Posts Tagged ‘idea generation’

Why Go Looking for Writing Ideas?

First of all, squiders, I apologize for disappearing off the grid. Normally when I go out of town I pre-write and schedule the posts, but we took a spontaneous trip last week and I didn’t have time to get things ready before we left. So then I thought I’d just write them on the trip; surely I’d have some time in the evenings or the mornings to get things done.

Ha. Haha.

Also, one of the small, mobile ones broke her collarbone in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, so that was a thing.

Albuquerque is nice, though.

This week we’re going to start on our next nonfiction subject, which is finding ideas and inspiration when you need them. Before we dive into that, though, I wanted to let you know that I’ve got a story in the new (for people reading this in the future, fourth) issue of Spirit’s Tincture, which is a speculative fiction magazine specializing in poetry and short fiction. You can read it for free online. My story, Mother’s Love, is the last one in the issue. 😀

Anyway, diving into ideas. A lot of creative types seem to think that inspiration and ideas need to be organic, that you need to be walking down the street, minding your own business, and have the idea fall out of the sky into your head in a brilliant rush of creative energy, fully formed and ready to be used.

Ah, if only that worked. And if only it worked on command, when you wanted/needed it to. And if only it was a complete, usable idea every time.

Don’t get me wrong–when it happens, it’s great. And while how much inspiration you need varies on what your creative goals are, the fact of the matter is that if you wait for inspiration to strike from on high, you may find yourself lost and desperate, staring at a blank page with nothing coming.

No creator is an island–everyone is influenced and draws from different sources they have been exposed to, both consciously and subconsciously. If you want to consistently put out new works, if you want to be reliable when someone asks you to contribute to an anthology or a collection, then there may be days when you need to go looking for ideas and inspiration rather than waiting for them to come to you.

The other issue is that you might get an idea, but something is missing. You have a plot, but the main character is a blank. You have a character, but the world is nothing but mist. You have a basic outline, but the story is lacking in complexity. Being able to find things to flesh out your work, to make it better, is an asset in the long run.

Being able to find an idea when necessary can be helpful for more than just a single work at a time–it can also improve your craft overall. Trying out new things can help your writing muscles to stretch and grow. It can help you add new aspects to your work so that not everything sounds the same. It can help you find ways to get around writer’s block and push your boundaries.

The question shouldn’t be “Why should I go looking for writing ideas?” The question is “Why wouldn’t I?”

Once you know how to look, you can find things you can use everywhere. You can train your brain. I get a little chill down my spine every time something catches the “muse’s” interest, something I’ve come to recognize over the years. And by keeping track of your ideas, you should be able to find something you can use, no matter what the situation is.

Heck, I once wrote a murder mystery starring billiard balls at someone’s request.

On Thursday we’ll start looking at places to find ideas as well as ways to organize what you have found so you can use it later.

Questions, Squiders? Anything you’d like to add?

Why is Tag Called Tag?

I’m not going to answer that question, I’m just wondering. Does it have something to do with tagging animals? Except it seems like the game is a lot older than tracking animals, so who knows.

Anyway, KD Sarge has tagged me on a writing meme, and so here we are. Rules of the game:  answer the questions, come up with eleven of my own, and tag more people to keep the game going.

1.) Of your characters, who would you most like to have as a real-life friend?

Hm. I think I’ll go with Sara from Bleachers. I tend to twist friendship themes into just about all my stories, but Sara can be depended on to make sacrifices for her friends, and to work tirelessly to make sure things are set right. She’s also able to be fairly open-minded to trying new solutions when her normal standbys fail.

2.) Which would you not want to be around anywhere but in the pages of a book?

Oh man, that’s easy. Paran, the Queen’s advisor, from the Trilogy. I’ve got some nasty characters, but Paran is the king. Here’s someone whose ideas and morals are so twisted that even when you see where he’s coming from, you still can’t remotely justify his actions. Plus he’s not above some truly terrible manipulations, and there is pretty much no limit to what he will do to get to the ends he desires.

3.) When a song bowls you over and you have to hear it again and again, what is probably the reason? (Great voice, real emotion, clever lyrics, et cetera)

It depends. It can be lyrics, or it can be beat, or it can be both. Sometimes a verse will hit just right, and all of a sudden entire scenes can appear. Beat’s probably stronger than lyrics, though, honestly. I like songs based off their beat, but when you get a perfect blending of meaning and musicality, it’s the best.

