Tag Archives: inspiration

Feedback, glorious feedback

 

Photo from Girl with computer emerging technologies social media by Walton LaVonda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Girl with computer emerging technologies social media by Walton LaVonda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Today is a big day for me. Today, for the first time, I read the first feedback I have received for my completed novel draft.

Okay, I admit it, I received said feedback weeks ago. However, what with the Christmas rush, holidays, kids running around my feet and a very real fear of what the document said, I put off reading it. It was from someone whose point of view matters to me and who is in the novel’s target audience. I was terrified they would say they hated it.

Today, though, I forced myself. Found the email. Opened the document. (Okay, I’d opened it before now, and given it a quick glance. But that was it.) And read the whole thing through, word by word. And do you know what? They didn’t hate it.

Sure, they picked out a few things that need working on. Some, I already knew about (or suspected). Some I hadn’t realised were weak spots. But they also pointed out a few things they really did like, and which they thought worked well. That, my friends, was amazing to read. Yes I’ve had reviews before, but this is the first novel I’ve ever thought of trying to get published, so it felt more important.

Naturally, all this pressure was self-inflicted. We are all our own worst critics and we are convinced that every error we see will be magnified tenfold by others. The truth, though, is that this person who is in my target audience liked my story. Said they would read it again. Said the characters were real and vivid and engaging. And that the story flowed and – generally – worked. And that, my friends, is a huge load off my shoulders.

I still have some other betas who have not yet got back to me, and I’m okay with that. The Christmas period is one of the busiest for pretty much everyone and it can be hard to find time to spare to critique someone’s novel. This first one, though, is like manna from heaven. It means the novel isn’t crap, and I haven’t been wasting my time for the past couple of years. Sure, there are a few tweaks that need to be made, but overall it shows promise and potential. And that, I think, is the best Christmas present I could have received.

 

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Assorted writing tips #7 – finding inspiration

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898...

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It’s not easy, is it? Finding inspiration on days when, quite simply, you’re just not inspired. After all, we are at the mercy of our muses, right?

Well, perhaps it’s not as simple as that. I’ve written before about dealing with writer’s block, and about just writing anyway when you have the time and opportunity to do so. And sure, that works, to an extent. It’s just not the same as doing it when you’re feeling inspired, though, is it?

So today I’m going to talk about ways you can find inspiration on days when it’s just eluding you. Ways you can perhaps pick up the threads and get going, rather than doing any number of writing exercises which, while they are generally beneficial, can also feel remarkably dull. Naturally these won’t work for everyone, but they will for some people so I figure that’s worth sharing.

  • Watch a movie. Or read a book, or watch a television show, or something like that. The important thing here is to subject yourself to someone else’s creativity, and it’s even better if it’s in the same genre as what you’re trying to write. You can see how other writers have crafted their plots, put in the twists and turns, dealt with what are very likely similar problems to what your manuscript has. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t in that story, and perhaps it will give you some ideas for your own.
  • Try something new. Do something you’ve never done before. It doesn’t have to be huge – something as minor as trying out a new recipe or going on a walk around your neighbourhood using a route you haven’t used before, but test your boundaries a little. Give yourself a new experience and see how you react to it – was it enjoyable? Did you learn anything from it? Was it worth it? The thing about this is, once you start thinking outside the square when it comes to your own activities, it becomes almost second nature to do it for your characters.
  • Watch / listen to / experience something that moves you. Whether it’s the cannons in the 1812 Overturethe World Cup final from 1990 or the end of Forrest Gump, there is bound to be something out there that moves you in a significant way. With the Internet, it’s also available at your fingertips. Subject yourself to something that tugs on your heartstrings, makes you irrationally proud or elicits some other major emotional reaction. Succumb to it. Enjoy it. Live it. Because if you’re moved to that extent, then that can set the creative juices flowing like nothing else.
  • Talk to a child. Children have a very different take on the world than adults do, and they make you look at things in different ways. For example, my five year old told me quite authoritatively yesterday that if a playground has bark chips underneath the equipment, it’s called a park, because the word “park” is a contraction of the words “playground” and “bark”. (Okay, the word contraction wasn’t used, but you get the idea.) It’s amazing how a conversation like that can make you re-think things.
  • Exercise.Sure, a lot of you are probably sedentary sorts who would rather sit in front of the computer or television than go for a run. Heck, I would too. But getting some exercise and raising a sweat works wonders for your mental activity. It reinvigorates you, wakes you up and gives you a real boost in your cognitive processes. More invigorated and more alert = more likely to find that inspiration that’s been eluding you.

Like I said above, these things won’t work for everyone. But, if you’re looking for inspiration and there’s something on this list that you haven’t tried, then why not give it a go? You never know what might happen.

Good luck!

 

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Inspiration, where art thou?

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

This past week, I’ve struggled with inspiration.

I don’t just mean I haven’t written much, more that I haven’t written at all. For someone who’s supposed to be doing Camp NaNo this month, it’s a bit of an issue. And I can’t even say that I haven’t had time, because I have – I’ve just chosen to spend that time catching up on TV shows I’ve missed, or reading, rather than writing.

I’m not going to get worked up about it, though. While common advice is to make yourself do it (and I’ve endorsed that sort of advice myself), I don’t think that the occasional break from writing is necessarily detrimental. In fact, I think it can leave you feeling refreshed and give you a new perspective on things. My notebook is full of ideas – single sentences, most of them, but things which will add a richness to my story when I expand on them. I’ve not been writing, but I’ve not been idle either.

A break, though, is good only if it’s limited. I’ve been known to put down my pen and not pick it up again for months. Sure, I had an excuse last time this happened in that I’d just given birth, but I shouldn’t have waited till my youngest was nine months old before I started writing again. The break was far too long and it took me a while to get back into the swing of the story. For me, I think a week is about right. It would be far too easy to let this hiatus drag on and not get any writing done, but then that would be detrimental to the desired outcome – namely, a finished manuscript.

