When life gives you lemons, mix them with club soda, add a little lime juice, and stick a sprig of mint in the glass. What you end up with is not just a refreshing drink. It’s something quite magical that defies logic.
The same can be said for writing. When we get to a place that just doesn’t work it can sour our mood and quickly send us down the path of “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “There is no way I can ever be a good writer.”
Stop. Right. There.
Add something familiar (club soda), mix in something with a little fun (lime juice), and stick in something delightful and refreshing (mint). What you’ll end up with may not be what you intended but I’ll bet it will be something that will get your creative wheels turning.
So, how does this exactly work in real life? Well, let me lay it out.
Write About the One Thing You Do Know You Want to Write About
I love a good small town romance. There’s something about being known in a familiar place. Things are a tighter knit and feel safer and a bit sheltered from the rest of the world. I also grew up in a small town dreaming of living in the big cities. And, once I did live there, I realized the magic that small communities have.
Today I find myself in a small town café listening to conversations as I type and sip coffee. I walked the main street making a mental list of shops and businesses. People watched and read the local paper.
If I want to write about a small town it helps to be in them and absorb their vibe.
Embrace What You Don’t Know
What? Did I say something? It’s okay to admit that we don’t know what we’re doing. We can read all the books like Save the Cat! Writes a Novel but, at the end of the day, you have to find your own voice and rhythm. Yes, knowing the flow of a novel is important but it’s not a hard and fast follow to the core requirement.
Beyond not full understanding how to write, if your characters have careers or interests that you are unfamiliar with just research it. Before you dive down the rabbit hole of research, decide how deep your knowledge needs to be. How critical is knowing the classes a doctor has to take to saying your character is a doctor? You might need some info to make it feel authentic and accurate but be careful that you don’t waste you precious writing time in a black hole of information finding procrastination.
Start With a Title
I have a running list of books titles. Some have a brief synopsis next to them so I don’t forget what inspired the title. Who wants to wake up in the morning to a title called Four Forks & a Spoon with zero recollection of what the heck that was all about.
Confession, I have two WIPs in progress. I rarely work on them at the same time. Both have different feels so it’s more of when my mind pulls me to one or the other. I know this can be controversial for some writers. I’ve heard writers say they would never finish any novel if they worked this way. It’s true that it may take me longer than if I only focused on one but this is how my brain works best. I mean, do you eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day? Maybe you do and that works for you but I’d get bored and just walk away.
Go For a Drive
When I drive something magical happens in my brain. The wheels start rolling not just on the car but in my novel writing head. Driving through the country side, seeing random businesses, town signs announcing festivals or celebrations, names of towns, bayous and river. All of it triggers story ideas or scene ideas in my current WIPs.
If I’m driving I’ve told my husband to take notes for me on my phone. If he’s driving I’m often typing away furiously in my notes.
Drive through small towns, big towns, parks, countryside… just drive to someplace new of that you rarely get a chance to go to.
Share If You’re Brave Enough To
Another controversial talking point of writers. To share or not to share before your work is done. I asked my best friends to read along as I write. I use a program online to write my novel that allows me to share a link with others to view my work.
When I was just two or three chapters in Laura asked to read what I’ve written. Through chattering teeth and feeling my stomach plummet to the floor I said a weak, “Sure.”
It was the best thing I could have done at that stage. She asked a ton of questions about the characters that I hadn’t even considered. She pointed out phrases or words that seemed a bit odd to her. She helps me hash out plot holes and personalities of my characters. After her feedback I churned out somewhere around 12,000 words.
Find someone that believes in what you are doing but won’t give you a bunch of fluffy feely good remarks. Laura was positive, honest and very insightful. She’s an avid reader so she knows what she’d like to read and what she’d never pick up. She is my target audience.
Just keep writing. With creativity and practice, there are many ways to find the words when you don’t know what to write.