Sunday, February 7, 2010

When You’re Not Inspired

Portrait of the Artist's Wife-- 1917--Leon de Smet I’m one of those writers who doggedly writes each day, no matter what.

Frequently? I’m not inspired.

I think that’s the dirty little secret of a lot of writers. We may get ideas. We may implement those ideas. But we may not be flying through books on waves of inspiration.

I do write every day. But I really have to write every day so I won’t fall behind on my deadlines. Plus, if I skip even one day, going back later is even tougher. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised daily or else it just doesn’t work as well.

Even on days where I know I’m writing stuff that’s definitely not going to make it into the final cut, I mush on.

But there is one area I do better in when I’m not feeling creative.

Making lists:

I don’t like outlines, but I really like making lists. I’ve got a program, Microsoft’s One Note that came with my Office 2007. I like the software because I can make a “notebook” named after my book title, then create a bunch of “pages” to go in that notebook. So it looks sort of like this:

One note

Actually, it looks exactly like that because I did a capture picture of the screen. Although I do really like the software, you can do the same thing in a regular notebook with dividers.

On days where I seem to be creatively-challenged, I’ve found that I’m particularly good at making lists or at writing short bits that can be woven in later.

So I might make a list of the characters and what they look like.

I might jot down ideas for upcoming scenes.

I might make a list of things I need to research—this could be as simple as going to a name-generator site and picking out some good last names, or it could be more complicated—learning more information about police procedure in particular crimes.

I’ll make lists of favorite Southern foods for the Memphis series—along with ideas for where to include them.

Things to fix—that’s a fun one. I don’t stop and fix things that are wrong as I go—I’ll either highlight the problem with Word’s “highlighter,” or I’ll jot down a note in this section as to what needs correcting.

Short Sniping Snippets? That’s very specific to Memphis BBQ book 2 that I’m currently writing, so I guess I shouldn’t elaborate too much on that. :)

I can even do brain dumps to come up with possible subplots, clues, red herrings, short segments to develop particular characters, etc…those things seem to somehow come easier when I’m feeling more left-brained than usual.

If I make a lot of these planning lists? The writing goes a lot smoother the next day. It can even re-energize my creativity.

What do you do when you’re not inspired?


Pop over to the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen for a guest post by my fellow Midnight Inker, Lisa Bork (For Better, For Murder.)