15 Ways to Find Inspiration

find inspiration

Today I’ve compiled a list of things you can do when the going gets tough – because the tough gets going right? So here’s a list of 15 ways to find inspiration. Hopefully something on this list will help you kick start your creativity as they’re all tried and true methods that I use.

  1. Go for a walk, leave the iPod behind and just take in everything around you
  2. Meditate
  3. Listen to Binaural Beats for Creativity
  4. Watch a movie you love
  5. Watch a foreign movie without the subtitles on
  6. Listen to new music according to a emotion, theme, or topic.
  7. Take a poetry book and copy one line, carry on the story from there.
  8. Go to a different place than you usually write in
  9. Compile a playlist for your novel
  10. Do something your character enjoys doing (running, crafting, baking, etc)
  11. Read a new book
  12. Have a bath (include candles and bath bombs, trust me!)
  13. Go look at the clouds or the stars
  14. Talk it out with someone who knows you very, very well
  15. Step away and just do something you love, it’ll come.

Do you have another technique you’d add to this list? I’d love to include it! Let me know in the comments.

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Dealing with Criticism

dealing with criticism

 

Haters gonna hate. Isn’t that what they say these days? But that doesn’t make dealing with criticism any better. One of the pitfalls to being a creative is the fact that we’re so sensitive and we wear our hearts on our sleeve. Everything hurts even if we don’t like to admit it. So when someone takes are blood, sweat and tears – because really, that’s what our writing is – and trash talks it we want a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and to curl up in a blanket and die. It feels that awful.

Here’s the harsh truth:

It doesn’t get easier.

The rejection doesn’t sting less.

The tears never stop coming.

And at the end of the day? You signed up for this. You’re a writer for crying out loud! Followed closely by actor it’s one of those professions where you never stop skinning your legs because there’s always going to be someone to trample on your feelings.

So how do you deal with it? Here’s my 3 suggestions:

1. Prepare yourself

Send your books/writing/whatever around to a bunch of people and I don’t mean just the closest of your closest friends who are going to sugarcoat everything for you. Send it to your boss’s daughter or your neighbour’s sister. These people don’t owe you anything so they’re going to give you the cold hard truth. I find most likely if there’s something that is going to be a stickler point for your readers this is when it will make itself known. If you know that people don’t really like your protagonist then you’re ready when Joe Blow rips her to shreds and tell you how awful she was.

2. Be Honest with Yourself

Is there something worthwhile in their feedback? Is there something there that you can honestly say to yourself “yeah, okay, you have a point.” When someone attacks us or something close to us we have a tendency to get our backs up and get defensive. I’m not saying don’t do this because I think that’s pretty impossible but step away from the computer before letting it get to you. Breath slowly, relax and then ask yourself – do they have a point? If you truly 100% think they’re just being a-holes that’s fine. So, still, be honest with yourself – it’s not the end of the world. One bad review doesn’t mean every other reader after you is going to hate the book. Sure, reviews mean a lot to readers and it’s word of mouth – it’s the way we spread the word of our books but how many times have you seen a bad review for a book you enjoyed or a book you thought looked good and you ignored it? Yeah. Exactly. So why wouldn’t someone else do the same thing?

3. Believe in Yourself

This goes hand-in-hand with the last point of the last bullet but even if someone gives a bad review do you truly think it’s a complete reflection of your book? Was that reader there at two o’clock in the morning when you were stuck about where to go now and wrote this totally ridiculous scene that you later edited out and changed when you were feeling a lot more confident in what you were writing? No. They weren’t. The only person who has been on this journey, and it is a journey, is you. So believe in yourself. You wouldn’t have put your book out there for critique if you couldn’t handle it. For everyone one terrible review you get, there’s going to be three good ones. That’s a fact and don’t forget it.

Do you have any tips for dealing with criticism? Share them below!

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When to Stop Editing

when to stop editingOne of the curses of being a creative is never feeling like your work is good enough. It’s constantly going over it and over it and over it until you’re blue in the face and convince that this is possibly the worst dribble to ever have graced the screens and pages of your precious laptop.

We’re so critical of ourselves that we just don’t know how to say “okay, enough.” This applies not just to our writing but many facets of our life because we are innate perfectionists and no matter what it always needs to just be so.

Well, today I come to you to tell you when to stop editing. There isn’t a specific time or event that marks when this occurs but there has to be a time when you say enough is enough – and it truly is.

