Writing your first…

…illustrated children’s book. This is a great insight into some of the challenges and solutions for writers itching to get their story told: a piece by Michael Gallant for the BookBaby blog. Read, then get writing!

Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree
Illustration from The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

 

Wild horses…

… wouldn’t drag me to… where or what? These wild horses are in the Carpathian Mountains, but they could be almost anywhere.

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There’s a story here. The horses’ story? Told from their viewpoint, maybe? These horses share their space with bears and wolves, and have to survive winter temperatures that fall to -30C and below, with snow up to their bellies. How do they survive? Are they truly wild, or do they have a human protector?

Which is the stallion that leads the herd, and what threats does he face? Is there a younger colt who promises to snatch the leadership from him? Is there a battle for supremacy ahead?

How will the lives of these horses change in the next few months? How will your story unfold…?

Breathless adventures

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It’s a steep climb up that hill… and what lies waiting in the barn? Who’s going to be ready for the surprise? Can they cope with the resulting events? Who’s going to be the hero (or heroine)? Who’s going to be too scared to move? Where can they run to?

 

What a happy crime scene…

crime scene, Edwardian costume, summer fete, garden party, fiction, creative writing

What a charming scene, a festive garden party, all summery and joyful. Champagne, feathers, corsets and straw boaters, the click of mallet on croquet ball, bird-like chatter and bell-like giggles as flirting occurs across the bowls of strawberries and cream.

How lovely. So, so delightful, so carefree.

But who is plotting murder? Which of the straw boaters conceals a mind full of schemes? Which linen-clad cad has a garotte in his inside pocket? Which of these lacy ladies has poison tucked into a garter?

Somewhere in this English scene is an unfrocked vicar, a colonel who delights in stockings and silky undies, a lady in a froth of feathers who guards secrets like a tigress, and a duchess who runs a spy ring for an enemy of the Crown. Which of them is the lord of logic, the amateur sleuth who will scoop up clues and sniff out the slayer?

And the crucial question: which of these people will not survive till the village clock strikes six?

You tell me!

 

Inspired by nature

Is your writer’s soul inspired by natural beauty? Then this is a place to come for peace, beauty and inspiration, where you can write your book, find new ideas and refresh your soul. June is the best time to see the famous wildflower meadows of Transylvania, as you can see here. What scenes do these images conjure up in your head? Which characters would be doing what here? Does this natural beauty make you think of romance, or villainy? What might these scenes of tranquil beauty be hiding?

Imagining good and bad

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It’s St Valentine’s Day tomorrow – 14th February – the day which has been colonised and commercialised by the hazy notion of romance. If you don’t spend, you don’t care, and if you’re not in a couple you’re nowhere and nothing. If you feel alone – even if you’re at the centre of a busy family – then the fuss around this one winter’s day can be overwhelming, making you feel worse than ever.

BUT…. turn it to your advantage! Make imagination your friend instead of your enemy, and write yourself out of those lonely feelings. Leap out of the round-and-round whirlpool of miserable feelings and leap into the limitless worlds of possibility in your imagination. Spend the day (which is, rather conveniently, a Sunday this year) writing furiously, inventing, exploring, what-iffing.

Use Valentine’s Day as a prompt, if you like. Write Mr Right… or Mr Wrong. Write your perfect romance, or the nightmare romance. Not everything that happens on 14th February is lovely – remember the St Valentine’s Day Massacre – Chicago 1929. How could murder happen on this most loving of days?

Use your feelings, feed them into your powerful imagination, and create something great with the force of love behind it. Wherever that takes you.

 

 

Want an English name for your character?

Old English names have seven basic sources. Immigrants to the country over the centuries have brought fresh names with them, of course, so today England is peopled with a global spectrum of names, but if you fancy something traditional, have a look at this article from Ancestry. You can also browse through my own lists  of names derived from occupations, and names derived from plants and flowers.

Which names are your particular favourites?

Do any names spark ideas for a new character?

Valentine’s Day – half a dozen ideas

How did you do? Did ideas flood into your writer’s mind, or did you get stuck?

Cake on Valentine's Day
Romantic cake – too tempting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll time myself and see how I do in 60 seconds – I have no idea…

1. er… blank brain.

1. 20 secs gone…

1. 35 secs…

1. 45 secs…

1. Next door neighbours, boy and girl both called Valentine

2. too late…

It’s not easy. I’m usually full of them, but under pressure, when you’re challenged to think of ideas then and there, the mind goes blank. My mind goes blank.

The only idea I produced was a true fact – a couple who lived in our village were both called Valentine. They were married for ever, so something worked. But as an idea for a novel, it’s weaker than my will in the face of cheesecake.

Ideas don’t usually come to order, at least when the thinking brain is in control. When the left (thinking) brain is distracted or ignored, the right (creative) brain lets loose. I’ll see what pops up as the day goes on, when I’m cooking lunch or booking my flight home.

I need someone to do my thinking for me, so my imagination can run away with itself.

Is this you, too? Or do you create by logic?

 

“I’m not creative…”

A woman I met in Escondido – a smart, clued-in, driven business woman – told me this, with conviction. Made me want to cry, seeing her belief, and the sadness behind it.

She’s not alone – I’ve heard variations on this theme everywhere from Manchester to Malibu – and it’s absolutely not true. And, you’ll understand, a serious loss to individuals, to business, to the economy and the world in general. Creativity is a given – a gift we all have – but often the gift we never unwrap.

Are you aware that creativity is hard-wired into humans? It’s the gift of our evolved brains to compensate for the loss of physical and subtle mental capacities of other mammals. What we call talent, or flair, or special gift is just the blatant, early demonstration of one particular ability. Mozart, Byron, Mendelssohn, Boris Becker, Leonardo (da Vinci, and possibly de Caprio), Shirley Temple, Usain Bolt, Pavarotti, John Lennon…

Do you realize, though, that each of us can find the talent lurking inside us, even if it’s not of world-stunning levels. I’m no Matisse, but I discovered that I had the potential to draw well… when I was almost forty. If I’d studied and practised, maybe I’d have reached some kind of standard: a very long way short of the French master, but competent and pleasing. I had a passable singing voice when I was a child, but became too afraid of singing after a decade of being told to shut up, and that was that. More fool me for listening, of course, but perhaps you recognize the scenario? My sister had great promise as a writer (I discovered school notebooks full of stories), but her dyslexia wasn’t diagnosed till she was nearly 50 and she grew up believing she was thick.

How many people do you know have lost or abandoned an early promise because their teachers or parents or circumstances demanded a focus on “a proper job”?

Do you want to unwrap your gift now? Better late than never – and it’s never too late. Mary Wesley wasn’t published till she was 70, and she had a long string of best-selling novels through her last two decades. I was 40 when I wrote my first bit of fiction (since I was 12, anyway), and I won a best-business-journalist award with it. You will know of other examples, I have no doubt.

Make 2013 the year you discover your talent for creativity. Make 2013 the year you start your novel, your screenplay, your opera, your art. Make the time to unwrap your gift, at long last, and understand how rich a gift you have.

There are workshops coming up in Brasov (Romania) and various venues in the UK in March, too. Details here.

Whre do you get your ideas, Oceanside, fiction writing course, fiction, talent, creative writing course, creativity
Usain Bolt’s talent is undeniable. But do you realise what a gift you may have locked up inside you?
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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