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Here’s Why Most Story Ideas Are Totally Lame-Ass (And What To Do About It)

How many times have you had a writer-friend (or someone in your writing group, etc.) say to you, “I’ve got the best idea for a story!” but then when they tell you what it is, it leaves you thinking: they need to learn the definition of “best” (and the definition of “story”)?

Welcome to the world of agents, publishers and writing coaches.

There are millions of writers out there who all want to write a story. Problem is, most of them have really lame-ass ideas.

I can’t even tell you how many story ideas I hear on a regular basis that start out with something really generic–I want to write a story about love in the south. Or my story is about a girl who escapes a bad home life. Or it’s a coming-of-age story for a boy who just wants to be in a band.

LAME. AVERAGE. EVERYDAY. And that is NOT what great stories are made of. 

Sure, a great story may start with something kinda lame, average and everyday, but with the right information and creativity injected, it becomes something much better.

Just think if J.K. Rowling came up with the idea to write about a wizard-boy, and then just left it at that. LAME!

Because while the day-to-day life of a wizard-boy may be interesting to you–and maybe even interesting to some–it’s not ever gonna be enough to make your story stand out among the sea of stories about wizard-boys. You need more than that.

You need something high-concept. You need a freaking Concept, period. You need a bad guy and a Premise for the story

And it’s kinda hard to have those things when you’re constantly settling for less-than-average story ideas.

Where the Real Problem Lies

The real problem for most writers isn’t that they have lame, average, everyday ideas (although that is the problem for some of them). The real problem is that most writers aren’t generating enough ideas in order to actually uncover the ones that are worth writing about.

So they settle for some half-baked, lame-ass idea, because it’s all they can come up with.

And that’s what’s really sad. Half-baked, lame-ass ideas are career suicide for writers.

Writers who write and publish ideas like that are the reason so many writers believe that it’s “hard to be a successful fiction writer” and “writing fiction can’t possibly be a full-time career” and “successful self-published novelists just got lucky.”

But the truth is…it’s none of that.

The truth is, those fiction writers who have created success did so because they didn’t settle for the first idea that came to them. (Which is another reason why it’s SO important to plan and develop your story before you write it–but that’s a whole other ball game.)

And if you’ve ever had that experience I just described–where no one is buying your novel, no one is leaving reviews and no one except people related to you are telling you that your story is any good–it’s time to own up to the fact that your story is probably pretty freaking lame (sorry to be the bearer of bad news). 

You Need To Do THIS Instead

If you want to avoid being one of those writers who either spends their life pitching and re-pitching and re-writing pitches and getting rejected by a thousand agents and publishers who all pretty much say the same thing–“this story sucks”–or who self-publishes a novel, only to hear crickets…you have to STOP SETTLING.

Settling is for writers who don’t believe enough in themselves to wait for–or keep digging for–the golden idea that will take their story to a whole new level. (Another reason why planning is so imperative.) Writers who settle do so because they’re afraid that’s the only idea they’ll ever have, so they’ve gotta run with it while they’ve got it. 

And some writers who settle have even convinced themselves that the lame-ass idea is actually pretty good (delusions that will get you no where).

But you’re not a settler, right? Because you know that you want an actual, real shot at having a successful fiction-writing career. 

And to have that actual, real shot at success, you’ve gotta have a kick-ass story. Anything less just won’t cut it.

Here’s How To Cultivate Better Ideas

There’s an exercise that I do on a regular basis to help me generate killer ideas–for fictional stories, for nonfiction eBooks, for blog posts, for video posts, etc. You can do this exercise with pretty much anything you need to generate an idea for.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Get out a notebook or a piece of paper
  2. At the top of the page write an intention for what you want to generate ideas for (for example, “Books I can write” or “Stories I can tell”)
  3. Make a list of 30-50 ideas that fit under whatever you set as the intention (an alternative version would be to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and generate as many ideas as you can ’til it goes off)

Now the point isn’t to come up with 30-50 really awesome ideas. Not at all.

The point is to come up with 30-50 bad or so-so ideas, which then clears a path for a really killer idea to come through. Sometimes it comes though on the actual list. Other times it will come through afterward because your mind is free and clear of all those mediocre ideas.

That’s the thing about the mind–it takes in SO much information on a daily basis and you’ve got SO much going on inside there. It can make it really, really tough to “hear” the great ideas (or even the really good ones) when you mind is clogged with crappy, average, lame-ass ideas and thoughts.

This exercise will help you clear those out so you can finally have access to the ones that are actually worth writing.

You Can’t Just Do It Once

A lot of times after I teach this exercise to writers they’ll try it and then say to me, “I did it, but it didn’t work. Or I didn’t come up with anything great.” To which I respond, “Do it again.”

