What inspires me? The short answer is everything. If we’re having a conversation and I suddenly get a weird expression on my face either you’ve said something to piss me off or inspire me. Inspiration is everywhere. Chrome Pink, my first published novel started with the motorcycle. My husband helped restore the bike for his boss that belonged to his niece’s husband who’d died of cancer. That coupled with my friend’s mother battling breast cancer started the idea. The character of Rae Lynne was my husband who I described during a writing class on characters when after the first day she said to change their sex or ethnicity but keep certain parts. I kept his attitude and mechanical ability. The story then evolved from news articles about sex trafficking and a song on the radio. Inspiration was everywhere and I just had to filter it out.
Getting inspired or feeding the muse is more about showing up ready to listen or opening yourself up to be inspired. Steven King says he doesn’t wait for inspiration he teaches it to show up every morning. Those who wait for inspiration before they write aren’t writers, King calls them waiters. No offense to Mr. King but training your muse to show up each morning takes time and dedication. It is also a luxury some of us don’t have with a 9 to 5 job or worse, a job where we work shifts and have to reinvent our muse every few weeks. NaNoWriMo is a great way for new and like me, slightly used authors to find a few minutes to dedicate to writing. The idea is to teach our muse to show up whenever we sit down to write.
NaNoWriMo is a great commitment because there are prizes at the end that make reaching the goal more appealing. It gives us an added incentive to write daily. For me, my first NaNoWriMo was to prove I could write to a deadline. Each subsequent NaNos I’ve done more for fun but also to remind myself to show up. To be a serious writer with plans of being published means you have to make it a priority and you have to make sacrifices. NaNoWriMo helps teach us how to do that. Inspiration plus perspiration creates success.
And we return to inspiration. How do we find inspiration for the next chapter, the blank page, a new character? For those of us who are pantsers it might be a lot of staring at the screen wondering what to write next but there are tricks of the trade you can develop with a little experience and experimentation. While I don’t like to outline, a list of ideas or sticky notes with scene suggestions can help with your inspiration is flagging. Skipping to the part you do know or for me, if I’m having trouble with a character’s point of view or understanding them, I’ll write a short story about their backstory. This is something you can later use on your blog or newsletter. Nothing has to be wasted.
NaNo is about showing up and writing, that is the main objective. NaNo and other writing challenges like Book in a Week teach us to make writing a priority. Maybe we can’t juggle everything between work, family and other obligations but you can choose to write instead of playing games on your phone or scrolling through cat photos on social media. Fatigue, sickness, a troubled mind, other obligations, all of these things can dampen our inspiration so developing a plan for when you have a few minutes you can dedicate to writing will allow you to bring the inspiration with you. As King and others have said, we have to train our muse to show up when we want to write. Here are some cool things I’ve heard about or tried:
Writing on my phone (Michael LaRonn). There are apps you can download but I just write in my pages. This is great when you’re at the doctor’s office or even in line at Walmart. Write a few lines of your story, an idea for a character or a snippet of dialogue so it’s not forgotten and time isn’t wasted.
Sticky notes (Kate Parker and Sarah Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes you can even have plot twists or turning points and even setting each in a different color, write them in one-liners just to give you an idea of where to go next.
Index cards (Sarra Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes this is a great way to keep track of what you want to happen in the book without a firm outline.
Journaling: keep a writing journal for inspiration, ideas, characters, etc. You can do this for each story or as a general idea book.
I take ideas from other authors and writing coaches I’ve taken classes from or spoken to and found ways to make them work for me. As a pantser I don’t want to do a lot of prewriting, but one technique Marni Graff taught me was stop in the middle of a chapter or scene and make notes about what comes next before closing the computer, so you know how to start without having to go back and read what you wrote previously. This will help you save time.
Another suggestion especially for mystery writers and this could also work for romance authors and suspense writers, write your ending first and work your way back to the beginning. I admit, this isn’t something that works for me though I fast draft to the end and often know the ending I’m planning as I start the book but as I write it may change or alter slightly.
So, what inspires me? Everything inspires me: other writers, talking about writing and books, watching something on television, having a conversation, going places, doing things, the news, research, the list goes on. If you are open to inspiration, it will be there, waiting for you. It’s up to you to invite it in. What inspires you?
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