Monthly Archives: April 2015

Promotion

I remember when I was younger, there was a locally owned bookstore that I loved to frequent. The owners were always there. The employees knew the stock and could carry on an intelligent conversation about books. They knew the different genres and could make informed recommendations about what to read. After your first visit or two, when you returned, you would be greeted by name and whoever was on duty at the time would ask if you had read the latest in your favorite genre.

But there was something else about the story that stands out. This little hole in the wall often had well-known authors in for book signings. I didn’t think much about it then but now, as a writer, I do. Back then, I simply appreciated the fact I would get to meet a favorite author and have her sign a book — or three. Now those memories are merely a sign of how things have changed in the publishing industry.

Word of mouth in publishing is just as important, maybe moreso even, than it is in any other industry. You see, when a publisher says it will promote your book, tat doesn’t mean you get to go on a book tour or that you will have TV and radio ads or even print ads. Not unless you have been tapped to be the next Stephen King or you are already a best seller. What it means is there will be the basic information sent to the buyers for bookstores and maybe a few trade ads and reviews. A number of authors I know have had their publishers say they want the author to go on a tour but that it will be on the author’s own dime.

That is one reason why, as an indie author, I tend to smile and shake my head when someone tells me I would get so much more promotion for my work if I went the traditional route. I know better. But it does leave me, and all the others like me, having to find ways to get that word of mouth going. The problem is, I would much rather be writing.

Fortunately, Amazon has offered writers a couple of ways to promote our books. The only catch is that the title has to be exclusively on Amazon for it to qualify. If a title is enrolled in the KDP Select program, those Amazon customers who are members of the Kindle Unlimited program can borrow our books for free. The nice thing about this is, we still get paid as long as the customer reads a certain percentage of our book. The icing on the cake is that some of those customers will turn around and purchase the book, so we get paid twice.

KDP Select also allows us to offer our books for free or put them on what Amazon calls a countdown program for up to five days every three months. While I don’t recommend putting the same titles on sale or for free that often, it is a good promotion tool. It can help spur lagging sales and it can help by allowing you to temporarily drop the price of a book when you have a new book in the series coming out.

So now I can hear you asking why I’ve taken time to tell you all this. Well, that’s simple. This is my word of mouth to you. I currently have three books I’m doing a promotional deal on. The deals run through tomorrow. Each of the three are first books in a series. Each series will have new titles coming out between now and the end of the year. Besides, after Tax Day, I figured everyone needed a break  😉

HuntedHunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Ellie Ferguson)
Free through Sunday

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewNocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)
(Amanda S. Green)
99 cents through Sunday

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Sam Schall)
99 cents through Sunday

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back. Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long. But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Breaking On Through to the Other Side

"Garden of Eden," by Michelle Olsem

“Garden of Eden,” by Michelle Olsem

 

Confession time! I come from the world of journalism. For those writing creatively all your lives, you may (or may not) know that both worlds are more or less opposites.

Journalism is all about following a formula of getting the lead at the top of an article and then covering the details to the end, starting with the most critical and working down in priority.

When I studied journalism, late last century, the rules were strict and we got marked down in class for errors, such as spelling, punctuation and grammar – basics you would assume professional reporters and news editors should know and strictly practice. And back then, at least, we did. These days, based on the newspapers and websites I read, not so much, even with spell check.

At first, it was a challenge to adapt to the world of creative writing using journalistic standards. The most difficult part has been proofreading, because I can drive myself into the looney bin double checking my spelling, punctuation and grammar, along with making sure my you-know-whats are dotted and my other you-know-whats are crossed. During that stringent process, of course, the creative juices are not flowing and the focus is not on the plot or story line.

Another big difference is that journalism and news reporting needs to be factual – ha, go figure. For some reason, making things up is frowned upon, as they expect you to research what really happened and talk to witnesses. It’s all about facts, and quoting sources with such phrases as “according to” or “the police sergeant said.” And, if one little fact is wrong or a word or two in a quote is inaccurate, you’ve got to go back and correct it, even if it requires a phone call back to the source.

