The fact is, for me at least, it’s difficult not to get ideas. Snippets of conversations, something about the way a person acts or walks, asking ‘what if’, juxtaposing two or more facts or phrases or concepts, a line from a song or movie or book, a photo, a painting, a dream.... inspiration can come from anywhere. Because I’m always thinking about writing.
Put it this way. I’m currently working on a final re-edit of Swarm, which is set for an Autumn release. I have a WIP I’ve just started, a horror mystery jointly set in modern-day Gloucestershire and a children’s home in the early 2000s. I’m plotting a character-driven slasher horror with a twist, and a body-swap horror, both of which are likely to be novellas rather than novels. I keep each novel/novella idea in separate notebooks; then there are the two notebooks dedicated to short stories. Notebooks, notebooks, notebooks. My writing area is a swamp of them, each filled with ideas and observations and potential scenes and characters.
Being a writer is a matter of focus. I’m not talking about the craft of writing, but the practice. I frame everything in terms of story. I don’t believe this is because of any special gift; it’s because writing is my passion. When I’m not writing a draft I’m scribbling ideas. When I’m not making notes I’m editing something I’ve written. When I’m not doing either of those things I’m thinking about scenes and plot holes.
Think about this. Imagine you rise each morning soon after the sun. It’s summer. Your bedroom has French doors opening on to a balcony. You open them, step into the warmth. The balcony overlooks rolling farmland leading to distant hills. Two farmers are already up, working in fields under the sunrise and birdsong. Several fields away a third person loiters near a gate, out of sight of the first two. A musician might listen to that birdsong, spin an entire melody from a few of those notes. A photographer might look at the scene and think in terms of framing, composition and colour. One painter might focus on a few key details, whilst another may be happy to leave you with the impression of a serene country morning. How best to relate a vivid image full of life?
Me? I’d do my best to capture the moment through describing the sound of the morning, the sensation of the sun on my face and the cool balcony rough under my feet. The still crisp air with an undercurrent of the heat to come. I’d also wonder who the two farmers were. Are they brothers? Do they co-own the farm, or is there a rivalry over who will inherit it? Is one happy to work as he always has, whilst the other wants to introduce new ways of doing things? And what about that third guy? Is he an employee? Relative? Is there something in that first field he doesn’t want the brothers to find?
Being a writer means to look at things in a certain way, to live in a certain frame of mind. Once you’ve decided to do so, it’s difficult to stop.
Being a good writer, however... that means applying a particular skillset to that frame of mind. And that’s a different thing altogether.
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