by Deborah Walker Ideas for my stories come to me in museums, in galleries, in libraries. Find me upstairs (and it’s always quieter upstairs) in the British Museum trawling the past looking for future inspiration. Old books, paintings, objects are part of our material heritage. Survivors of the ravages of times, sometimes cherished throughout the […]
Archive for the ‘Tips for Beginners’ Category
To talk about this, I need to talk about the scariest thing that ever happened to me. Bear with me.
In 1999, I was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike. The car behind me tapped my bumper, sending me fishtailing across several lanes, and under a trailer truck, which sheared the roof off the car.
Graduation season has come and gone, but we’ve seen lots of great commencement speeches around, from Neil Gaiman’s to Aaron Sorkin’s. They made me mildly nostalgic.
Short stories are a proving ground. They let you get out there, try a bunch of things out, and make your mistakes small so you don’t have to make all of them big. When I hear an unpublished writer talking about the epic fantasy trilogy they’re going to write, my first thought is, “What a shame.”
An outline is a roadmap. It helps you decide the overall shape of the novel. It does not lock you into that structure if you stumble upon something interesting.
There are tons of great resources on writing fiction, and I won’t even attempt to get into all that information here. What I’m going to focus on are the macro, big-picture things I’ve learned through personal experience.
Which came first—the chicken, the egg, or the egg white omelet—I don’t know. But the discussion glosses over an obvious gap: white authors.
My personal preference is for what I’ve called third-order answers. A lot of mysteries have an obvious culprit, and then a character who is, if you know your narrative conventions, the obvious alternative to the obvious culprit. I like mysteries that go one step further.
The way to become a published writer is to write (and to submit what you write). Seems obvious, yet so many would-be writers produce that one story or novel and then rework it endlessly, or submit a story or three, get rejected once (or a hundred times), and decide to give up.
I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite ways of finding inspiration — some of them obvious, some of them less so. But it’s always good to have reminders, and if you haven’t used a few of these sources of inspiration in awhile (or ever), give them a go.