Writing Advice: How To Choose A Topic/Theme

Hello all!

I officially made it to Toronto this afternoon and it’s been great so far! Despite it being a short trip, I’m excited to be seeing family and friends, going shopping and eating tons of great food.

For today’s post, I wanted to give my ‘Writing Advice & Inspiration’ tab some love because I haven’t written a post like that in a while!

I was marathoning ‘Black Mirror’ with my boyfriend the other day, (Can I just say how completely blown away that show makes me? I seriously commend those writers for all the crazy dystopic ideas they put out – they’re incredibly creative.) So seeing all these Black Mirror episodes sent me on a post-apocalypse binge where I started watching all the other recent dystopic movies like Hunger Games and Divergent for some writing inspiration for my own manuscript. After a couple months of little progress on my Sci/Fi – Dystopian story, I had this overwhelming urge to write but I was feeling a little dry of inspiration.

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When it comes to my writing – and I don’t know if you’re the same way – I don’t usually struggle with having a shortage of ideas but it’s time that’s my problem! I have all these things I’d love to be able to write but life doesn’t stop because I want to sit down for the week and binge-write all my thoughts down. And then when I finally do have time write something, I’m not in the right mindset. So watching other dystopian movies (no matter how many times I’ve seen them before) never cease to be a great source of inspiration.

Maybe soon, I’ll make a post about time-management but for today I really wanted to share some of my tips for choosing a topic to write about! I’d say that being unsure what to write about is probably just as annoying as having writers block. Because this time you actually want to write but you have no idea about what. So, whether you’re feeling stuck on your own manuscript, your blog or even a school assignment, read on for 6 ways that I like to get new ideas flowing :p

Who/what are your major influences?

If you want to write but are having trouble picking a topic, take a step back and look at work that’s already out there that inspires you. Whether it’s a book, essay or movie, we tend to create projects similar to the ones we already love. I’m not saying go out and be the a Stephen King or Tolkein copy cat, but if these people inspired you, maybe writing in the same genre will come more naturally to you because it’s something you enjoy and are familiar with.

For instance, I love dystopian so naturally, my manuscript is of that genre. The main reason for that is because I know that I’ll enjoy writing something set in a world that doesn’t (but maybe could?) exist. It’s an intricate mix of reality and fantasy that, in today’s pop culture, I seriously can’t get enough of!

What are you passionate about? 

I think it makes sense to write what you’re passionate about because those are the topics you’re more likely to rant on and on about right? I chose to write about Thirteen Reasons Why and suicide/bullying for my final Humanities paper in college because as a personal victim, it’s something that I can easily write 2,000+ words out, no problem. Passion for your topic is a major key when writing because if you don’t believe in the topic, neither will your reader. 

For example, in my dystopian story, the main character is a young woman who is about to partake in a coming of age ceremony that will determine what she will work as for the rest of her life. Everyone typically follows in their parents footsteps (her mother is a doctor) but she’s completely unsure what she wants to do and the idea of robotically repeating what she watched her mother do her entire life is a life she’d rather not have. I myself was always supported by my parents to follow whatever career I wanted and they never deterred me from working in the arts. However, I saw so many of my friends and family go through the struggle of following their dreams and pleasing their parents. So that’s why I decided to write about a character who was coming of age! As well, I chose to make my protagonist a female because I myself found it inspiring to see more and more women being the heroes in dystopic/action filled stories. There’s something incredibly awesome about a female character who is thrown into a harsh world but fights tooth and nail to survive, destroying the stereotype that a man has to come rescue them.

Let free writing lead the way!

Sometimes just letting your brain wander and writing down the random thoughts can lead to something bigger. Don’t just swat away a lone idea because it’s not well-thought-out or small. Sometimes I write something on my phones notepad, save it, and find it months later to be seriously helpful and just what I needed. Even if it’s just a catchy title (maybe it could be used for a chapter or book title?) or a name you heard in a movie and fell in love with (your future hero/heroine?) write when your mind is nudging you too – don’t ignore it because you won’t regret it!

Focus on one detail rather than an entire story!

Sometimes trying to completely finish an outline can be overwhelming when coming up with something new and in those cases, it’s better to start small. While I recommend having some sort of beginning, middle and end in your head before you start writing, when an idea feels too big it’s best to just focus on one detail. For instance, if you’re struggling with the setting, try focusing on the character.

In my own writing, setting is definitely the hard part but asking myself questions about my main character always helps me start with one idea and then gradually I pull back until I have the setting totally figured out. I’m not sure if that totally makes sense xD ‘What does she wear and why?’ can sometimes be easier for me to imagine than a climate or terrain. For example, my character has a strained relationship with her mother (who is a doctor) because she is always called away to work and never home. So when imagining what type of city they live in, clearly it’s a dangerous area and probably a place where you don’t want to be alone at night.

If your book was published, what would it say to your readers?

I think it’s important to have a clear cut message when writing anything. Whether it’s hidden relationship advice in a romance novel or words of inspiration to someone with depression, the message is insanely important. Maybe it’s something you wish someone had told you in a difficult period or a hard lesson you want others to know? If you have a message, writing down why you’d want others to know this can help stir the idea of a story in your head!

My other manuscript that I regularly work on is completely different but just as close to my heart. It’s about a young girl in high school who ends up in rehab after a really horrible year. It’s about loss, self-acceptance and the sometimes thin line between friendship and romance. The journey my protagonist goes through was a blend between two real stories from my life – one about my struggle of self-acceptance in high school and the other of a close family member who ended up drinking heavily after losing someone close. I asked my self ‘what drives a person to fall that far and what does it take to bring them back up?’ and that’s what inspired me to start the novel! I hoped it would inspire people who also went through similar things in high school that you are enough and no one should convince you that you aren’t.

Write the book you want to read!

This one is pretty plain and simple! How are your readers suppose to enjoy reading if you didn’t enjoy the actual writing? Of course writing isn’t going to always be easy – in fact 99% of it will include you pulling your hair out…BUT you should at least be writing a story that you wish you could pick up in your nearest book store and enjoy. Write the book you could never find on your bookstore shelves, because only you can write that – don’t wait for someone else to because no one else can!

I came up with the idea for my YA novel around the time that Speak (by Laurie Halse Anderson) and Cut (by Patricia Mccormick) came out. There weren’t a ton of authors (that I was reading at least) that wanted to publish a YA book about difficult topics like bullying or body-image – despite it being much needed and something a lot of teens go through. That’s something major that prompted me to write about those topics! And now, luckily, we’re seeing more and more books/shows/movies emerge that tackle these subjects which makes me feel so relieved for the lucky teens who get to read them.

. . .

Well, that’s all that I’ve got for today!

What are your biggest writing struggles these days? How do you fix them? Leave all your best advice in the comments down below 😀

Thanks so much for giving this a read! Have a good weekend everyone, I know I will ❤

-Mel xx

 

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Writing Advice: How To Choose A Topic/Theme

  1. Couldn’t have written it better– good writing tips! For me, the struggle is to put aside time to fully flesh out the piece that I would like to work on: jotting down a few lines of poetry is a good start, but to go further and polish it requires serious effort. So glad that you enjoyed Black Mirror, by the way. Enjoy Toronto!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great advice Melissa! For me, I spend way too much time procrastinating. Once I start writing, I’m into it. But before that, I need to check my email, facebook, get a snack. Ugh. I waste so much time! lol

    Jo-Ann

    Liked by 1 person

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