And the Winner Is…

So, a few days ago, I mentioned that I’d got three possibilities for this year’s NaNoWriMo project. Well I’ve narrowed it down somewhat, to erm one.

I didn’t go through synopses of them all, I decided instead to think about what was involved in each, write a quick two sentence summary for each, followed by a game of pro’s and con’s. Lastly I performed a series of rankings against set ideas.

So first of all a reminder of the ideas:

  1. Retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo, brought into the post 9/11 age
  2. Continuation of the Crystal Rose Empires universe (follow up to my last NaNoWriMo novel) – a space adventure
  3. Rework of my magic time travelling novel from my first NaNoWriMo

I measured these three ideas as follows –

  • Ease: 2, 3, 1
  • Originality: 1, 2, 3
  • Challenge: 1, 2, 3
  • Length: 1, 2, 3
  • Knowledge: 3, 2, 1
  • Audience: 3, 2, 1
  • Fun: 3, 1, 2

And the winner is… 3 (using the alternate vote system).

Okay, I kind of already decided going to the vote. Option 3 has its short comings, I’ve been there but I’m starting from scratch, the original files are lost somewhere in my anarchic collection of backups. There are things I want to do to improve my original idea, and I’ve five years of accumulative experience to add to the fold.

So now it’s time to hanker down and make with the planning. So far I’ve got 13 characters, (first and second tiers – I’ll let periphery characters come and go as the need arises. Now I have some characters, I’m going to furnish them with details and start arranging them into scenes and chapters.

I’ve got a week to do this, and a little photography project to help storyboard and make the details readily available for when I start writing at 12:01am on November 1st.

Once I’ve got this done I’m going to walk away from the project and work on some short stories. One will be part part of this project – a short back story piece, the writing equivalent of one of the photographs. The others will be completely unrelated, plus there’s also the much needed, much delayed editing that’s needed. So I’m literary fresh for NaNoWriMo.

For the other two novel ideas, they’re going to happen at some point. I’ll probably restart planning the retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo during December with a view to getting started on writing during the Christmas holidays. Continuing the Rose Crystal Empires stories will be a Spring enterprise, and hopefully with proper planning I can do one of those a year has I’ve got some great ideas for where that universe will go over a series.

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

[singlepic id=63 w=250 h=188 ]

Photography and the Art of Writing

So, I have some money coming to me this September. It’s from my Grandparents, the last of which very sadly passed away last November. Now I’m choosing to think of this money as my final birthday present, it is after all my thirtieth birthday in September. So, having put some thought into what I wanted, and they would have liked to give me, I decided on a camera. A reasonably powerful camera.

My Granddad loved taking photos, and they had lots of them. My Granddad even had a really expensive camera once, which was a shock to my dad and Nana when he brought that home. He may not understand the modern bells and whistles, but I think he would like modern cameras.

Anyway, so the camera is quite a personal thing. However, it’s also about writing. I’ve been using camera’s to help me write for some time. It all started off a few years back when I took a photo of Primrose Valley, (the one in Leeds, not on the East Coast), and wrote a story around it.

Since then, I’ve used photographs, and photography as a tool in a number of ways, some small, some large. It’s a handy tool to keep around.

Now, first of all, if anyone feels like following my usually terrible advice, you should know, it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are at taking pictures for this. I’m really bad – especially when I use my camera phone, (see the picture with this post).

There are all sorts of things to consider when taking a photograph, and you only have scant minutes, if that, to be ready to take it. I do my best with things like lighting, focus, composition and such – and if I get a new camera I’ll be really trying to get to grips with all that stuff. As a writer though, you don’t really need to worry about it.

As a writer what you need from photographs might be:

  • A catalogue (for description) of:
    • Things
    • People
    • Places
  • Ideas (inspiration)
  • Basis for story boards (planning)

Description

If you’re anything like me, (and there are some people out there that might be), you might struggle to do descriptions. I’m too busy writing to think about how something looks, it’s a distraction when in the flow of writing really. I mean, getting descriptions right is a very delicate work, and if you forget if a pattern had a green stripe over a blue, and instead go green over red, that’s a basic mistake that’s easy to miss in editing.

My solution is, as I write, I have in mind pictures, either from my anarchic photos folder, or from pictures, and clips online, stick them in a OneNote (or whatever your visual notebook of choice is, online or off), with a  note to who it relates to, and when. Then you can come back to it, in a quiet moment and give some definition to your very basic description.

