Mining for Ideas

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I’m confident that everyone who writes has been asked on more than one occasion, “Where do you get your ideas?”
Even when I expect it, that question always makes me freeze. When I finally thaw, I hem and haw, shift from one foot to the other, scrunch my face, followed by a long exhale…you would think I was in pain. And I kind of am. Because try as I might, I cannot for the life of me come up with a good, concrete answer.

The truth is, ideas are literally everywhere. My fear is not having enough time to write all the stories that pop into my head. All the scenes I want to flesh out, all the characters through which I want to live vicariously, all the things I want to research to put into a book…well, you get the idea. I’ve had people tell me, “Hey, I’ve got this fabulous idea for a book. You should write it for me.” I give them a blank stare and then I cough, buying some time before I’m finally able to speak. “Uh, yeah,” I say, “as soon as I finish with all of the ideas I already have.” In other words, not in this lifetime.

Writers are day dreamers, night dreamers, creative thinkers, even when we’re not aware of it. I will sometimes hear something or witness something seemingly unimportant, but then remember it days or weeks down the road when it’s making its way into my WIP.

My ears perk up when I hear people squabbling in the grocery store line, Starbucks, or any public place. I listen to husbands and wives interacting with each, siblings of all ages, and words between friends. The best of all? Two strangers who strike up a conversation as they’re waiting for time to pass, whether in line somewhere or in a doctor’s office waiting room. It’s amazing what two people will tell each other in a public place when they’re oblivious to the fact that they’re surrounded by others.

Now, I don’t so much care about the words these people say, but rather the way they say them, their tone. I also try to sneak a peek (sneak, so I don’t come across as being a creeper) at their facial expressions and body language. It’s those moments captured, incorporating them into a character, that makes a character believable and come to life. It’s those nuances that give characters necessary layers.

Another thing I do is carry a little Sony digital recorder when I’m running, walking, or driving. Or any other time it isn’t possible to carry a notebook or safely write. It’s then that ideas pop into my head and I need to capture them before they disappear. I’ve learned a long time ago that even if the idea is so monumental I think there’s no way I could ever forget it, it still escapes me nearly every time. I get busy, life happens, and the idea is a whisper in the wind.

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So, go exercise that creative brain, take advantage of those night dreams and daydreams, and be careful what you say the next time you’re standing in line at the grocery store. If there’s a writer anywhere in the near vicinity, you’ll end up in a book.

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

Light in the Midst of Darkness

The Soul

We have had some amazing weather in Colorado the past couple of days, and today was the best. I was running this morning in the warmth, even the breeze was gentle and warm, the sun’s rays reaching the depths of my soul. The renewed energy and lightness of spirit carried me for most of my run. And I realized how uplifting it is to have this break–or timeout, if you will–in the typically cold dark middle of winter. It gives me encouragement and a glimpse of  spring that awaits just around the corner. It has the same effect as when something good happens in the midst of a whole string of bad. It offers hope. I was even able to hammer out the run-through reading of the first draft of Shear Madness, making notes of changes that need to be made–characters that need to be further developed, the plot that needs to be deepened, paragraphs that may need to be cut, catching inconsistencies in timeline and settings, etc., most of that reading done while sitting on the patio in the sun. What a blessing.

And speaking of blessings, it’s exactly those blessings among the trials in this journey of life that offer us hope for something better yet to come. Those peaks that give us renewed strength and room to breathe after walking through a valley.

One of my peaks came this weekend when I was able to re-connect with a childhood friend over dinner.  We hadn’t seen each other for over thirty years, and yet we were able to recognize each other immediately and it was like we were able to pick up right where we left off.

Coincidence? Nah. I believe it was, and is, purely a blessing.

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Carpe Diem

 

The Act of Writing vs. Being a Writer

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A lot of people write and a whole lot more have the desire to write. If you’re writing, you are, indeed, a writer. If you have the desire to write but haven’t actually put pen to paper–or fingertips to keyboard–you haven’t crossed the line yet from dreamer to writer. That being said it’s never too late to start. Here’s proof.

I wrote a post a while ago about finally calling myself a writer. And while that was a huge step for me, this past month it has come to mean even more. Sometime in this past month I began to realize that I’m not a writer just because I like to write. That would be akin to calling one an alcoholic just because s/he likes to drink. But rather, I couldn’t imagine my life without writing. Writing is so much a part of my desires and my life, that without it, I wouldn’t feel complete.

