Tag Archives: inspiration

Feed Your Writer-Brain

I’m sure most writers have experienced this: You mention to someone that you’re writing a novel. They reply, “Oh, I’ve been thinking about writing a book. I have some really great ideas.”

My most recent experience with this came from a distant relative who wanted to write a non-fiction history book. When I asked if he read much in the genre, he replied, “No.” When I asked if he’d looked at the online platforms of other writers in the genre, I was met with a blank stare.

What it boils down to is he had lots of enthusiasm for his own ideas, but had done nothing to educate himself on current writing trends or the opinions of others. He was writing from a void. That’s no way to succeed in the business of publishing these days.

In order to find success, whether in fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, screenwriting or short stories, you have to feed your writer-brain.

What exactly does that mean?

Well, first and foremost, it means you need to read. You need read a lot. Fill your spare moments with a good book or a good article. Read a variety of genres, and once you focus in on the genre you want to try writing, narrow your reading, too. Read what’s popular and critically acclaimed in your genre. Read old favorites from the genre, and take a chance on first time authors. If you don’t know the marketplace, you’ll have a hard time finding a place in it for your own work. Whether you follow the traditional agent/editor/publishing house route, or aim for self-publishing, filling your writer-brain with knowledge of the marketplace is going to give you a huge boost.

Additionally, reading will help you internalize good technique. If you get used to reading good dialog, you’ll be more aware of when your own dialog is falling flat. If you find some authors who write amazing sensory description, you can learn from them to improve your own. And don’t give up reading outside your genre – sometimes you can learn tricks of technique from authors outside your genre that will help your writing stand out from the pack when it comes to your own genre. Plus, you never know what might spark a moment of inspiration that leads to a new story, even if it’s just a random article or a non-fiction book you picked up on a lark.

If you like to multitask while doing household work or exercise, like I do, you can feed your writer-brain by listening to audiobooks or watching the types of films and television shows that feature interesting plotting, fascinating characters, or quality writing. Usually stick to scripted works – ones that writers worked hard to bring to life. You can generally learn more from those shows than from “reality” television. Unless “reality” tv or news programs are the ones that spark your creativity.

Ultimately, you need to learn what feeds your writer-brain best. Seek out that brain-food, and consume it as often as possible.

In an era in which information and entertainment is just a few keystrokes away, you can’t expect to write in a void and succeed.

Don’t think of all this reading as time taken away from your writing. That writer-brain needs nourishment and inspiration to do its work properly, and this is how you feed it.

By Jocelyn Nash Carlin


Getting Back in the Saddle

Getting back into the writing saddle can be difficult. I just finished a writing break and I found the hardest part about saddling up the writing horse was not getting up and falling off, but that I wouldn’t ride with the skill I once had. I feel writer’s block is more of an emotional issue than a physical problem, and usually that emotion is fear. Fear. I heard this acronym once, and it stuck with me. False Evidence Appearing Real.

In my case, my fear stemmed from a belief that I had lost my writing skills from lack of use. Could I prove that as a fact? No, because I hadn’t tested that theory, I was too scared. Losing my skill felt like it could be real. Haven’t you heard the saying, Use it or Lose it?

Based on that belief system, I am right.

Answer?

Aside from letting go of that belief system and choosing a new one? Preferably the one that states it’s just like riding a bike. In other words, once you get going, it all comes back to you.

Don’t buy into the fear, get writing. Write when were and how you can. Don’t let you stop yourself with excuses. I have heard this one a lot lately, “I don’t have the right equipment.” Go outside, find some dirt, pick up a stick- equipment- and write.

Write for yourself, write to change the world, write for fun, write to get the voices in your head out on paper. Just write!

How do you know if you are improving?

I am here to tell you that the more you write the more you will improve, but not without some sort of feedback. Moms and significant others don’t count. Sorry. They are great for support, but don’t count on them to be completely honest, or even trust them to know the writing business or what they are talking about. And in some cases, they can do more harm then good. One aspiring writer I spoke with gave a worst case scenario where family took her story and tried to make it their own and she lost her voice in the process.

I don’t let my supportive hubby read my work. I bounce ideas and brainstorm with him, and he is great for that, but he is not my critiquing buddy.

Honestly, the best choice I ever made for my writing was joining a writers group. I actually have a hard time reading another aspiring writer if they have never been in a writers group. The difference can be staggering between novice writers that are in a group and a writer that has never dared show another person what they write.

Find a good writers group. Whether locally or online. Try a few of them on until you find the right fit for you.

I am lucky to have an awesome writers group. One where each person actively tries to improve and learn more about the craft and trade. We get together and share our knowledge. We find strengths in each other, and find weaknesses too. I learned by being critiqued what they have an eye for, and I rely on their eye if it is in an area I need improvement.

I’ve learned that anyone can get published, as long as they are trying to improve and they never give up.

