Category Archives: Inspiring Articles

Articles/websites/things I like

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

Enjoy The Richness Of Your Journey

When the world says, “Give up,”                   

Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”

~Author Unknown

As writers we’re often introverts by nature spending hours in the company of our own thoughts and imaginings. We’re quiet observers of life, reflective and frequently sensitive to feelings and emotions – of both our own and those of others.

So it’s ironic that in order to succeed in the brutal world of publishing we have to become shrewd networkers and dogged masters of rejection.

Time after time we’re barraged with the hopeless statistics of our cluttered industry.

Yet we keep going.

Because we share another common trait – we love what we do. We know how lucky we are because we’ve found something that keeps us alive inside when, we’re told, the world around us is dying. We’ve found a therapy to overcome our obstacles. A drug to alleviate our daily chores.

If you have the discipline, the insight and the determination, I believe you’ll make it. But in the meantime, enjoy the richness of your journey.

I’m feeling sentimental today. 

Gemma Flying High 

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Filed under Getting Published, Inspiring Articles, The Publishing Industry, WritingTips

Ever feel like it’s all too hard?

Do you ever drop your head in your hands and wonder if it’s all too hard? 

I do. Frequently. And the truth is – it is.

Here we are, slogging away at our keyboards hour after unpaid hour, blurry-eyed with lack of sleep, coffee-fuelled and hunch-backed with arthritic fingers, and we don’t even know what will happen from it all.

So, if we’re realists, we consider the possibility of self-publishing even before we’ve finished our manuscripts. We throw ourselves into the blogasphere thinking we’ll get ahead of the game, plan ahead, gain a following. Until we realise there are already a hundred bloggers to every novelist – we’re flitting around amid a galactic swarm of them. It’s probably more competitive than the publishing industry itself.

So we have to pull ourselves back to reality and ask ourselves, why are we here? What do we want from this?

When the distractions of the outside world begin to choke me and lure me away from my intentions, I remember this quote –

‘You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.’  Ray Bradbury

Of course, he meant it a little differently, but it works for me by reminding me why I’m doing this – a love for writing.

I enjoy this blog because I’m learning about a new medium and reaching out to new and interesting people. I’ll embrace the world of social media because it’s another learning avenue and it can be fun, but primarily it’s the writing and communicating that’s the motive for me.

In his blog ‘Ten Commandments For The Happy Writer’ Nathan Bransford mentions‘Enjoy the present. Writers are dreamers, and dreamers tend to daydream about the future while concocting wildly optimistic scenarios that involve bestsellerdom, riches, and interviews with Ryan Seacrest. In doing so they forget to enjoy the present. I call this the “if only” game. You know how it goes: if only I could find an agent, then I’ll be happy. When you have an agent, then it becomes: if only I could get published, then I’ll be happy. And so on. The only way to stay sane in the business is to enjoy every step as you’re actually experiencing it. Happiness is not around the bend. It’s found in the present. Because writing is pretty great — otherwise why are you doing it?’

To read the whole article click here.

It’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed within this industry, but if we try and remember what our most important motives are, we shouldn’t lose our way. I try to keep my blog and my novel separate by setting aside specific days to write them. I find this helpful.

I’d love to hear about your own motives and how you deal with overwhelmed feelings, no matter what industry you’re in?

(The photo below has nothing to do with my blog, but I took it and I like it – so I thought I’d share it with you!!)

Keeping A Clear Mind

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Filed under Discipline, Inspiring Articles, The Publishing Industry, WritingTips

Finding Stillness

A friend sent me an inspiring article yesterday, ‘The Art of Being Still’ by Silas House.  ‘The problem is, too many writers today are afraid to be still.  I’m not talking about the kind of stillness that involves locking yourself in a room with a laptop, while you wait for the words to come. We writers must learn how to become still in our heads, to achieve the sort of stillness that allows our senses to become heightened,’ he writes.

