On December 22, 2019, viola03 wrote, Hi y’all, you may have noticed that I haven’t been as active on here lately, and that’s because I haven’t had a lot of time for writing because of school (I’m a high school sophomore). I’m hoping to write some over winter break, but I’ve run into a serious lack of inspiration. I do really want to write, but I’ve found that the inspiration for all of my WIPs has just ground to a halt. Any tips?
Melissa Mead kindly wrote, Welcome back! Gail’s posts have some great prompts.
And Writing Ballerina wrote, I get this sometimes too. You have a few options:
1) You can let them sit for a while until you feel refreshed. (Be careful with this one – I do this and then have the tendency never to feel refreshed. If this happens, let them sit until the details are fuzzy, then read them over with a reader’s eye and you’ll probably get excited about them a bit.)
2) You can add something random to spark things up and get the ball rolling (something like a green sea monster obsessed with raspberries or a random cat). (I did this a few times during NaNo.) This will help you write something, anything, and then the momentum of that writing (that will inevitably be cut later) can help you move on to the next plot point.
3) You can skip to a part that does excite and inspire you. There’s no rule that says a book has to be written chronologically.
And future_famous_author wrote, Read!!! Read a book that’s written really well. Read a scene from your favorite book. Watch a good movie. Or re-read something that you’ve already written.
Scroll through Pinterest. Look at the character inspiration pictures, and just keep scrolling. I got a really good idea for a story based on a picture that I found on Pinterest.
These are great suggestions! I don’t use prompts much for fiction, but I often do for poems.
Just yesterday, I finished teaching my annual writing workshop, on Zoom this year. Reversing the usual order of things, here are three prompts that I gave the kids that I don’t think have appeared here:
• Imagine the people who lived in your house before you did. Think about who they might have been, how they might have furnished it, what their hopes were. Put them in a story and use the house.
• In this version of “Sleeping Beauty,” the prince is the main character. His father, the king, has been captured by the evil Baron Von Roten. The ransom the baron requires is the pillow on which Sleeping Beauty has been resting her head for a hundred years. The prince has fought his way through the thorny hedge, but when he enters the castle, he discovers that it’s haunted. Write the final scene.
• Write the first scene for the prompt above.
Here’s a which-is-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg question: Which comes first, inspiration or writing?
I guess it depends on the writer’s process. But I’d wager writers get more done if writing comes first and inspiration follows. Here’s what I do:
• If I have to leave my WIP, when I go back to it, I reread the last chapter or two to see where I am. If I wasn’t in deep trouble when I put it aside, that’s usually enough to get me going.
• If I was in deep trouble, I’ll probably read from the beginning to see when my enthusiasm begins to wane. That’s the spot I need to focus on. What’s the problem there? Do the later scenes solve it? What else can I do? I’m always sad to cut lots of pages, but I do it if I need to. Getting to the root of the problem makes me happy enough to want to soldier on.
• When I can’t figure out how to fix a story, then I’m unhappy and distinctly uninspired. I write notes. I’m kind to myself about my daily writing time, but I do keep on with notes, dozens of pages of them sometimes. So far, I’ve always been able to get my story going again.
• If I suspended work for a month or more, I’ll also read from the beginning, because I’ll have forgotten too much. Rereading (and revising, because I can’t help myself) will start me up again.
(As an aside, I just wondered, since we have the word revise, was there ever a verb vise? My Oxford English Dictionary–OED–says yes! There was a verb vise with several meaning, having last appeared in print in 1587. How does that happen, for the do-over meaning to survive and the first-time-around meaning to bite the dust?)
Inspiration does come to me eventually. Over the many years, I’ve developed ways to find my stories, and I’ve talked about the ways here, but maybe not all of them.
• While I’m working on a novel, part of my brain is auditioning ideas for my next project. Usually, by the time I finish my WIP, my next book is in the wings, waiting for its cue.
• While I’m working on a novel, I read books connected with what I think may come next. Lately, since I’ve become interested in history, I’ve been reading history books. Both Ever and A Ceiling Made of Eggshells came out of reading.
• I maintain a state of receptivity to inspiration, so in a way I’m always trolling for ideas.
• I’ll leave my WIP, briefly, to write notes about a new idea that may sail through my brain.
• I save my ideas so that I can go back to them. I’ve mentioned more than once several fairy tales that intrigue me but I haven’t figured out enough to make them into a novel. Sometimes the gestation of an idea can take years, but I keep the germs on ice in my computer.
When I’m uninspired, I write anyway. My daily time goal goads me into it. Sometimes I don’t reach it, and then I forgive myself, but it’s there waiting for me the next day.
However, unless you have a deadline, unless you are absolutely committed to writing, I don’t think you should do it in misery. And even if you are absolutely committed, I still don’t think you–or I–should do it in misery. Take a vacation! Read a book! Swim the English Channel! Play solitaire!
Dip your toes back in the writing waters when you feel refreshed. Then see what happens.
I finished writing this blog yesterday, but today, in the shower, a relaxing place for ideas and inspiration to drop in, I started to list what I do and don’t like about writing.
Here goes, starting with the negatives:
• The isolation.
• Lacking a shared enterprise. My publisher puts out lots of books.
• How difficult writing is. I wish there were a potion to make it a little easier, one that wouldn’t rot my liver and didn’t contain eye of newt.
• I tell myself stories. This is the most important one.
• I love my stories to be read. And my poems. On the poetry side, I’m satisfied if only my poetry critique friends see them.
• I get better. There’s always more to learn about writing.
• I learn about whatever I’m writing about–the Middle Ages, Mesopotamia, ancient Greece.
• Contact with readers and other writers.
There’s no contest. For me, writing is much better than not writing. And that’s inspiring.
Try the three prompts above and/or this one: Write the circumstances surrounding the death of the word vise. Who was there? Was its end deliberate? Was there a trial? Did it plead for its survival?
Have fun and save what you write!