As such, starting tomorrow I’m going to start writing again. It would be today, but it’s a public holiday in my part of the world and the day is full of family-related things. I may get a chance after the kids go to bed, but then again I may not. We’ll see how it goes. Tomorrow, though, I have no excuse, and I have plenty of ideas thanks to my break. I’m making a promise to myself … hopefully I’ll keep it.

What are your thoughts on taking a break? Are you a “write at all costs” sort of person, or do you think that the occasional period of time off can be beneficial? I know where I stand, but I also know that different things work for different people. So, let me know what works for you and who knows, I might find something that’s better for me too.  :)

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When inspiration strikes – inconveniently

I was having a lovely day yesterday with my children. The baby was in a delightful mood and my eldest son was all earnestness and wanting to please; the sun was out and we were able to all play outside for a while. When that got old, we went back inside, the baby had a nap and my son started reading his new Dr Seuss book aloud.

Then it happened. Inspiration struck.

This wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill inspiration, either, where you get a few ideas for scenes or the perfect bit of dialogue. This was changes-the-whole-novel-for-the-better inspiration. This was significant.

I’m all for being inspired. God only knows that I’ve been neglecting my manuscript lately, what with school holidays and public holidays and any number of other things that have been occupying what had previously been writing time. But I have been thinking about it more over recent days, working through plot holes in my head, figuring out the best order for the events in my story (does the baby come before or after the engagement, for example) and getting back into the heads of my main characters. I even found myself dreaming about them, which is always a good sign. However, I wasn’t prepared for inspiration just then. It was a bad time. You know, inconvenient.

All was not lost, however. I grabbed my notebook and started scribbling madly, trying to make sure that I didn’t lose the ideas. As I mentioned above, it was one of those uncanny, feverish type of inspirations, when things just start falling together and you know that a significant hurdle has been overcome. I couldn’t write things down fast enough.

Of course, real life was going to be a factor. Yes, the baby was in bed, but from having Dr Seuss in one ear I can see a few idiosyncrasies in my notes this morning. I suppose this was always going to happen when I’m writing a scene of high tension yet all I can hear is that if you want to go bump, bump, then you should jump on the hump of the Wump of Gump.

As such, I have some deciphering to do this morning. For example, “Ned” appeared in my notes, yet I have no character by that name. He was in the Dr Seuss book, though, so I think I can safely scribble him out. The Yanz that opens cans can also, I think, be eliminated. Yet there are other things which I’m not really sure about, whether they were from my head or the book I was listening to, so I’m going to have to do some thinking about those. I have set aside much of today, though, to do this. No, it’s not my usual Writing Day, but hopefully my mind is still close enough to where it was yesterday to make sense of my scribblings and make some real progress.

So, what do you do when inspiration strikes at an inconvenient time? How do you make sure you don’t forget any brainwaves that come when you’re doing anything other than writing? I think I survived yesterday’s onslaught intact, but if anyone has any bright ideas about what to do next time (Dr Seuss notwithstanding), I’d love to hear them.  :)

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Soundtrack to your life

First things first. You may have noticed that I’m posting a couple of days early this week. This isn’t because I’m trying to get in early, but because I’ve decided to start posting twice a week – that is, on Mondays and Fridays. (Or Sundays and Thursdays for those in the US.) The reason for this is that I’ve got a lot of featured posts coming up – book reviews, the ending of a story, guest posts and the like – and I didn’t want my own posts to be edged out as a result.  Therefore, I’ll be alternating: on Mondays I’ll do one of my own posts, and on Fridays I’ll do a featured one. For example, this Friday I’ll be posting one of the eleven endings of Caroline Smailes99 Reasons Why, which is released today; next Friday it will be a review of Linked, by Hope Welsh.

Today, though, I want to talk about music, and how it complements the creative process. Most writers I know like to write to music, and some take this so seriously that they have a different playlist set up for each different type of scene – one for tension, one for romance, one for action, that sort of thing. They have separate folders on their iPods just for this purpose and find the right one for where they want their creativity to be that day.

Me, I don’t even have an iPod, and worse than that, I don’t know how to use one. (Yes, I know. Luddite.) My writing time, I’m ashamed to say, is set not to the most inspiring music I own, but to Brahms’ Lullaby coming through the baby monitor. Playing music too loudly would mean that I wouldn’t hear when the baby has woken up, and thus it’s a luxury I’ve learned to do without. I got a CD for Christmas that I’ve managed to listen to a grand total of once, and even that was in two sittings.

I was thinking about music this morning, though, as my son belted out his version of a song by a punk rock band that he’s heard on the car stereo, which is one of the few times I get to listen to music I enjoy. He’s heard the song twice, I believe, but he likes what he calls the “bouncy music”. Clearly, that music inspires him. And I got to thinking about what sort of music inspires me.

Here I must say that just because I don’t listen to music when I write doesn’t mean that I’m not inspired by it. On another website, under another name, I posted a whole bunch of short stories which were all inspired by a single song. Later in that collection is another one which was borne from a solitary line of lyrics.

Now, I won’t name these songs because (a) most people reading this blog won’t have heard of them anyway, and (b) there are all sorts of copyright issues in publishing song lyrics, as I learned here. I will say, though, that even though I don’t listen to it as often as I would like, music affects me in the same way it affects other writers. So now I want to know if you’re one of them. What sort of music inspires you to write? Do you have set playlists, or just take what comes next on shuffle? And most of all, do you recommend I start trying to get some music playing (over the baby monitor) when I’m trying to be creative? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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