Tuesday, July 05, 2011

When Inspiration Strikes

Karla Brandenburg writes contemporary romance with a hint of paranormal thrown in. She’s blogging today on finding inspiration.

If you ask Nora Roberts, she’ll tell you that she has a million ideas roaming around in her head so she’s never at a loss for a story line. I think it’s like that for most authors. The challenge, on my part, is organizing those ideas into an interesting story.

I’ve been working on a project that I’d completely written, but it was fairly lackluster. Even I knew that. When I finished it, I let it “rest” and moved on to something else, figuring I could revisit it later, when I could take a more objective look at it and figure out what went wrong. It was a story that I wanted to tell, but I needed to find a way to tell it better. That time is now.

As I began reworking it, I started getting all sorts of new ideas, and attempted to weave them into the fabric of the story, until I realized I was pulling in too many tangential threads and losing any semblance of cohesiveness to the story. So I stopped. I redrew the story outline and plopped in the places that needed to be jazzed up and the places that were nothing more than “blah-de-blah.” And then I started with the “what-ifs.”

Now, the “what-ifs” can take you on a wild roller coaster ride, but ultimately, the thrill of the ride will leave you with something worthwhile. I had myself laughing with the ridiculousness of some of my ideas and bored with some of my “are you kidding?” ideas. And then, once I found some that stuck, I had to look at the bigger picture. The “if this, then that” repercussions of the changes I wanted to add. That process culls out more of the “that will never work” ideas.

In the end, I came up with a reasonable thread that I wanted to run through the story. I called up one of my favorite brainstorming buddies and we went back and forth on how it could work. Let me digress for a minute and tell you about my brainstorming buddy.

She is extremely creative. This woman has a mind that goes, as she puts it, like a runaway train. Once she gets going, it’s hard to slow her down, but using the process I’ve shown above, the ideas get put into the strainer. One of her suggestions stuck with me, but the problem was how to get it into the story. The timing didn’t work, and I didn’t want to slow down the pace to fit it in. For two days, she and I have been going back and forth saying, “but what if . . .” and finally, FINALLY, inspiration struck.

Part of the problem I have with creativity is dividing my time between the day job and the writing job. When work is reasonably paced, I’m able to think more clearly on the whole. But when the day job is in full gear, my focus becomes divided and it’s extremely difficult some days to call out the creative side of my brain to play. And yet . . .

Inspiration HAS struck, and now I can’t type fast enough to get the threads woven into the story.

I love it when that happens.

You can find out more about Karla at http://karlabrandenburg.blogspot.com/ or by visiting http://www.karlabrandenburg.com. Her books are available at most online booksellers, including Amazon.com.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love that you've got a friend to brainstorm with! Sounds like a wonderful collaboration. :)

Cleo Coyle said...

Karla – Nice post. I have a suggestion for you (and anyone else out there) when the day job (in my case, the day’s responsibilities, issues, worries, and chores) disrupt the creative process. Try music. Soundtracks, ambient, techno, classical…whatever works for you.

I always have a thousand and one things on my mind in the course of my day (and before writing full time was possible for me, I had a day job, too). The right music always helps ferry me from the "day world" to my fictional world. Cheers and good luck with your new idea. It sounds like you're on fire with it!

~ Cleo

Terry Odell said...

Cleo -- I agree that music really helps me zone in on writing.

Karla Brandenburg said...

Hi Elizabeth. Yes, it's wonderful to have a creative friend to bounce ideas off of. The trick is in reining her in! But she's a lot of fun.

And Cleo, I often use music to refocus, or to unfocus when I get too tied up in what I'm writing to remember to relate the details from my brain. I agree, it's an excellent ferry.