Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad; whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.
- John le Carre
- John le Carre
This post is about where and how I come up with ideas for my short fiction and books in progress.
These days I've been lucky to have a constant stream of ideas which I keep semi-organized in notebooks. The muse isn't taking credit for this one. Not this time.
The back story:
I fell into the trap of the whole writer's block bulls***t in the past. It's like Ray Bradbury said: writer's block is when your brain tells you "I don't like you anymore." Which is one of the reasons why I took a break from writing and submitting. I lost the love of/for writing because I put too much pressure on myself to make this deadline and submit to this anthology and so on and so forth. Writing had turned into a hassle, a chore I had to get done, instead of it being a way for me to tell the stories in my head.
It wasn't all a negative experience, it opened up the doors for the freelancing design and illustration phase of my life. If I hadn't taken a break from my writing, I never would have landed any of the cool projects I was able to participate in. But anyway, that's for another blog post.
The truth is, even during the writing hiatus, I continued to jot down ideas. Then slowly those turned into a couple of lines of prose, then a paragraph, then flash fiction, you get the gist of it.
I rediscovered how to tell stories again.
Not because I wanted to submit to an anthology, but because it was fun to see a story evolve. During this time I only shared my work to close friends and some family.
And now I'm back on the wordsmith saddle again and I feel effing great.
I write what I want and make it available for mass consumption.
Either on Smashwords or my blog
My first release Sid Valentine has been downloaded a total of 176 times. The first week alone it hit 100 downloads. Not bad for an initial release and minimal marketing effort from a currently unknown writer.
I'm now sure how it works for everyone else but my ideas come from the strangest things.
While there is no secret formula, if I had to make one up for myself it would be something like this:
Formulas for R. Van Saint's brand of fiction
Asking "what if" + asking "what the f**k?" + defy logic (always) = my ideas
Be bold + experiment + break rules = my style
Practical application for these are:
1. Jot anything of interest down. Names of people, places, words. If it sounds good to me, it gets written in the journal.
2. Staying hyper-aware of surroundings. I can be sitting here watching the food channel and something strikes a chord, which in turn becomes a new storyline (this actually happened). Even my commute to work has turned to be a good source for ideas.
3. Observing people. The people you meet, the ones you barely know, the ones you see on the train but never talk to. The things you hear (especially dialogue). What they wear, how they smell. Mannerisms. The ones you love and those you loathe.
4. Reading it out loud. Not sure about everyone else but I put everything I write through a test - it has to read well. Funny, because I don't even podcast (yet, soon though). I'm just particular about how sentences and words flow. This is a part of my final editing process.
So there you have it kids, hope it gives you a bit of insight to how I roll. Feel free to toy around with your own formula as a response to my blog.
Today's post is inspired by an awesome chat yesterday via The Creative Alliance
If you enjoyed this post please consider posting the link on your site, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace. Comments are always welcome!
If you have an hour to spare, you can watch the vid below, it's where I got the Bradbury quote from.
4/26/2010 08:12:12 am
I am a big advocate for read-it-aloud after I write something. Even as a young writer, I learned a lot about myself as a writer by reading whatever I'd written out loud to my friends. Now that I podcast, I can actively get a picture of things that need to be edited in the next round draft, and it's incredibly helpful.
I can definitely relate to that feeling like you are always trying to play catch-up. My problem is there are so many amazing anthos and calls for stories that I want to try my hand at each and every one. Maybe I need to pace myself :)
4/26/2010 02:32:30 pm
Very cool you got back into the saddle. I myself have taken chunks of time off in my life to focus on other creative endeavours, but it I always come back to writing in the end. Good luck, and I look forward to reading more of your work and tracking your progress!
4/26/2010 04:25:22 pm
Wow, you actually have an equation... that's too organized for me. I tend to wing things in a lot of ways. My ideas are generally random and I'm mostly not sure where they come from. Perhaps it comes from some of the things you mention - I do tend to people watch, and observe my environment as a function of my being somewhat shy. But I don't really think about doing that specifically to get ideas. It's always interesting to me to hear how other writer's do it though!
4/26/2010 05:34:33 pm
Those are some great ways of getting ideas you have there, R. I always try and stay aware of my surroundings as much as possible because you never know where an idea might come from. I've gotten stories from seeing certain items of trash laying on the ground.
4/27/2010 12:44:15 am
I definitely do the jot anything of interest down thing. It can be particularly helpful in short stories, where a handful tidbits can make or break a story.
I love the formula. It appeals to the mathgeek in me. One of my favorite ways to accelerate the 'what-if' is to find mundane tasks where I can let my mind wander. Running, doing dishes, folding laundry... when we engage in comfortable daily routines, I think it gives our creative minds the freedom to wander.
5/7/2010 10:41:36 am
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