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Did Your Brain Shut Down? Brewing Story Ideas

I’m blessed to have an overactive imagination. Yes, blessed! Ideas clang and roll around in my brain all the time. Most of them are tiny snippets, not worth exploring, but some burrow in and won’t leave me alone.

About six years ago, I learned something extremely valuable. If I don’t give my imagination the freedom to go wild, the ideas trickle. My brain has shut down after too many “not nows.” There is nothing worse than wanting to write a new book but having no idea in mind. That’s why I always have the next story brewing in my head while I’m actively writing the current one.

Brewing Story Ideas

Brewing Ideas:

1. Get an idea. It might be the teeniest thing. WRITE IT DOWN! I keep an idea journal, but in a pinch, I type it into the Notes section of my phone.

2. Ask questions about the idea. Ask more questions. Realize the problems with it. Find ways to work around the problems. Let it grow.

3. I DO NOT WRITE the beginning of the story for the new idea. Many writers easily switch between writing projects. I often work on three books at once, but they’re at different stages. I don’t write two books at the same time. If I started writing the new story, I wouldn’t finish the current one. My first rule of thumb is to always finish one book before writing another.

4. If the idea is worth developing into a book, I figure out basic plot points. I also mentally picture the characters and find photos on Pinterest of celebrities they may look like.

5. I bring a notebook or a stack of used printer paper and drive somewhere to jot notes. For some weird reason, I do my best plotting when I’m watching birds, sitting in a coffee shop, or hanging out at a park. I need at least fifteen minutes, and I like to zone out and just feel the possibilities.

6. Struggling with plot issues? I click on the Voice Recorder function of my phone, and I talk through whatever is bothering me. It’s amazing how many dead-ends get bulldozed this way.

7. When in doubt, I get help. If I love a story idea and I just can’t figure out how to work through a major plot problem, I ask a writer friend for advice. Even my husband solved a huge plot problem for me recently, and it took him all of three seconds to do!

8. Write a brief summary of the story. I’m talking three sentences. This will help you keep the overall story in mind as you continue to expand the idea.


Now that my brain percolates a new story as I’m writing a different one, I never run out of ideas. I’m also excited to work on the new story when I finish a book. My brain never shuts down anymore, because I’ve found a system to develop ideas as they come. Works for me! What works for you?


How do you deal with ideas? I’d love to hear!

Have a terrific weekend!



Jill Kemerer is a Publishers Weekly bestselling author of heartwarming, emotional, small-town romance novels often featuring cowboys. She hopes to encourage readers through her books the way so many books have encouraged her. Jill's essentials include coffee, caramels, a stack of books, her mini-doxie, and long walks outdoors. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two almost-grown children. For more information, visit her website,

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Great post, Jill. I’ve thought about #6 but I’m not crazy about the sound of my own voice. Lol. Maybe a speech to text app on my phone would work better. Also, I’m the same way with #5 except it’s when I’m doing the dishes, walking or when I’m shelving books at my job at the library. 🙂

    1. Ha Ha! Yeah, Jen, my voice sounds tinny and shrill to my ears! Oh well. 🙂 Why do ideas always hit us at the worst times? Like when I’m falling asleep or behind the wheel. Ugh!! That’s awesome you work at the library. I salute you!

  2. Great post! Some very good ideas that I’ll be trying to use myself. 😉 I especially need to work on #3… I’ve gotten better about it, but I still fight such a strong urge to just start writing the beginning of a new idea and then I get sucked into the story and end up neglecting what I was working on before.

    And #7 really can be a lifesaver! My family has gotten pretty good about helping out anytime I throw something their way. Even when it involves something like… murder, maybe? Those ideas got me some rather strange looks at first, but they (especially my brothers) have gotten to where they just roll with it. 😉

    Thanks for sharing!!

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