Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Finding Inspiration

Today I'm welcoming back author, photographer, and pilot Mark Danielson to Terry's Place.

Sometimes it’s easier to find Nemo than it is inspiration. You sit down to write and then mindlessly stare at the silent keyboard and blank screen. The closer you are to a deadline, the more difficult it is to find the words. Authors refer to this as writer’s block. As a pun, Writer’s Block is also the title to my next murder mystery, which happened to be one of the easiest novels to write. Since my characters led me through this story, I never had to search for words and it was fun learning from them. Now they are leading me through its sequel.

People often ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” Honestly, most have been fermenting for some time, and when some event triggers my brain, suddenly I’m delving into the new story. But sometimes my ideas come out of the blue, perhaps in a dream. This was the case for the sequel to Writer’s Block while I was well into a different one. I ended up postponing that story to write the new sequel based on a true haunting in Fort Worth. Both stories are fun.

The problem with subconscious thoughts is they are so transient they may be lost if not immediately written down. Later, I’ll create a Word document to keep these ideas for future use. Thankfully a few key words mind can usually take me back to the story behind the thought. Assuming I don’t lose that document, I probably have enough ideas to last decades.

The network news is always a source of inspiration. The more emotional the story, the more involved I become. Facebook provides plenty of photos and stories that compel me to comment. Sometimes I find stories there, too. Take, for example, a recent photo of a lone bald eagle sitting atop a tombstone in a veteran’s cemetery on a misty day. A million thoughts flashed through my head when I saw that photo. Whether this leads to a new novel or not, that image is everlasting.

First drafts don’t have to start with the beginning. In fact, many mysteries start with the ending and let the story explain what happened. It’s always good idea to jot notes as ideas pop up while you’re writing. You can always fill in the details once you know where your story is heading. A quality outline can help your story will flow.

The most important element in creating a first draft is ensuring the document has been saved and backed up. I say this from experience -- losing documents is beyond frustrating. If you’re on the road, e-mail it to yourself or save it to a flash drive. At home, use an external hard drive that automatically backs up documents. Once a document is gone, it is virtually impossible to recreate.

The key to finding inspiration is to observe everything around you. By doing so, inspiration will find you. Once your heart starts pounding, you’ll know you’re onto something, and everything you observed in life will eventually find its place in your story. Most importantly, have fun writing it and your audience will enjoy reading it.

Mark W. Danielson is an international airline pilot and mystery novelist. He is among a group of authors that write for Murderous Musings. Check out his website for chapter previews, travels, pertinent articles, and some miscellaneous fun stuff. Writer’s Block is scheduled for release November 15, 2011.

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Jan Morrison said...

I wish that finding inspiration was my problem! I have lots of ideas and am inspired to tell many stories. I need bum-glue more than any other quality. I think you have that, Mark!

Mark W. Danielson said...

Thanks, Jan. I know what you mean about the bum-glue. I write far more while traveling than at home because there are fewer distractions. Because I've been gone so much lately, I'm nearly finished with the first draft of the sequel to Writer's Block, which comes out this week. I hope you catalog your ideas for later use. A few well-chosen words are sure to take you back to when your idea(s) first came to mind. Good luck with your writing.

jenny milchman said...

This is such an interesting topic, Mark, because I have never heard two writers say the same thing! Except for Jan's point about BIC (butt in chair). That I have heard :) Thanks for the post...

Mark W. Danielson said...

Thanks, Jenny. Hopefully you've never read two authors publish the same words:)