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Examples that drove that point home to me are:

  • If I don’t write–and lately that means every day, at least something–I feel empty of the positive and consumed by an intense need to release that creative energy.
  • When I’m at work or play and when I’m not writing, I find myself studying people and their mannerisms, behaviors, word choices, etc., creating characters in my head.
  • When I’m on a road trip, whether it’s five miles or five hundred, I take in the scenery as if constructing the setting of my next novel.
  • The world is my creative playground.
  • I cherish my writer’s notebook like it’s another limb and it goes everywhere I do.
  • What others say about my love of writing doesn’t matter; it’s important to me.

In Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, he recommends getting motivated by writing a statement of purpose. I chose to do that and it is readily visible on the first page of my writer’s notebook. Mine begins as his does and then branches off a bit. My statement of purpose reads:

Today I resolve to take writing seriously, to keep writing no matter what, to learn everything I can on the craft, and to strive for my words to make a positive difference to even just one person. I am a writer.

What are your writing aspirations and dreams?

Carpe Diem

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
Anaïs Nin

 

Reading Like a Writer

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I realize this is  a topic that has been addressed numerous times, but it’s become such a huge part of how I read, that I wanted to share things I look for.  It provides for reading entertainment as well as learning from people who have gotten to where I’m journeying toward with my first novel, The Inheritance–published.  Ten things I look for in a book are:

1.) POV–Does the writer use first person, placing themselves as the main character, third person, seeing through the viewpoint of the main character, omniscient, which is a God-like presence who seems to know what everyone in the novel is thinking, or multiple viewpoint characters.  If there are multiple viewpoint characters, how does the author transition between the characters whose eyes I’m seeing from?  How would the novel read if it were written from a different POV?

2.)  How the characters relate to each other.  Is there enough tension?  Is the tension resolved in a way that leaves me satisfied, but not too soon?  Do the characters suffer and hurt so that I feel for them and they become real?

3.)  Sentence structure in non-fiction vs. fiction–Does the author use complete sentences, fragments, long or short sentences, and when is each used successfully?

4.)  Does the book leave me wanting more, or am I flipping through several pages at a time, eager to be done so I can start something else?

5.)  Does it grab my attention immediately and disperse enough action to hold my attention, or are there dead areas where I find myself planning what to make for dinner as I’m reading?

6.)  Does it flow easily or do I find myself having to re-read the same paragraph a few times to figure out where I got lost?

7.)  Are the characters believable?  And what about the protagonist–is s/he likable?

8.)  Does it appeal to the social, intellectual, emotional aspects of life or does the author relay any strong values?

9.)  Do the scene descriptions create a clear visual in my mind?

10.)  And last but not least, does the author use boring cliché’s or fresh word combinations?

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Happy Reading! 🙂

Why I Write

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Last week I received an email from the author of a blog I follow,  The Creative Penn, and the author asked her readers to think about why we write.  And that did, indeed, get me thinking…

I write because when I do, I:

*     Feel freedom and the ability to express myself in a way that nothing else can match.

*     Feel joy,  peace, and pure contentment.  Even if I’m working on a piece that doesn’t come easy, I’m in my element in the quiet     of my office with pen in hand or fingers on the keyboard, mood music playing softly on Pandora, and my mind creating whatever it happens to be creating at that moment.

Create.

 

 

 

 

 

*     Get more connected with God by making my thoughts concrete on the page, where oftentimes it’s then I can see where God is working in my life, or where I’m not, showing me I need to make myself available for more of God.

*     Am able to live vicariously through my characters–where else can one live so many different lives and have so many fun, funny, loyal, and even quirky friends? 🙂

*     Have the ability to reach and connect with other people that I wouldn’t have been able to without the magic of written words.  I’m able to connect with my sponsor kids through Compassion International, making a difference in lives in another country.  How blessed am I! I’m able to connect with readers on this blog, every one of which I am so grateful for.  It’s a magical connection that other writer’s at heart can likely understand.

*     Can turn a bad day to better from being able to escape to another world, whichever I happen to create, or by simply writing my feelings on paper, making me aware of them and then being able to let them go.

*     Spent a number of years getting too busy with life, which resulted in not writing, and I’m a much happier person when I write.

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*     Cannot imagine my life without words and story, whether handwritten or from the keyboard.  The vehicle which produces those words doesn’t matter, only the fact that I’m able to do it.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
―     Maya Angelou

All is Grace.