This is great, because you can then sync up all your descriptions, (without repeating the same words), in such a way as you don’t contradict yourself.

This is probably the most useful reason for photography, and to be honest it really doesn’t matter if you take the photos yourself. I think it’s good to though, you choose the cars you want in your portfolio, the buildings, the rooms, the clothes, and the people. Google Images works just as well though.

Ideas

So, I’m not infallible, I have really fantastic ideas. I mean blow your mind fantastic ideas, but a lot of them never become something I can actually use. They’re too disconnected from reality, or their too real they’re mundane. Maybe I have a great concept, but nothing that really makes it concrete.

I need ideas to to tie it to, pictures are great for that. They give a bare bones idea some fleshy substance. Where I have a scene or a plot but no characters, I can have a visual representation of one. Maybe I’ve got a character, but no world for them, well I can pick some scenery shots, or a building, or maybe just a car, whichever, the character now has a universe, no matter how small. It’s something for the idea to interact with, which means it’s less likely to fade.

In my most recent NaNoWriMo Project, the Arsène Frassin space adventure, somehow I ended up with just two female characters in the whole thing. Not intentionally, I’d like to thinking I’m not a male chauvinistic pig, it’s just where the story went. However in editing, I’m going to insert a few female characters, and it’s helped to utilise images, (that I got from Google Images, wandering around taking random up close shots of women, won’t help you with your career as a writer, unless you want to write from behind bars),  to try and find suitable characters to a heavily male dominated universe.

Story boarding

Now, this one is new to me, but I definately see the potential. I’m on my big planning kick for the past couple of years, one of the things I want to try for NaNoWriMo 2012 is to not just have an outline, but a story board. Here I’ll already have key images set up, and laid out in reasonable order that progress with the story. Instead of hastily searching round for a descriptive picture I need to use later, I’ll have it to hand so maybe I can be more descriptive in my first draft.

Now, for stroy boarding, I can’t draw for toffee. Just a few very simple sketches, and maybe a technical drawing or two, but I can use photographs. Handily, for this year’s NaNoWriMo project, two of my three choices are set in the present day, which means I can take photos of places, people, fashions, and things that will be relevant to my novel. For the space option, I’ll have to get more creative, a combination of a visits to the Royal Armouries in Leeds, airports, and suh can fill the gap in the futuristic sides of the novel.

I’ll need shots of as many people as possible to drill down to my core characters, and same with palces and things. Always take too much, you can filter out what’s there to the essentials you need. Which is true of many things in life, to be fair.

So, once I’ve got all my pictures ready, using the outline, I can use OneNote, or Word, or Publisher, or my whiteboard to layout a story board and put the pictures on it. Choosing a picture to represent the core aim, location, character, or event for each chapter, or scene. If you want to get complex, (and let’s face it, I’m a complicated guy, so I do), you can do varying levels of story boarding. Starting at the overall plot, then each layer goes into more and more detail.

Before you think I’ve gone nuts, I should point out I’m a Business Analyst, and this is often how I go about designing process maps. So it makes sense to me, if you want to do a story board, find the way that makes most sense to you. Which is true of any advice you find online, or in books, or the random drunkard who once wrote a story long before he became a alcholhic, and insists on telling you how the best way to do it is.

Lastly

I mentioned, you don’t have to be particularly good, and that’s true. You don’t need a fancy schmancy camera for this, the camera on the phone will do just as well, (and whether you’re on iPhone, Android, or Windows Mobile there’ll be great apps for cataloging your photographs). That’s how a lot of mine get taken, from my phone, though I do prefer a proper camera when I can, sometimes the perfect thing that needs capturing is at the time you’re least likely to be carrying a camera. Make do, having the photo is better than not having a photo because you couldn’t have taken it perfectly.

I should add a note of caution, make sure you don’t appear like a peeping tom, it’s no good sticking your lens into people’s homes without permission for instance, and it’s no excuse for stalking.

And one final bit of advice, get a couple of high resolution crowd shots, within those crowds should be a mix of gender, ages, race and other cuts of society. When you’re stuck for inspiration for a character, get out the picture and point at one at random, then see if you can work them up into a character, complete with physical appearance and description. It’s a bit like people watching, only more convenient when you’re at home on your computer writing.

