Writing Inspiration

Writers Are Troublemakers, Too

>My guest today, Erin O’Riordan, currently has a FREE erotica anthology available at Smashwords through 7/31

…And I don’t need a single book to teach me how to read
Who needs stupid books? They are for petty crooks…”

(“Troublemaker,” lyrics by Rivers Cuomo. From Weezer’s self-titled 2008 album)

Okay, so at first glance, Weezer’s pop-rock tune “Troublemaker” hardly seems like inspiration for us writers. No one wants to be called a “petty crook,” and the L.A.-based alternative rock band’s sound isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. (Some of the lyrics, though not the ones I’ll be discussing, are also slightly risque.) The guys of Weezer have come up with some quite original and witty lyrics over the years, though, and on closer inspection, “Troublemaker” has some good lessons for writers after all. Consider some of the lines that follow the “petty crooks” remark:

–“…So turn off the TV, ‘cause that’s what others see.”

Those of us with a TV habit can attest to TV’s writing-time-wasting effect. As artists, we may applaud TV’s ability to allow millions across the globe to share the same bank of stories and images. In other ways, TV’s visual, corporate-sponsored approach to communal storytelling may lessen our collective ability to imagine a plot line for ourselves, without a Hollywood studio’s help. Before you completely dismiss television as a drain on our imaginations, though, consider this: at a book festival in my hometown, prolific—and best-selling—author Linda Lael Miller was asked where she gets her ideas. She cited TV as one of her inspirations, along with country music.

–“…I will learn by studying the lessons in my dreams…”

There truly is a craft to writing. Before we can write that best-seller, we have to learn the nuts and bolts of grammar, punctuation, structure, etc. We begin learning this in school. We read great books and dissect their greatness. We practice, fail, practice some more. Our teachers, tutors, professors, and mentors help us along the way, imparting the knowledge of the craft to us. Books, writers’ conferences, and websites can teach us still more. At some point, though, our writing has to come from somewhere inside of us. Call that “somewhere” what you will: the right hemisphere of the brain, the subconscious, the soul, the muse. Whatever name it goes by, it gives us our best ideas, often when we least expect them. Sometimes they literally come in dreams as we sleep. I’ve had some great ideas just before falling asleep and as I’m waking. Ideas can come at any time, and it’s in our best interest to follow these flashes of inspiration. We can also speak our dreams into reality: the moment we have the courage to name ourselves “writer,” we start to make it true.

–“…Doing things my own way and never giving up…”

Every piece of writing we submit will be expected to follow the publisher’s guidelines. The key word there is “guide.” Writing may be a craft, but it is also an art, and artists have many times been rewarded (professionally or personally) for disregarding the rules and following their intuition. We should do things our own way and write to please ourselves first. Along with that, we have to have persistence. If we’ve studied our craft well, edited judiciously, and written something interesting and worthwhile, our work will be acknowledged, even if that acknowledgment takes longer than we’d like. Never give up.

–“…I can’t work a job, like any other slob, punchin’ in and punchin’ out and suckin’ up to Bob…”

One of the unfortunate truths of the writing profession is an extremely small percentage of us will ever reach the level of success of the top popular authors. Hugo Award-winning science fiction writer Joe Haldeman, at the book festival I mentioned earlier, likened his income to that of “a good used-car salesman.” Most of us will never be able to quit our day jobs. This doesn’t mean working as a full-time writer, spending all day every day doing the thing we love most, isn’t a worthwhile goal. Some days feels as if life has unfairly saddled us with a desire to do nothing else but read and write, then forced us to do some other work to pay the bills. With persistence and a little luck, though, many of us will find ways to carve out a living…even if we always feel like the proverbial “starving artist.”

–“…There isn’t anybody else exactly quite like me…”

Writers each have our own unique voices, just as the singers of rock bands do. By listening to our dreams, doing things our own way, and working at our craft, we will all create our personal styles. If we get our styles just right, our readers will know our voices without even seeing our bylines. You know Hemingway when you read him, don’t you? Or Edgar Allan Poe? Find your voice, and you’ll find yourself an audience.