Compared to news reporting, creative writing is like stepping out of a jail cell into a boundless Garden of Eden with flowing rivers and playful animals frolicking over lush rolling hills (music please). Even so, I tried fighting the change at first by sticking to my high and mighty standards. That, obviously, did not work. So eventually, it has come down to a gradual process of personal evolution, as I aim for what seems like a mythical sweet spot between the cookie-cutter parameters of journalism and the free-flowing world of creativity.

 

Counting Your Words

Writing can come in many different forms; novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, flash fiction, nonfiction, children stories, or articles. It all has to be written to be read. 

I personally am a novel writer; I like big stories with backgrounds and lots of words. On occasion, I like to practice with flash fiction. I find it helps me tighten up my writing and getting the story across in a matter of fewer words.

How do you know what category your writing falls under?

Word counts.

It all boils down to the amount of words used in your precious blood, sweat and tears. There are guidelines that determine what constitutes as a novel verses a novella, or flash fiction versus a short story. Even in poetry, there are certain types of poems that require certain counts – a number of syllables, a number of lines in a stanza. In all of these words, numbers matter.

It can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to the writing circus. Hell, it can be overwhelming no matter how long you’ve been honing your writing tricks. Making sure that your manuscript fits into the right sized word box can be difficult, no matter how long you have been writing.

Let’s take a look at the breakdown…

Novel: 50,000 words and higher – Depending on the genre that you are writing in will greatly determine the word length.

Novella: 15,000- 50,000 – Your story can be written under any given genre, but at this length, it will be considered a novella or novelette.

Short Stories: 1,000 to 10,000 – When submitting to contest, there will usually be a word count listed.

Flash Fiction: 100 to 500 – This seems small, because it is. Flash Fiction is considered such because it is just a flash of a story.

Picture Books: 500 to 700.

Once the breakdown is written down in front of you, it isn’t quite as daunting. It even seems manageable. Some days. What I believe really matters at the end of the day is… do your words count?

Not in the idea of numbers. Who cares if you can’t fit your piece inside the box? Just write what flows out of you and worry about the little stuff, like word counting, for a later date. If what you are writing means something to you, then that is what you should concentrate on. That is what actually counts.

Till next time,

~AJP

P.s. Check back at a later date for the breakdown of genre word guidelines for novels.

Where Do You Write?

I’m writing this post while trying to ignore the kid’s movie that is playing, trying to compose something coherent amid requests for chocolate milk, Cheez-its or to make caramel tea. Needless to say it’s not the most conducive location for good writing. Nevertheless, here I am anyway – writing.

Where do you go when you need to write?  Do you have a dedicated space that is specifically set aside in your house to write?  Do you move around anywhere and everywhere? Do you have just a few favorite places?  Do you write on your laptop, with pen and paper, on your iPhone?  (Don’t judge, I’ve written on my iPhone before. 🙂 )  Do you write in a different place depending on what you need to accomplish?

I don’t have a dedicated writing space, and tend to write wherever and whenever I make the time.  This means I usually end up writing on my laptop in the living room while my family goes about any number of crazy activities.  Since that can lead to quite a bit of distraction, I’ll sometimes write with my earbuds in listening to music so it feels like I am somewhere else. 🙂

I do have a few places I like to go to write where I know I can really dig in and focus though.  One of my favorite places to write is the local library.  There are some tables set up right by a group of windows.  I like how quiet it is there and I like being surrounded by all the books.  There’s something especially inspiring for me to have all those words, all those writers who have gone before me all around while I write.  I’ve gotten in a lot of good writing while sitting there in that library.

I recently read an article, In New York, Everywhere a Writing Nook, where twelve different playwrights share their favorite writing spots. One listed writing in a dog park while writing a piece about dogs.  Another wrote in a 24 hour café filled with mostly blue collar workers while writing a piece that was filled with blue collared characters.  One wrote in a library, like myself, and another wrote in a restaurant with a favorite dish on the menu.  Most probably have a writing space at home as well, but I liked the mix of other places people ended up writing.

Sometimes changing where we write may be just the thing needed to mix things up and get the writing moving forward. But whether it’s your favorite writing spot for when things get crazy, or the same old desk and same old chair you always park at to write, the key really is to get that butt in the chair and start writing.

Or stand at your typewriter and get started writing, as Ernest Hemingway is said to have done.

Wherever you write, however you write, just write.

