WHAT DO I WRITE!? From inspiration to a Novel
I wanted to not only use this blog as a way to expand on the lore and EU of my books, but also to engage other writers. The question I see floating around a lot is "what do I write?" and I was hesitant to visit this subject just because this has never been a problem of mine. Not in the traditional sense anyways. I have a bit of a different problem, but the two tie in pretty well and here's how.
When it comes to needing something to write, I figured out my process very early on. My biggest problem has always been figuring out WHICH idea to focus on because I tend to have about a dozen in my head at once. When I was 17, I finished my first novel. It was 160,000 words and it was pretty awful. It will never see the light of day, although that's pretty much because the computer AND the external hard drive it was stored on both crashed at the same time. If that's not a lesson, I don't know what is. But the real reason I brought up my first novel is because that was the first time I had a solid idea, solid drive, and the patience to finish it without getting bored or frustrated and moving on. This is how i did it.
"Kingdom of Mirrors" was a 160,000 word high fantasy novel. Before I wrote it, I couldn't get 20 pages into a book without getting excited about another idea and dropping my previous projects. This led to me NEVER completing a thought. I was starting to get frustrated, so I decided what I needed was something closer to me. Something that meant more to me than just some idea I sprouted over lunch. That inspiration came from my dream journal. Or rather my nightmare journal.
I had vivid nightmares growing up and one way that I coped was writing them down in detail so I could interpret them in a less negative manner. I chose one nightmare in particular that played out like a story to begin with and used that as a base. In short, this nightmare featured a king who stored all the mirrors of the kingdom in an attic in his castle. He horded them because in this world, mirrors could see everything and everyone in the kingdom. The mirrors, however, lie. In this dream, they fooled the king into thinking his queen was unfaithful and he cut the child from her belly with an ax, thinking it wasn't his. I used this dream to develop an entire story centered around mirrors being conduits for dark magic. Because the dream was so personal to me, it provided a kind of inspiration that I never had before. I eventually incorporated a few more of my nightmares to build the world of my book and eventually completed my first dark fantasy novel.
Once I finished "Kingdom of Mirrors" I found it much easier to stick with other ideas and I started finishing books in a few months or less. Not all of them were based on dreams, though. This was only one way that I found inspiration. I think inspiration can come from something as simple as the architecture of an old building. Fashion styles. Music (This is a big one for me). Scenery. I used to bounce ideas off my cousins and friends and we'd plunge down rabbit holes of stories until something stuck. I wrote a full scifi action series that began as a joke about how a novel called "Zombies vs Wizards" would be attention grabbing. Sometimes I come up with a character first and develop them and then put them into a universe where they would fit the best. I often base other characters off people I know to build personality. I plan to release another apocalyptic action series based on another very vivid dream I had years ago. Other times, I simply think of what hasn't been done or even what has been done but not in a certain way. Werewolves have been done, but have they been done in a Steampunk universe? Vampires have been done, but maybe they haven't been slaves to humans. Or maybe they're saviors. Mermaids have been done, but how many books are about mermen? (These have likely been done in one way or another, but you catch my drift! Think outside the box.)
I think the biggest point I am trying to make is not to strive for perfection right off the bat. Needing something to be perfect instead of accepting that improvement is part of the process will slow you down. That's been my experience anyways. I was stuck for a long time in my writing, but when I finished something I became confident I could do it again...and again...and again. If you're having trouble figuring out what to write, start simple. Start different. Change up the process. Start from the place you want the story to be. Or maybe your characters. Start with an outline (Though this process rarely works for me personally). I've started stories with something as simple as a cool name I found online in those "awesome baby names" lists. When something sticks it will complete itself, but don't be discouraged if it takes a dozen tries. Maybe 2 dozen. I've started at least 30 books in my years and I've gotten anywhere from 1,000 words to 50,000 words before dropping the idea completely, but for every 5 unfinished books, I finish 1. In fact, I've scrapped WHOLE books before and started over. Writing is a process, from the idea to the completion, it's a work in progress.
My advice would be to not ignore those moments when inspiration hits. If it hits, write it down. Keep an inspiration journal. Revisit it. Start a book, even if the idea loses its pull after a while. You won't know if you don't start. And maybe it will stick and then you have a book!