Happy snapping, and happy typing to you all.

P.S. I included that particular photo for a reason, aside from getting the law of thirds very roughly right, getting lead-in lines, it was done on my camera, and came out blurry, which is unimportant, it’s a great item for the story board for one of my ideas. Plus it didn’t contain any people, so I couldn’t offend anyone.

Road to NaNoWriMo 2013 starts here

So I’ve been a bit quiet on here for a bit too long – the same is true of my writing.

After my success at NaNoWriMo 2011,and personal difficulties during and after, I wanted 2012 to be a significant year, unfortunately I stalled on editing my NaNoWriMo novel. It needs a serious re-write to turn my main character into a bad guy, with sympathetic qualities who reluctantly becomes the hero the universe needs, from where he was in the first draft which is a good guy in a bad guy’s job.

I know what I needed to do, but I choked for now. I will come back to it later on I’ve decided.

But choking doesn’t stop there, aside from a couple of false starts I’ve not written anything original. I have however had some great ideas, which is what I’m going to write about now.

You see, one of the things that helped me last year was the planning I did for my novel. I may not have ended up following the exact plan, but I had enough of an idea about where I was going that I was able to do 50,000 words in two weeks, and finish the story around 75,000 within three weeks. I learnt something, I’m not good at ‘pantsing’, (writing by the seat of your pants). So this time round I’m considering several possible stories, and doing my best to outline them.

Before I get into what my ideas are, I should mention targets. This year, for NaNoWriMo, I’m going to completely aim over the top. My personal target for the month of November will be 125,000 words. It’s doable, my daily word rate for the three weeks was 3751, to hit 125,000 in 30 days would be 4,166. Not a huge stretch, but it won’t leave much time for stopping and struggling for the next idea needed to keep the story moving. So planning is going to be key, and this year I’m trying to plan better.

I have three possible novels this year:

  • Firstly, one I’ve wanted to do for a while, a modern retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo, set in London, Paris, and New York. The world is primed for it, and can fit around the events of the novel to really come alive. Downsides, what I have in mind is quite complex, easily 125,000 words, but a lot of is nitty gritty detail of the revenge operations.
  • Secondly, a continuation of the universe created in last year’s NaNoWriMo novel, involving a new protaginist, a new antagonist, a wholly different adventure that might, or might not run consecutively, or concurrently to the original story. Challenges, 125,000 might be a bit long for a space adventure novel of the type I write.
  • Thirdly, a complete restart of my first NaNoWriMo novel from back in 2008, I’ve learned a lot since then, I never actually got it finishedm (though I hit the 50,000 mark just), and I think about it alot. Goal, to fully re-imagine the story to make it easier to read, give the characters more history and depth, and give them more urgency – 125,000 words might be long, but it gives me a chance to explore the nature of the world.

At this stage I’m not sure which I’m going to go with – I’ve already started outlining the Monte Cristo project, but I realised it’s possibly too much for NaNoWriMo – I know a lot can be done in editing, but I would really want to get in the revenge plots as well as I can and just need to clean them up for the second draft. It involves really looking at ways you can screw over bankers/investors/hedge fund managers and the like, and achieve a satisfactory level of revenge.

The others would be easier on many levels, the space pirates universe is easy to write for, it’s largely pulp fiction, with easy rolling story lines, multiple arcs that intertwine, but fun as well as there’s politics, dubious motives on characters and nations. The rework of my 2008 NaNoWriMo is easier because I know the story, certainly the first three quarters, and I’ve got great ideas for thinking about, (imcomplete projects are rarely far from my mind).

Once I’ve gone through the Pro’s and Con’s of each idea, I’m going to write a summary, (just a line or two for each about the principle character(s), the situation, and the goal), and if after that I still can’t decide, I’ll have to go all out and do a synopsis of some description for each one.

The great thing is, which ever two I don’t do for NaNoWriMo can be my projects for the 334 days after NaNoWriMo. I’ve got time booked off this Christmas, (usually I work except for the bank holidays), so I think that’s a good time to start my first post NaNoWriMo novel.

I turn 30 this year, so I’m determined that this year will be the turning point where I knuckle down and not get distracted from….

Ooh look shiney!

Sorry, I won’t get distracted from my writing.

With even more planning going into this year’s novel, I’ll hopefully have plenty to say. Plus, I’ve some other ideas for articles that would be worth exploring… so you might just be stuck with me for a bit.