~CJS

Are you writing? Care to share a favorite writing spot with us? Tell us about it in the comments. I’d love to hear! 

 

 

Like A Box Of Chocolates

“Writing is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Yes, I totally cribbed that from Forrest Gump. Not sorry about it either. Actually, I think it’s dead accurate. I can tell you from experience that just because you sit your butt down in a chair to write on a work-in-progress, that doesn’t mean that’s what you’re going to work on. Half the time I sit down I have a general idea of what I want to write about, and I end up going some place completely different. The story takes over and does what it wants, which isn’t always what I want it to be. What I have discovered when this happens is that resistance is futile. The story will fight tooth and nail until it gets its way. Characters, too. For instance, a current story idea I am working on involves a half-elf, and he won’t shut up. But when I try to sit down to work on his story, I get nothing. Stupid half-elf.

Sometimes you have to fight for every word. Like trying to pull a thin sliver of a splinter out of your hand, pulling words out of thin air can be difficult, slippery, and painful. I should know. That’s how the half-elf came into my life in the first place. I had sat down to work on an idea I’d had during an exercise in a workshop and suddenly I was fighting, almost strangling my brain, for every word. And I had worked all day on it. I even got up and walked away at one point but it didn’t help. By the time I was serving supper I’d only managed 1000 words. At the time I was managing around 2000 words a day, and that in only a few hours of working. A thousand words all day? Really? Argh!

Well, I had my supper, cleaned up, then sat my butt back down in the chair determined to hit 1500 words at least and then give up. If it wasn’t working, then it wasn’t working. I’d try my best and then let it go and work on it later. I even had a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey to fortify myself. That’s when this sarcastic British voice popped in and said “maybe you should have tried that earlier.” And then ensued a conversation in which a full-formed character introduced himself to me. Ever since that night I have been plagued/fascinated/annoyed/intrigued by this character in my head. I love him. But when it comes time to actually sit down and write about him…nothing. Jerk.

But that’s how it goes sometimes. The thing is, I ended up after the snarky comment writing about 3500 words, and I left with ideas and scenes ready to be written.

Most recently I’ve been doing a lot of reading (if by that you understand that I walk into a library with two books and come out with 25-not even kidding) and one of the books I finished last weekend was Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman. I was intrigued by one of the stories in it, A Study In Emerald. Gaiman took Sherlock Holmes and put him smack dab into a Lovecraftian world. It was a very interesting story and I was hooked. I love the idea of mashing up stories and seeing what happens.

So, after reading on into the book I realized my attention kept wandering because I was engrossed in coming up with ideas for this story that had taken hold of my mind. Combined with a poem I wrote called Femme Fatale (posted a few weeks ago) and my love of gothic horror stories, the ideas finally forced me to sit down and write a flash fiction piece based on Jack the Ripper. It is completely out of my normal writing genre (fantasy, romance, poetry) and it was fun and fantastic, and I am completely excited about it. It has what I hope are some very cool twists, and I am considering extending it into a short story. Partly because I have a deadline to meet by August and I am trying to come up with some ideas, but mostly I think it would be a great story. And sometimes, it goes that way, too.

What about you? Have you ever sat down and realized that what you thought you were going to write isn’t what you are writing? How did that affect your story? Did you end up writing a scene completely different, or did you begin a whole new story?

By the way, want a snarky half-elf? He’s driving me up a wall lately.

Jesi

Beginnings

Every story has a beginning, that “once upon a time” moment when your reader settles in and prepares for what they hope will be a wonderful story that will keep them interested until the end. But that isn’t the real beginning. The real beginning happens when a germ of an idea hits the author, taking root in his mind and growing until the writer has no choice but to sit down and write the story.

Each writer has a different system for writing. Some are plotters and make outlines of the story or book before they get started. Even here, there are no solid rules. Some plotters operate with a minimal outline that shows the basic story arc and nothing else. Others are so detailed in their outlining that they have an entry for every scene. There are even a few I’ve heard of that have an entry for every paragraph. (Since a detailed outline sends me over the edge, I’d probably run screaming into the night if I had to do an outline that hit on every paragraph.)

Then there are the pantsers, those writers who sit down at the keyboard and simply write. They might have an idea in their head about where the story goes but they simply write as it comes to them. Think of this as more of a stream of consciousness method of writing.

