I get a lot of people asking me for advice on writing, which surprises me because if I’m totally honest with you I don’t feel I’m an authority on the subject. I think of myself as sort of…under construction. I’m still learning, I’m still making mistakes – regularly, since I’m a ‘trial and error’ girl. It’s a careless approach, and it’s as close to living on the edge as I’ll ever get. Please don’t judge me too harshly.
In terms of advice, there are four common questions I’m asked. So I figure I should confess the truth of the situation.
One common question is, ‘How do you organize your ideas?’
If I was to tell you that I have an effective process, I’d be blowing smoke up your arse. The truth is, I don’t have a process. I have no organizational skills. I find order in chaos. My ideas are jotted down on memos, stray sheets of paper, and in lots of numbered notebooks. Many of the ideas may never come to anything. But sometimes they do. Sometimes I’ll be writing a book and feel like something’s missing, and then I’ll think of adding an idea I had in 2013 – then I have to find where the hell I jotted it down, which can be a trial. But once I find it, something can ‘click’ into place. A great example is the ‘anchor’ idea in my Dark in You Series. I had it years ago, but I wasn’t sure what preternatural breed would ‘fit’ the idea until I sat down to write ‘Burn’. The demons wouldn’t be the same without the anchor element.
Another question I’m asked is, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’
I wish I could tell you I have inspirational dreams or see ideas in cloud formations or something. The truth is that usually they boringly just ‘pop’ in my head – it’s not that simple, though. It’s not a complete story. My muse makes me work for it. I have to jot down that tiny idea and explore it until it grows into something substantial. Some of the ideas that ‘pop’ into my head don’t always seem interesting, and I’m tempted to put them aside, but I don’t, I still explore them. Because sometimes those little ideas become something worth writing about. Take Feral Sins, for instance. I wasn’t all that intrigued about the concept of a fake mating, but that book seems to be a favorite amongst my readers.
The third common question I’m asked is, ‘Are your characters based on real people?’
I guess it would be easier if the characters came to me already so well-developed, but they don’t. Sometimes they’re like Harper Wallis from Burn – just a concept of a person, a shadow. Other times – like with Taryn Warner in Feral Sins – they’re almost fully developed. Whatever the case, their personalities and their appearances exist and grow only within my imagination…which basically means I hear a lot of voices in my head, but it’s important to have friends.
Now we come to the final question that I’m asked a lot… ‘How do you plot your storylines?
Well, if I was to claim that I can plot, I’d be chatting bullshit. That’s right, I can’t plot. Oh, I try. I give it a go. But my imagination never stays on course. So I’ll start with a sort of outline, but I always deviate from it. I don’t mind, though, because I get more of a buzz from writing when it’s unplanned; when I have no idea what I’m going to write that day until I switch on my laptop. If I know how a book will begin, play out, and end, I’m not interested in writing it.
I confess I’m still very much under construction. I have no organisational skills, no techniques to boast of, no wisdom to impart, no inspiration from the things around me, and no success at my sad attempts to plot. I have little by way of constructive advice to offer, but here’s what I do have:
1) Write everything down. Every idea, every seed of an idea, every intriguing thought, because even if it doesn’t result in a book, it can be added to another book later on and make that a whole different story, like with ‘Burn’ and the anchor thing.
2) Read and write. And read and write and read and write. It will help you develop your style and keep your imagination fed.
3) Try to write a little something every day…even if it’s only handwritten notes. It keeps those creative muscles well-stretched. And sometimes when you start scribbling those notes, an idea can come to you that will help with a block you may have.
4) Don’t worry too much about the technical aspects of writing. Courses will tell you that you need a little of this, a little of that, lots of this, and a pinch of that, etc. etc. – like these things are ingredients for a pie or something. Maybe it annoys me because I dislike cooking. Whatever. For me, they take away some of the buzz of writing. My first drafts are always me telling myself the story – it concentrates more on the characters and the sequence of events that unfold. Then I worry about all the technical stuff. So if your first drafts are feeling sort of flat, maybe you could try just telling yourself the story first.
So…now you know the truth. Let’s keep it between us though for now, okay? 🙂
© Suzanne Wright