For me, it’s when I begin dreading looking at my work. I don’t know if this is unique to me but I actually start to feel sick at the thought of having to sit down one more time and editing some other section of my story. When I start to feel that nagging in the back of my mind that’s when I know this one more time is going to be the last. I don’t want to hate my work by the time I’m done. Truly, I don’t.

Most writers finish their work and don’t believe it’s the best and that’s fine, it’s inevitable when you’re a creative, but I don’t want to abhor it so much I lose all motivation to even put it out there for the world to share.

If you don’t feel sick when you’re getting close (and frankly I’m jealous, please switch with me?) then another way of telling yourself you’re ready is when you can look in the mirror and comfortably tell yourself that no matter what happens next, you’re ready to publish. It doesn’t matter anymore if you missed one spelling error or that comma in that place doesn’t make a lot of sense. It doesn’t matter anymore because you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished. It might not be the best, it’s probably not the worst. But it’s your best effort and let’s be honest with ourselves – if we can’t say “okay now” right now then when are you going to say it?

The time to stop editing comes when you can finally admit to yourself, it’s not perfect but it’s as perfect as you’re going to get it. That’s when you’re ready to stop.

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The Adverb Debate

the adverb debate

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: the great adverb debate. To use adverbs or not to use adverbs, that is the question. I stand on the side of using them, but that’s just me. I don’t use them before actions – or I try not to – but in describing things I will. “Incredibly beautiful” “said believably” etc.

A lot of people make the argument that adverbs are unnecessary words. They’re used by writers in order to up their word count and they add nothing to the story. My argument is that a lot of adverbs help the reader develop a clear picture in their head of what you’re trying to draw for them. “Unbelievably beautiful” is saying something different from just “beautiful”. Someone – to me – who is unbelievably beautiful is someone who is perfect. They have such an unnatural appearance of beauty it’s unbelievable that they are as beautiful as they are.

This is what Stephen King says on the subject:

The adverb is not your friend.

Adverbs … are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me … but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came beforeHe closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?

Someone out there is now accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.

I don’t agree. I don’t think it makes writing any weaker than not having adverbs. It’s not even about that. I will say that academic writing, essay writing and all other “non-fictional” writing can do without adverbs, they’re not needed when you’re writing about something like Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. But in a story about witchcraft and vampires and werewolves? Saying “The witch’s mark on her shoulder was hauntingly beautiful, every time I looked at it I felt the urge to touch her” isn’t going to be worse than saying “The witch’s mark on her shoulder was hauntingly beautiful, every time I looked at it I felt the urge to touch her”* In fact, as I said before, “hauntingly” gives the reader the impression that even when she isn’t there the speaker is imagining the witch’s mark because like most things that are haunted it implies something lingering longer than it should.

What’s your take on the debate? Do you use adverbs or not? Let me know below!

*P.S. Don’t judge my writing ability on this sentence. It’s near enough to midnight for me and I’m dead tired. I swear I can do better with a fully functional brain.

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Show Don’t Tell

show don't tell

I talked about showing versus telling earlier in the series but I wanted to go more in-depth with it in an example.  I believe without understanding the difference you’ll never be able to properly describe for your readers what you’re trying to show them. So below is an example from my own novel Ode to the Queen followed by a re-written version to show the difference (see, showing not telling ;) )

Show don’t Tell

Showing:

“How did you know?” I said quietly, looking up at him as he moved into my bedroom and bent down to set me on the bed gently. The bed was so soft and comfy, I could feel it surrounding me like a cloud and I sunk with pleasure deeper into the covers. My eyes slipped closed and I snuggled around the blankets happy and thankful he’d brought me to my bed.

“Just a sec, you have to take that dress off. It’s soaking wet, soapy, and smells like Killer Kool-Aid.” He reached out, pulling the blankets away from me and I groaned as the cold air hit me once more.

“No…” I whined, trying to fight him but failing as he got the blanket completely out from under me and dropped it onto the floor.

“Savannah, just take your dress off and I’ll get you some pjs.” He turned and looked around for the closet before heading over to get what I needed.

“You just want to see me half naked again.” I said with a soft mumble and he agreed with a chuckle as he pulled out a nightie from the closet.

