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  • Writer's pictureJen Kapral

Inspiration for Speculative Writers

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My current writing inspiration, taken on a trip to India a few weeks ago.


Where do you go to get new ideas? Do they come to you in your dreams, on walks, during brainstorm sessions, or while reading someone else’s work?

If you’re stuck, or looking to breathe some new life into your stories,  here are some suggestions.

  1. Visit new places in your city, and bring your notebook.

  2. Once you arrive, brainstorm a list of words to describe what you see. Start with nouns, then throw in adjectives to describe the nouns.

  3. Do different rounds for all the senses. Don’t think too hard about this. List the first words that come to mind.

  4. Look for emerging patterns. Are you starting to capture the dark, damp, and ominous feel of the Houston cistern? Or the busy, urban feel of Discovery Green? What kind of characters would hang out there, and why?

  5. Make it speculative by changing the setting to another planet or fantasy setting. What if the cisterns were part of an abandoned space colony? What if Discovery Green was the center of a major hub in your fantasy world?

  6. Read the latest spec lit journals.  I love Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside Fiction, and Strange Horizons. These spec magazines and their writers win awards all the time for good reason.

  7. Read a few stories you like, then decide on a favorite and put your writer hat on. Make a list of all the reasons the story works. Is it the characters, the syntax, the plot twist, the poetic language?

  8. Take an old story and try revising it based on these elements. Mimic the sentence structure, add in some powerful imagery, up the ante on your word choice. Breathing new life into an old story is just as exciting as generating something new (I promise).

  9. If you want to create something completely new, take a side character from one of your old works and give them their own story, using the techniques you liked during your reading. You already know the world, so really focus on your prose and craft.

  10. Try your hand at flash fiction. Read Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, or the Arcanist for some inspiration. Flash can be less intimidating to write, revise, edit, and submit if you haven’t gone through the full writing/submission cycle yet. Flash is how I got my start in getting my work published, and has definitely improved my craft as I work on longer pieces and my novel.

  11. Set a timer and just write about the first idea that comes into your head. Aim for 750 words.

  12. Look through your writing and circle anything and everything you like. Did a character stand out, or a setting?  A particular word or phrase?

  13. Use your favorite pieces to build a story with a clear beginning, middle and end.

  14. Revise revise revise until it looks like something you would see in any of the above-mentioned journals.  You’ll get there. 🙂

Be a creative, really live it and breathe it. Take advantage of any summer travel. Squeeze in a few minutes each day to grow your new ideas. You owe it to yourself and to your future readers.

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