How to get started on your WIP

Hello there!

First time posting… Admin take down if this is not the right category. I apologize if it is not. But um hey there my name is Nessy. I am an aspiring author as I’m sure most of us here are. Well so I was just wondering, how do you all figure out what to write?

What I mean by this, is how do you settle on a genre, audience, etc? See I have an IF in the back of my head, but it’s a pretty big monster to tackle or so I’ve been told. It involves time traveling. I was told to maybe not start out with something that big and massive. Just because I could end up contradicting myself.

It was suggested to me to start with a small project first. Especially since this would be my first time learning how to code and how to write an IF. The thing is my mind is blank. I have absolutely no idea what to write or where to pull inspiration from for even a small IF. I’ve tried brainstorming, I’ve tried researching subjects of interest, but when it comes down to putting pen to paper, I freeze up.

I do struggle with ADHD so my mind is always going. Like the Energizer Bunny. My mind is constantly on 110% pretty much all the time. I have trouble focusing. I’ll be doing one thing and then get distracted and forget what I was originally doing. So as writers, where do you pull inspiration from? What is your writing and thinking process?

I just I have ideas but they always sound lame in my head or some stereotypical tropes and I end up getting frustrated. So I was just hoping I could possibly get some tips or ideas from fellow writers. Thank you for reading


I have story ideas constantly popping up in my head. Some are refined what-if-versions of something I read, others are just… stuff. Then I just start writing something, preferably the story I have most plotline ready for. (I do constantly think of where one plotline or another might go, but as I have way too many ideas…)


Is there a trope you love? I would say start with that and try to write just a scene about a trope you love that involves the MC and a RO.

For me, I would say it’s the opposite. I actually have way too many stories in my head and wish that I could write them all. But I agree with the advice to start small, writing IF can be overwhelming, especially the branching and making sure each choice reflects what the reader wants.

So my advice is to start small with a trope that you love and just write a scene between MC and a RO or MC and an NPC.

It could be really anything. Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from real life. One of my favorite things is to make stories in my head around the people I see in my everyday life. People on a train, people waiting in line to pay at the grocery store, people stuck in traffic, really anything.

Just have fun.


If you need story ideas there are multiple threads where people put ideas that would otherwise be left to die

Getting ideas is easy (At least, it is to me :wink: ), but sticking with one and writing it from 0 to 10? That’s another story.

If you can get the beginning (how the story starts) and the ending, then you can write (Or fight) for the middle.

But I’m in the same boat, and instead of 1 monster? I have 3 huge monsters.

I need a mortgage on my life so I can write them all :sweat_smile:

And like you, I was told to start small and then go big. I pooped 3 small projects then. (3 is not my lucky number lol)

That’s what I did…the story could be about anything. Why not write a love story between a broom and a kettle? :rofl:


Generally I pull a genre from whatever I’ve been enjoying in media recently! If I’m watching a ton of romance, I lean in that direction with WIPs, for example. At a certain point I just create a giant brain soup of all the tropes and topics I like in the things I read and watch and start reorganizing them into my own idea.
Honestly I think that also helps a lot with committing to an idea. I like to curate my media when I’m doing a project to only things in the same genre or vibe as my WIP, so everyday after I finish writing my historical scenes I turn on an episode of a historical show. It helps keep me in the right mood so I don’t get distracted by other ideas. I also think moodboarding and playlist making helps with this because it just keeps you in the right headspace for an idea.

As long as you don’t find yourself having spent two months doing nothing but moodboarding and playlist making, I guess.

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I always recommend this. You will learn heaps from coding and writing your first game, and more from the way it is received later on what might or might not be working. You can then apply it to games written in the future. Also scope creep. Usually if you plan for an “x” length game it will be longer than you expect. So if you already start out wanting to write a monster of a game… (Well just look at the WIP graveyard for the likely result.)

Just bear in mind that short games will not usually be forum favourites so keep expectations in check, but a game that never gets finished because it gets over complicated and difficult to manage is worse. Option two is to write some free games for jams and comps then proceed to a larger HG.

Write what makes you happy. Increases the chances of you finishing the game. If you are happy with it, then others liking it becomes a bonus. If you only write to please others, then if it doesn’t go well that’s going to be a bit soul destroying, especially for a first game. Sure there are genres and tropes that are far more popular than others, but if you have a particular interest in writing a certain genre, I’d do that rather than only writing a game because you think it’s what others might like to read. There are multiple threads around on what types of things tend to be popular. You can read them over and decide if they are things you want to include though to increase your potential audience.

There’s a whole thread of people suggesting ideas for writers, maybe start there?

Could also go to one of the reddits where they give writing prompts and write a few little speed stories to get the creative spark happening then reassess what you want to write.

There are often jams happening on where they give a prompt or theme for a game to write to enter. (Unfortunately a number of suitable mini games ones have happened recently (ectocomp, bare-bones, this forum’s Halloween Jam) but more do pop up. I’d keep an eye on this forum if interested in this sort of thing.

Sometimes you can feel a bit blocked when you try to force an idea, but then the right inspiration comes along and the game just about writes itself. (Example- I tried to write something for last year’s ectocomp, I was overly busy and stressed and the result of trying to make myself think of a good idea was I just drew a complete blank. This year I wasn’t going to write one, and then just had an idea associated with the theme that popped into my head and felt like I had to write it down. You just need to find the write inspiration to get creative which can sometimes be easier said than done, but will happen if you keep looking and don’t put too much pressure on yourself :slight_smile: )

Write a demo and ask for feedback. Writers are often their own harshest critics :slight_smile:

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There is definitely a type of person where these things are a distraction from writing, but for me they help a lot with staying focused and coming up with ideas.

