How to Road Trip a Novel Idea

I recently took a road trip. A long one.

2487 miles to be exact.

I spent four days in the driver's seat. Four days away from a keyboard. Four days without a pen in my hand.

But I got a lot done.

Turns out, driving (or riding) in a car is a great way to brainstorm a plot, construct a scene, or get to know a character.

Open Road, Open Imagination

It seems that a disengaged mind is often more creative than a "focused" one. I can't tell you how many times I've labored over a scene, only to have the solution play itself out as I weeded the garden or drove my kids to activities.

In the car, unless you're making conversation, your mind can wander. I select a scene, visualize it, and "watch" it like a movie. You may be completely surprised at the twists your plot takes, or what pops out of a character's mouth (if you struggle with natural-sounding dialogue, definitely give this a try).

If you're the drive, you'll need something other than  pen & paper to record these nuggets. You can get fancy, with a digital recorder, or just call yourself on you cell phone and leave a message. Gmail has a free service that transcribes all your cell phone messages and emails them to you.

Off-Road Creativity

What other places can you try some of this "open road" time? How about during the morning commute? While washing dishes, or sitting on a bench at the mall (any form of people-watching is great for making your characters more three-dimensional). Think of any task where it's fairly safe to let your mind wander.

But keep a notebook and pen handy. You never know just when inspiration may strike.

My best "off-road" thinking time comes as I fall asleep or wake up. My mind lets go, sliding into dreams, which is fertile ground for story writing.

But I need a little focus, or I'll end up with nonsense.

As I head to bed, I select a scene to mull over as I drift off. I watch the story play out, sometimes from different characters' points of view. In fact, I wrote part of this blog post last night in the pitch black of my bedroom at 11:42pm.  I've nearly perfected the art of writing in the dark, so as not to disturb my sleeping husband.

The bonus is that I'm often still thinking about the same scene as I wake up.

The most important thing is that I must write it down. Even if I remember the idea I had, I rarely remember exactly how I phrased something, or the descriptive words that came to me. Even the most fantastic idea can be lost to sleep.

So if you're stuck, or bogged down in a boring plot, try "tripping'" you novel. You never know where you'll end up. Have you ever tried it?


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