Don’t let FEAR ever stop you. Keep writing and keep smiling, and for the record, it is like riding a bike.

By Lillian J. Banks


egnartS erA elpoeP

I wonder about people.  I look out the window of an office building and watch people zip around in their cars (they look like odd-shaped bugs) and nobody really seems to be going anywhere, they’re just going.  Rows of cars like caterpillars around the rim of a flowerpot.And they sit in their cars and they have no idea that I’m up here looking down at them.  Wouldn’t care if they did know, but maybe there’d be fewer accidents on the silly roundabout.

People are just strange, and I put myself at the head of that list.  But sometimes I just sit and wonder.  Is that semi parked in the driveway in front of the building full of explosives?  Is the driver who just went into the building going in to get his girlfriend or use the restroom?  Is he aware that a minivan just went right over the curb to get around his truck?  Does he care?

What about the driver of the minivan?  Is it actually a kid taking his mom’s car for a joyride, and he’s going to crash it into a ditch a few miles away?

Then there’s the lawn maintenance guy zipping around on his 4-wheeled toy.  Is he just zipping because that’s his job?  or does the lawn really need to be cut?  Would he even notice if he came out one day and the whole place had been covered in concrete, or would he just zip around as usual and mow the concrete?

Some day I think I’ll go out there and just drive around and around and around and around that silly roundabout and see how long it takes people to notice.  🙂

By Lauren Ritz


When inspiration strikes, how do you keep from losing it?

Remember that time you overhead a really fascinating snippet of a conversation the next booth over in a restaurant and wanted to remember it when you got home, but couldn’t? Or when that interesting article on the migration pattern of wolves sparked tons of ideas in your mind, but you forgot to bookmark it and Google isn’t finding it again?

These specific examples might not have happened to you, but I’m willing to bet that something similar has. Something you read or overheard or saw sparked your creative fires, filling you with story ideas, and then you went and forgot all the ideas, or had trouble connecting them together once the source of that inspiration had vanished from your memory. How can you stop that from happening again?

I’ve met writers who carry notepads with them everywhere to jot down conversational snippets or ideas that hit them while they are out and about. This is still a good strategy; however, in the world of modern tech there are many more options. You could easily take digital photos of places or people that spark ideas for you, use a voice recorder app on your phone to mutter a few quick thoughts or repeat a conversational phrase that you want to remember, or even send an email to yourself. When you find articles on the internet you can bookmark them in your browser, or copy them into a document. Google users can save things to Google Docs, so that their inspiration will be out there on the Cloud, to go wherever they go.

The point is, it’s easier than ever before to save your inspiration when it strikes. So don’t feel bashful about pulling out your smart phone to snap a photo, record a message to yourself, or type in some notes. You never know when a piece of inspiration will spark the story that will finally get you published. It’s totally worth looking like a geek while furiously typing notes to yourself on a tiny touchscreen.

What are your favorite apps or online tools for keeping track of your sparks of inspiration? Share them in the comments below.

By Jocelyn Carlin


Gratitude: The writers in my life

This is the season of gratitude.

That being said, I have a few things to give thanks for, or more accurately, a few people.

Almost two years ago, I started coming to a new reading group in Sandy. Not only do they put up with my truly bizarre personality and my loud opinions, they have also given me some incredible insights into writing in general and my own writing in particular. Thanks, Snippet-ers. I owe you big-time.

With what I have learned from my writing friends, I have been able to examine the published writers that I love, and I have been able, to a greater extent, to understand why I love them so much.

Robert Jordan (and by extension, Brandon Sanderson): When the author of the acclaimed “Wheel of Time” series made his blacksmith talk (and think) with analogies to metal and metal working, I finally got it through my head that a blacksmith will have language and actions and thoughts that reflect his experiences. All the time. Likewise a housewife, or an aristocrat, or a child who has lived through a devastating family disaster will have his or her experiences so woven into the fabric of speech and thought that the character gains far more depth and personality.

Robin McKinley and Lois McMaster Bujold are world and character builders par-excellence. Some existing cultures in this world aren’t as real in my head as theirs are on paper, and in my opinion, the quintessential male character is not Edward Cullen, but Miles VorKosigan. Robin McKinley’s “Beauty” is one of my favorites of all time. The fairy-tale ambiance of the story is something a reader can live and get lost in. Anne McCaffery’s “Dragonflight” was the first fantasy I ever read, and I still dream of being a dragon rider. L. M. Mongomery’s “Blue Castle” is a Cinderella story that I read over and over.

These books are my old friends, and I wouldn’t be myself without them. Like metal work for the blacksmith, these express my subconscious words and dreams, the very formation of my thoughts. I love fantasy because anything is possible. And if anything is possible, maybe I can create something beautiful enough to haunt a reader’s mind to the exclusion of all else. Maybe I can transport others into a story that can’t be put down.

By Ava Mylne