Where do you get your ideas?

‘The past is a foreign country they do things differently there.’ LP. Hartley ‘The Go-Between’

 

Beach

It’s a question that every writer hears ’where  do you get your ideas?’ At times it is tempting to say something flippant like ‘Oh I pop down to the App store and pick a few.’ But it’s not that easy.

So where do writers get ideas?  The answer is probably as individual as the writers themselves. Some writers are meticulous planners and know what they will write about. They are known as Plotters and have inciting incidents and compelling storylines at their fingertips. They have detailed plans and character profiles and timelines all prepared. At times I wish I was more like them, but I am not.

Coffe cup and notebook Pixababy Engin_Akyurt

My stories begin who knows where? Although the term Pantsers is applied to writers like me, I prefer to think I am an organic writer. One who builds as she goes, capturing a fragment of a sentence, an intriguing snippet or topic, an overheard remark or a sliver of memory.

photo-1496867557017-559adb93b339 David Zwalia

Recently, I entered a short story contest and the picture prompt didn’t initially inspire me. The trick was to let my imagination roam, to go beyond the obvious. In one story I used three incidents I knew about, things that had happened to me, or to friends. Sibling rivalry, an attempted drowning and person with mental illness.  The facts bled into the fiction, hopefully giving it an authenticity.

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Writing the second story I began with a fragment of memory of clearing the attic and as I wrote a long-forgotten memory surfaced. I must have been about six and we were at the beach.  My father dived in and rescued a woman who was attempting to drown herself. I remember her sobbing, with dad’s jacket placed around her shoulders. And then it’s a blank- what happened next, I have no idea.photo-Gir on stony beach Caroline hernadez

I’d forgotten about it until now, so many years later, when I fictionalised it and used it in my story. If memory chooses not to come at my call but returns unprompted it is still a valid memory. The trick is to hold on to that image, that memory, and see if more will follow.

Nowadays, I think of my past as a place to explore. I can get there from here. The route may be unfamiliar, the recall imperfect, but it is uniquely mine. Others may recall the same events, but not in the same specific way. What attracted me, what was important to me, may not have mattered to them. My stories begin here, and I realize that the things that matter to me always have.

 

 

 

Are These The Hardest Promises To Keep?

Dasies and dreams Pixababy

Do you make many promises? And if so, do you keep them? To me, it is important to keep my promises, so I don’t make many.

I hate being let down and equally, I hate letting people down.

There was one person I routinely let my promises slide for. Can you guess who it was? That person was me.

Maybe you are like that too? Discounting your own needs and wants and importance.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last week I had a tech crash and was without my computer for the week. Any week it would be annoying, but I had planned to enter a short story contest.And the deadline was Friday 13th – what could be more  apt?

I got my computer back on  Monday. It was just the basic setup, and a year’s worth of work was gone. I’d promised myself I would enter at least two stories in the contest.

I had two-thirds of one story written and a vague idea for another. The word length for submission was from 1,000 to 4,000 words.

Clocks Geralt

A writer friend cast an eye over the first story. I thought I had completed it and I’d listened to it through the read-aloud function. That read aloud alone picked up fifteen tiny mistakes. My eagle-eyed friend found missing commas, redundant commas, as well as making some pertinent comments. More work! I respect her judgement, so I made the changes. I submitted it with a day to spare. It was about 3,500 words.

What about story two? I had roughed out ideas in a notebook while I was without the computer.

 

Coffe cup and notebook Pixababy Engin_Akyurt

I decided to go for it. I knew my story wouldn’t have the care and attention that the first story had. But my promise to myself was to submit two stories.

I had the germ of an idea and I worked hard on it, and my wonderful friend was even able to have a quick look at it. Again I made changes.  Story Two was submitted at 6.30pm on Friday 13th. It was just over 3,00o words.

Pixababy cornfiedl and heart

It’s likely that neither will win a prize, many accomplished writers enter this contest. I felt wiped out, exhausted and yet exhilarated. I’d done it! I hadn’t let myself off the hook. Yes, there were difficulties, but nothing that I couldn’t overcome. It had been hard work, but I felt and feel terrific. Finally, I was giving my writing, my work. the respect that it deserved,

Ginger cat Pixababy Skorchanov

Is this a female thing or a generational thing? Is it the sign of a classic procrastinator?

What about you? Do you find it easy to keep the promises that you make to yourself?

Technology Trauma.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are worse things than a computer crash, but its hard to think of them when one happens to you.

This week, it was my turn and not only did the computer crash, it crashed spectacularly. It completely wiped itself, even of Windows.

How? I don’t know.

Why? Still not sure if it was a virus, or something else.

At the moment I am in stage one of the classic stages of grief, denial. ‘This can’t be happening’

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

BUT it is and my computer guy has had the machine since Monday and is no nearer to finding a solution.

I miss it. Worse, I was finalizing a submission for a writing contest with a cut off date of July 13th and I have lost almost a week.

Sure the laptop is dinky and cute, but I am used to my desktop and prefer it.

Still, I held out hope-maybe the expansion drive, would help restore files. It should have and it would have, if only it had been re-plugged in when I bought a new computer.

So, back up your work NOW, send it to One Drive or Dropbox, send it to a USB and if you have an expansion drive be sure that it is connected.

I may have lost almost a years worth of work, which is one hell of a reminder.

It’s Time You Listened To Your Writing!

