Tag: ideas

Post-Writing Slump

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m in a slump.  Last week, I was on a major roll, writing every day, sometimes twice a day. When not writing, I was thinking about writing, researching history or backgrounds, or tweaking characters in head.  I wrote, and then edited, and pushed and finished a short story in record time.  AND it’s one I’m rather proud of.  However, once completed, I JUST COULDN’T WRITE ANY MORE.  I fiddled with pages, I tinkered with edits.  I threatened, cajoled, bribed, ranted, cried, pep-talked and everything in between.  Still no luck.  I used all my old tricks to get into writing – deadlines, timed exercises, partnered-writing, 5 minute flash.  Still nothing.

Now, when writing for “fun” this wouldnt’ seem an issue, but if one is planning on writing “seriously” (and I use both those terms with caution) then it’s a safe assumption that, just like you can’t wait for the mood to strike or the muse to visit, you can’t wait for the slump to pass.  And….still no luck.  I find myself working late, cleaning my house, cooking (and trust me, that is VERY rare), blogging, exercising; basically any and every thing I could do OTHER than write.   So with that desperately sad confession, let me throw open the doors and ask:  Suggestions anyone?

P.S.  “Pants. Chair.” Hasn’t really worked so far.  My fiendish self managed to wrangle free and is now running pants-less through the house. Scrub THAT image from your brain if you can.  🙂

And for your further entertainment:

 WritersBlock by Cyanide and Happiness - Explosm.net

Copyright of this image belongs to Cyanide and Happines – Explosm.net

Video Saturday – Advice to Writers – Amy Tan and Creativity

Today’s video (which is backdated because I’m running late again) is from Amy Tan’s TED Talk. It’s longer than my usual video clips at 24 minutes but is easy to listen to in the background while doing other things so I don’t want to hear any “I don’t have time” excuses. 🙂 It is an interesting discussion about creativity and where it comes from and the mystery of ideas and cosmological constants. So definitely worth a listen.

Amy Tan has written several bestselling novels, most famously, The Joy Luck Club. Also included are, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter and Saving Fish from Drowning. Her most recent novel Saving Fish from Drowning explores the tribulations experienced by a group of people who disappear while on an art expedition in the jungles of Burma. In addition to these, Amy Tan has written two children’s books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat (1994), which was turned into an animated series which aired on PBS. This last of which I have seen and is really very cute.

But, lets get to the video!  And as she said, “Near death is good for creativity, as is childhood trauma.” (If you what to know what THAT means…watch the video)

13 Creative Methods to Come Up With Story Ideas

Do you know what the worst part of coming up with ideas is?  It’s not getting the idea to start the story, though that looks hard.  It’s keeping the ideas flowing because a story is made up of many ideas.  So if you want to know “Where do you get your ideas from?” read on:

A green x-ray view of the gears and wheels turning inside a person's brain.


1.  Brainstorming.  Set a timer for 15 minutes and write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how crazy it sounds.  The most important part of this technique is to NOT filter.

2. Mind maps.  Mind maps are holistic way to unleashing creativity.  Pick a topic like “Things You Fear” and let it flow.  This was how I got my initial idea for my next book.

3. Prompts.  These can be anything from randomly combined elements to what ifs.  A writer at Marscon said he uses prompts to create free short stories to promote his books.

4. What if.  This is the most recommended way to come up with ideas.  Start with what if and fill in the rest.


5. Newspaper.  Anyone watch Law & Order?  The stories used real crimes from the headlines.  Don’t forget to read the obituaries, since these may have a rich source of unexpected ideas.

6. Images.  Images can be evoke powerful emotions. From 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story.

7. Read.  Ideas can come from what we read.  This great tip comes from Day Al-Mohamed on this blog.

8. Research.  Hitting the books can yield unexpected results.  I was researching death and ran across a reference to Lincoln’s funeral procession.  It changed the story in a unexpected way.

9.  Museum.  Museum exhibits have been a surprising resource for me.  Sometimes an interesting fact in an exhibit catches my eye and can be turned into an idea.