In pop-rock songs, the words of the chorus are often repeated. In this case, the last line of
“Troublemaker” bears repeating. When you think of your writing career, remember these three final words: “Never giving up.”


Erin O’Riordan lives in the Midwestern United States with her husband, her co-author on a series of crime thrillers. She also writes the Pagan Spirits romance novel series. Her short stories, essays, and film reviews have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines and websites. A trap designed to catch her should contain dark chocolate, espresso drinks and Christian Bale movies.

You can find Erin:
Melange Books
Web
Blog
Twitter
Facebook

>Writers Are Troublemakers, Too

>My guest today, Erin O’Riordan, currently has a FREE erotica anthology available at Smashwords through 7/31

…And I don’t need a single book to teach me how to read
Who needs stupid books? They are for petty crooks…”

(“Troublemaker,” lyrics by Rivers Cuomo. From Weezer’s self-titled 2008 album)

Okay, so at first glance, Weezer’s pop-rock tune “Troublemaker” hardly seems like inspiration for us writers. No one wants to be called a “petty crook,” and the L.A.-based alternative rock band’s sound isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. (Some of the lyrics, though not the ones I’ll be discussing, are also slightly risque.) The guys of Weezer have come up with some quite original and witty lyrics over the years, though, and on closer inspection, “Troublemaker” has some good lessons for writers after all. Consider some of the lines that follow the “petty crooks” remark:

–“…So turn off the TV, ‘cause that’s what others see.”

Those of us with a TV habit can attest to TV’s writing-time-wasting effect. As artists, we may applaud TV’s ability to allow millions across the globe to share the same bank of stories and images. In other ways, TV’s visual, corporate-sponsored approach to communal storytelling may lessen our collective ability to imagine a plot line for ourselves, without a Hollywood studio’s help. Before you completely dismiss television as a drain on our imaginations, though, consider this: at a book festival in my hometown, prolific—and best-selling—author Linda Lael Miller was asked where she gets her ideas. She cited TV as one of her inspirations, along with country music.

–“…I will learn by studying the lessons in my dreams…”

There truly is a craft to writing. Before we can write that best-seller, we have to learn the nuts and bolts of grammar, punctuation, structure, etc. We begin learning this in school. We read great books and dissect their greatness. We practice, fail, practice some more. Our teachers, tutors, professors, and mentors help us along the way, imparting the knowledge of the craft to us. Books, writers’ conferences, and websites can teach us still more. At some point, though, our writing has to come from somewhere inside of us. Call that “somewhere” what you will: the right hemisphere of the brain, the subconscious, the soul, the muse. Whatever name it goes by, it gives us our best ideas, often when we least expect them. Sometimes they literally come in dreams as we sleep. I’ve had some great ideas just before falling asleep and as I’m waking. Ideas can come at any time, and it’s in our best interest to follow these flashes of inspiration. We can also speak our dreams into reality: the moment we have the courage to name ourselves “writer,” we start to make it true.

–“…Doing things my own way and never giving up…”

Every piece of writing we submit will be expected to follow the publisher’s guidelines. The key word there is “guide.” Writing may be a craft, but it is also an art, and artists have many times been rewarded (professionally or personally) for disregarding the rules and following their intuition. We should do things our own way and write to please ourselves first. Along with that, we have to have persistence. If we’ve studied our craft well, edited judiciously, and written something interesting and worthwhile, our work will be acknowledged, even if that acknowledgment takes longer than we’d like. Never give up.