The Curse of Communications Technologies

Technology is a pain in the rear end. For us writers especially. In my post on tools I used for the 2011 NaNoWriMo what I used was mostly late 20th and 21st century technology, which while generally fantastic aids to storytelling, do have their traps (the Technology Trap™ as I have decided to title it).

However beyond that writing in a world of technology is a real pain in the rear, too. The worlds you create, and that your characters must interact with have their own traps and pit falls, and equally rewards when things work out.

It’s a problem that writers have increasingly faced when writing about their own time, and/or future times over the past century or so. Jane Austen had it relatively easy, she only had three basic forms of communication to deal with:

  • Face to face
  • Letters
  • Grapevine

Dumas mixed it up a bit with some technology in the form of the semaphore and news media. It was all a lot simpler though, and constrained. Since then communications technology has come on in leaps and bounds. It is now feasible that people can go days without meaningful real world communication, (I mean face to face verbal and body language and such), but communicate regularly throughout a day through one of the following:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Peer to peer chat services (MSN, AOL, Facebook chat)
  • Forums
  • Email
  • Text message
  • Phone calls (especially mobile ones)

It’s a nightmare if you want to convey a sense of a modern world in your story. Sure a quick phone call, or a summary of an email is easy enough to handle, but communication is so instant, distant, constant, and intrusive that you’re probably better off ignoring most modern communication just to keep your story flowing, even though in all likelihood your character would deal with this stuff, (even mildly technical people are sucked into it these days).

I write under the philosophy that this type of communication should be kept to what is necessary for your story anyway, it is surprisingly easy to drift off into subplots that are made up of communication, but do nothing to drive your story. Even if it’s really interesting character developing stuff, your readers might not appreciate it quite the same way.

Something else to bear in mind, when you feel you need to expose your story to modern communications technology, we generally use a different form of our language in written forms of communication. So that character voice you’ve worked so hard to develop will become confused and diluted with the addition of another voice that is theirs and not quite theirs.

Another hint, (because I’m full of advice today), if you have to fit in a text, email, facebook status or an instant message, avoid acronyms, you’d be surprised how many readers won’t know something you think of as very common. It should go without saying that these should appear nowhere else in your novel unless you want a character or narrator to be truly obnoxious.

It doesn’t stop with modern communication though, how people communicate is pretty tied into the structure of societies. Completely ignore it in a futuristic piece and you risk society being something akin to neanderthals in space, with over half your book being travelling to communicate or your cast of characters being severely isolated from the rest of the universe that should exist.

In my NaNoWriMo novel this year, it was set in space hundreds of years ahead us and to get round the communication problems, I had to have a range of communication methods from infrequent near range video signals,  to mid-range text like transmission system, and a slow moving information network system that could spread across the galaxy.

Even with all that I still had to fit in near range personal communications via a smartphone like device because it makes no sense at all to be restrained to a desk to ask the engine room why they’re not breaking the laws of physics yet. Because you also need modern like communications to cut down on travelling through your world just for petty but important plot points. As much its nice to describe your world your readers and your characters will get equally bored and tired. There’s a need for balance, but wherever possible I put the extra effort in for real interactions, you learn a lot more about your characters that way, and you can include a lot more subtext in the communication.

So it’s a tough job to get all this organised in a cool and consistent way, without cluttering your story, and without reducing the believablity. Once you do though, you’ll have a lot easier to read story.

I stand by the method of avoiding communications that don’t involve face to face interaction as much as is feasible. I’d rather read real human interaction with all it’s intricate conscious and sub-conscious messages intact. Something increasingly lost in modern communication.

Having said all that, one of my current works in progress relies on Twitter posts as a way to provide narration about the wilder world during a cataclysmic event, but aside from brief cut outs to a Twitter news feed, the interactions with the world are mostly in person, with just the odd text and phone call to provide real time distance communication with a goal. So watch this space to see if I can see if I can get it to work, against my own general advice.

Tools for NaNoWriMo 2011 (Writing)

This post is a little delayed, but that’s a good thing as my NaNoWriMo project this year nearly got caught in the Technology Trap™.

The Technology Trap™ is where seemingly productivity enhancing tools aren’t actually productive at all. This can be through misunderstanding of the purpose of a piece of technology, inappropriate training or education for a piece of technology, or through design flaws and errors in technology.