Telling:

“How did you know?” I said quietly, looking up at him as he moved into my bedroom and bent down to set me on the bed gently. Aidan was so gentle with me as he lowered me. It was uncharacteristic how nice he was being. Usually he was nothing but withdrawn and short, this had to be a different side of him that I didn’t know about yet.

“Just a sec, you have to take that dress off.” He scolded me like a child as I began to snuggle into the soft, warm bed. He reached out, pulling the blankets away from me and I groaned as the cold air hit me once more. Maybe he wasn’t being nice but just revelling in his chance to be condescending and controlling over me.

“No…” I whined, trying to fight him but failing as he got the blanket completely out from under me and dropped it onto the floor.

“Savannah, just take your dress off and I’ll get you some pjs.”

“You just want to see me half naked again.” He chuckled as he searched through the closet looking for pyjamas, but I noticed he didn’t turn back to actually look at my half naked body. He was truly being a gentleman, I didn’t expect that of him. This was definitely a different side of Aidan no one but me could possibly know about.

In the second paragraph instead of letting the reader connect the dots themselves I spell it out for them through Savannah and point out the facts I want them to know: Aidan has a softer, kinder side than the one he shows to most people in Olympus. In the first paragraph this was made obvious when he laughed but didn’t actually turn around, nor did I mention him staring at her blatantly as she undressed and later redresses. This is a milder example as I didn’t want to give away anything from the plot but the point is there. This is a good example of redundancy.

In school our teachers tell us to write as if the reader is an idiot. This mentality shouldn’t transcend into our writing for pleasure as you have to believe that someone who has picked up your book genuinely wants to read it because they enjoy reading. If they enjoy reading then they have read other books, subtleties will not be lost on them.

Interested in reading more about Savannah and Aidan? Check out my debut novel on Amazon!

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Macros

macros

The last topic I want to talk about in this mini series about editing is macros. Have you ever heard about them? Basically macros are little bits of programming inserted into your word processor to complete little tasks that are otherwise time-consuming and finickity.

Specifically this is great for writers because macros can catch things like long sentences by highlighting them for you. It can count how many times phrases and specific words are used. There are some codes that catch needless words (filler words) or telling words so you can change them to showing. There’s a macro for detecting passive writing… Literally, there is a macro for every major editing issue most writers struggle with.

Here is a great website with over 400 free macros for writers.

I’m not an expert when it comes to macros. I’ve started reading about them but haven’t used them yet in my editing process (this is mostly due to me being in a writing phase right now and not an editing one). But from the sounds of it they can really help you catch a lot of things that otherwise could get overlooked and there’s no harm in having something help out right?

Are you willing to use macros? What do you think about them? Let me know!

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Beta Vs Alpha Readers

beta vs alpha readers

Wikipedia is a little misleading when you search for beta readers because according to their definition beta and alpha readers are the same thing. This is wrong. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. It’s poisoned! No! No! NO!

Here’s the lowdown: Beta Vs Alpha Readers

Alpha Readers

In the Greek alphabet everyone knows Alpha comes before Beta. There is no difference in readership during the pre-release period of your novel writing. Alpha readers are those devout few who read your work before it’s even been edited. They go through it with all the spelling and grammar errors, plot holes and other such things to give you feedback on your story. They’re not looking for spelling mistakes and grammar problems because, trust me, there are tons.

Some argue that you should edit first before giving your draft over to your Alpha readers… I don’t. I have Alpha readers that can’t wait for me to get my ass in gear and edit my novels. They just want the juice so I give it to them and they focus solely on the story for me.

That being said, I don’t give them WIPs. I give them full, completed chapters. Even if I might go back and add scenes or edit something later, what I’m handing them is coherent. For the most part. My Alphas don’t care about hurting my feelings and making me curl up in a ball with cookie dough (Hi Janna and Brianna!) they point out when I’ve diverging or something sucks so many balls I’ll never get it fixed. They’re mean, but they’re helpful. Getting reader feedback early in the editing is so helpful later on when I go back and edit scenes or add things because they give me ideas of things that need to be edited.

Beta Readers

A Beta reader gets your book after it’s been edited. It’s a different group of people from your Alpha readers because you need the fresh set of eyes to go over it. They look for all kinds of flaws – spelling, grammar, plot holes, character issues, etc. They are the ones who are like the sift for your flour; they find the lumps and catch them before a paying reader does.

