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5 Best Idea Books to Inspire Your Next Story

Along my writing journey I have collected a few books that I believe were instrumental in helping me return back to keyboard time and time again, more refreshed and undoubtedly inspired. As a result, they were the catalyst for a multitude of ideas.

From time to time, writers, whether a beginner, or a seasoned professional may find themselves needing some prompting to stay creative.

These come in many forms and can be anything that inspires one to write. In general, ideas are found literally everywhere. It can be a story you heard in the news, a dream, a photography (printed or even on social media), a video, a stranger, a friend, a real life situation, a sentence, a word, a song, or an article.

The following books can help you break through any writer's block and provide additional ideas for an ongoing piece. I can almost guarantee you will find yourself returning to them whenever you're seeking some motivation to continue. With that said, I would also like to add a wise saying I’ve heard about the alleged “muse”. More often than not, inspiration and motivation follows actions, as opposed to the reverse. If you find yourself lost, and nothing seems to work - just start writing. Write anything. Skip to another scene in your story - write a letter to yourself - write an email to a friend - anything. The key is to keep on writing. I wish you the best and may writer’s block become only a myth during your own writing journeys.

I've had this book for quite some time. It's truly one of my favorites. "Story Starters: How to Jump-Start Your Imagination, Get Your Creative Juices Flowing, And Start Writing Your Story or Novel" by Lou Willett Stanek, PH.D. is a collection of what you would expect from a book of writing prompts. Stanek offers a multitude of clever "What-If" scenerios along with summaries of the fundamental elements of what could be an interesting story. What I find most appealing is that she divides them into themes and categories. For example, within the "Clothes That Make The Story" chapter she provides the following: 'Your character, an ambitious sixteen-year-old, finally landed her first runway modeling job. They handed her a sheer, totally see-through evening dress. In all of the confusion backstage, no on noticed she didn't wear a body suit, or opaque underslip...." You might be saying to yourself - why not do a search for writing prompts online instead? While this may be so, I find the included ideas to be expansive and adaptable. In addition to this, Stanek provides useful writing tips from her own point of view in between the creative brainstorming exercises she gifts her readers with.

"The Writer's Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Noels and Short Stories" by Fred White is a new addition to my collection. Written in a similar style to Stanek's, with various plots and potential situations with a more modern twist. I dare say it is becoming my number one go to for ideas if I'm in the early stages of trying to find something substantial to work with. Each Chapter title is followed by a list of tantalizing details to excite the mind. Chapters like "The Mystery of X", "The Rescue of X", and "The Search For X" are followed by specific details describing what you may want to write about. For example, after "The Mystery of X", there are subchapters titled, "Mysterious Books, Packages, and Documents", "Mysterious Buried or Hidden Objects", etc.

If you prefer completing exercises with a more straightforward approach, "The Writer's Source Book" by Chris Sykes may be for you. This book is a perfect tool not only for fiction writers - but all writers (e.g. poets, songwriters, writers of nonfiction, etc.) Sykes scatters a wide range of practical exercises along with insights on writing throughout its pages which is useful for those who wish to improve their craft in general, while generating new thoughts and ideas. 

This next book is not just for the Creatives and Creators of the world. Within it, Eric Maisel wants you to know that creativity is not a talent reserved for a select few; it's an innate ability that can be nurtured in anyone. "The Creativity Book: A Year's Worth of Inspiration and Guidance" is not a book dedicated to idea generation, it is a homage to the creativity and designed to allow it to be activated and infused in all circumstances: including the workplace, while planning for a new business, or while writing a symphony. As the title states, it is meant to be read in a year's time, but you will probably find reasons to flip through this book outside of chronological order - if only to read the stimulating quotes Maisel scattered throughout its pages. If you've ever considered art to be your religion, this this book is for you. It is divided by weeks, and there are many exercises where writing is used as a vehicle to cultivate your artistic practices, but there are also many other methods used.

Written more like a textbook for a writing or literature course, "Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft" by Janet Burroway, offers excerpts of poems, scripts, and creative nonfiction. Burroway spends a great deal focused on the craft of writing and includes chapters about voice, character, as well as development and revision. There are exercises to try specifically for fiction, like the following: "Go back to something you have written and find a character who appears only briefly or is named or referred to without appearing. Characterize that person with a single vivid image." This book is packed with writing samples that will become a useful resource for strengthening any weak areas.

Know of a book that should be listed here? Feel free to share in the comments below.