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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

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Ideas

So, You Need a Little Inspiration…..

…….and you’re stuck in place, unsure of which direction to go in.  It’s a frustrating and often suffocating feeling, not knowing what to do next.  Your creative project sits on your desk, silent and accusing, waiting for you to come back to it.

This is a familiar situation for me, and one that every creative experiences.  You’re not alone in this – always remember that.

When I’m stuck on a project, I like to travel.  Well, okay, thinking about traveling.  There are places I want to visit and just sit and be, soaking in the scenery, the sounds, the colors and feelings it brings up.  While I can’t travel to some places (yet), there are locations that are closer and more feasible to get to and enjoy.

However, sometimes I don’t even need that to jump-start my inspiration and creativity.

Here’s a creative challenge for you:

Pick a city anywhere in the world. It can be in Romania and have as its neighbor the castle of one of the most ruthless leaders of all time (Vlad Tsepes, aka the Impaler).  Or it can be an ancient temple in Greece, overlooking a beautiful beach and deep blue oceans. Or…..

Well, you get the idea.

Pick a city that pulls you into it, that inspires you to use all five of your senses, quickens those creative juices that pulse through you, makes you smile.  Even if you’ve never been there, you can utilize your own experiences to fill in the blanks.

For example – Secrets & Howls is set in a coastal village three hours north of San Francisco.  For various reasons, the closest I’ve ever been able to get is Morro Bay.  No two coastal villages are the same, as each town has its own unique personality.  However, the important elements are the same – the sounds of seagulls, seals, the ocean and harbor.  From this, I was able to build my own fictional coastal village, complete with lighthouse and jutting cliffs.

Utilizing all five of your senses and the creative medium you’re most comfortable with, pick a city and interpret it as best you can.  What comes up may serve your current project or inspire a new one altogether or both.  You never can tell.

Have fun. Happy creating.

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So, every story I write has its own journal…..

……where I can jot down every idea and thought related to it.  That journal goes with me as I go about my day – you never know when that illuminating idea will strike.  And I enjoy this process because it allows me to keep everything in one place and readily accessible.  I’ve got at least three journals for Novel Now Finished and I expect that it will be the same for the sequel.  Most of my novels (in progress or finished) have more than one journal to document my journey, from inception to completion.

Photo credit: Unknown. But I need this mug.

Writers a funny breed – we observe, we document, we report on our findings, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.  I even keep a story idea box, which has become the repository of random items I find in my daily travels.  And I keep everything – from scraps of old news clippings to a broken pair of glasses, that box is chock full of potential stories.

The more I write and read, the more I’ve learned to discern the voices of other writers.  What does that mean?  Well, if I listen to particular composer’s music often enough, I can find his (or her) musical signature in other compositions.  Same with a particular writer – their ‘voice’ and writing patterns become familiar and within a few seconds of reading, I’ll know who penned that particular piece of writing.

This is all a part of my education as a writer – the more I read, the more I enrich my writing.  And the more I journal the process, the better chance I have of either skipping a step that didn’t work previously or taking it in a new direction.

So, I’m working on Novel Now Finished revisions……

…….adding snippets of information back into the story and taking a section that’s summarized and make it into a full-fledged scene.  The snippets are back in, after a couple of tense hours of wrestling with phrasing and word placement.  That was easy compared to what I now have to do with the summarized bit that needs to be a full on scene.

First, I had to print out the pages that contain all that summarizing.  Why?  Because it’s long enough that it actually requires its own scene.  Therefore, it’s too long to remember it without hard copy to reference.  Having a hard copy makes it easier to transform the summary into an active scene.  I will most likely be writing this out in long-hand, in a hand dandy notebook that I keep in my backpack.  I don’t like carrying my laptop around for something that I’ll most likely be spending more time thinking about than writing about.

The Manuscript in Question.

Simple, right?

It gets complicated.

How does it get complicated, you ask?  It’s just a summarized form of the action, it should be easy to flesh out.  You’ve got a pen, a notebook, the printed copy of the necessary pages.  There are ideas swirling and creative juice going.

How is that complicated?

I’m glad you asked.

I still need to figure out who’s Point of View this is being told from.  Is it the retired captain?  The vagabond?  The lovesick girl?  The vampire in the basement?  Professor Plum in the library with the knife?

So many questions……

So, I’m slowly building my editing business…..

……and it’s starting to take shape.  I have a few potential clients and am creating a website designed for this purpose.  My portfolio is beginning to look respectable and I’m excited to see where this will take me.  Yes, it means taking time away from my own writing to help others shape theirs.  However, by tackling issues in someone else’s work, it will help clarify similar ones that I’m having with my own work.

Most of my work will be focused on managing website content for local businesses.  Keeping the information short, to the point and exciting helps direct traffic to their site and then to their business, which encourages cash flow.  Marketing pamphlets and press releases will also fall under the umbrella of my business.

Will I be tackling manuscripts?  Yes, and I’ve already got a couple of potential clients.  My own experiences with my editor taught me a lot on what to look for and what to ask.  My goal is to help the writer shape their work into the best possible story it can be.  Beyond that, is up to the writer.  Just like it’s up to me to push my work into published form.

As mentioned earlier, I’m excited to see where this business will take me.  It involves words, I love words and it’s something I’m very good at.

So, after six years with nothing but an idea…..

…….a time frame, and one chapter, I finally found the story to the sequel to Secrets & Howls.  If Novel Now Finished gave me insight to its own sequel (and it did), as well as the first couple of pages, then I feel confident that it also gave me a window into two characters that featured prominently in S&H.