Generating ideas isn’t something you do once or only when you need an idea. No, idea generation should be something you do on a regular basis.

I have “idea generation” on my to-do list DAILY.

Now I don’t always come up with 30-50 ideas. Sometimes I do 5-10 or sometimes just 5, but the point is, I make a focused, conscious effort to continuously generate ideas every day.

By doing this, I get my mind thinking in the right way and focusing on the right things: better ideas.

Most of what I come up with is total crap that I would never do anything with. But every time I do this exercise, I always come up with 1 or 2 really killer ideas that I can act on right away.

And that’s the whole point.

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Give this exercise a try and then come back and report in the comments how it went for you. 

It’s almost time for my sixth-annual fall story planning workshop!!! (Perfect for NaNoWriMo prep.) This year I’ve got the best version of this workshop ever… more details coming later this week. Get on the waitlist right here to be the first to know when the doors open (and to get access to a special Early Bird Bonus).

Write Your Reality: A Guide to Creating Anything You Want

I’ve always been big on journaling. I kept a journal most of my life, especially during my teen years. But lately my journaling has gone from something I do once in a while to something I do on the daily, most days twice a day.

As a writer you already know how powerful the written word can be. We use our words to change people’s lives, get them thinking and understanding things in new ways, and to entertain them and conjure up memories, emotions and connection.

So why not use our words to powerfully create our own realities?

This was a question posed to me by my mentor a few months ago, and I took it to heart and started writing my intentions every single day in my journal. I even did a video recently sharing all about my journaling practice.

But like anything else, journaling and doing mindset work shifts and grows as you do. So what I was doing when I made that video and what I’m doing today are slightly different. Essentially I’m still doing the exact same thing—writing the intentions I have for my writing life and my life in general.

Except now I’m breaking it down into three sections that help me to be even more specific and to see faster progress.

Now when I write my reality I write it in this order:

  1. Big-picture vision/goals—I write out my intentions for my big-picture: the kind of homes I want to own, the car I want to drive, the writing dreams I want to achieve, the impact I want to make on the writing world. For example, I write things like, I own a bungalow by the beach in Southern California, I drive a 2-door blue Jeep Wrangler, I am a New York Times Bestselling Author, I am the go-to alignment, kick-ass motivation and success mindset coach for emerging authors and authorpreneurs.
  2. Thirty-Day Goals—these are the goals that I have for the next 30 days. This will be much more specific than the big-picture goals and will include things like what I want to achieve in the next 30 days, any projects I want to work on and/or finish, anything I want to buy, etc. So, for example, I’ll write things like, June 2016 is my biggest book sales month of the year so far. I sell 1,000+ books in June 2016. My new eBook, The Pro Writer Mindset, is written and finished and it’s freaking awesome and when I launch the book on June 14 it hits #1 in its category on Amazon.
  3. What I believe (or want to believe, if I don’t already)—this is where I’ll write out the “rules” I want to live my life by. They’re not rules like typical rules, but more what I want to make true for me and the things I want to believe into truth. So, for example, I’ll write things like, Selling books is easy. I am abundant and unlimited. The Universe has my back.

Doing a break down like this each time makes it easier for me to stay focused on the big-picture, while also using the power of intention to create my day-to-day life (which is why I now do the 30-day goals along with the big-picture stuff).

As I’ve started doing my journaling like this, I’ve had incredible things start to happen.

So far for the month of May I’ve sold 523 books (and there’s still all of today left)!!!  And while I did just put a new book out there that has been a huge hit (Align Your Writing Habits to Success), I know a lot of this has come directly from the intention-setting I’m committed to doing every day, because it’s helping cement the mindset I need in order to think like and act like the author who sells that many books each month.

I’m using the power of my thoughts and intentions to create a reality where I sell hundreds of books every month (and more). I’m creating a reality where I make a great living from my books and my writing. Because that’s the reality I want to live in.

Writing your reality is a simple, but extremely powerful exercise that I highly recommend you get into practice with. And you don’t have to do it as a journaling exercise. You can do it however works best for you. Some people like to meditate or pray, others like to visualize or do affirmations.

Doesn’t matter which vehicle you choose, so long as you’re doing some kind of intention-setting on a daily basis.

You create your reality. You are in control. And the sooner you see that, the sooner you can take advantage of the tools available to you to help you take control: your beliefs, your thoughts and your actions.

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How do you create your own reality?

Want to surround yourself with a community of like-minded emerging authors and authorpreneurs who are all taking control of their writing destinies by writing their realities and taking actions that move them forward on their writing goals every single day? Check out the Bestselling Author Mastermind, a kick-ass motivation and success mindset group.

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