Category Archives: First Drafts

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Share with me, what was the inspiration for your current novel? 

Happy Days – My Grandparent’s Farm In Wales
Me (far right), my sister and my two cousins.

Was it a dream? An incident that altered your life or the life of a friend? A trip overseas? Or perhaps a simple observation that, for some reason, sparked your imagination?

The inspiration for my novel – a children’s fantasy – was my grandparent’s farm in Wales. A place I spent much of my childhood and haven’t been back to in decades. A place that represents adventure, discovery, innocence and characters of such eccentricity I have to convince myself they actually existed. Writing the novel has plunged me back into those familiar surroundings, the old farmhouse, the mud-spattered yard, the stables with the wet noses of young calves peeping out, and their warm, sticky tongues as they suckled on my fingers.

By the way, I am really, really enjoying writing this blog.

Stephen King claims the idea for Misery came to him as he dozed off while on a New York-to-London Concorde flight. His dream was supposedly influenced by a short story about a man in South America held prisoner by a chief who falls in love with the stories of Charles Dickens and makes the man read them to him.

The inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels supposedly came from the sleeping giant profile of the Cavehill in Belfast, a 368m hill that looms over the northern fringes of the city.

A manor house in North Yorkshire, that Charlotte Bronte visited on a day trip, is long thought of as a likely inspiration for Jane Eyre’s Thornfield Hall, where Mr Rochester kept his mad wife Bertha confined in an attic.

It’s interesting – the spark, the birth of an idea that captivates us with such intensity we’re driven to invest hours developing it into the concept for a novel. Like a seed, we spend months watering it, nurturing it and encouraging it to grow. The roots, the branches, the rich, green leaves and fragrant blossoms that stem from a strong, solid trunk. And sometimes, unless you’re a meticulous planner, the finished product has morphed into a story that is vastly different from our original idea.

There are so many places we can draw inspiration from: Our childhood, an interesting relationship, an incident we witness or a place we visit, our local community, an historical event. Sometimes, it helps to sit down and brainstorm your ideas. Grab a notebook and pencil, retrieve to a quiet corner and allow your imagination to run wild.

How do you know if your idea is strong enough for a novel? You can read as many articles and blogs as you like, but I believe you have to go with your gut. If you’re passionate about an idea, your writing will be passionate. One question you can ask yourself – is this something I would want to read? Consider the question as an outsider. If the answer is yes, you have an idea that’s workable. And anyway, perhaps – in Jack Kerouac‘s words – ‘It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.’

Back to my original question – share with me, what was the inspiration for your current novel(s)?

Did I mention? I am really, really enjoying writing this blog 😉

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Filed under First Drafts, Inspiring Articles, WritingTips

First Drafts And Thick Skins

Hello again and Happy 2013!

As I write this blog, I’m sitting under the shade of a Gum tree. Its leaves are shaking in a light breeze, rustling like a distant stream. I’ve no phone reception. No Internet connection. The children have vanished to some remote corner of the park. My husband is floating out at sea on his surfboard, feet dangling to the sharks.

This must be heaven.

To post this blog, I’ll need to hike up the hill to the tower, stretch the laptop above my head and plead for a signal. I haven’t figured out how I’ll navigate the keyboard yet, so it could be a miracle if this even gets to you.

I’m so close to finishing the first draft of my novel my fingers are tingling. I say first draft but, to be honest with you, I’ve already revisited many parts (secretly, soundlessly, tail between legs), for many writers will tell you to keep pushing ahead with your first draft and don’t look back until it’s finished. Whilst I’ve kept this advice close, I haven’t followed it entirely. As the book’s evolved, I’ve changed much of the plot and even wiped out one of the major characters, so I’ve found myself drafting and redrafting as new things come to light and major elements change.

Now, I’m really excited. I have a clear understanding of what the story is about and who the characters are. The framework feels strong, I just have to breath the magic inside – to shape it, colour it and make it whole.

Sometimes, reading over what might have taken months if not years to write can be daunting to say the least. We have to prepare ourselves for the parts that are bad – really bad. When we wrote them we were probably in full swing, basking in our creative genius, smelling the imminence of our success (perhaps enjoying a glass or two…). Yet we shouldn’t get disheartened. Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘The first draft of anything is shit’.  James Michener, ‘I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.’

So perhaps we have to give ourselves permission to let the first draft stink. Forget about what people will think – we don’t have to show it to anyone until we’re ready – and let our fingers flow on our keyboards like pianists’.

Elizabeth Sims mentions in a piece she wrote,Why does a coherent first draft give birth to a stilted finished product? Because it means you haven’t let it flow. You haven’t given yourself permission to make mistakes because you haven’t forgiven yourself for past ones. Admit it: Unless your throttle’s wide open, you’re not giving it everything you’ve got.’ I found the article helpful – to read it in full click here

Right now, I’m feeling proud and excited about what I’ve achieved so far – It’s a liberating stage of writing. Soon, I’ll be ready for a professional edit and I’ve no doubt that what comes back will peel another layer of my skin away – but it’s tougher and thicker than it used to be…

How do you get through your first draft?

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Filed under Editing, First Drafts, Getting Published, The Publishing Industry, WritingTips