My problems were the latter, I wanted to be able to write on my phone and on my PC. Surely there must be an app for that right?

Congratulations there was, a nice simple little app called My Writing Spot on Android. It had word counts in the file list of the app, and in the Web application on the PC (the latter being better as it gave you word count per file and for the whole project). The website is My Writing Nook. It’s very good in theory, you write in a series of text files (which means no complications from unnecessary functionality at this stage of writing and if you’re worried about spell checking, most browsers handle this natively, and auto-correct on your phone when it’s not in a DAYC mood will take care of spelling there), when you click save the file is stored on a protected area of your Google account and is ready for your other device to pick up when it syncs. Now syncing is the best way – but it’s also where My Writing Spot falls down in its current version – the syncing is imperfect and at points you could be syncing over and over until the file moves from your phone to appear on your computer screen and vice versa. You nervously delete it from one, and hope that works, you make umpteen copies just in case.

All this lost time, and concentration becomes a distraction from writing. I finally gave up on it when one night I ended spending a several hours trying to sort it.

Since then, I’ve switched back to good old trusty Microsoft Word when on my laptop on my mobile where I still want to write I’ve gone with QuickOffice which allows me to work on the same file and I could easily view and add to my Excel tracker for NaNoWriMo.

That’s fine with me, except I don’t want to be emailing files several times a day, it’s too inconvenient. So I signed up to Box, they are already integrated into QuickOffice, but they also have a plug in for Office so I can in effect open from and save to my account fairly fast, and then do the same from my mobile.

Even there though was a Technology Trap™, early on with QuickOffice, it crashed while saving to my Box while the signal was a bit intermittent. Lost a few hundred words (I should say this for My Writing Spot, I never lost any actual words just time). Since then I open the file save it down locally and when I’m ready for the PC I save it back to my Box. Haven’t had a problem since of that kind and it doesn’t really take much time more..

QuickOffice isn’t perfect, it doesn’t handle Swype well, but I’ve changed Android keyboards since which I’ll come on to shortly.

So to summarise the majority of my writing is done in Microsoft Word with stuff during commute and breaks at work is handled on QuickOffice – it’s worked for me for the last half of NaNoWriMo.

Another thing that’s made a big difference to writing on my phone has been Swype, it was a lot faster than typing – though it could get annoying at times not recognising what I was trying to say. When I was using My Writing Spot this wasn’t too bad, as I could press the Swype button and it would offer alternatives. The button doesn’t work like that in QuickOffice which was annoying, (it does do this automatically when it’s not sure first time – the issue is when it thinks it got it right and didn’t).

I have since changed keyboards to one called SwiftKey which uses Natural Language Processing to predict based on your historical typing what words come next, a bit like T9 and its derivatives but predicts further ahead. It means you can say more with fewer key presses. It’s taken me some time to get used to typing rather than swiping my way across the screen but it’s actually pretty good at what it does, (however since the most recent update of QuickOffice it annoyingly doesn’t work as well, with several faults in interaction between the two).

I’ll see how it does at writing fiction later, but it is doing okay with blog posts and text messages. Though, as I mentioned, there are a couple of issues with QuickOffice since the most recent update of the software.

Other tools I’ve found invaluable are covered below split between mobile, PC, and real world tools. Some of these may have been mentioned in the planning post, but I list them here as they are also vital to my writing process this NaNoWriMo.

Mobile apps (on my Samsung Galaxy SII with Android 2.3):

