As with any writer, I find inspiration in many different places. When I first started writing, I would only really be inspired by the themes and styles of publisher authors, imagery or big concepts. My first piece of non-curricular writing was inspired by reading Anne Rice and Darren Shan. Both of these authors use vampires as their main characters, and my writing was a mash of the Young Adult style of Shan and the more mature style of Rice.
Within my first few lectures at university in 2010, we’d been taught how to find inspiration in life around us. It was suggested to us that, we should allow ourselves to be more open to finding inspiration in the world around us – it already provides so many examples without having to try hard anyway. Anything you see, hear, touch, taste or smell can be inspiration. Beautiful imagery/landscapes, a busy street, an interesting phrase – written or spoken, something not smelling as it looks like it should. Anything at all which you as a writer find interesting, can, and should, be used as inspiration. Whether you write about it immediately or months later, write it as a short story, poem, script or novel – as long as you are able to find inspiration, then you’ll always have something to write about.
Always having a notebook nearby is a boon towards this end, as it means that you are always able to make note of anything which inspires you within minutes of experiencing it. This helps to prevent you forgetting what you wanted to write about, and the frustration which would follow!
On a personal level, I find inspiration most often in phrases which I overhear or see. Reading a lot of fan fiction helps towards this end, despite the sometimes poor standard of writing, much of the time, the author’s phrasing is unusual, which can lead the meaning to be misconstrued. Oe of the most recent phrases I’ve noted down, I overheard when talking about the weather.
“They say this will all disappear at sunset.”
Now, when I first heard that, I immedately noted it down, because to me, and I’m sure many other writers as well, that phrase is so open and non-specific, it could be referring to anything. My mind raced off on it’s own into ideas of cities, peoples or civilisation all disappearing at sunset once in every set period of time – almost as if nature, or something else, was resetting the world. How would this affect the people who remained? What was the force behind these disappearances? How and why was it happening? Would life in general be any different than the real world if entire cities disappeared periodically – after a while, it would become almost commonplace, so how would it be discussed? Apathy? Anger? Etc.
Another good way of finding inspiration was taught to us in our first term. Simply take a magazine or newspaper, cut out all the individual words of the article titles. Then rearrange each individual word until it forms new or strange phrases. One good example of this for me personally was the phrase “I am not the dark”.
Again, what is the dark? Should it be capitalised because it’s a title or is it a being/substance? What does it/he/she do or want? Is it malevolent or benign?
In my experience, the best forms of inspiration are the ones which immediately take hold and refuse to let go.The ones that give you a buzz when you consider them, and make you want to write. Does anybody have any other ways of finding inspiration? I’d love to hear about them, so please comment!
All writers have an ideal working environment. It may be in absolute silence, away from anything that could distract them and with a glass of water, or it could be with a deadline looming and the pressure on to get the work done.
Personally I’ve found that my ideal writing environment is –
– When I am alone – nice as it is to talk to other people, I’ve always found that I get too distracted by other people, even if they’re working as well!
– I have a large bottle of drink and some sort of snacks nearby – so I don’t have to take too much time away from writing to get them.
– Low background music – I usually have a playlist on at a fairly low volume in the background. It can be songs I’ve heard many times or songs which are completely new to me. Honestly I don’t really pay them any attention, it’s just that I find myself being distracted by the silence! Most of the time, I use my own playlists from youtube.
– It can be anywhere – I’ve found that as long as the above are present, then I can settle down and write anywhere. I know writers who cannot focus in their own rooms, and have met some who have to rent office space so as to get away from home and the feeling that they should be doing chores etc. I’m lucky in that I’ve never been too bothered about where I am – though I do have a favourite place to write.
My parents own two ski flats in the French Alps, and we go as a family every December for the New Year. I usually go out skiing every alternate day, and spend the rest of the time in the ski flat writing. Our flats are right above the market place, but the thick windows let very little sound in, and as I’ve mentioned, I like having background noise. Because we’re so high up on the mountains, there’s very rarely cloud cover, so the natural light is very good. The crisp, fresh air is very refreshing for when I want a short break, so I go for a walk down to the cafe and order or coffee or a hot chocolate, check my emails and then come back ready to write in the warmth once again.
The last time I was there, I managed to write 3 chapters of a novel within the week that we stayed there.
Do you have anywhere that you find is the most productive for you to write?
After finding inspiration for a new story, and setting up my workspace so that I’ll be at my most productive, it’s time for me to actually start writing. Often, I’ll have already answered many of the questions I’ve thought up during my inspiration stage, and written down a very basic plot and some character names as well. When I come at start writing, I’ll usually write a short prologue, maybe 500 words or so, to help get me into the writing “zone” and more specificially, into the genre, time, and location which I want to write about.
After this, I’ll begin my first section. While some writers like to start at the beginning, continue into the middle and then finish at the end, I’ve been at my most productive when I break the story into short scenes. When I’ve finished the first one, I’ll give myself a few lines and then start writing the next section which interests me most. When that’s finished, I’ll do the same again. Once I’ve finished the most interesting sections, which are usually the sections of character or plot development or action, then I’ll start writing the sections in between them, and join everything together.
The whole process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on how much the story interests me, how much time I put into it and how good the story/my writing is. After the story is finished, I’ll send it to one of my friends, who goes through the story and picks out sections which need to be improved, which don’t make sense, which work well, which she knows I can write better. She’ll send me her notes and a list of suggestions for editing. At this point, I’ll start my second draft of the piece, using these notes as a platform.
Drafting can take a long time, but again, is dependent on how much time I can spare, how well the story is going etc.
I’d love to hear about other people’s writing processes if they wouldn’t mind sharing.