Coming up with ideas for a novel when your mind goes blank
The only thing worse than a blank mind, is a blank screen. When there isn't even a single word on the screen to kick start any sort of inspiration. This seems to be when procrastination starts. All of a sudden checking your email, answering ignored messages on Facebook, tweeting about the secret ingredient in your grandmother's pasta sauce, looking to see how many undefeated NFL teams there are left, taking a shower... all seem to become more important and none of those are good reservoirs for finding ideas.
You tell yourself: "Self, just start writing words and then make sense of it later."
Stephen King is my favorite author. I have a bookcase in my writing office that is my "Stephen King Bookcase." It has every single one of his books in hardcover, all in chronological order. I started collecting his books 1989, when I got "The Dark Half" for Christmas that year. I have never missed a new release. My daughter and I were looking through them, and it boggles my mind that he is never short on ideas. I also don't believe that he has a team of ghostwriters like some authors have been accused of having.
It took me 20 months to write "Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts", a total of 19 years to write "Welcome to Parkview" (since technically I started it in 1991 but really truly worked on it between 2008-2010, and a total of 3 years to write, "Yours Truly, 2095." I am very fortunate to have published 3 novels, and have 3 of my books out in the world (and selling), but man, it sounds exhausting to published 2 novels a year like King does. I've started the preliminary outlining for my 4th novel, and the real writing probably won't start until November or December, and I'm still mentally exhausted from finishing "Yours Truly, 2095."
So, I learned, for novelists, short stories are a perfect way to keep the juices flowing with minimal pressure and expectations. Short stories are like a proverbial exhale before trying to hold the weight of a 90k word manuscript again. I finished a short story titled, "Outside of Heaven," that is coming out in November in an anthology, and it felt really good to be able to just write... and write something under 10k words. I have solid plans and plotlines worked out for my 4th and 5th novels (which should bring me somewhere to about 2018 or 2019), but I really think I'm going to bang out a handful of short stories throughout that time to help fill in the empty spaces of "novel writing."
And if they are any good, I just might, in good ol' Stephen King fashion, publish a book of all my collected short stories sometime in the future.
So that's what I have on the horizon. Two new full length novels to be published over the next 3-4 years, and a book of all the short stories I'm going to write while those 2 novels are being worked on.