Add to the mix those writers who write scenes as they come to them or who write the end first and then go from there. Some, when writing a story from multiple points of view, write the story from a single point of view and, once done, go back and write from the other point — or points — of view.

In other words, there is no one correct way to start a project. You do what works best for you and for the project. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. The key is to simply sit and start writing. If you never start, you will never finish and finishing is the ultimate goal.

Note that — finishing is the ultimate goal. Not editing. Not publishing. Not winning awards. Why? Because if you never finish anything, none of the rest of that will happen.

And, if you never start, none of it will happen.

But where do you start your story? That’s a question every writer has to ask herself and, quite often, the answer is wrong. There are times when a writer will start a book too soon — give the reader too much information they don’t need right up front in an attempt to set the stage. Think about it this way: if you are reading a mystery, you don’t want to read chapter after chapter without ever getting to the mystery. If you are reading a romance, you want to at least have a hint of what the romance might be pretty quickly into the book.

Then there are times when the author starts too late. Sure, in a mystery you want to grab your reader and very often these days that means you start with a murder or some other serious crime. However, unless you are very, very good, you don’t want your protagonist to know who the bad guy is from page one. You don’t particularly want your reader to know either. If they know who did it, you have just made your job all the more difficult because you have to find some other reason to keep them reading.

So, as a writer, finding that right beginning — having the discipline to sit down and write to the finish, finding the right start of the book, finding the right hook for the book — is one of the most important things you will do.

How do you begin your work? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you have problems finishing something you’ve started? Have you seen stories that you think began at the wrong place?

Inspirational Landscapes

The Rocky Mountains, Landers Peak by Albert Bierstadt

“The Rocky Mountains, Landers Peak” by Albert Bierstadt

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about writing from experience and basically, about “what you know.” I had been advised to use that method many years ago, when I was just starting out. In any case, believe it or not, that philosophy has worked remarkably well for me, as far selecting and crafting topics. Whether or not it has made me a good writer is a whole different question.

Another great source for topics and general inspiration for coming up with writing topics and plots, however, has been landscape paintings. Generally, landscapes, in particular, offer a snapshot in time and of a place with a wide view of a handful of events, even if it is just a couple of people in a wagon rambling down a dirt road. Any of these events in the painting, at least for me, can trigger an idea or plot for a story.

Beyond the two people in the wagon, for instance, consider what is in the background. Are there mountains? Think about what could be happening in those mountains and how does it connect to or affect the people in the wagon. Is there a forest off to the side? Think about what devious scheme someone hiding in there may be concocting and are the two wagon people linked to it.

Take the example above from Albert Bierstadt’s “The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak” and reflect on the plot possibilities based on the activity in the foreground, the mountains towering all around or perhaps just on the lake and waterfall in between. What are the people doing and who are they? How did they get there? And, if they are in lost or in trouble, why?

With the internet, you do not even need to visit a museum these days to view landscapes, although I much prefer a face-to-face as the best way to “become one” with a painting, especially with all the detail typically weaved into a larger piece of work. I could go through a list of favorites, but generally I am drawn to American and European landscapes from the 18th and 19th centuries.

They tend to transport me out of reality, at least for the few minutes I may be looking at it, allowing my mind to be released to create a plot based on the subject, as well as the background of the painting. As the imagination is set free, I find the possibilities for plots and scenes tend to flow unencumbered. I won’t apply the cliché that the possibilities are endless, but it really is not that difficult to conjure up at least a few story possibilities from just a single landscape.

 

Criticism

 

LARGE BUILDINGS

The word criticism has a certain stigma attached to it. It conjures up images of your work being torn apart. Often, by people you do not consider worthy; the unwashed masses who are not intelligent enough to share your vision. Really?Geez…get over yourself!

Criticism, unless it’s done with some evil intent, can be a very good thing. As a matter of fact, it’s very often a good thing. It keeps you from getting lazy. A bit too complacent. I’d start to get a little suspicious if all I heard was how great I am. Okay, not that there is any danger of that…but I’d figure they must want something.