–“…I can’t work a job, like any other slob, punchin’ in and punchin’ out and suckin’ up to Bob…”

One of the unfortunate truths of the writing profession is an extremely small percentage of us will ever reach the level of success of the top popular authors. Hugo Award-winning science fiction writer Joe Haldeman, at the book festival I mentioned earlier, likened his income to that of “a good used-car salesman.” Most of us will never be able to quit our day jobs. This doesn’t mean working as a full-time writer, spending all day every day doing the thing we love most, isn’t a worthwhile goal. Some days feels as if life has unfairly saddled us with a desire to do nothing else but read and write, then forced us to do some other work to pay the bills. With persistence and a little luck, though, many of us will find ways to carve out a living…even if we always feel like the proverbial “starving artist.”

–“…There isn’t anybody else exactly quite like me…”

Writers each have our own unique voices, just as the singers of rock bands do. By listening to our dreams, doing things our own way, and working at our craft, we will all create our personal styles. If we get our styles just right, our readers will know our voices without even seeing our bylines. You know Hemingway when you read him, don’t you? Or Edgar Allan Poe? Find your voice, and you’ll find yourself an audience.

In pop-rock songs, the words of the chorus are often repeated. In this case, the last line of
“Troublemaker” bears repeating. When you think of your writing career, remember these three final words: “Never giving up.”


Erin O’Riordan lives in the Midwestern United States with her husband, her co-author on a series of crime thrillers. She also writes the Pagan Spirits romance novel series. Her short stories, essays, and film reviews have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines and websites. A trap designed to catch her should contain dark chocolate, espresso drinks and Christian Bale movies.

You can find Erin:
Melange Books
Web
Blog
Twitter
Facebook

Underlying Motivation – Getting Through the Rough Spots

>

Writing after you’ve sold is very different than writing with the goal of selling in mind. I wouldn’t say it’s either better or worse…just different.

Instead of writing toward your own vision, a reckoning force now has altering input. This force will take the shape of your agent or your editor, or both. If you’ve chosen these professionals well, their ideas and suggestions will take your skills and storytelling to a new level. They will push you and challenge you. They will, ultimately, make you a better writer. And this is exactly what you want, because you’re look at writing as a career, not a single contract.  Right?

Your answer at the sign of contract:

  • Absolutely!

And after you discuss changes:

  • Shock: Wow. That’s a lot of work. Like…a lot.
  • Reaffirmation: I’ll be a better writer. This will be a better story. It will all be worth the effort. This is what I want.

And somewhere around ¼ way amidst revisions:

  • First inkling of fear: How in the heck am I going to do what she wanted? In the page count she wanted? I’m good, but…am I that good?
  • Reaffirmation: She believes I can do it. This is what I want. I love this story. I love these characters. I can do this.

And somewhere about ½ way through:

  • Frustration, doubt and recognizable fear: What the hell did I sign up for? Why am I doing this again? What if she hates it when I’m done? Could I face doing this again?
  • Resignation: If I back out now, I’ve killed any chance of having that writing career I’ve dreamed of. I’ll lose all self-respect. The story is strong. The characters are compelling. I have to push through.

And about ¾ of the way done:

  • Apprehension & disbelief: Holy shit. Was I high when I said I could make those changes she wanted? By that date? In that word count? When was the last time I went to the grocery store? Did laundry? Showered? Can I kill these characters now? Is it too late to change my plot to something worthwhile? Who are these kids running around my house calling me mom? Who is this man calling me honey? What day is it? No…more importantly, how many days do I have left to deadline? Will every book be like this? Is this really what I wanted?
  • Blind ambition and an incongruous trust in the universe: Don’t look up to see how far you still have to go. Don’t look down to see how much work you’ve already done. Don’t look around to see what else is passing you by. Just. Keep. Working. You gave your word. You have to follow through.

This is where knowing your underlying motivation for writing will pull you through.

I’m not talking about surface motivation: Writing is fun. It’s fun to make up characters and tell stories. Writing is creative. It’s my outlet.

None of those will get you through those rough stages.  At least not time after time, book after book.

Only recognizing and honoring your core motivation will keep you focused and give you the purpose you need to push up that hill.

