Where do you get your ideas from? It’s the question authors are asked most. Whenever I’m asked I do my best to answer, but while I do I’m often tempted to point out that getting ideas isn’t really the most important bit.

I’m currently writing a new short story, and passing (I hope) a particular point in the process – a point I have come to know a little too well. Here’s Michael Marshall Smith, author of some of my very favourite short stories, describing it in the afterword to his collection More Tomorrow & Other Stories:

“This is often how it happens too. You get that first chunk, the kick-off. And then your fingers stop moving, and the spell wavers… That initial burst of speed fades, and you don’t know how to proceed. You turn to your visitor, that intrusive idea, to check if it has any suggestions, but see it has settled down in a chair in the back of your study, flicking through an old magazine, and realise it’s going to be no help at all.

‘Hey,’ you say. ‘So what happens next?’

‘Beats me,’ [the idea] mutters. ‘You’re the writer.'”

Getting ideas is important. It’s hard to start without them, and sometimes they can take you a long way. But turning ideas into stories – the best stories you can possibly make? That’s where the work is.

For ten days an idea has been sitting in front of me with its arms crossed, not looking at me, sulking. One way or another, that situation is about to change…