No, I want you to tell me that something is wrong if something is wrong. I can’t grow as a writer if you are trying not to hurt my feelings. Our Twisted group is terrific when it comes to this. We have all become friends, but when it’s time for critiquing, don’t think for a minute you’re going to get away with showing us something that you slapped together without putting in any effort. We will see the lack of effort and you will be called out. But no hard feelings. After the meeting we all meet at the Twisted Root for a couple of beers.

We have had those who could not get over themselves, however. And yes, we were considered dullards and our I.Q.’s were thought not to be high enough to appreciate the magnificence of the work in question. We do not meet at the top floor of a skyscraper, so they did not throw themselves out the window. They just did not return to the group. And that’s fine. We aren’t a mutual admiration society. We’re a writing and critique group and would prefer to have people who want to be critiqued and improve as writers.

When I read some of the work I did when first joining the group and compare it to what I’m doing now, I can see such a dramatic improvement. And it’s because they let me know when something was wrong. That’s why you don’t ask your Mother to review your writing. She won’t tell you it’s bad. She’ll just proudly hang it on the refrigerator with a magnet that has a nice yellow smiley face. If that’s all you are looking for from your writing, then that’s great.

But, I want to be published. That’s why The Twisted Writers are reading my book, ‘Jenny,’ in preparation for a review. I’d prefer to hear about the mistakes from them rather then read the lousy reviews in Amazon. I hope they like it. But, if it’s really awful, what the hell. I’ll just  hang it on the refrigerator with a smiley face magnet.

Impromptu Prompt

Some days, no matter what I do, my writing can start to fill stagnant. It could just be a scene that I am bored with, or a character that I just find boring.

When this happens, and it does, I have to walk away from my story line and think outside of the box. The only problem is, I tend to think of new and exciting stories to try and write. Then I am left with a shelf of half finished first drafts which accomplishes nothing long term in the writing world.

So what do you do when you are stuck elbows deep in a story that you generally love but need a break?

Do a quick writing exercise. Try a prompt.

What is a prompt?

A prompt can be anything- a word, a picture, and paragraph – to spark an idea that you move forward with creatively.

Where can you find a prompt? 

That is the beauty of the internet… anywhere. Try your local library or used book store. Another great thing about a prompt, they can never really go out of style.

Writer’s Digest posts a weekly prompt here, and you just post your 500 word piece into the comments. Wordpress, Tumblr, and Blogger both have bloggers who dole out weekly/daily prompts. Just type in prompt in Tags and it will pull up a plethora of blogs giving you a prompt to try out.

My favorite is the Carrot Ranch weekly prompt given by Charli every Wednesday. This past weeks prompt was to write a 99 word flash fiction piece about the day the world turned brown. Here was my contribution to last weeks prompt…

Thirsty

We stood on the bridge looking down into the sandy abyss littered with long forgotten lost belongings and decaying fish.

“This isn’t good.”

I shook my head. There was nothing else to be said, we both knew what was coming next. It had already begun. Dehydration crept up the embankments as though the Earth was looking for a drink, and sucking the life from anything in its path.

No one knew how long we had, but we all knew what was coming. Without water, there could be no life.

We watched as the last lake took its last breath.

It was a simple piece, something that I will file away and maybe use for another day. It doesn’t fit in my book right now, but I never know when it could fit somewhere. The point is, I was able to think outside of my box for an hour and think of a brown world.

Now my homework for you… A quick prompt. You have new neighbors that just moved in. Write out a scene 200 words or less and see where it takes you. Extra points to see just how twisted you can make it… For all you know, it could be a new chapter in your current WIP.

Let me know in the comments what you come up with.

Till next time,

~AJP

 

 

 

 

7 Ways To Spark Creativity Today

image

 

Having a rough time getting started on a new project, or continuing on an existing project?  Feeling stuck trying to decide what to blog about?  Searching for your muse and finding her apparently out to lunch?

We all find ourselves stuck from time to time, so it’s always good to keep some ideas on hand to get our creative juices flowing.  Here are seven of my favorite ways to spark creativity or to push myself a little further when I need a push. Books have been written full of such ideas, so it is hardly an exhaustive list, but hopefully one may speak to you.

