Getting Ideas for Writing for Children, by J. Spence

How can you generate usable story ideas?

Prewriting techniques also know as invention strategies will help you. Prewriting, refers to any writing done prior to the first draft of a manuscript. Coming up with ideas, is prewriting’s sole purpose. None of the writing will be used in your draft, just the ideas you come up with. Prewriting can be as rough or as elaborate as you choose them to be. Consider them, your worksheets, outlines, doodles, etc.

Prewriting is to generate ideas, so the idea is to get as many ideas down as you can that’s possible. They’re handy for any part of the writing process, and excellent if you’re stuck with your writing. Consider it, thinking on paper. Here are some techniques often used.


This involves a list with quickly jotted down ideas as they come to you. At the top of your paper, place a heading, or a word, phrase, something that your list can refer to, i.e.: plot, structure, character, etc.

DO NOT edit your thoughts, just jot them down as they occur to you. Organize it later and use only one word terms or short phrases.


This is similar to brainstorming since it does record ideas in a random manner. The difference is that Freewriting is not listing, it’s writing. Write for ten minutes straight anything that pops into your head, without stopping. Be sure to stick to the subject at hand. By moving your hand across the page, you are forcing your brain to come up with ideas, which may lead to other ideas. Do not edit or read what you’ve written until the ten minutes are up. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar–just write!


This is a visual form of prewriting and many writers enjoy this form to others. It’s ore organized that the other two. All you do is place a word or phrase that stands for your story, and circle it. Branch out with lines connecting to associated terms, circling them as you go.


Like a journalist, you use this style by asking and answering questions: Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?


Who is my main character?
Who else is involved?
What is the central conflict?
When does the story occur?
Where does my story occur?
How is the protagonist going to meet his challenge?
Why is solving his problems himself so important?


I find this to be one of the best ways to generate ideas. This has a lot to do with cause and effect. If this happened, will this be the results? Ask yourself what if, and come up with possible outcomes.

As writers, generating ideas is rarely a problem. After all, we spend a lot of time in our imaginations. Throughout your career, I guarantee you will get more ideas than what you will ever be able to generate on paper. It’s part of the life.


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