Ninja Writer’s Academy: Be an Idea Machine


Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such is the life of a soccer mom, but office hours are usually at noon PST. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to sign up for the academy to get  an email reminder on Sundays.)

About a year ago I came across this post by James Altucher. Basically, he challenges himself to come up with ten ideas a day. He writes a lot more about it in his (amazing) book Choose Yourself. It’s such a simple thought: flex your idea muscle every day. I started writing ten ideas down every night and truly, it’s been life-changing.

But, because it’s what my brain always does, pretty soon I started thinking about how I could adapt the ten ideas a day thing to writing. And the answer was simple: come up with ten ideas a day ABOUT MY WORK IN PROGRESS.

Things like:

Ten reasons my MC might get mad at their mom.
Ten things my MC and their friend might bond over.
Ten things my MC wants to do when they grow up.
Ten problems my sidekick has that make them the hero of their own story.
Ten songs on my antagonist’s playlist.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

Just think about your work in progress. Is there anything you’re having trouble with? How about a plot point you’d like to deepen? Or maybe  a character you want to make more three-dimentional.

Make a list of ten ideas to solve whatever problem you’re having with your story.

My lists are dictated by what I’ve written that day, usually. If I’m struggling with daily writing, my idea list might be a way back into my story. Or maybe I feel stuck in a certain scene and my daily list is a way to start working my way through it.

The thing about lists is that they are fluid and interactive. So if today’s list is ten reasons my MC might get mad at their mom (because I need some conflict there), tomorrow’s list might be ten ways mom might react to MC being mad. Or ten things MC might do about a perceived unforgivable injustice. Or–maybe my list is ten MORE reasons my MC might get mad at their mom. Sometimes the first ten are just getting the obvious out of the way.

James Altucher uses a waiter’s pad to make his lists. I’ve been super tempted to do the same thing, but in the end I realized that I need something a little more permanent. I keep a section in my writing binder for my daily lists.

Do this: 

Start today to make a daily list of ten ideas about your WIP.

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Pick a notebook. Think about a problem you’re having with your WIP. Make a list of ten ideas for solving that problem. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And so on.

Come show work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. I’ll be online in our Facebook Group on Sunday 2/11/2018 to answer all of your writing questions. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.


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