  • Thinking Space – mind mapping software for Android with a rough around the edges file syncing system. Most of my planning was stored in Mind Maps, meant it was easy to find and reference the information I stored there, navigate my plot plan and get my story roughly back to it. Thinking Space is the only Mind Mapping software I’ve tried for Android, but it does the job very well. It’s a lot easier to use than PC versions I’ve tried.
  • Fake Name Generator – based on criteria you select it generates a random name and identity information. It generates a lot of points of information such a national conforming phone number, email address, date of birth (gives you age as well if you’re not interested in DOB), occupation, fake credit details, fake website, and vital statistics like height weight and blood type. I have spreadsheets with thousands of fake details like this but it’s handy having an app that generates and does so by gender, ethnicity, and language. I tried two or three from the market this one worked best for me. It does require an internet connection to generate but you can save the identities you generate to access later without a connection.
  • Task – a generic app that came already installed on my, however I used it to craft an initial timeline based on my Excel forecasting as to when I would get to particular sections, and notes to remind me to do things when I did. However, after the first few chapters I gave up trying to divide my work as I went, and decided to do chapters in editing. However this was no fault of the app, and I will use it again because it has a relatively simply to use interface. I’ve looked on market, it’s not there, but there are alternatives.
  • Dolphin Browser HD – There are a lot of options for a browser, but if you’re writing in the wild, it’s handy to have internet references in the wild, and I find I get less distracted by the inconsequential when on mobile phone than when I’m at the PC. However there quite a few options for non-stock browsers on Android, I choose Dolphin Browser HD not because it’s the fastest, or because it does the most, but because it’s a good all rounder and handles complex sites fairly well. I also appreciate the interface most of the time, the sliding menu and favourites bar for instance are handy most of the time, unless they accidentally pop out at random.
  • QuickOffice – Which I’ve already mentioned, it does everything I need, except work consistently with custom keyboard technologies. However even those problems aren’t insurmountable.

PC applications and websites (on my Dell Inspiron Duo with Windows 8 Developer Preview):

  • Microsoft Office 2010
    • Microsoft Word – I’m a long time Microsoft Word user, I remember going way back into the days of DOS. I’ve grown up with it, I was educated on it, and have educated others in it. So out of all the free versions out there, I’ll still opt for this every time. I say this to admit my bias when I say this is the best Word Processor available bar none. Everyone however is entitled to their own view of this, but I like the things Microsoft does well, and better than the competition, and I like the idiosyncratic things they don’t. However to summarise it in an unbiased way, it accepts words in a variety of languages, has custom dictionaries, can do macros if you like for to automate common functions (I like having a short cut for adding page breaks), the newer versions have the ribbon, which I hated initially but have grown to enjoy for the most part, especially with a touch screen.
    • Microsoft Excel – For all your spreadsheeting needs, there’s nothing better. I am however a power user, and fill spreadsheets with macros, and charts many of them created or customised by me.
    • Microsoft OneNote – I use OneNote to store all my more detailed notes, web page clippings, random notes, and samples
  • FreeMind – is a free Mind Mapping software for the PC, which works with files from Thinking Space on the android phone. I mostly use it for reviewing on a larger screen what I’ve done on the mobile.

 

So there you have it, a brief over view of the tools I’ve used for NaNoWriMo 2011. I’m going to try out a different set of tools, and some different methods for going about my writing, to give me something to compare to. Also, while I acknowledge my favourites here, I am open to something better being out there, as long as its a tool that works with the whole process with minimum fuss.

I’ll do another post in the new year to let you know what I’ve chosen to try, and how it has gone. In the meantime, suggestions wouldn’t be unwelcome.

 

Where’s the Inspiration?

A man walks onto the scene, he strolls with forced assuredness, yet you can read in his body language he’s not as confident as he’d like to be, he eyes the megaphone in his hand cautiously, before coming to a step. He lifts the megaphone up, taps the small end, then raises it to his mouth, before clearing his throat, “Ahem!”, then he queries, “Is this thing on?”, his words boom out of the megaphone’s big end. He laughs nervously in response to the annoyed stairs he receives.

The man stands there a few moments before finally seeming to get the confidence to raise the microphone to his mouth again, as he megaphone reaches position this time his cheeks take on a bit of velour, and his eyes seem ablaze, he takes a deep meaningful breath, and speaks into the megaphone,

“Right, listen up,” now all eyes are on him, only they’re attentive rather than annoyed, “I demand to know where my inspiration is! I think it’s wholly unfair that you’ve abandoned me right now. I need you, I can’t write without you. Without you these pages are blank, and what words come are empty.
“Inspiration I’ve never needed you so bad, I’ve got all these things to do, and you’ve abandoned me, given up the fight, and now I stand alone against the tide of battle.
“I beg you return to me your charm, your talent. Words are meaningless without you!”

The audience looks rapt, his words have moved them, they feel his desperation, and they ponder borrowing the megaphone.

The man looks down upon his audience, upon their swept up faces, he watches the emotions play across their faces. Then a thought dawns in his mind, a realisation, maybe even epiphany.

What the man realised was this – inspiration is hard to achieve, but it can hit at the strangest moments, and all you can do is find the nearest waiting apparatus and take advantage.