 It’s a wonderful thing when you read something that wakes you up like a cold slab of ice to the back of your neck.  This week, having flurried the kids away to school, I dashed back to my desk, rotated my neck, clicked my knuckles and began the final scene to my children’s novel.   I managed two sentences before the bleeping of emails distracted me.  Five sentences and the doorbell rang: my weekly fruit delivery.  Eight sentences and the revving of the postman’s motorbike delivering my mail.

 Three hours later, I had achieved ten sentences of my book, five email responses including agreeing to host a couple’s cooking class and, completely side-tracked, listening to a radio scam involving a prank phone call to Kate Middleton in hospital.   

Silas goes on to say, ‘I am nearly always in motion, but those who know me best realize that I am being still even in my most active moments.’  He is talking about using the world for our writing by observing the details around us.  We are constantly on the move, flitting from one appointment to the next: the vet, the accountant, the school principal, the kinesiologist.  Each appointment bringing its own new and varied headache of worries.  Yet to find the stillness Silas is talking about, we have to block all these distracting, mundane thoughts and focus on our writing.  The school principal could bring inspiration for a character, the kinesiologist an idea for a scene.  It’s about keeping our heads clear and our notebooks close.

This stillness should also be present when we do find the time to write.  In this fast, technical era, we are easily distracted.  I know of friends who cast their laptops aside, pick up their pencils and notebooks and take themselves to some tranquil corner of the house.  The soft movement of lead on paper, away from the tap tapping of the keyboard, enables them to think more clearly.  

There is a place I sometimes retreat to.  Just me and my laptop.  No Internet access.  No fruit deliveries.  A café, hidden within the grounds of a local plant nursery.  I hide under the shade of a young Maple tree surrounded by Snow Maidens and Magnolias, tapping away and lost to my novel, coffee after coffee.

Tip for the day – find that place that enables you to find your stillness.  Soak in the sounds and scents around you.  And write.

How do you find your stillness?

(To read Silas’ full article click here)

 

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My First Blog

A small blog about a small book getting to the top of a very large slush pile… hopefully.

Hello and welcome to my first blog!

I’m writing a book.  The God Damn Book, my family calls it.  My first, and I’m lost within it. 

I’m not functioning in the outside world quite as I used to.  Dishes pile high, the laundry basket is growing mold.  I’m late for everything. 

Our dust has become so grimy it traps live flies and insects.  Our spiders sidle about bulging at the abdomen.  No longer the need to spend endless hours weaving webs.  They crawl along my kitchen windowsill lapping up the latest dust victims with their fangs.

Stray ants roam our pantry.  There’s always a tasty potato moulded to the shelf at least two years past its prime.

Please don’t ask me about our toilets.  The Pubaholic’s stopped using them.  He claims the toilets on the building site are more hygienic.

Welcome to my first blog.  Here we shan’t feel guilty.  Leave those dishes.  Pick up your ragged notebook.  Let your creativity spill word by word.  We shall spur each other on.

Of course, should I publish the God Damn Book, all will be forgiven. 

So, that’s my mission.  To conquer that editor’s slush pile.  And I will share my secrets with you along the way.

Every Monday, every Friday, except I realise today is Tuesday.

Let’s journey together.  And in between let’s loose ourselves within our books.  After all, that’s the fun part.

For today, I’ll leave you with a paragraph I once read by an editor of a Melbourne publishing house.  It read something like this,

‘The primary cause of pain for editors is the swelling hunchback.  Hours spent bent over pages slavishly deleting and stabbing manuscripts with nubby pencils leads to hunchbackery (the technical term) and an addiction to codeine. Editorial addictions span further than codeine.  Like all office workers, we have our caffeine dependencies but most editors also have a thing for hard liquor.  This isn’t entirely because we’re ugly, humpbacked loners, rather it is to wash away the many exclamation marks, misplaced apostrophes and Generation-Y abbreviations we’re exposed to throughout the day.’

Mmm… So that’s what we’re up against.  Tip for the day – Think twice before sending in your manuscript without a good professional edit.

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