Tag Archives: Inspiration

How reading science articles helps my fiction

I read science articles and textbooks for fun. I blame my avid interest in science directly to my avid reading of Science Fiction – I discovered ‘I Robot’ by Isaac Asimov when I was eight. When I had finished reading all the Science Fiction and fantasy books in my high school library – since I went to the same high school for five years, this wasn’t as great an accomplishment as it first sounds – my lovely librarian pointed in the direction of Asimov’s popular science books.

So, I have a large collection of reference books. I’ve read some of these books multiple times, like Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer. Over the years, parasitology has inspired several of my favourite stories to write; I am a big fan of the poem by Augustus De Morgan:

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on

Recently, I’ve come across the concept of Survivor Bias. The best example of this was a study done of number of injuries cats presented with in veterinary surgeries, after the cats had fallen from the height of multiple storeys. Strangely, after the 9th floor, the number of injuries were less than those animals that had fallen from lower floors. Now, you might think that the added height gave the cats the opportunity to control their descent and increase their survival. What was really happening is that dead cats don’t get taken into the vet.

Now, I am inspired with the fictional possibilities of this concept. The fiddling of statistics always fascinates me … people think statistics is such a ‘hard’ science. And yet it is one of the easiest to skew the results, using things like survivor bias and sample size and where you chose to take your samples from.

I’m already rubbing my hands with glee.

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Filed under Inspiration, Science, Science Articles, Science Fiction, Short Story, The Writing Life

What Do You Do With Your Ideas?

A flash of inspiration has struck you! What do you do now?

If you’re me, you’ll write it down before you forget it. I have a huge collection of notebooks for that very reason. I have let too many ideas disappear because I was confident I’d remember them later.

So, now I have an idea. SHINY! I tend to let them ‘rest’ a day or longer, because my enthusiasm will be at manageable levels and I will be able to assess the idea with some confidence. However, if it is a ‘whole story just dropped into my head’ situation, I’ll write that down without pause. They have turned out to be some of my better stories.

This creates a file of story ideas, which I often dip into it when I suffer from writer’s block. Most ideas don’t get to sit in the file for long … because even after a ‘rest’, I’m still white hot to write that story.

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Filed under Inspiration, Writer's Block, Writing Style

Where Do you Get Your Ideas?

That is a sentence I’ve heard many times, and I know every other writer gets the same query: Where do you get your ideas?

I’m going to give you an answer. However, this is just one answer to a process that has a multitude of answers, all of them correct. Every writer will have their own process, and if they are anything like me, they will have more that one way of getting a writing idea.

Inspiration: Inspiration can come from anywhere: a dream, a news article, song lyrics, something you read in a book that set off a new train of thought (another reason for reading widely). Let’s assume that the shiny pretty distracting you from your writing is just that, a snippet, and not of those lucky instances of a story dropping into your head fully formed. So, you have a glimpse of a story idea.

I always study a new idea, turning it this way and that to see how it holds up. If it seems like a solid concept and not a cliche, I will write it down. For me, the process of writing it down will start my muse working on fleshing out the story. I always have a notebook with me, or I will make a note of it in my computer files.

First Thoughts: First thoughts are the magic beginning to happen. I may have had other ideas that relate to this new one. I look them up, and list them under my previous notes. I might fall down the rabbit hole of research online. I never make any judgement calls at this point, because I never know when two trains of thought might smash together and form art. The goal is make a big pile of ideas – what Neil Gaiman calls compost. I think of it more as a bouquet of random flowers, and I pick my blossoms with enthusiasm.

Working It: This stage is when I will start working on the plot, and cull the unnecessary ‘flowers’. This will result in a very simple and rough plot. Generally, I am a ‘Plot First, Characters Second’ Planner. However, once I’ve developed my characters past the two-dimensional stage, the plot will flip over and start evolving around them. The characters will drive the plot along and not the other way around. Settings will start to present themselves for consideration. I rarely am inspired by a character popping into my head, which is probs why I am a genre writer and not a literary writer.

At this point, I might let an idea ‘rest’. After all, I was working on other projects when the new shiny distracted me. It doesn’t hurt to give your muse a chance to mull the idea over. I’ve got a current short story I’m working on that was much improved by the sudden realisation that the dead woman was the protagonist and not the victim of the narrative. I think the story has gained ‘legs’ with this realisation. If I had rushed to write the story as I first conceived of it, it would have lost this deepening of character and plot.

In Summary: I leave myself open to any kind of inspiration, and then I work the shiny concept up into an idea. Ideas don’t down sleet down from above; they take work. Sorry to disappoint those who thought there was some sort of secret to getting good ideas.

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Filed under Inspiration, Plot, writing, Writing Career, Writing Style

Writing the Farm Book

Study shows cattle temperament affects feedlot performance ...

I am currently writing a middle grade book series about living on Australian farms. No horror, no fantasy, no Science Fiction themes … SHOCKING! Just the reality of farm living and some of the agricultural science behind farming practices.

There was a point in my life when I was doing a degree in agriculture, and then swapped into zoology. I love farms, because I spent holidays on farms as a child, and I love animals. My experiences with farms makes it easy to give my farm books plenty of real life incidents and so plenty of verisimilitude.