 

Listening Something that I found recently has really improved my writing. I shared the information with some writing buddies and discovered that they hadn’t known about it either, They were impressed and I was inundated with effusive thanks.

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

 Now I’m sharing it with you. It may not apply to all systems until recently I used Apache Open Office and I don’t think it is there. 

Then I switched to Microsoft Word and that’s where I found it. The Audio function. It is at the top left-hand corner of the page when you click over to tools. It says Read, Aloud Speech. For Mac users, there is a Speech function once you access System Preferences. I simply Googled that to find out.

Experimentally I tried it out. It has transformed my writing experience.

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Many of you will have been told to read your work out loud to allow you to spot errors and awkward phrasing. It is still good advice. Audio is better though, as the robotic voice disassociates you from your writing. We all fall a little in love with our words

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

It is easy to read your own work and see what you expect to see. I had proofread a document twice without noticing that scared had been typed sacred, Quite a different meaning!

Listening enables you to hear if your words flow, or if there is a section that needs work. It might be a good use of this function to run your document through it before you send it to an editor.

‘Chop Wood Carry Water’

I hit a rough patch with my writing this week, I’d rewritten and edited one piece so many times I felt like my ideas had dried up. My mind was empty. It was then that I remembered this saying and acted on it.

 

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When your mind is going around in its own labyrinth it’s good to have a circuit breaker. and for me, the saying was what I needed.

 

Cicuit Breaker by Chris Ried Unsplash
Circuit breaker by Chris Ried, Unsplash.

Although I didn’t chop wood I did carry the chopped logs into the house. Then I planted up some hanging baskets with violas and watered them in.

It amused me to do as the saying suggested, mundane tasks keeping me grounded in my body and out of my own mind.

pSudsy hands PexelsThe knotty problem was far from my mind as I immersed my hands in water to wash the dinner dishes. It was then that a glimmer of an idea popped into my head. Not a fully fledged idea, just a fragment, but enough to get me excited about my writing again.

What do you do when you hit a rough patch?

Collaborate with Caution

At the beginning of the year, a friend of mine told me she had agreed to collaborate with a male published author on his current book They were acquaintances and he said he was having difficulty with his storyline. They’d hit it off and it seemed like a great opportunity

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Then I was slightly envious, but wished her well and said, ‘let me know how it goes.’  I could see the benefits, she was working with a published author, one who knew the ropes and had several books published. She would gain a co-author credit and a chance to get her name known.

Last week she told me the deal had turned sour for her. He was now changing the characters that she had created and dismissing her input. From what she said her contribution was roughly half of the book, but he was claiming the credit for it all.

Their combined story was a detective novel -the villain and his family were her ideas, as were the victims. He wrote the detective. She now says he has taken her work and is claiming that she gave it to him. She also said that she had emails from him acknowledging her input.

I asked for opinions from a writer’s forum that I belong to and it turned out that her experience was not uncommon.

 

Collaboration

The advice was if you do collaborate – have a contract drawn up specifying what each person will contribute and how that work will be recognised. Who is responsible for which part of the book, its promotion, marketing etc.

They didn’t say but I would think that even if you are working with a friend it wouldn’t hurt to draw up an agreement between you. After all, friends have been known to fall out.It need not be too formal, even an email agreeing who will do what might be sufficient.

Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, I am simply expressing what I think is a common sense view. If you have any doubts you should consult a writers’ organisation or a lawyer familiar with creative contracts.

Writers Need Readers As Fish Need Water.

“An unread story is not a story, it’s little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it  makes it live, a live thing, a story.” Ursula K Le Guin

Woodblock print fish

We writers need readers, as fish need water. Without our readers, there is no story,  and no use for the storytellers. We are the weavers of dreams, conjuring up reality out of thin air, for their amusement and pleasure.

 

But before we were writers, we were readers. Who knows the pleasures of the written word better than a writer?  Most writers have long been enamoured of books. There is an old saying “a word is dead until its said”’ This applies even more so to our writing, completing a piece of writing is only half its story.

Writer Nick Morrison Unspalsh

We need the reader to breathe life into those pages, with their own imagination. A  hundred people can read a book, and all have their own impressions of it. Books are not static things, they are where readers and writers combine in imagination and interpretation.

 

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Your favourite fictional character may differ markedly from how someone else imagines them. And they may not be how the author imagined them, either. It does not matter, we each project our own experiences into the fictional world and create a story that is uniquely ours.

In this, books differ from a film, or TV, where every scene is shown to us. Watching them, we are more passive consumers. We allow the story to play out in front of us. It can also be why a film of a book can be disappointing, the director’s interpretation does not gel with what you, as a reader has imagined,

We may be quietly reading a book or a story, but we are active consumers, engaging with those words to create another reality. We have devoted our time to something that in one sense is not there, but in another lives vividly on the page.

Words have power, to heal, to hurt, to challenge, to change. While if never read, then the words have no power at all.

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

As a writer I want to say’ Thank you’ to the readers, those passionate enough about books to choose to buy books, to talk about books and to read books.  I say thank you to all those authors whose words have delighted me and continue to do so. You have entertained .me, scared me or enthralled me. I say a huge thank you to librarians for fostering a love of reading, organising author talks and helping to keep the book alive.

It was George R.R. Martin who said, ‘a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” I find this slightly ironic as most readers are women, but I can’t fault the sentiment. An escape into a different world, or a different place or time is as near as your next book.

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