"WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?" An exceedingly short discussion of my creative process.
Although I am not a famous author (yet), I still get asked this question quite frequently. The short answer is “Lots of places”. The longer answer would also be “lots of places”, but with some detail. I’ve gotten story ideas from, in no particular order; my life, chance encounters, overheard conversations, current events, people saying ‘You should write about (fill in the blank), television, even newspaper or magazine articles.
The point is you have to pay attention to the world around you because ideas are everywhere. For example, in my book “The River”, there’s a mysterious parade of animals in the middle of the night. This came from something I read years ago about how animals will flee before a forest fire with little regard for their proximity to their natural enemies. When I first worked on the short story that eventually became the novel, I wondered what it would mean if this behavior took place without the threat of a fire. What would it mean? Could it happen? What would cause it. Eventually it became a scene in the book.
In my short story “Dark Glasses”, I was in a store trying on sunglasses and it suddenly occurred to me how cool it would be if I found a pair that allowed me to see the future. Voila! A story was born. I have a short story that’s currently about half done that I started after watching one of those paranormal shows on TV. You know the ones I’m talking about; they play a tape that purportedly is of some otherworldly being. I hear “Hisssssssssssss, ahhhhhhhhhhh”, but the guy on the show always says something along the lines of “Did you hear that? He said ‘Four score and seven years ago…’ It’s the ghost of Abraham Lincoln!!” That became the basis for the story, but it has a couple of plot twists that exist only in my imagination.
The bottom line is I get my ideas from anywhere and everywhere. I would guess most writers would tell you the same thing. They’re out there, floating around in the cosmos. (The ideas, not the writers) The difference between writers and non-writers is the writers have finer-tuned receivers.
AH, THE BEST-LAID PLANS....
What you plan to do and what you actually do are sometimes two completely different animals. I found that out this week -although I already suspected- when I decided to put three current writing projects on the back burner to dive into my new novel. After a couple of days of work on the new project, I realized that I wanted to do a lot more research on the back story to make the rest of the story ring true. Since the research involves a day-long trip to north-central Connecticut, I decided to put it off because we have a graduation party - a double graduation party, actually -coming up next weekend. While I'm there, I hope to get my cover photo done, too.
This morning, I woke up with a really good story idea. So, since I'm not working on the novel for a short time, I thought this would be a great story line to turn into a short story in the meantime. And, since there are a couple of short story contests coming up in July, I figured the timing was perfect. So I got up and started writing. Almost all the short story contests I see are looking for something between 2,000 and 4,000 words. Now I know why I've never entered a short story contest: I wrote close to 5,000 words today and I'm barely into the story.
I think I need to learn the art of brevity...
GOING IN 15 DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS...
Being an independent author has its advantages and its drawbacks. On the plus side are things like being in charge of how your project is handled and a much quicker time to market, while on the negative side are the obvious ones like not having a big company backing you. To me, the biggest positive (having complete control over your project) is also the biggest negative. I write, and that's what I want to be doing. Unfortunately, though, I'm forced to wear a lot of different hats: Author, Editor, Publicist, Marketing Guru, Agent, Publisher - everything to do with my book has to be done by me. In the last week I've run two different marketing campaigns, two contests, made a public appearance, made a book trailer (that's on YouTube; shameless plug), started work on a new Kickstarter campaign, designed and ordered two sets of marketing materials, written a few blog posts, and worked on the materials for an email writing course I'm taking. About the only thing I haven't found time to do is write. There has to be a better way, right? Ah, the life of the independent author...
Recently, my younger daughter attended her orientation at the University of Hartford. The first thing on the agenda was a presentation (for lack of a better word) by a guy named Ed Gerety. When he first started talking, I thought he was a stand-up comedian; a very good stand-up comedian. But, it turns out that he's a motivational speaker. A very good motivational speaker. Now, to be perfectly clear, I'm the absolute last person in the world who has any interest in hearing a motivational speaker. I think 95% of what they say is crap, feel-good garbage that doesn't work. But, as I was sitting there listening to Mr. Gerety, I found myself being drawn in. Then I found myself buying in. He convinced me, or converted me, or however you want to say it. I believed.
One of the things he talked about is something he called a dreamboard. It's a pretty simple concept, really. You make up a poster board with a picture of your goal smack in the middle. It could be anything you want; a car, a vacation spot, whatever you aspire to. (I don't think a picture of a supermodel would be appropriate, guys.) How about a picture of a Grammy if you're a musician? An Olympic medal for an athlete? It can be whatever you want. (Yeah, except the supermodel.) In my case, it'll probably be a picture of either Cinderella's Castle or Spaceship Earth. They both make me happy and I'd love to go back to see them up close and personal. The point is, decide what you want to achieve and then hang your dreamboard in a prominent place so you see it every day. It can't hurt.
FIRST DAY OF SUMMER, etc...
There aren't too many things that make me happier than warm weather, or too many things that make me more miserable than the cold. I'm not saying I like it when it's 98 with 95% humidity, but even that is better than 12 with a wind chill of -4.
I haven't seen a hummingbird yet this year even though my feeder has been out there for over a month, but I have been seeing a lot of fireflies lately, so that's kind of cool. And there are a few tomatoes in my "garden", which is basically 9 or 10 random plants in funky-colored pots (I painted some faded terracotta-colored ones I had lying around). The garden is on the front deck, so whenever I want to sit out there I say, "Molly, do you want to sit in the garden with daddy?" and she runs to the front door. (Molly's the dog, in case you didn't know).
On the writing front, I've actually been doing nothing but marketing for the past week or so. I've been pitching IRIS to agents, updating and improving my website, and making two videos; a book trailer for Iris and a new Kickstarter movie. I'm hoping to raise enough money to do some sort of book tour (or several mini tours) around New England to promote all three books (and whatever project(s) I finish in the meantime), maybe this fall. I also did a reading/book signing the other night (Thank You to the folks at the North Scituate Public Library -especially Rachael!!- and all who attended) and I'm booked to make an appearance at the North Scituate farmers' market in September.
That's it for now. Until next time....
YOUR CHANCE TO WIN ONE OF MY BOOKS ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!!
What's better than FREE? Not much, right? I'm running 2 promotions currently - "10 BOOKS IN 10 DAYS" on Goodreads.com
(Just go to their site and you'll be able to enter). From July 1 until July 10, 1 lucky reader will win a copy of their choice of "Dark Glasses and Other Tales", "The River", or "Iris".
And, between June 17 and July 31, anyone who leaves a comment on this site ('Contact' tab) will have their name entered into a drawing for a free book. 3 lucky readers will be chosen and may select any of my three books.
THERE IS NO COST TO ENTER EITHER CONTEST. EVERYTHING, INCLUDING SHIPPING, IS INCLUDED IN YOUR PRIZE.
My book signing - slash - reading is scheduled for this Wednesday, June 19 at the North Scituate Public Library. I stopped by the library the other night to look around and (hopefully) get a feel for what type of program the library was looking for. What I found out was that it's basically up to me what I do. I was trying to decide how much I should read and how much time I should allot for the book signing and possibly some Q&A. I suppose over the next couple of days I'll practice reading aloud from my new book, IRIS, and get a feel for how long it takes to read 'X' chapters.
I'm really looking forward to this event. Hopefully the turnout will be good (and include some non-relatives!!!).