Nine ideas for inspiring writing

Mum and I are both authors – she writes fiction and I write non-fiction.

In deciding what to contribute for a guest post, I asked mum what subject she would find most useful. She answered that her greatest challenge was coming up with new ideas.

I can certainly relate. I often struggle with generating ideas for my blog. In today’s world, where we self-publish online in blogs and social media, producing fresh content on a regular basis can be quite challenging.

So, mum gave me the idea of writing about… well, ideas and how to get them. Here’s nine to start the conversation, I’d love to hear your ideas too.

Ask your audience.

It may be helpful to ask your target audience – for me, that’s other writers – what they would like to read. If an audience member suggests a subject (like my mum did) other readers will probably relate too.

Tell the story again.

American journalist Barbara Grizzuti Harrison said: “There are no original ideas. There are only original people.” Even if a subject has been covered a thousand times, you have a unique voice and perspective. As a writer, your voice is your greatest asset. So, be yourself, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Start tweeting.

If you’re a writer, you have to be on twitter. Twitter is like Disneyland for us. There are so many wonderful people and so much great content, it’s a virtual treasure chest of ideas.

Share a secret.

In her autobiography, Australian publishing icon Ita Buttrose disclosed she was once so angry with a former boss that she wrote his name on a piece of paper and stuck pins in it. This confession not only surprises the reader but shows Ita’s humanity. Readers empathise with human frailty. The truth is very powerful.

Think like a journalist.

If you generally write opinion in your blog – and most of us do – get inspired by journalism. You could produce a feature about a local event or interview a person relevant to your readers and write a Q&A piece.

Explore a new genre or medium.

Writers are artists, we use words like a sculptor uses clay. Experimenting with a different genre or medium can be fun and produce some interesting content too. If you usually write non-fiction, why not try fiction? How about photography or producing a video? You may even discover a hidden talent or passion.

Voice your views.

Share your thoughts about news and current affairs. Even if everyone is talking about the Royal Wedding, for example, you bring a distinctive voice to the conversation.

Find inspiration in the everyday.

French author Anais Nin said: “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” A poem on a fridge, a conversation with a friend, a sentence in a book – all have inspired ideas for my blog.

Don’t Google it.

The first thing writers tend to do is research. But if you Google your idea, you’ll find it has already been written about. So, just write from the heart. Even if the idea is unoriginal, you are an original person. Your writing will be original if you write first and Google later.

This post was originally written for American publishing house Our Little Books. Our Little Books is dedicated to producing educational, inspirational and fun little books with a big message. You can follow @ourlittlebooks on twitter or like Our Little Books on Facebook. Here is the orginal post: Nine ideas for original writing

The strange truth about fiction

“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” Mark Twain

One of my tweeps  – if you’re not on Twitter, let’s just call him a friend – sent me a link to the opening chapter of his first book tonight. And it’s a corker.

Written in the first person, it tells the story of a father who finds out his two children have just been killed. It shook me to the core. I immediately presumed it was a true story. I messaged my condolences. Before telling him I thought his writing was brilliant.

Only it wasn’t a true story. It was fiction. And it got me thinking about truth and fiction. I’ve always believed the truth is far more interesting than fiction. But maybe it isn’t?

I’m planning my autobiography in my head at the moment. Exploring in my mind what I’ll share and what I’ll keep secret. I was going to write only the truth. Bare my bones on the pages. But now I’m thinking … maybe I’ll add in a fictional element. Maybe I could just use my life as a starting point. But then I can’t really call it an autobiography – or can I?

Now I wonder how many autobiographies are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Surely any creative writer can’t help but embellish a little and edit a little bit more. I’m guessing then maybe zero. We use phrases like ‘inspired by her life’ or ‘based on a true story.’

Ok, so I’ll change some people’s names. I might even change some of the details. But what I won’t change are the feelings. And that’s exactly what works in my friend’s writing. He captures the feelings of shock and grief and the resulting devastation beautifully. It is powerful and – most importantly in fiction – it is completely believable.

Quite simply my book will be about one woman’s emotional journey through motherhood. How I tell that story is really up to me.

“Never underestimate people. They do desire the cut of truth.”  Natalie Golberg.

The chapter that inspired this post, well worth a read: Project JB – Chapter One

Getting the words out

I recently had a chat with a friend on Facebook who asked me to give him some tips about writing. I thought I’d post part of my reply for you – there maybe some useful ideas here for you too.

Dear friend,

Based on your writing in the message you sent me, you don’t need a writing course. You know how to write. And you’re good. So just write. Pick a subject or a character or a chapter or a part of your story and just sit down and write about it. Edit later.

Make a cup of tea and get a tasty snack to munch on while you write – dark chocolate coated licorice is my favourite. And commit to sitting for 20 minutes or an hour, or a day or whatever amount of time you want. And just write. Write from the heart. Ask yourself… What am I really trying to say here? What feeling do I want to create in the reader? You will find your unique voice. And I find that the more I write, the more inspired I am to write more.

I’ve mapped out the chapters in my novel – I’m writing my autobiography – and I just pick a time in my life, or a place, or a person, or a moment, and write about it. All those parts will one day add up to the whole story. Some parts of my life I’m not interested in writing about, but they are important to the story, so I have decided to write them last.

Writer’s block does surface from time to time. If you get writer’s block I do what I call ‘free writing’ – I just gets words on the page about the subject, whatever I feel even if it makes no sense and is rubbish. I don’t worry about the quality. I just keep writing and slowly the words start to flow again and before you know it you’ve been sitting there writing for half an hour.

Now even though I said you don’t need a writing course, there’s no harm in doing one. Great for confidence building. Even after 15 years of professional writing I still get plagued with self doubt at times and think I have no talent or ability. I think it’s just part of the creative person’s lot unfortunately! I got inspired to go to uni after doing a short course in creative writing at the local community centre so maybe have a look around your local area.

Google is a great resource for things like style, standard plot and tips. I also used a brilliant book when I first started writing called Writing down the Bones by Natalie Golberg. It has some excellent writing exercises – writing is like anything, you need to practise it to improve.

I also would suggest a blog. Do you have one? I must admit I don’t get much time to post in mine anymore, but they are fun and a good way to keep writing. I also follow a lot of writers on twitter – great for sharing inspirational quotes and asking questions. Maybe make some new twitter friends who write!

So just start writing – good luck and have fun!