If it’s broke, fix it!

I’m struggling with my NaNo word count. I’m way behind, and see no breakthroughs ahead that will bring me up to speed.

I hate this book.

I love the plot idea and the small bits of events I have planned. But there’s nothing tying them together . . . I need more subplots and segues. I’m just jumping from scene to scene. The characters are flat (the nice guys are just NICE and the bad guys are just SLEAZY). They’re all one dimensional.

I started writing novels in 1994. I never outlined, I didn’t plot . . . I did do some extensive character development, however. But I started writing with one goal: to get A and B together, or A to meet B – there was always an end result in mind. In the process, my characters spoke to me. They went places I never expected. Yes, I edited a lot. I cut hundreds of pages from the final stories. But I could also crank out as many as 50 pages in a day. I was driven.

But my writing has taken a turn. I’ve since taught high school English and become a grammar-nazi. God forbid I should misplace a comma. And in the evolution of all this, I’ve lost my emotion. My heart. My guts. Like the talented violin player who is technically gifted, but her playing has no heart, neither does my writing have any heart.

And that is heart-breaking to me. It makes me want to quit. To give up this dream of writing books I’ve had since first grade.

I complained to my daughter-in-law about this problem last night—how I used to be able to write by the seat of my pants and miracles happened. The one book I tried to plot took me ten years to write. The other four took just a few weeks each.

She said,

“You’ve changed. You’re not the same person you were 18 years ago. So you need to change how you write.”

CARAMBA! Is this a teachable moment? An epiphany?

I need to change how I write.

I understand this is a defining moment for me and my writing. If I can embrace this notion, maybe I’ll get my writing mojo back.

And maybe I can finish NaNo this year.

But I should be…

When I was in high school, I wanted to read all the time. Which is great, except I didn’t read. I wanted to read Lord of the Rings or a James Bond story or some other contemporary book, but I was supposed to be reading Shakespeare or The Catcher in the Rye or Beowulf. So I ended up feeling guilty about not doing my studies and punished myself by not reading what I was assigned to read, nor reading what I wanted to read, either. Result = reading nothing.

Forty years later, I’m still suffering from the same crux. I want to write, but I have a million things I should be doing. My 90-year old house is crumbling around me and needs serious work. I’m a hoarder and I’ve got to start purging. I’d like to pick up a book, because I love to read and all writers need to read everything they can. I have a day job and I need to spend some time learning some new skills for it.

But, the house isn’t getting renovated. Once every couple of weeks, I do manage to fill a garbage bag or two. Sometimes I get to the library and check out a book, or read something by a friend. The job skills, well… they’re still on the list of undones.

And the guilt lingers (no, I’m neither Catholic nor Jewish, but I could be). I’m making no progress on my life, nor am I making any progress on my writing. I was excited when I started my blog. I thought it would get me back into the writing habit and wonderful things would happen. But I wrote 2 entries and ran out of ideas.

And there, as Shakespeare would say, is the rub. Has my creativity dried up? Are the ideas gone? Or am I just overwhelmed with the other stuff? I’m not sure I can, or I’m ready to, answer those questions. But I do know one thing. There’s only one thing I should be doing.

I should be writing.

What have you done to spark your creativity? Get some ideas? Start the words flowing again?

http://shankman.com/how-to-find-your-lost-creativity/

http://grammar.about.com/od/yourwriting/a/wblockquotes.htm

You got that idea from where??

One of the most frequent questions any author will hear is “Where do you get your ideas?” And while the specifics of their answers will vary, the theme for all is the same: Life.

Every conversation you hear, event you see (small or significant), tidbit you read, experience you have… all of these can spark an idea. It depends on your interests, your background, your thoughts and emotions. And like the tiniest sapling, it will flourish and grow until it forms a mighty oak.
(Okay, that was a really bad analogy, but I liked this image I found. Which serves to prove my point about inspiration. I didn’t say all of it had to be good.)

During an adult-ed creative writing class at Jacksonville University, one of my fellow students wrote a descriptive passage about the area that was so beautiful, I thought “I can do that!” and wrote a novel based on a nearby town. I’ve also found story ideas in letters to Dear Abby, snippets of overheard conversations, and even from well-meaning friends who said, “You should write about…” I’ve written novels involving hitchhiking (yes, I did that), house renovation (I’m still doing that), and spouse trading (I didn’t do that, but I probably felt like it once or twice).

Oddly, if you read those books today, you probably couldn’t find any of those inspiring moments in them, because they evolved and changed in the process. But one thing all successful writers will tell you, you have to get the words on paper. We all know the person who “is going to write a book someday”, but it can’t happen unless the words hit the paper.

So if you are an aspiring writer, start listening, reading, paying attention. You never know what might spark that next idea. And for my reader friends, the next time you read a novel and think, “I wonder where that idea came from?”, well… you just never know.

For more thoughts on where writers get ideas, check out these links: Where Do Authors Get Story Ideas? and Where Do Writers Find Their Ideas?  Meanwhile, share your thoughts! Where did your best idea come from?