One of the best things about writing is the way it surprises me, the way I sometimes look back on something I’ve written and think, “Did I write that?” This element of surprise reminds me that so much happens beyond our conscious state.
Here are several posts you might have missed that will inspire you to let go and find the story that lives in your subconscious.
In How to write in your sleep, I share some tips about using the power of sleep to find new revelations in your writing.
Read Trust in randomness and mine your subconscious with this writing exercise to see how you can use your subconscious and observational instincts to write a new poem or piece of flash fiction.
Become a prolific writer by harnessing creative flow offers tips to put yourself in a trance so you can immerse yourself in your writing world.
What is your favorite way to find creative flow?
Is there a short story you’re struggling to write? Sometimes, you have to let the story write itself. I generally like to have an outline of some sort before I start writing, but lately I’ve experimented by starting with a remnant of an idea, or a character, or even just one sentence or phrase.
I realized that with one of my stories, I was simply trying too hard. I was over thinking it. If you’re stuck, try letting go and having faith that your story will reveal itself.
Try these exercises to find your way into a short story:
1. Make a list of 60 first lines. Let the list sit for a few days or weeks. When you look at it again, see which ones resonate. Pick one and imagine the next line. Work on it a little very day, adding sentences and paragraphs. Some of the lines may never work into a story, others may inspire something new and you might find them taking you in new and unexpected directions. Read more
In my previous post, I wrote about the “Bad Sex Scene Award” and how NOT to get one.
In Elissa Wald’s article “The Do’s and Dont’s of Writing Erotic Fiction,” one “do” is to draw on all five senses when you write a sex scene.
One way to do this is to break down the scene as follows:
First, make a list of the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Then, think of the characters involved in the scene and your scene’s setting—where is the scene taking place? Bedroom? Living room? Tree house? Dining room table? Middle of the forest? Read more
If you ever feel stuck, out of ideas, or simply so busy you can’t fit in the writing time you wish for, know this: Your muse will reward you if you write anything at all in your notebook.
Something about writing even a word or describing an image reassures your subconscious that you’re present and engaged. By this very act of recording a snippet of conversation or a description of a scene, you’ll reinforce your connection to your writing self.
You’ll retain your momentum. You won’t feel such a gap in your writing practice, and your muse will present you later with ideas and images that you can use in your current or future writing.
Exercise: Double-check you’re carrying a notebook with you today. Maybe you’ll only have 20 minutes while you’re waiting for an appointment or 15 minutes while you wait to pick up a child from school. It’s enough time to write down an image, a description that might go in your current manuscript, or something you’ve observed as you go about the day. Write it down and then spend five or ten minutes letting your mind drift. Think about it and let it develop in your mind. I guarantee you’ll feel happier and on track with your writing, even if you don’t have as much time to write as you wish you did.
Your characters’ speech reveals volumes about their education, personality, and where they grew up. A character who was reared in the deep South will speak with a different accent and use different slang than one who grew up in the Midwest. When it comes to creating distinct characters in the readers’ minds, using slang — without overdoing it — can help form a character’s personality.
My friends and family have lived in a variety of places, so I’ve picked up on slang from the West and southern United States, as well as British slang from my friends who hail from the United Kingdom. My Midwestern friends say hot dish while my family in the Western U.S. call it casserole. Depending on where you’re from, you might say “pop” where others say, “soda” or “soda pop.” Some of my friends say sofa and others couch.
Here are several examples. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that slang can migrate as people move from one part of the country to another.
Here’s what my southern friends say:
Fit to be tied — frustrated, angry, agitated
Fixin’ – about or getting ready. “I’m fixin’ to go to school.”
Hunkey Dorey — everything is fine.
Hankerin’ for – a desire/craving for where my British friends might say they “fancied” something.
My British friends have been known to use these expressions: Read more
When a book instantly grabs me and draws me in, I like to go back later and analyze why. Sometimes, it’s the subject matter. Sometimes, it’s the narrator’s voice. Sometimes, it’s a simile or metaphor that hooks me. Always, it’s the strong writing. Strong writing means that the arrangement of words on the page “works.” Strong writing is an art that we can learn.
Many award-winning, best-selling authors have a secret weapon that helps them produce strong writing. That secret success weapon is the use of rhetorical devices.
Award-winning poet and author Jack Remick discusses his use of rhetorical devices in his interview with Joel Chafetz. He says that the devices all conspire to create a certain cadence in his work. He goes on to say:
…”it’s not enough to put the words down, that’s information. You have to make the words dance and rhetoric can make your words dance. Most people dismiss rhetoric but rhetoric cannot be dismissed. Rhetoric can give you rhythm, rhetoric can give you cadence, rhetoric can give your writing new life. So the writing in Blood is thick with rhetorical devices. And that’s what you’re picking up—the poetry of violence couched in rhetorical devices driving images at full speed so the story spins out ahead of you, drawing you along with each one.”
I’ve used rhetorical devices in my poetry for years–alliteration, assonance, similes, metaphors, etc. These are some of the more common devices with their definitions below: Read more
I believe you have to make your own writing inspiration rather than waiting for it to happen. I’ve found I can generate inspiration by being observant, reading, and by using writing prompts and freewriting. Even when I feel resistance, I find that if I just start, I surprise myself.
One of the most effective prompts I use is one in which I type or write in a notebook, “I remember.” Then I time myself for about 20 minutes and list everything I can think of. If you’re trying to access memories for a memoir or to spark a short story or poetry ideas, you’ll be surprised at what this exercise reveals.
The second step is to do the same thing with the phrase, “I don’t remember.” You might think, “how can I write about what I don’t remember if I don’t remember it?” Have faith. These prompts are a good way of letting go of writing resistance. These exercises, especially done together, have a way of revealing themes and emotional moments that will take your writing to a whole new level.
What are your favorite ways to warm up for writing or excavate new ideas?
For more ideas to nurture writing inspiration, read Carol’s post, Four ways to cultivate writerly inspiration.