The great thing about a Beta reader also is the fact they’re, usually, your target audience so you’re getting genuine feedback that is likely to come from your readership. I didn’t actually get a specific Beta reader for Ode to the Queen when it was at that stage. In fact, I put it up on this site similar to Wattpad and I let people read it for free and they posted reviews for me there. Using that, I went through one more time and added and changed things that they had pointed out. Like the intensity of Aidan and Savannah’s relationship. Having that done prepared me for the reviews I get now because the feedback is the same. Some people hate Savannah, other people over her. That’s a fact I can’t change but I’m happy to talk to any reader who has questions about her character and why I wrote her the way I did.

Some people argue you don’t need both but just a Beta reader. What do you think? Do you use both or are you willing to use both? Let me know!

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How I Edit

how i edit

 

Yesterday we talked about the types of editing and today I wanted to talk about what my process was when I edit my novels. Fun fact; I rarely edit my blog posts unless I’m reading something back (after it’s been posted mind you) and I notice a problem. With my novels? It’s a totally different story.

This is how I edit.

Edit #1

The first time around I re-read my work and I do a lot of line and copy editing. This is usually when I catch the majority of my spelling and grammar mistakes. I will also do some mild developmental editing. At this point I usually have written the next book (if it’s a series) so I know if there’s any plot developments in the next book that need alluding to in the book before. Or if I need to have build up created. I’m not doing any major fine-tooth combing on this go, I just try to catch things that are obvious at least to me.

Edit #2

The second time around I don’t edit by sight. I edit by hearing. Every word processor these days has the ability to “read” out loud your writing. So paragraph by paragraph I have the computer read out the words to me. This is usually how I fine-tooth comb my spelling and grammar because the computer will read out a word wrong if it’s spelt wrong (and it also catches when I put the wrong word in the sentence – which is great because this happens to me a lot). It’s also good for punctuation because if the sentence doesn’t have an obvious pause or pauses when it shouldn’t the computer will read it like that. It also catches grammar like when a sentence runs on forever and clearly needs to be cut down. Once again this is more of a line and copy edit than anything else. Spelling and grammar, naturally, are the first thing most readers will notice.

Edit #3

The final edit is usually more of a content edit than anything else. At this point my feedback is back from beta readers and alpha readers so I fix up dialogue, change around scenes, and generally take their advice at hand. Obviously I catch the last few spelling and grammar errors but mostly this is spent changing things around. I try to take more away than I add since as I mentioned yesterday if you’re adding anything during this point you’ll have to go back on it and do the first two steps all over to them. I usually do the read out loud bit to make it quicker work and read along with it.

This isn’t a fool-proof method. Obviously, I don’t believe there is one. But this is what worked for me and I’ve gotten feedback from my readers that the editing on my novel is really well done. So I wanted to share my method, even if you just take on doing the read aloud thing (which is mostly the biggest tip I have here. It’s a goldmine for finding mistakes.)

If you have any editing tips feel free to share them!

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Types of Editing

types of editing

One of the things I’ve noticed, talking to fellow authors, is that most people get an editor for their novel but don’t actually realise what kind of editing they’re purchasing and which kind would be more beneficial to them. I told an author in a review that her novel read as though she had gotten really good line-editing/copy-editing but the story sorely required content-editing and she had no idea what I was talking about! I told her it was an editor who gave her plot feedback and found plot holes, character under-development and she said “that’s a thing?”

Yikes.

So I thought today would be a good time to introduce the types of editing and what each type entails. It’s just as important for blogs as it is for novels so bloggers don’t shy away!

Developmental Edit

Developmental can easily be confused with content editing but shouldn’t be. Developmental editing usually occurs before the book is even done other edits because it’s the sort of editing you receive when you give your book to beta readers or an author is unsure of the story and where it is going. Usually developmental editing leads to the author rewriting huge chunks of the story or removing certain plot devices. Think of it as if you’re a food blogger: you’re going to continue to tweak the recipe until it is done by changing what ingredients/cooking times/techniques/etc. Usually this editing occurs innately.

Line Edit

Line editing usually occurs at the same time as copy editing which is why they are often seen as interchangeable types. Line editing, specifically, is word choice, awkward phrasing, word repetition (like that girl who says like a million times out of context), dialogue is age appropriate (a seven year old doesn’t speak like a seventy year old), showing versus telling, cliches, timing, etc. It is basically breaking down every sentence and making sure it works. This is not to be confused with spelling, grammar and punctuation though. This is purely words and how they function to tell the story.