I personally find moodboards (I don’t do playlists) a great way of invoking the mood when you return to a project after a while, but making them… euuuurgh.

(Although admittedly, sometimes I also just find myself staring at them for an hour. Which… isn’t very useful either.)

There’s actually a whole thread where people put their IF ideas/inspiration they probably won’t use! It’s a little disorganized, and some give too little/too much information, but I’m sure you can find something that sparks interest!

I’ve found that, when in a slump of ideas, trying to magically make things appear on their own by mashing stuff together doesn’t work, as the product feels stilted, choppy. It’s better to surf through things you’ve enjoyed and try to take a certain plot thread in a different direction; rename the characters from a beloved book, make it from the POV of the usurped king’s wife instead of the plucky hero, rework any worldbuilding that’s a bit too unique to the book, and bam! You’ve got yourself a new story! Or, as I linked above, browse through others’ ideas until something gets the idea juices going!

Once you have a sense of what you might want to write, you’re probably going to want to just dive in; considering this is a short practice IF, you can reword and rework things later; but with an idea, I find writing a rough draft of how a scene might play out (usually the one that pops into your mind when you get inspiration,) to help with figuring out the tone, the narration style, and just how you want to go forward.


I also suggest looking at the various Writer Support Threads that are posted monthly.

Here is the latest:


I did try to make a complex WIP like you describe and also ended trying to find lots of inspiration sources, but I think the real problem is that the same Energizer Bunny vibe that keeps us going on and on may make it more difficult to actually focus on something as complex.

Like, not because of the whole time travel story or multiple branches, I think that’s actually easier if you’re very energetic, but the programming side of things. Like, the codes and variables necessary to the multiple loops, and alternative time branches, and different reactions/interactions each time you time travel and stuff. It gets boring real fast and you need to find some balance that is difficult the first time. Well, at least it was difficult for me.

For my current WIP I took a small alternative of my big and complex project (one of the preset backstories) and started adding worldbuilding, which helped me have a loose overview of what to do. Maybe that could help you, take the characters you thought about, or maybe some systems you want to try (like the time-traveling thing) and take focus on the smaller things and expand them.

Like side-stories of the main thing (the time travel adventure), for example, characters reacting to it or how the world accomodates to each change and that stuff. That way you become more familiar with the programming side of things and you also get to measure at which pace you should alternate between writing story bits and writing code.

Obviously you gotta take everything I say with a grain of salt, my first WIP quickly failed and was abandoned and my current one doesn’t even reach 4k characters per playthrough. Just do your own thing and when that fails (in the worst case) move on to another project that you thought about while doing this. If it succeeds in the first try, just keep going until you either hit a creative wall or publish your work. Good luck.

This is probably the hardest thing to say, since there are multiple new WIPs being launched every month. The truth is, yours will most likely get lost in the sea of WIPs. Not only here, but on and others.

The interest check thread is a good place to start. There are plenty of ideas there that people on this very forum have sprouted. Plenty of good ones there. Some have taken the idea and run away with it.

Some genres are way more popular than others- fantasy is always a big hit, since it’s (relatively) easy to write and (mostly) attracts people.

If this is the central mechanic of the game, great! Mind you, science fiction is hard to write and market. Just look at my WIP, Maverick Hunter Scandalous Mission, which involves a bunch of robots gone rouge. Marketing that one is a pain.

Yes, always start small. Maybe send that project in for some jams- preferably unranked ones to ‘test the market’. The intfiction forum has a list. ShuffleComp is coming up end of the year, where your entry is restricted, that is has to be related, to the songs that were submitted. (That restriction can sometimes be helpful!) Then you can go for actual competitions like IFComp and Spring Thing. Then once your market is large enough, continue developing your piece.

There is help on the forum. If all else fails, try the writers support thread. The folks over there will be kind enough to redirect your queries.

Then it’s time to add your own ideas to the mix. Good luck! The challenge is actually getting all your concepts down and solidifying them. It’s good that you did some worldbuilding and prior research before embarking. First chapter, first cutscene. Then you can go from there.

It’s also important to get feedback from your audience/market, so that you know what the market wants and can respond accordingly.

As a fellow first-time writer who had not a huge plan when I started working on my WIP, I wanted to echo a lot of the great feedback and advice in the context of my own experiences over the past year or so of writing here.

I also felt that same sort of difficulty when trying to decide on what I wanted to write. For me at least, I eventually settled on following the age-old advice of “write what you know.” For me, that was writing about politics, which thankfully made it quite easy to pull inspiration from the constant slew of news and scandals and all the other craziness that happens around the world every day.

I will also add, the more you keep brainstorming, the more ideas will come to you. I recommend keeping an active online document or scrap of paper to write down little things you think of as they pop in your head. I have an increasingly growing sheet of ideas that develop from all sorts of places for me – TV shows, books I’m reading, movies, even some songs can be sources of inspiration.

I do think starting with a small project first would be ideal, but I’d also urge you not to be afraid of just jumping into it. I started writing my WIP a little over a year and a half ago, and did not write anything prior.

I do wish I had more practice with a smaller project first, and spent more time with the initial outline, but I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t let the inability to brainstorm a smaller project paralyze you. At the end of the day, if you’re not passionate and invested in the story you’re writing, you probably won’t last long writing it.

Regardless of what you end up doing, best of luck!