Finding inspiration: From people-watching to critique groups, involve others in your writing

This is a guest post by Marie Borthwick

Welcome to a week-long theme week on the Novel Publicity blog during which we’ll cover a series of four posts about finding inspiration. Let’s conclude with a discussion of how others can prove to be quite valuable to your writing process.

Don’t ignore the world around you! Sometimes we writers have a tendency to hole up in our caves, hunch over keyboards and notebooks, and forget that there is a world that exists beyond the one we are trying to create. The real people around you are a great source of inspiration. So is the rest of the real world. Try a few of these things:

Hint 1: Take a small notebook and pencil with you wherever you go. Write down names, places, and anything else that makes you think for more than a second. You’ll end up with a reference book that is unique to you – something you can go back to time and time again as you add new information.

Hint 2: People watch! Go to a mall or a busy public place and just people watch. You’re a writer, so I know you have wondered about the people around you. Sit on a bench (be as inconspicuous as possible so you don’t creep people out) and just absorb the people around you. Write down simple words or brief sentences that pop into your head. When you get home later, you can write out longer descriptions or short blurbs about the person.

Hint 3: Pictures. Have you heard of flash fiction? It’s this awesome thing where you take a word, subject or picture and try to write a short story (usually a 100 words, but no more than a few hundred.) The idea is just to let the words flow. If you’re interested, a friend of mine (Madison Woods) has a good program going called “Friday Fictioneers”. The best thing about programs like hers (there are others, so find one that fits you) is that they encourage writing and publication of the shorts (if publication is something you’re comfortable with) and you can gain some valuable feedback, plus make a few friends! While some of these are not character-specific, they may be the spark (or needed distraction) you are looking for.

Hint 4: Share. It sounds silly and so simple, but easier said than done, isn’t it? Some of us don’t want to share our writing unless it’s really polished, unless it’s perfect. We have this fear that people will think our ideas are horrible. Face it: sometimes they are, and that’s why we are in such a funk sometimes. But no horrible idea is without some redeeming quality. Share what you have (or an excerpt) and explain the problem you are having with a friend (a fellow writer is all the better) and ask them for their opinion. Remember, what they say is not likely a mean-spirited thing if it ends up being negative – just a constructive critique that, if you are completely honest with yourself, you sorely need. A while back I was having trouble with a character and a friend (K. Victoria Smith) helped me out after I shared my problem with her.

Hint 5: Join a group. There are an abundance of them on Facebook and Twitter… just search! Find the one that fits you. The people in it will be an invaluable source of direction and support when it comes to your writing – the good, the bad and even the ugly.

The last bit of advice I can give you when it comes to finding your characters, and probably the most important, is to step away when you hit that character block or get frustrated. I know this seems like it’s exactly the last thing you want to do, but sometimes you need to, whether you want to or not. We writers are a different breed; many admire what we can do, but few understand how our minds work. We need to remember that we are people and we need breaks. As hard as it is to pull away from that working story or novel, it is often the one thing we should do. Putting your draft aside and coming back to it a few days, a week, or even a month later will often clear the haze you were in and let you see your work with fresher eyes. You’re a writer, a creative person, remember? Don’t let anyone tell you differently!


marieprofileMarie has depended on books all her life – for entertainment, for emotional support, and for escape. She enjoys writing on her blog, Write Panic Live, where she shares the high, lows and in-betweens of living with mental illness, her path to becoming a published writer, and all the books she reads along the way. In addition to working on her current WIP, “Route 6”, she has started developing a business to share her love of crafted items, a charity she hopes will spread the hobby of knitting/crocheting to those in need, and has begun taking on developing two series of children’s books to promote social awareness. 


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