Copy Edit

This is the kind of editing everyone thinks about when they hear the word “editing”. This is your spelling, grammar, punctuation, whether your protagonist’s eyes were blue in the beginning and are suddenly brown without any magical reason. For historical novels – or novels that use history as a basis for building a world see 5 Laws for Creating a World – it also includes fact checking. It’s the nitty gritty of editing and everyone has to do it.

Content Edit

Also known as substantial editing/style editing. This is editing of the story. Is there plot holes? Is the character likeable or if they are meant to be dislikable – are they? Do your characters grow over the course of the story? Is there unresolved conflict? Does conflict resolve too quickly? There is also other things like pacing, tension, plausibility, suspension of disbelief, if the romance is believable, if the characters are believable… I find this part of the editing process usually ends with me adding another scene or taking some things out until it feels right. The trouble with adding though means you have to do steps 1-3 all over again. A lot of people argue this should be your starting point but I believe this should be the last thing you do. But we’ll talk about that later.

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Themes

themes

I’m going to start this by telling you something very important: I have never picked a theme for my stories ever. In fact I barely remember what they are from my days of high school English. So I did a quick google search:

  • Beauty of simplicity
  • Capitalism – effect on the individual
  • Change of power – necessity
  • Change versus tradition
  • Chaos and order
  • Character – destruction, building up
  • Circle of life
  • Coming of age
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal
  • Companionship as salvation
  • Convention and rebellion
  • Dangers of ignorance
  • Darkness and light
  • Death – inevitable or tragedy
  • Desire to escape
  • Destruction of beauty
  • Disillusionment and dreams
  • Displacement
  • Empowerment
  • Emptiness of attaining false dream
  • Everlasting love
  • Evils of racism
  • Facing darkness
  • Facing reality
  • Fading beauty
  • Faith versus doubt
  • Family – blessing or curse
  • Fate and free will
  • Fear of failure
  • Female roles
  • Fulfillment
  • Good versus bad
  • Greed as downfall
  • Growing up – pain or pleasure
  • Hazards of passing judgment
  • Heartbreak of betrayal
  • Heroism – real and perceived
  • Hierarchy in nature
  • Identity crisis
  • Illusion of power
  • Immortality
  • Individual versus society
  • Inner versus outer strength
  • Injustice
  • Isolation
  • Isolationism – hazards
  • Knowledge versus ignorance
  • Loneliness as destructive force
  • Losing hope
  • Loss of innocence
  • Lost honor
  • Lost love
  • Love and sacrifice
  • Man against nature
  • Manipulation
  • Materialism as downfall
  • Motherhood
  • Names – power and significance
  • Nationalism – complications
  • Nature as beauty
  • Necessity of work
  • Oppression of women
  • Optimism – power or folly
  • Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice
  • Patriotism – positive side or complications
  • Power and corruption
  • Power of silence
  • Power of tradition
  • Power of wealth
  • Power of words
  • Pride and downfall
  • Progress – real or illusion
  • Quest for discovery
  • Quest for power
  • Rebirth
  • Reunion
  • Role of men

Oh. Okay! Got it, totally refreshed now. Even if you don’t know what the theme of your book is or even what the theme of your blog is don’t sweat it. I’m here to help. I was reading an article about editing the other day and basically this author had the idea that you could edit your entire book in one attempt if you prepared yourself with a small write-up about your book before beginning. One of these things she said you had to know was the theme of your novel. She explains that knowing what your theme is helps you with editing because every. single. scene. should address your theme. Everything should be linked to this theme or even sub themes because your theme is the entire purpose of your book.

I know, I thought it was plot too. Who knew!

The same goes for blogs. Every single post you write should be relevant to your theme. If it has nothing to do with your theme does it belong on the blog? Can you justify it’s presence? Imagine if you were a long-time reader of A Beautiful Mess or Style Me Pretty and they suddenly did a post about the mechanics of a car. You would blink a few times and wonder if your water and lemon was vodka and lemon. Wouldn’t you? I would.

So find your theme. Your theme is going to keep you on track. (I found my theme when I realised I needed one – turns out I had one all along!)

Thanks to Holly Lisle for the inspiration!

Find all the 31 Day posts here.

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