10.  Setting.  A great location can lead to great ideas.  For example, when I was coming up with my next story, I picked Virginia.  I started thinking Civil War, and that led to more interesting ideas.

11.  People.  Go to a mall and observe people for a while.  See what kinds of stories you can make up for the people descending the escalator.

12.  Experience.  Our own experiences, or the experiences of other people can be the sources of many ideas.

13.  Just write.  This is a very powerful tool.  I did a workshop with Allen Wold, and we had half an hour to come up with an opening for a short story.  Everyone came up with great ideas.

For you:  Okay, now you get to tell me the sources for ideas that I missed.  Share them below.

Where do you get your stories? No, not THAT question – a more important one

Bookstore by Imaginary GirlOne of the questions that is often asked of writers is, “Where do you get your stories?”  And one that is often met with significant eye-rolling and considerable patience.  However, this isn’t about THAT interpretation of the question.  One of the things that almost every published author I’ve met has advocated, is reading.  To write, you need to read.  If you love writing, then you likely love reading.  To improve your writing, you should read.

But what SHOULD you read?  How do you know WHAT to read?  With so many choices in today’s markets it can be difficult.  There are bookstore choices, friend choices, online Amazon ranking choices, reviewer choices, and other rating based choices as well as, darnit, just whether or not the book has a cool cover image.  I’m old enough (which is to say, not THAT old) to remember when genre fiction was maybe a few shelves or even just one case.  Now there are aisle upon aisle of genre books and more and more books are being made available online.  Including some, where the internet is their primary medium of distribution. In some ways, one could make an argument for new difficulties in the signal to noise ratio and all you can hear is “readmybook!readmybook!readmybook!”

So, how do you find books that you’ll love?  Inquiring Unleaded “minds” want to know.  🙂 How do you discover those little story gems that excite you and remind you why you wanted to write in the first place?

The long and short of it…

As is sometimes the case, I come to you today not with a solution but with a commiseration and a call for suggestions.

We all know that short stories, while great for establishing a reputation and supplementing your income, will never allow you to quit your day job. Or at least, that’s what I’ve always been told.  Well, lately, all I have been doing is short stories…and in talking with friends this weekend I began to ponder that.  See, I am long-winded. I have always found it easier to write 10 thousand words rather than to write 1 thousand. That, naturally, lead to novels and once started on that level of writing I didn’t look back.

I’ve got 2 finished and one mostly finished, as well as two planned out in my head. I’ve got hundreds of thousands of words committed to these ideas. So, why aren’t I working on them?
Novels are hard.Books and papers and madness!  At least that is what I came up with this weekend.

Novels are long term relationships, hot and heavy at the beginning, always comfortable, but work work work! There is the occasional torrid tumble in the hay, but more often than not you’re doing the dishes and trying to figure out if your character would really do what you just made her do. There is no easy, “hey I’ll call you sometime.” But there is always, “we need milk, and the cat puked again.”

That’s not to say they aren’t rewarding…because when they work out it is magical…I’m just warning you that it takes commitment on the level of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” proportions to begin one and get it over the finish line into an agent/editor’s hands.  Thus, my sudden attraction to short stories. These little cuties turn up in my brain, all decked out and ready to party…I write them and send them off with little hesitation (there is, afterall, no consequences to be dealt with if they are accepted). Even if they come back, rejected and a bit the worse for wear, I can still clean them up with a little effort and send them off to be someone else’s problem for a while.  I guess it is that instant gratification, be it rejection or acceptance, that is the true lure of short fiction…and the bane of novel writing.

So, having said that…what are ways we can challenge novel weary writers to take up the manuscript again and keep at it until it is done and beyond?

  1. A few tricks I use:
    1) Promise yourself short story time after you work on the novel.
    2) Only work on one chapter at a time, make it as much like a short story as you can.
    3) Take a break when you need a break! I haven’t worked on my novel in 3 months…as long as I am producing, I feel pretty good about my writing.
    4) Come up with a timeline for working on the novel…one month on/one month off, or even 10,000 words then take a break for 10.000 words or one short story (whichever comes first)

This is only a few thoughts…have you got any ideas? Share them in the comments.

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