1) Change Your Perspective

I recently was listening to the radio and that classic Beastie Boys song from my early teenage years, “Fight For Your Right”, was playing.  The big chorus is that you “gotta fight – for your right – to pppppaaaarrttty!!” I can remember being at a middle school dance where everyone was singing along.  I didn’t really party, or fight for my right to party, but it was a bit of a shock for me to realize that I was no longer of the generation to fight for my right to party. I’m the parent my children will one day feel the need to challenge for their freedom. A shift of perspective can be eye-opening!  Are you writing a story told from a teenager’s point of view? Play with the idea of seeing the story for another character, like the parent’s, point of view. Maybe your character is a doctor, think from the perspective of the patient.  You may not use the perspective in your story, but it could add depth to overall effect of the scene.

2) Turn it Upside Down

Sometimes my kids bring home art projects that aren’t always clear what is featured in the picture or what is happening.  More than once I’ve had the picture upside down and didn’t realize it. What if you take the story you are writing and flip it?  Start writing the ending and move backwards. Take the scene and flip it, change it, move it around. If you are writing a poem, play with the form, or take a form and make it new by coming at it from another direction. Who knows where you’ll end up.

3) Make a List

I don’t know about you, but I can seldom go to grocery story without a list because inevitably I will forget the one item I went to the store for in the first place. Why not try making a list to jumpstart your creativity?  Make a list of what you’d like to happen in your scene and write with the list in mind.  Or write a list of words you like that would be cool to work into your story. Write a list of emotions, of colors, of locations, of types of animals, whatever floats your boat. Write a list of boats. Maybe you won’t use any of it, but writing the list may spark an idea or get you moving in a new direction.

4) Take a Break

Once in college I remember writing a paper, a big paper, and being the English major I was, I had put it off until the last possible minute.  (I told myself I worked better on a deadline, but truth be told I was just a procrastinator.) This particular deadline was looming and I was stuck. I remember I finally just had to walk away from it. I didn’t take a long break, because there was a lot to finish, but just taking a short break, leaving the room and taking a moment helped me return with a new energy, and a fresh perspective. Sometimes we need to leave, take a walk, go to the museum, make a cup of tea, sweep the floor, or whatever takes our mind off the place where we got stuck. Maybe what we did in the meantime was stimulating, like the walk or the museum, or maybe it was just white noise, but either way taking a break can get you back on track.

5) Read the News

I haven’t had an actual newspaper in a long time, choosing the virtual news so readily available, but however you get your news, there is a wealth of story ideas all over. Read a personal interest story and spin out that idea into a whole new take on the original story. Check out a celebrity gossip story and base a side character on some ridiculous quality you see. Pay attention to a story about a natural disaster and set your story in that event. The possibilities are endless.

6) Follow Your Senses

I was recently out to dinner and tasted a bite of a fried chicken dish that immediately took me back to my childhood, growing up with my grandmother’s amazing fried chicken. Our five senses hold so many memories and associations. Think of one of those memories or associations wrapped up in one of your senses and then use that as inspiration.  Write a story about the feeling you get thinking of the bright yellow walls that colored your grandmother’s kitchen and always felt so warm. Listen to a song that always brings back memories and use those feelings to color a scene. Is there a smell that is always especially foul to you? Make your villain carry that scent.  Play with all the senses and see where you end up.

7) Look at a Picture

Several years ago, my mom, my sister, my cousin and I met for an informal writer’s group.  We mostly ate brunch and drank coffee and caught up on our lives, but occasionally we would work from a shared writing prompt to each write something to share at our next meeting. One time we took a picture on the wall, gave the couple in the picture a name and we were to write a story about the couple based on the picture.  It was great fun and every time we go back there, it’s fun to think of the stories we wrote about the picture.  You can find the picture on the wall of your favorite coffee shop, in a book, in a museum or on a site like Pinterest, but wherever you find the picture, look for the story living there. What is that girl with the pearl earring thinking?  What would happen after the soldier kissed the girl in Times Square? Sometimes I just take the mood of the picture and use that to influence the mood of my piece.  Pictures can build tons of creative possibilities.

These are just a few of the many ways to spark your creativity. Do you have favorite ways to get your creative juices flowing? Tell us about it in the comments! Did you try one of these?  Tell us about it in the comments, we’d love to hear (or see) the results. 🙂

Have a great – and creative – week!

~CJS