4.) Of everywhere you’ve been, where was your favorite place to be? (Home is a perfectly acceptable answer!)

I adored York. I’ve been a lot of places, but York has a tangible feel of ancientness. I know that’s not a word. But when you step inside the walled part of the city, something resonates.

I also really liked northern Austria, with the Alps towering overhead, and the deep, dark lakes and occasional forests. Completely different feel from an ancient city, like York, but powerful all the same.

5.) Where do you want most to go?

I want to see the Great Wall of China. Absolute top of my list.

6.) What is the meaning of life? (okay, okay–YOUR life.) What do you think your life is about?

42. Life is hard. I am not a terribly introspective person. But I think that life needs to be enjoyed and shared.

7.) What’s the best thing about what you do for a living?

Since I work from home, I get to set my own hours. And if it’s a slow day, it’s totally okay for me to go watch an episode of Merlin with lunch.

8.) What do you do when you need inspiration?

I listen to music, and I look at nature pictures on the internet. Nothing gets the ol’ juices flowing better.

9.) When you need some time for you, where do you go?

I go to my local coffee shop, grab a table by the window, drink some tea, and do whatever needs to be done.

10.) Plotter or pantser?

Combination. I tend to pants the beginning of a novel, and then, somewhere around halfway, I plot out the rest to make sure that all my subplots and strings are concluded successfully and logically. Short stories are outlined completely before I start, otherwise I can’t get going.

11.) To close with a (fairly) easy one–talk about a book. Any book. :)

I just finished The Island by Tim Lebbon. I’m not typically a fan of his – he’s too dark for my tastes most of the time – but he’s my husband’s favorite author and so, occasionally, I am talked into reading one of his novels so we can have an intelligent conversation about the book. However, I actually really enjoyed this one. Good characters, just the right amount of stuff going on, lovely description. I admit I called the ending from 50 pages out (I said to myself “There is only one logical way this can end”) but I can do that with most books, so.

Let’s see, I shall tag my lovely writing partner Sarah, my sister so she’s forced to update her blog, and the infamous and extremely devious Ian Dudley. You’re welcome to tag yourself as well, if you’d like. Just let me know you’ve done it!

Questions for you to answer:

1.) What was the first story you ever wrote? Spare no embarrassing details.

2.) What’s your favorite nonfiction topic to read about?

3.) How much research do you feel like you need to do before you start a new story?

4.) Writing challenges (ala Nanowrimo) – useful, or merely stress-inducing?

5.) Why do you write your main genre?

6.) What genre/author/book do you secretly love but would never admit to in polite conversation?

7.) What’s your favorite movie-adaptation of a book?

8.) What is your favorite type of cephalopod?

9.) What is your writing tool of choice?

10.) What are your feelings about the proper usage of whom?

11.) What are you doing to bring yourself closer to your writing goals?

Why Doodling is Awesome

I have a habit of doodling.  I draw on everything.  I always have, with the exception of college that I can’t really explain except I think perhaps too much physics sucked the joy out of life.  Or something.

I do it at work all the time, which perhaps is ill-advised, especially in big meetings when I am sitting next to someone I do not know and do not know what their job is and he is staring at my notebook wondering why there are landsquid and turtleducks everywhere and no doubt wondering how some crazy person off the street managed to wander into said meeting.

In my defense, I am also somewhat narcoleptic and if I am forced to not move for a few hours I will fall asleep and that is more unprofessional than the stick people dancing amongst my notes.  In college I staved off nap attacks with a ridiculous amount of sudoku games.

So, Kit, I hear you ask, why is doodling so awesome?  Well, let me tell you.

Aside from the ability to keep you awake, it helps you focus.  I do use it in meetings, but it’s helpful to just do, to clear your mind and just draw whatever decides to spring from your pencil.  It’s kind of like free-writing, honestly.  Problems solve themselves.  It is relaxing, and sometimes you end up with something neat that you’re willing to show other people.

It does not, however, help that I have made up a doodlebug song that is now stuck in my head.

Do you doodle, squiders?  Do you find it helps?