerpt that is uploaded on ACX as the audition script.

There was nothing about my exchange that seemed suspicious or weird until a day later I decided to send the Twitter person a link to ACX so they could decide if they wanted to sign up there—after all, they mentioned wanting to get into the business and needed some experience. I decided to send the message through Twitter for ease, and I discovered I could no longer send messages to this particular person.

Most people’s Twitter accounts are set up so that you can only send them messages if you are followers. Both this Twitter person and I followed one another so we could chat, but this let me know that we were no longer followers of one another. That was confirmed when I went to the account and had the option of clicking the follow button again. I did not unfollow this person, so I assume they unfollowed me.

Since I had their email, I sent them a message, but I never received a reply. I sort of expected this. After talking with some other people, it was agreed that they probably were no longer interested in doing my audiobook and that I needed to be cautious about sending them copies of my work or entering into any agreement without a contract.

I’m not sure if I would classify this situation as one that I should freak out about. I never sent more than the excerpt, and the person never asked for anything else. We talked about payment, but I wanted that upfront in case my budget (which is pretty low) wasn’t enough—there was no point wasting time talking if they didn’t agree with my pay scale. They were happy with my offer, but never asked me to send anything. In fact, I was the one who suggested I needed an audio sample so I could hear their voice, and they agreed to do it.

It would have been easy to be suspicious of this person, and maybe a small part of me is. I’m definitely curious to know why they suddenly decided to vanish after being excited, but I doubt I’ll ever get an answer. And maybe that’s where the issue lies. Maybe needing to go through the process messed up their plans of taking advantage. Perhaps when I didn’t instantly tell them I wanted to work with them without going through the steps they moved on. Who knows?

I try to be cautious with my interactions online, and there’s probably a part of me that is still na├»ve, but if I thought everyone who contacted me online was bad, I would never have any interactions. I wouldn’t have found the amazing fans and friends that I have. True, I wouldn’t have found a nefarious publisher, either.

My point is that we all have to be cautious about who we interact with. The world is full of terrible people, but it’s also full of good people. I understand that it can be hard to distinguish between the two, but sometimes you just have to take a chance. Stay alert and vigilant, but be willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

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Pembroke Sinclair's books on Goodreads
Life After the Undead Life After the Undead
reviews: 55
ratings: 100 (avg rating 3.64)

The Appeal of Evil The Appeal of Evil (The Road to Salvation, #1)
reviews: 38
ratings: 63 (avg rating 3.54)

Wucaii Wucaii
reviews: 32
ratings: 35 (avg rating 4.11)

Death to the Undead Death to the Undead (Sequel to Life After the Undead)
reviews: 20
ratings: 39 (avg rating 4.23)

Dealing with Devils Dealing with Devils (The Road to Salvation, #2)
reviews: 22
ratings: 32 (avg rating 4.00)