My biggest problem was finding my writing voice. Once I managed to tap into the mind of a preteen girl, it all started happening. I really like this character, because she is open to the lifestyle changes that come with living on a farm. All the conflict comes from the animals and the character missing her friends & family lift behind when her family moved to the farm.

She is going to have fun over the next four books.

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Filed under Farm Book, Humour, Inspiration, Science, Writing Career, YA Work in Progress

Learning Curve

Just to shake things up a bit, I’ve decided to do a masterclass online with Neil Gaiman. He is a writer I admire, with a lush writing style. And I’ve saved a bit of money by not going anywhere…

If you’re snoozing, you’re losing. I don’t think a writer can ever say there is nothing new to learn. I’ll report back on what I’m learning … without giving away Mr Gaiman’s hard work. My favourite gold nugget for getting a story started: “Let me tell you what happened to me.” It’s immediate, and already you’ve made a connection with the reader. The answer will be different for every storyteller.

MAGIC!

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Filed under Craft, Education, Inspiration, Neil Gaiman, Writing Career, Writing Style

Smoking

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From the sharp and spiky can come true beauty.

It’s been a rough start to the year, and I had been hoping that 2020 would be a better year than 2019. I am asthmatic, and I found it difficult to cope with the smoke from the bushfires. However, I wrote a story for an anthology that is raising funds for the Fire Services, and it was accepted. So, I have a paranormal romantic story in ‘Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts’. This is my second acceptance for a story with a romantic theme … and I really thought I couldn’t write romance. To be truthful, it never gets too hot or heavy in my flings in the genre. I’m just glad I was able to turn days of smoke into something to fight fires.

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Filed under #AuthorsforFiries, Anthology, Community, Inspiration, Personal experience, Romance, Writing Career

Reading for Fun and Profit

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I make no apologies when claiming to love reading. I was reading before I went to school, thanks to my parents reading to me every night.

All writers start out as readers. If someone tells me that they write books but don’t read them, I can’t help but wonder how he knows to construct a sentence, a paragraph, a story arc, and how to avoide clichés and stereotypes. How does he know what genre he is writing in, and what is already in that that genre.

So, a successful writer has to be a reader, for many reasons. Reading is the gateway to being a writer, any sort of writer. Off the top of my head, I read for:
1/ Pleasure;
2/ Research;
3/ Inspiration;
4/ Even more research (I do a lot of research); and
5/ Educational purposes.

Reading for research! You need to research for both fiction and nonfiction texts. I’ve done enough research to fill a library with historical detail for my Steampunk novels; and I still feel like I’ve never researched enough. I find it is easier with my scientific articles, because I can list my references!

Reading has physical and intellectual benefits apart from supplying inspiration and verisimilitude to your prose.

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This is why I have ten bookcases in my house and shelves packed with a double layer of books.

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Filed under Books & reading, Creativity, Inspiration, Research, Steampunk, The Writing Life

Getting Stuff Done

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Over the past few days, I’ve been hit with the cleaning and gardening bug. I guess spring cleaning is a thing? I’ve put in a new garden, for more vegetables and herbs. I may remove the lavenders from the other vegetable garden as they are taking over. But they are doing so well…

On Monday, it seemed to me that everwhere I looked, my house was grubby. Not filthy, but just not clean enough, particularly my kitchen. Now the kitchen is much cleaner, the baby seedlings that have sprouted are planted out and we have to hope the cat doesn’t sit or pee on them. I’ve dusted. Tomorrow I plan on vacuuming and washing the floors.

Now … what does this have to do with writing? My extra energy levels have also flowed into my muse. I’m feeling the process flowing more smoothly, whereas I was having a hard time writing anything at all last week. Maybe seeing everything growing and blossoming has inspired me. We’ve had the first crop of the beans and the leafy greens from the garden, and I can see all the baby tomatoes (I’m salivating all ready), and the eggplants are flowering.

And, even though my lungs are still a little congested, they are better than they were, even with the pollen count to infinity. Now, all we need is rain … for my plants. My muse needs some refreshment too, but the gardening is certainly helping there. I find growing things a creative process.

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Filed under Creativity, Inspiration, Personal experience, Writing Career

No Juice – addendum

how to orange cordial

Well, I’ve learnt an important lesson. Don’t try to push through with no juice. I did get the first draft written and it is sort of okay. However, I spent the night too wired too sleep.

So, today I’ve had to jolly myself along. Oh, we’re in the bathroom to pee, might as well have a shower. You’ve got your hair wet, might as well wash it. Gosh, it is just as easy to put on day clothes than put the PJs back on. Hey, if you don’t water the seedlings, they’ll die … and since you’re outside, might as well water the rest of the plants.

So, the take-away here is not to push too hard. Because I really do feel wrung out today!

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Filed under Inspiration, Personal experience, The Writing Life, Writer's Block, writing

No Juice

This is my own personal name for writer’s block. I have plenty of projects to go on with, but I just don’t have any emotional connection to my muse.
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I know this is my reaction to the turbulent time my family and I are going through, with the loss of my mother being the desert I am yet to cross.

Generally, when I’m like this, I write terrible poetry. I like to think I can write excellent poetical prose, but my poetry is nearly as bad as that of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex. It’s so bad it’s not even bad in a humorous way.

I’m going to write a first draft of a story. Wish me luck. Or send me a lemon to suck.

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Filed under Inspiration, Personal experience, The Writing Life