Writing can be a lonely business. There you are in your own head trying to entice people into the world you are creating for them – and keep them there – and you’re doing it on your own. This is, of course, a necessity as only you have the story. If the story is so strong it just doesn’t want to stay in your head, then all well and good, it will pour out of you and you won’t be able to stop writing.
But what if you don’t have a strong story or plot line? How do you keep yourself in your own head to be able to release the story that is simmering there?
What stops you writing?
You may have the seeds of an idea in your head that is proving difficult to flesh out. You may feel that you are suffering ‘writer’s block’. Something needs to fire you up and make you write. You need to find where that inspiration and encouragement is going to come from.
Write profusely and keep writing
Wanting to write – and I mean wanting to write anything – means you will write regardless of plot or story. You will find things to write about all the time: shopping lists, daily journals, articles, letters to friends and family, blog posts.
Nothing is strengthened or improved without practise and exercise.
This process of writing generates seeds of ideas, plot and story. Each of these seeds and ideas can be incorporated somewhere into a story line. Even an item on a shopping list can turn into a story (try using your next shopping list as a series of prompts).
On holiday recently, I was walking through the deserted stone cobbled streets of a particularly quiet village. As I neared a corner I heard a door close. On rounding the corner I could see no one, but a waft of perfume hung in the air before a light breeze took it away. This tantalising hint of someone’s presence gave me all sorts of ideas for story or part of a story. The important thing for me was that I wrote it down. While it was an experience I am unlikely to forget for some time, there are a lot of other experiences in life to try and remember and writing it down keeps it somewhere for future use.
Read voraciously and keep reading
Reading is like feeding water to a sponge. You are the sponge. Other people’s ideas and plots will inspire you and give you ideas. As long as you are not plagiarising don’t worry too much about taking other people’s ideas and reworking them into your own stories. Even Shakespeare took stories from mythology and history and reworked them into his own.
Have you ever thought about how many books are out there in the world and how many plot lines they share? When was the last time you read a book that had a totally original plot to it? Generally, the originality lies in the working and presentation of the plot.
Breaking a crime story down to its bare bones reveals very few constituent elements: bad guy and/or good guy introduced: crime committed: red herrings placed in the way: crime solved: criminal gets comeuppance (nearly always). It’s the flesh that gets put onto the bones that will make it original, different and gripping, otherwise it will be like any other crime story and that would be boring.
Finding your writing style
The many and various styles of writing will also give you ideas about your own style; you may have to try different styles before you settle on your own writing style (you will often hear reference to writing voice, I prefer to call it writing style); the style that identifies you as the writer: your unique stamp.
It is important not to try and copy someone else’s style of writing as it will sound false, but you should never be afraid of being influenced by writing you admire. All artists are influenced by others and those influences creep into your work in subtle ways; it’s not as though you are copying them.
The best piece of advice I heard was to write as if you are writing to yourself and to no one else in the world. Imagine it is only you who will be reading your writing. You will write more naturally and honestly and this will come across to others. It will also make you different and original.
Co-authoring – two authors writing together
If you are very lucky you might be doubling up with a colleague and writing together. This would make a relationship that allows writing the story so that each author’s work enhances and contributes to the story. This kind of partnership is rare but possible.
I read an article recently about two women who wrote a chapter each in turn. When one chapter was complete it was passed back to the other author. This process allowed for ideas that would not have come about had only one person written the story.
Inspiration and encouragement came from each of them and kept the other going. I’ll bet you anything you like that both of them also read voraciously and wrote profusely.
Exercising and daydreaming
For those of us without that companionship it is about finding your own way of disciplining yourself to exercise the muscles of imagination, style and ideas. You won’t tone the muscles in your body if you don’t exercise and the same is true of your mind; if you don’t use your mind you’ll never climb that mountain of story before you.
Relaxation is also important, it lets your imagination run free and allows ideas to flow. Daydreaming is a form of relaxation and is a great build-up to exercising those creative writing muscles.
Try it. Make time for daydreaming and relaxing – put it in your diary. You won’t be disappointed.
Where do you get your inspiration from? How do you exercise your imagination? What is your favourite way of relaxing and getting those creative juices flowing? Leave a comment here and share your experiences.