There are two key ingredients to being a good writer – skill and imagination. You can be the most accurate and precise writer in the world but if your stories are boring and predictable you’re not going to wow publishers or readers. In my little ol’ personal opinion I think that inspiration and creativity in writing is what makes a good writer – the editing process can be taught, but being creative – well that spark has to be there in the first place. So here’s how to fan that spark into an out of control forest fire that consumes all it touches…
Talk to other writers and creative individuals. Yet another reason to join a local writers’ group. Chatting through ideas and generally debating current topics can spark creativity beyond your wildest imaginings. If you are struggling on the end or beginning of your story – throw it out there, a new perspective will help you get where you need to be. But don’t just be a taker – make sure you give as much creativity as you’re getting. I regularly spit ball with fellow writers and love nothing more than to float ideas and see where they take us.
Your unconscious mind is veritable cornucopia of crazy – perhaps the only thing that links all the people of this world together is that we all have strange disjointed dreams. Taking a note of your dreams can birth stories – obviously trying to get them down verbatim is not going to get you anywhere, but using images and especially certain feelings and concepts can grow into a seed of an idea. I actually got inspiration for my story ‘Letting out the Heat’ featured in Blood Bound Books’ Night Terrors 2 anthology by having a rather nasty dream on a hot restless night.
Write what you want to read
Read. Read. Read! I cannot stress this enough…READ! A writer who doesn’t read their genre is like a chimp in a tutu –only funny once, and God only knows how he got in it. You must read the books in your chosen genre. Only by having an appreciation for the authors already mastering this industry can you then embark on conquering it yourself. You could also put it down to the old adage ‘Know your enemy’. Knowledge is a powerful thing and only by knowing what is already out there can you write something different (or with a twist) and compete with your competitors. You’ll also then get a sense of what’s missing – a story you would want to read. Write the story that you long to read, but no one has conjured up yet.
Eaves dropping and people watching
This sounds awful – but it really works. It’s one of the main reasons that a lot of writers tend to favour coffee shops as their primary writing location. Listening to snippets of conversations then imagining the people behind them, and how things continue, can help to create facets of your work and even become main themes. The other bonus is that you can base characters (loosely) on the people you see and hear. Your characters then automatically have a sense of realism without you having to flesh them out too much.
Photos and paintings
Going to galleries and searching online for images can really focus your mind. They say that pictures are worth a thousand words and I believe that this is down to the fact that they are subjective to the beholder. We could both look at the same painting but both see two entirely different story lines being played out. Try to avoid famous paintings or photos that you have knowledge of; instead seek out the unknown and let your imagination wander free.
Do keep a journal of all your ideas and writing thoughts. This sounds a bit pretentious and time consuming but, believe you me, you’ll forget something if you don’t. Storing up all these ideas means that you have a larder to go back to when you need something. I tend to use a folder on my laptop for this rather than physical journal that can be lost or destroyed. I come up with an idea, create a word document and copy and paste info in there along with my thoughts. I then back this folder up on a memory stick along with all my other work.
Write to order
This works wonders. Have a look at publisher call-outs and editors’ wish lists and see what they are looking for. Not only does it instantly give you a possible home for your work, but also a deadline in which to get it across. I do this a lot and find it really motivates me to ‘think outside the box’. My story ‘Fountain of Flesh’ included in Dark Moon’s ‘Vampires!’ anthology was down to them specifically asking for something that, so far, had not been done with vampires – a hard task right? So I pondered it for a bit, then wrote a story that featured a vampire that wasn’t actually a conscious participant in the tale but was still the catalyst for the bad thing to happen.
Looking at the current call-outs fairy stories are a real favourite. Once upon a time there was a blog….