Finding Inspiration

Ah, inspiration. The Holy Grail for writers.  I live for those moments when the muse is strongest, when I can't not write a particular idea.  When I know, with a certainty I can feel in my soul, that this, this, is the story I must tell.  
Unfortunately, inspiration is a fickle mistress.  For me, it hangs around for somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 words.  No wonder it took me nineteen years from when I first decided to write a novel to actually finish one.

There are any number of reasons that even the most intriguing idea or concept can lose its shine long before you finish the story.  First, there's the problem of plot.  As in the novel must have one.  It's not enough to have an amazing concept or a character that you love if you don't have anywhere to go with it.  It helps to have an idea of where the plot is going.

So I've taken a few days to outline and now I have a plot.  Now I just need to plug in the scenes.  Not exactly. In order to write something that will sustain you for 300 pages, you need to have characters you love hanging out with.  And not just the kind that are great in small doses like the guy who never fails to make you laugh when you're waiting in line for coffee, but who drives you cray-cray if there are more than three people in line ahead of you.  Often, if I lose interest in an idea, it's because I haven't figured out the characters yet.
So now I have an amazing concept, great characters and a plot.  Good to go?  Um, no.  Writing a novel is hard.  It's impossible to sustain inspiration all the way from the first whisper of an idea to the final page of the final draft.  There are bound to be lulls along the way.  But somewhere if I keep slogging through, something magic happens.  I find new inspiration, something that takes my original idea to unexpected and awesome places. 

Here are some things I've done to find, capture and rediscover inspiration:

1.  Once an idea comes to you, find the part of the idea that is uniquely you.  A story that is close to your heart is more likely to stay close to your heart.

2.  When inspiration strikes, listen.  Then write.  I have three ideas that are all vying to be the next project.  I've started all three manuscripts and outlined the basic story structure.  I don't know if or when I'll get to any of them, but if I don't, it won't be because I've forgotten the idea or the basis for my inspiration.

3.  Work through the lows.  It's impossible to feel inspired everytime you sit down to write, but if you wait to be inspired, you'll never finish.  Open the file.  Feel your way in.  Inspiration can strike when you're least expecting it.  And if doesn't?  That's what tomorrow's for.

4.  Say something important.  I'm not talking about being preachy, but your book should be about something bigger than the character or the plot.  The best books help us understand what it means to be human through the main character's journey.  What does it mean to you?  Write that.

5.  Make a playlist.  I love finding music that speaks exactly to a character's personality, evokes the emotion of a scene, or is tied into a particular theme.  I add songs to my playlist as I discover new songs, or new information about my story and characters.  Before I sit down to right, I start by listening a song that fits the mood of my story.  Once I start writing, I don't 'hear' the music anymore, but it's in the background like a subliminal soundtrack to the scene.

6.  Read, read and read.  Reading is an endless source of inspiration.  Read in your genre and outside of it.  Nothing is as inspiring as reading a book that makes your heart sing.  The more you read, the more you learn about story structure, plotting and characterization. 

7.  Challenge yourself.  I'm much less likely to lose interest in a project if I push myself to try something I'm not quite comfortable with.  It helps if the challenge is just outside of your comfort zone, but not so hard that you'll be tempted to give up.  All three of the projects I have waiting in the wings involve some twist on story structure and point of view.

8.  Commune with other writers.  Call a writing friend or just get on Twitter and chat with other writers.  Read some blogs that focus on craft.  Support matters.

9.  When all else fails, step away from the computer.  Take a walk.  Inspiration strikes when we least expect it.   

How do you get inspired?


Great list - I'll have to bookmark this page ready for when I have a lull.

Awesome tips, Talia. Music inspires me, too. Driving, walking, any time that I'm in motion and quiet - those moments help.

GREAT ideas! I particularly like #1 ("find the part of the idea that is uniquely you") and # 4 ("what does it mean to you? Write that").

Following those suggestions will help any novel evolve into something unique, a story that only you can tell.

You've totally inspired ME! :)

So glad this was helpful. It was helpful for me to write it. Can't wait to see where inspiration takes your work!

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