And now for something completely different. I have a post from a friend and fellow author, Jon Richter. He has a new book coming out in a few days, follow the links and get your copy!
Hi everybody! My name is Jon Richter, and I’m lucky enough to be a stablemate of Don’s at TCK Publishing, who recently published my first ever cyberpunk novel, London 2039: Auxiliary. I’ve also been known to dabble in crime thrillers and even short horror fiction, but whatever your preferred genre, there are a lot of tips and tricks that are common to any writing project. I’ve really enjoyed Don’s recent series of writing tips, and thought that for my guest post I’d contribute some of my own!
Inspiration for Writing
Now that I’ve confessed to being something of a genre-hopper, I thought it might be interesting to reflect on some of my sources of inspiration. I know a lot of writers, both successful and aspirational ones, who have found themselves in the grip of the dreaded ‘writer’s block’, unable to commit a single word to paper. I’ve also had similar bouts, and although I think the notion of ‘writer’s block’ is misguided and can make a creative barren spell seem like a much bigger deal than it actually is, I do sympathise* with anyone struggling to get going with a writing project. There are a number of things that can cause such stagnation, but I know that one major blocker can be the perceived lack of A BIG IDEA. How are you supposed to write when you can’t think of anything good to write about?
Thankfully, there are a number of remedies for this.
Let It Flow
The first is to stop filtering yourself. If I had a gun to your head (don’t worry, I promise we won’t need to go that far) I’m sure you could come up with ten ideas in the space of a minute, even if they were half-baked or borderline plagiarism. This doesn’t mean they’re all good ideas, but my point is that you might be writing them off too quickly, even the ones that seem like thinly-veiled rip-offs. There are a very large number of successful, and indeed some very good, books that are largely devoid of any original concepts. Many writers choose to riff on traditional tropes or expand on another’s ideas, and that’s fine – and often an original spin will emerge during the writing process.
Get Your Fingers Working
This leads into my second point: I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage ‘writers write’, and there’s no idiom more annoying when you’re stuck in a rut, but it really is the best advice out there. Stop waiting for inspiration, and just start writing anyway. Write whatever comes into your head. Even if it’s autobiographical. Even if it’s just wallowing in self-pity. Even if it feels like the worst piece of microfiction ever written. You’ll find that your brain and your fingers start working together to open up some new synaptic pathways… see, there I go, utter bollocks, but at least I enjoyed writing it! The point is that just the act of writing itself will generate inspiration. And if it helps to imagine me with that .44 Magnum levelled* at your temple, go right ahead! (I’m British, so the closest I’ll ever get to a Magnum is the ice cream variety.)
Quit Filtering Your Creativity
Similar to this is the idea of ‘brainstorming’. Here, the goal isn’t to start an actual writing project, but instead to create a list of bullet point ideas, just a completely unfiltered mind dump of anything and everything you can think of. Imagine that Magnum again (not the tasty chocolatey one) and imagine you’ve been told to scribble down twenty story titles, or plot ideas, or character sketches, or settings, in the next two minutes – then pick your favourite* one and start writing about it!
Short stories are also a great solution. Not every paragraph you write has to be the opening to a future Booker Prize winner; sometimes they can just be a throwaway piece of short fiction. This can really take the pressure off, and you might find yourself really happy with some of the results. This is how my first short story horror collection came about! The point here is to take the pressure off yourself: you’re writing because you love writing, not because your work is going to be judged by some faceless scrutiny panel.
Writers Write… And They Read
Another tonic is to make sure you are consuming fresh fiction yourself. Whether this is books, movies, TV shows or even video games (there are some great stories in the gaming world if you can avoid all the Candy Crush and Fortnite rubbish), you will find the ideas of other creators a goldmine of new inspiration… and remember, without exception, every one of them was in turn inspired by a piece of literature they themselves experienced. There’s nothing at all to be ashamed of if you want to write something inspired by someone else’s work – after all, isn’t that how genres came to exist in the first place?
Make It A Habit
My final suggestion is to schedule your writing time, like an inescapable appointment with yourself. This prospect may fill you with dread (it definitely does with me!) but the point here is to force yourself to avoid procrastination. Do you constantly delay the start of your writing session because there’s laundry to do, clothes to iron, work to catch up on, a TV show you want to watch? You can still do all of those things… just not right now, because this is your designated writing time. I find that playing music while I write helps, because it gives me something to look forward to alongside the writing itself. A two-hour writing window with a 1,500-word minimum target can sound daunting, but two hours of listening to your favourite* movie soundtracks while you have a bit of creative fun seems okay, doesn’t it?
I hope this has been useful, and has given you some useful suggestions for your next literary lull. If you want to find out more about my weird dark fiction, take a look at www.jon-richter.com, or search for my new cyberpunk thriller London 2039: Auxiliary on Amazon, where it’s available in paperback or for your eReader device. My enormous thanks go to Don for letting me invade his blog for the day, and I’d urge you to check out his gripping debut thriller The Guilty Die Twice too. Whatever remains of your day, I hope it’s a good one!
*Jon’s English, he lives in London, so we can excuse his spelling.