And I’m excited about that, because I genuinely like these characters.  I’d like to get to know their story better, of how they met, how they became lovers and what led to their decision to have their relationship play out as it did.  The questions I have for them run deep and I suspect that more than one surprise will happen when I finally dig in.  Of course, there will be plot threads from S&H running throughout the sequel.  Those threads will be tying into different time-frames that I’d set up for the world of Wolf’s Head Bay.

Some threads will be tied into a neat and tidy knot, others will serve to create more questions to be answered in succeeding books.  As is my plan for my other series, I’m planning five books total for the village of Wolf’s Head Bay, with a few short stories thrown in.  I have an overview of how my supernaturally themed stories tie in to each other and I think that’s why I like them so much.  These stories have a kind of depth that is demanded of me, and so I throw everything into them, including the kitchen sink. [1]

I’m interested in seeing how this sequel turns out.  One scene meant for S&H is being utilized in this story, but with some minor differences.  I keep everything I write, in part because these cut bits are really good when I read them.  And they got cut because, as it evolved, these bits no longer served the story.  But I knew I could use them elsewhere.

And I did.  And now it’s time to find out what happens next.

What secrets lie hidden in this small, coastal village?

[1] Not really, but it feels like it.

So, I finished revisions on Novel Now Finished…….

…….and I feel pretty good about it.  Granted, I merged to short chapters to make a more robust single chapter, effectively losing one.  And I had to go through the tedious process of re-naming two minor characters and almost missed a couple of places.  Also, there was the general clean-up of the timeline and removal of dialogue that conflicted with said timeline.

The Manuscript in Question.

Still, it was well worth the effort and I feel very pleased.  As soon as I’m able and depending on availability, it then goes back to my editor with her laser gaze and keen intellect.  If it hadn’t been for her, I would not have gotten Novel Now Finished to its current state.

Now, as I set it aside once more to percolate, I’ve found myself thinking about two characters who appear only once.  They have a short scene that takes place in 1924 and both characters figure prominently in my first published novel, Secrets & Howls.

Outside the narrator of Novel Now Finished, they are my favorite characters.  I’m fascinated with their relationship, their passion and their places in the world.  In Secrets & Howls, they are older, wiser and still very much in love with each other, though they live their lives separately, a choice that seems to suit them.  In Novel Now Finished, they are young and impetuous, bold and secure.

I think they deserve their own story.  I want to get to know them and their world a little better and see how their lives unfold.  Maybe a short story, or a novella.  It needs to be something that will compliment the world I’m building.

Something to chew on, anyway.

So, I’m writing a series about location as muse….

…..on my Patreon site, which has been fun.  At the moment, I’ve written primarily about Morro Bay, due in part that it’s a stand-in for my fictional coastal town in Secrets & Howls.  I try to visit at least once a year for a couple of days, as my budget allows.  Sometimes, I’m very lucky and can make an extra trip.  When I drive into town, it’s like coming home.

There are a couple of other places that I will write about in this series, such as Long Beach and Monterrey, CA.  I’ll also write about the places I visited while touring Ireland last year.  It’s my belief that a place can inspire you the more familiar it gets – as you peel back the layers, you start to see the similarities among the differences.

Just as you do with people.

 

So, I’m enjoying the constant learning…..

……of my websites, from this blog to my Patreon page.  The joys of finding little things that make the process of posting a little easier.  Of being able to write as many posts as I want and not sharing them immediately, but scheduling them out a little at a time.  Of finding new ways to shape what I’m presenting to you, my audience, that will make you feel welcome and inspired and energized.

It’s not just the technical aspects, either.  The more I post, the more ideas seem to come out of thin air, some as solid and real as cotton candy, some with the substantive weight of a thousand pound horse.

Some of those ideas survive, some don’t, and that’s okay.

That’s known as process.

So, part of my goals for 2017……

…….is to write one blog post per day, with a minimum of five per week. In a previous post about this subject, I’d indicated that I wasn’t counting the first week, as I was considering it more of a dry run. After some thinking and mulling over, I’m going to alter that thought.

It takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to create a new habit. The best way to start is to go small – remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This makes the new habit easier to keep and when you’ve succeeded at establishing and keeping that new habit, you can build on it. Whether it’s becoming more physically active or learning a new language or even cutting out or reducing certain elements from your diet, taking small steps is better than not taking any at all.

To that end, my goal is to develop a habit of writing a blog post every day. It could be long, it could be short. Topics could range from something I’d been thinking about for years or just stumbled upon that day. Historical or current, books or films – if something about the subject resonates or is off-putting, I will find a way to put it down in words.

Hopefully, this will be helpful to you, that you find something in what I write inspiring or amusing or motivating. This is my opinion only, but artists of all backgrounds and disciplines want us to experience their work, be affected by it and come away with a new thought.

That can only happen if the artist puts in the time and effort to better themselves at their chose craft.

My decision to write a blog post every day is part of my effort in that discipline. This post is the seventh one I’ve written since January 1st. I suppose, technically, I could take a couple days off and still meet my quota, but that’s not how to create a new habit.

So – my goal is one post every day, no weekly minimum. There may be more than one per day, which is just fine with me.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t start on the first day of the year. The important thing is to find a goal you want to make for yourself, pick a date and start. Hold yourself accountable, find a support group, remind yourself why you are doing this and go for it.

You can do it. I believe in you.

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Recommended*:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

*To be updated as I find more relevant suggestions. JJB

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