Have you stared at a blank page with pen in hand? Or even started writing but excuses of chocolate shop trips have become more frequent? Perhaps you've got cold feet? Here are 5 of my top tips to find writing inspiration.
Top Tip No.1: MUSIC
For me, music is a dealbreaker when it comes to writing inspiration; you can either put on your favourite song or genre, or break boundaries and try something new...
...If I feel like I am forcing the words onto the page because it just isn't flowing, I will put on my favourite genre (anything 50s, especially DooWop). I sit back, relax, and enter my happy place. That way, after a short break I can go back to my writing in a motivated mindset and let the creative juices start to flow again. I strongly believe that a stressed mind equals forced writing. Sometimes I just have to take a step back and give the mind the break it deserves. After all, brutally murdering someone isn't an activity I do everyday, or is it?
If I am writing a scene with a specific atmosphere, or a character with a unique profile, I hunt down a song that gives me the tone that I want to project onto my readers. I press play on random genres and playlists, that aren't usually my cup of tea, and eventually I exclaim, 'That's it!', even though no-one can hear me from my writing shed. It's a bittersweet 'eureka' moment - on one hand, it's great because I have found a song that transports me into the scene to help me write it, but on the other hand, I know that the song will stay on repeat until it drives me mad. So one way may be more therapeutic than the other, but both are highly effective for finding that nudge you need to write the next page.
Top Tip No.2: WALKING
Walking is one of the best ways for me to have separation from my work space, it relieves the pressures and expectations of sitting in my writing shed. There is something about walking that refreshes my brain; it makes me feel grounded, the fresh air is soothing, and I have the pleasure of seeing my book with fresh eyes.
Sometimes a five minute walk will give me the starting point I need to start my next section of writing, but other times, I can walk for hours and end up dictating ideas into my phone. I find walking whilst dictating ideas extremely effective because it is easy to make tweaks before writing the ideas up, the environment keeps me relaxed, level-headed and patient, and the mental and physical benefits forms a healthy relationship with my writing.
Oh, and obviously I get to nose a little! I find it fascinating seeing how other people are living their day, or pondering how old buildings are or the crimes that have been committed in them. I suppose I have a habit of Sherlooking.
Top Tip No.3: BRAINSTORMING
You know in school there was that kid that had about 5 pencil cases? And each one was for a different type of stationery? Well, I guess I have become that kid.
Brainstorming ideas is the best way for me to form my books, especially as I get to whip out my pencils and post-it-notes. Sometimes it's not always easy to find where the dots connect between your characters or scenarios so I bring a spider diagram to the table. Spider diagrams are my secret weapon to fleshing out a layered story.
I start with a theme in the middle of the paper that I circle (probably in a bright neon blue), and I draw lines off of it and make notes of anything I feel relates to the theme e.g. people, places, evidence, lines of dialogue, twists, anything I can think of. I will do this as many times as I can so that I end up with lots of paper with several themes and potential scenarios, and then I can really kick some butt...I pull out every coloured highlighter I have and get to work. I grab my pink highlighter and run it over items from the different sheets that I feel could link together to form a scene or a chapter. Then I repeat the process with another colour, and another colour, until every sheet of paper looks like a rainbow has thrown up on it. Next, it's post-it-note time.
This is the part where I have to put the ideas into an order that makes sense. I grab all the written notes highlighted in pink and write each one down as a bullet point on a pink post-it-note. I then move the post it notes around until I have an order that makes sense for the scene or chapter. It may sound simple, but this is the part where I can go a little crazy and tear my hair out thinking, 'Well that makes no sense,' then, 'Oh, I've got it, it must have to go here instead,' so I double check it. And then I triple check it. One more time. 'Damn that doesn't work either. Where the f*** is that gonna go?'. So although you may try this and definitely not thank me at the time, you may or may not thank me later.
Top Tip No.4: IMPROVISATION
By this point you may be thinking, 'this woman is mental - she talks out loud when no-one is around and has a stationary obsession', well, that's nothing. Have you ever had a full on conversation with yourself as two characters? If not, I highly recommend it.
Sometimes people can be difficult to write about. If I want to make a character seem in control yet shy, how can I show that? Maybe body language, or dialogue or their actions, but how do I make that realistic? If two characters are having an argument in the kitchen, I will go into the kitchen (preferably when the kids are out), and have a disagreement with myself. I will act upon impulse by saying whatever lines bounce back and by moving around the space and using objects in the room if necessary too. Because it is improvisation, it means that I am reacting upon what I have just heard or seen, meaning that I come out with sentences that are more natural and often unexpected. It helps me to uncover subtext and discover details about the characters and scenes that I didn't realise were there, which in turn gives the overall story more depth. If you're going to try this and your scene is set in a dark alley in the heart of a city, watch out for black bollards, you can't see them at night.
Top Tip No.5: BATHING
This one is very similar to walking and thinking, it's about finding that balance between relaxation and testing the mind just enough to keep it active.
If I have come to a standstill and don't know where to go next, I will find a question to ask myself. The question can be specific e.g. What does character A want from character B subtextually by the end of the scene, why now and do they get it? Or something more open e.g. How does this scene progress onto the next chapter? Again, the space away from a work zone takes off the pressure, and the hot bubble bath with floral scents allows me to relax and my mind wander. I find that it is the perfect environment to ponder answers without forceful thinking, and I usually end up with a result that surprise me. My hope is that if I catch myself out, then hopefully I will be catching my audience out too.
Thank you for supporting me by reading this blog post. I hope you enjoyed it.