As bits and pieces of our lives return to normal, I’m writing every day. My latest project is The Vanishing Girl, book four in the Darkwater Cove series, which will hit Amazon in mid-July.
Readers occasionally ask for a peek behind the curtain at my methodology for creating stories.
How I Write
The most common question I receive is whether I prefer to write “from the seat of my pants” (make the story up as I go along) or write from an outline.
Neither. I’ve tried both. Story beats work for me. What I prefer to do is write a brief synopsis of each chapter, key scenes I envision, and clues which help readers zero in on the evil dude causing all this havoc.
This methodology works for me because it keeps me focused and shows me the light at the end of the long tunnel (writing the first draft of a novel takes 60 to 90 days at my pace), while allowing flexibility. If a much better idea or twist occurs to me, I simply alter the notes and carry on.
I’m about 55% through the first draft of The Vanishing Girl. As soon as I finish the draft, I’ll do a second draft and revise the prose, add description where it is lacking, pull unnecessary information, clean up errors, and generally try to make the sentences “flow” better. The next step is a strict proofreading draft, after which I turn the novel over to my editor. These revisions typically take two to four weeks to complete. Then I’m ready to publish.
What do I do while the editor reviews my manuscript? I start the next project. This keeps me busy (and out of trouble).
7 Unconventional Ways to Kick-Start Your Creative Writing
You’re probably in search of that elusive muse or struggling to break out of a monotonous routine that’s stifling your creative juices. Don’t sweat it; you’re not alone. Every writer—from novices penning their first haiku to seasoned authors crafting their next bestseller—experiences writer’s block or a creative slowdown at some point.
But guess what? I’ve got a handful of off-the-wall ideas to kick those creative gears into overdrive. Buckle up and let’s dive in!
1. Flip Your Routine Upside Down
A little shake-up can go a long way. If you usually write in the mornings, try writing at night. If you’re glued to your desk, go outside and let Mother Nature be your co-author for a bit. Write standing, sitting, or heck, even lying down. A change in routine can do wonders for your perspective.
2. Use a Non-Dominant Hand for Journaling
It sounds bizarre, but stick with me. Writing with your non-dominant hand engages the opposite hemisphere of your brain. Since the act is more difficult, it slows you down and makes you think differently about each word you jot down. The results can be astonishingly insightful and might give you fresh material or angles to explore.
3. Take a ‘Sensory Fast’
Take some time off from one of your senses. Spend an afternoon blindfolded, for example. It might seem like a dare from a reality show, but immersing yourself in a ‘sensory fast’ amplifies your other senses. Listen to the sounds you often ignore, feel the textures around you, and really taste your food. The sensory overload can flood you with descriptive words and ideas you might never have considered before.
4. Dabble in a Different Genre
If you’re a romance writer, why not try your hand at science fiction? Or if thrillers are your jam, how about a jaunt into comedic satire? Mixing genres can free you from the limitations of established norms and awaken your creative synapses. Even if the result isn’t a masterpiece, the exercise can help you bring a new flavor to your usual style.
5. Talk to Strangers (Safely, of Course)
Strike up a conversation with someone you wouldn’t usually talk to—a barista, an Uber driver, a person sitting next to you on the train (while being mindful of social cues, of course). You’ll be surprised how much inspiration you can draw from random discussions. Just one new perspective or story can offer you a plethora of ideas for your next project.
6. ‘Yes, And…’ Your Way to Creativity
This is an improv technique that encourages open-mindedness and creativity. Start with a simple sentence or idea and then ‘Yes, And…’ it to explore it fully. For example:
- Sentence: A cat walked into a bar.
- Yes, And: The bartender was a dog.
- Yes, And: They are part of a secret society of talking animals.
- Yes, And: They’re meeting to discuss the looming interspecies conflict.
See? From a basic sentence, you can develop a complex, multi-layered story just by being open to expanding your original thought.
7. Commit to ‘Bad Writing’
This might seem counterintuitive, but there’s something liberating about giving yourself permission to write badly. It silences the inner critic long enough to let the creative child within you run wild. Afterward, you can always go back and edit—but you can’t edit a blank page!
8. Embrace Randomness
Open a book at a random page, pick a sentence, and use that as your starting point. Or put a bunch of words in a hat, draw a handful, and craft a story using all of them. Roll dice to determine the number of words in your next sentence. Random inputs can help your brain think in unpredictable ways and create connections you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Plus, it’s kind of fun to let the fates decide your writing path for a little while!
Now, armed with a smorgasbord of quirky, unconventional tricks, you’re ready to tackle your next creative endeavor. Don’t forget, the aim is to have fun and let your creativity flow, not to pen the next Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (although, hey, if that happens, more power to you!).
So, there you have it. The next time you find yourself staring at a blinking cursor or an empty notebook page, give one (or more) of these tips a go. Who knows? You might just stumble upon the seed of your next epic tale.
Happy Writing! ✍️📚