Everyone has different things that inspires them to write, and inspires what to write. For myself these are most often two different events, for others they might be most often the same.

There is also another possibility one without the other, which can either be liberating or frustrating, for example:

  • I may have a brilliant idea what to write, but no inspiration (will) to write it – so it all plays out in my head because try as I might I can’t convert it into words. Obviously a form of writers block.
  • Something may give me inspiration (the will) to write, but without any inspiration. Here my mind, and the paper is ab empty canvas, and I can just let my thoughts flow freely. Probably doesn’t make for great reading, but it’s fun and liberating for me.

Everybody is different when it comes to inspiration, I know all too well what holds true for me, is complete gibberish to another. In broad strokes, I have probably captured the general forms of inspiration.

In terms of what inspires me to write (gives me the will), it falls down to three categories: the outdoors (nature, weather, scenery, architecture, etc…), other people’s creativity (a book, a film, a piece of music, also biographical information about a creative person, or someone who’s faced adversity in their life), and challenges (nothing gets my creative juices better than a bit of competition).

Sadly these things aren’t guaranteed to get me writing, but most often once I start writing it’s because I was inspired to by one of the above.

In terms of my inspiration what to write, it’s usually something close to hand, something I’ve imagined happening, my emotional state (yes, I can be a bit emo in my poetry), or a need to impress others so I can belong, and validate myself.

I’ve written about many things, from religion to coke cans, from fantasyic tales to mundane moments of life, and from historical events to nature.

Sometimes my indpirations puts me on the path to something specific, sometimes it’s just the starting point, or catalyst for a cascade of ideas.

I will say this, whatever the idea, I do love it when it happens, it’s a veritable joy to let poetry over take me, a joy and love that only falls short of sex.

As I’m getting older, inspiration is getting harder – dry spells last longer, but when the floodgates open, I feel sure the joy is deeper, as I come to appreciate it more.

Still I would live in those moments more if I were able to, giving myself over to the wild abandon of inspiration.

So I feel abandoned when inspiration doesn’t come, and call to it from my megaphone, hoping to attract it back. For me my megaphone is going to beautiful places, reading and listening to music, and entering challenges – hoping beyond hope, inspiration heads my call and answers.

That’s what inspiration is to me.

Evolution of a Writer

Charmander - beause everyone should be a Pokémon - or something like that

Charmander - beause everyone should be a Pokémon - or something like that

So Charmander gets in a fight, it’s against a more powerful Pokémon, though his trainer is sure his Pokémon can handle it.

The battle rages, and indeed in a last ditch effort, Charmander gets the win. The crowds go wild, it’s the little pocket monster that could.

Wait, but what’s happening now? Why Charmander is glowing, what’s going on? Suddenly the glowing shape of a small odd looking lizard is replaced with a larger odd looking glowing lizard, and as the glow fades, Charizard is stood there looking thoroughly chuffed with himself. He’s evolved, become a better Pokémon, bigger, stronger, and smarter. Everyone is shocked into a stunned silence. His trainer starts clapping, and soon the auditorium goes nuts.

What’s this got to with anything? Well after a fashion I think writers evolution is similar. Certainly my own is, I get stronger very gradually, but every so often I tackle something big – and win. The gradual improvement, the many small lessons learnt, and the sudden influx of effort and challenges pushes me to a new level.

I’ll admit, it may be a confidence thing – I’m not a biased judge of my own ability, in the absence of Mr Horobin and Mr Barrand (my English teachers in high school), I can only presume to rate myself.

Every piece I write I get a little better, every review and edit nets me a few more lessons to avoid problems in the future, but every major trial tests everything I’ve learned, and gives me so many new lessons.

In terms of talent and experience, I evolve into a whole new monster, with new lessons to learn and embrace. I find the end of a piece of work, or project, the most exciting time, and I need to focus on that when the challenge seems too daunting, or I lose the inspiration (will), I have reasons to carry on.

It’s true of most things in my life, I’m a far better analyst now than I was four years ago, there are periods of gradual improvement, and those moments where I’ve jumped to a whole new level.

Now I’ve turned myself into a fictional firey Japanese lizard, I think the job is done for this post.

P.S. I don’t know Pokémon that well, if I’ve got the evolution wrong, aplogies to the diehard Pokemon fans out there.