Posts Tagged ‘Writing blogs’

How Do Writers… Come Up With Ideas?

| How Do Writers... A Series of Practical Writing Guides

ideas

I sculpted opening sentences as I sorted spikey Velcro rollers at my job at the hair salon. I pictured my own name in print, as I sold books in WH Smiths. I noted customers’ dialogue as I worked the shop floor at Harrods. The words, jokes, settings, and characters built up in me until my ideas overflowed. I had to write a book.

Where do writers get their ideas from? Everywhere. Here are my top three places to hunt the muse:

1. Real Life

Write what you know, so the saying goes. And what do you know better than your own life? To me this doesn’t mean write a memoir (though you can certainly do that). More it means, what is your unique selling point? Apologies for the marketing jargon, but this is an important concept: what is it that you know that is distinctive or, as of yet, unwritten about elsewhere?

– What life event? John Green drew on his experience of being a student chaplain at a children’s’ hospital, to write about two teen cancer patients in The Fault in Our Stars.

– What location? The rugged Cornwall wreckers’ coast inspired Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn.

– What job? Kingsley Amis wrote Lucky Jim about the eponymous university lecturer, whilst working as an English academic himself.

– What person do you know? Mario Puzo said his inspiration for his main character in The Godfather, was his ‘wonderful handsome’, but ‘fairly ruthless’ Italian immigrant mother, who single-handedly raised her family of twelve in the New York slums. Badass.

2. Newspapers

Whether you’re reading about complex crimes, long lost loves being reunited, or domestic incidents playing out against global events, there’s a wealth of stimulus in newspapers. I keep copies of articles that I find intriguing. Newsworthy events are also a great way of pinpointing what’s of the zeitgeist. Publishers are keen on identifying this, because a book that captures a public spirit or moment often enjoys increased sales!

3. Images

A quirky image, whether a photo, a painting, a film, a TV show, or a postcard is a great jumping off point for ideas. Tell yourself a story about what you see: what’s happening? Who is this character? What will happen next? Write a line about it. Write a paragraph. Write a page. It’s a great way to get your mind to wander (in a good way!)

To paraphrase Wet Wet Wet, (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write): I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes. Ideas’re everywhere you go…

When I finally sat down in my late twenties to write my book, I had several false starts. Some manuscripts stretched into the tens of thousands of words, but no matter how promising they seemed at the beginning, they all petered out and ended up in the trash. What I had was an idea of a book: a vague notion of character, an opening scene, an impression of what I wanted it to be about. But something was missing: story.

Now I work as a professional reader for The Literary Consultancy, I appreciate how common it is for writers’ first books to lack story. A good old fashioned yarn, with a beginning, a struggle, and a triumphant, or otherwise, end.

Ideas are good, but they are only the first step. Ideas are bricks. Play with them. Then use them to build something bigger. Use them to build your story. Use them to build your book.

 

Where do you get your ideas from? Share your own tips in the comments below.

Catch up on How Do Writers…Write A Book? here. And check back for the next instalment: How Do Writers… Tell A Story?  

My crime thriller Follow Me is published by Avon December 2015.

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How Do Writers… Write A Book?

| How Do Writers... A Series of Practical Writing Guides

Imagine the scene: It’s a house party, the kitchen surfaces are covered in scraped plates, lipstick marked glasses, and bottles of wine, some still wrapped in the fancy tissue paper from the deli by the station. Beyoncé is blaring from the sound system in the lounge. Our plucky Writer only came in for a top up, but has been cornered by the feared predator: BOOK BORE.

BOOK BORE knows they’ve caught a Writer. It has them between the beers and the pimento stuffed olives. There’s no escape. They’re going to tell the Writer their BRILLIANT IDEA for a book. For hours.

 

The BRILLIANT IDEA is something that happened to BOOK BORE that no one else would care about. Like that time Marks and Spencer ran out of tights, or the thinly veiled story of BOOK BORE’s career in accounting. And then they ask the Writer to sign a legal document protecting the BOOK BORE’S BRILLIANT IDEA, because it’s so good they’re convinced everyone will steal it.

Scary huh? The saying goes we all have a book in us, but for many it should stay there. How do you know if your book idea is worth writing? A good indicator is not spending decades just boring poor, unsuspecting victims about it. Writing a book takes more than an idea. You need time, characters, a genre, a tone, a setting, tension, dialogue, a narrative arc, a structure, and a story…

When you first put pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, it can seem daunting. Which is why I’m writing this series to tackle the aspects of writing people often struggle with. My first person present tense memoir of my time in the fashion industry, Confessions of a Fashionista (Ebury), was an Amazon Fashion Chart number one bestseller, and the first of my crime fiction series, Follow Me (Avon), will be published this December. I will draw on the mistakes I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned, and hopefully give you some great tools, tips and tricks.

Some will be common issues: like how to start, how to write dialogue, how to find time to write, and how to write a synopsis. But I also plan to tackle some of the challenges writers’ face that aren’t so frequently discussed: like how to make money from writing, how not to get jealous of others’ success, and how to look after your body (it’s the main tool we use to write, but too often we take it for granted).

But in the meantime, let’s get back to basics. How do writers write a book? There’s no magic formula. We just do it. Don’t be the BOOK BORE, be the Writer. It’s time to start.

What do you think? How do writers write a book? What kinds of topics would you like to read about with regards to writing? Let me know in the comments below.

And check back for the next instalment: How Do Writers… Come Up With Ideas?

My crime thriller Follow Me is out December 2015.

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