So, why do you need to write?

Yes, it can be a creative outlet, but it had better be one that speaks to your soul. One you feel empty without. One that can’t be filled with any other creative media, because I’ve tried many, and they’re all a hell of a lot easier than writing. And most pay more, too.

Yes, it can even be for the money, but that sale must be something that validates you on a visceral level, because there are far easier ways to earn a paycheck—bigger, faster and in an equally creative field.

I’ve know for a long time that writing for me is both a curse and a calling.  In my gut I know I couldn’t stop writing, no matter how grueling.

Only after going through all the above stages twice, first with the revisions of my debut novel, FEVER, and again with the completion of my second novel, BLAZE, which shares an overarching plot and characters in common, did I discover why.

My underlying motivation to write is communication.


At the deepest part of me, I need to communicate. First and foremost, with a core part of myself. But just as important to the process is sharing the result of that communication with the reader. 

I am a lover of prose.  Not purple prose, but purposeful prose.  I craft and recraft and recraft sentences and paragraphs and scenes with the ultimate goal of expressing whatever deep emotion simmers within my character. Whatever it is he or she needs to voice in order to grow and change and ultimately find happiness.

That’s what we all seek, isn’t it?  Happiness in one form or another?

My goal, I discovered, is piecing words together in an effort to find the most powerful way to express my character’s struggles on the path to reaching this goal.  The battle of their individual inner demons.  I strive to portray situations and characters and ultimately toil a compelling story that speaks to the reader through emotion.

And story is emotion.

So in the darkest moments of writing, when I’m sure I’ll never weave the threads I’ve pulled from the bolt into the tapestry I imagined, I remember that base need to communicate.  

I need to communicate in order to understand myself and others. I need to understand myself and others in order to make sense of this world and my life and all that happens day to day.  

I need to write in order to be me. Authentically.

Why do you write?

>Underlying Motivation – Getting Through the Rough Spots

>

Writing after you’ve sold is very different than writing with the goal of selling in mind. I wouldn’t say it’s either better or worse…just different.

Instead of writing toward your own vision, a reckoning force now has altering input. This force will take the shape of your agent or your editor, or both. If you’ve chosen these professionals well, their ideas and suggestions will take your skills and storytelling to a new level. They will push you and challenge you. They will, ultimately, make you a better writer. And this is exactly what you want, because you’re look at writing as a career, not a single contract.  Right?

Your answer at the sign of contract:

  • Absolutely!

And after you discuss changes:

  • Shock: Wow. That’s a lot of work. Like…a lot.
  • Reaffirmation: I’ll be a better writer. This will be a better story. It will all be worth the effort. This is what I want.

And somewhere around ¼ way amidst revisions:

  • First inkling of fear: How in the heck am I going to do what she wanted? In the page count she wanted? I’m good, but…am I that good?
  • Reaffirmation: She believes I can do it. This is what I want. I love this story. I love these characters. I can do this.

And somewhere about ½ way through:

  • Frustration, doubt and recognizable fear: What the hell did I sign up for? Why am I doing this again? What if she hates it when I’m done? Could I face doing this again?
  • Resignation: If I back out now, I’ve killed any chance of having that writing career I’ve dreamed of. I’ll lose all self-respect. The story is strong. The characters are compelling. I have to push through.

And about ¾ of the way done:

  • Apprehension & disbelief: Holy shit. Was I high when I said I could make those changes she wanted? By that date? In that word count? When was the last time I went to the grocery store? Did laundry? Showered? Can I kill these characters now? Is it too late to change my plot to something worthwhile? Who are these kids running around my house calling me mom? Who is this man calling me honey? What day is it? No…more importantly, how many days do I have left to deadline? Will every book be like this? Is this really what I wanted?
  • Blind ambition and an incongruous trust in the universe: Don’t look up to see how far you still have to go. Don’t look down to see how much work you’ve already done. Don’t look around to see what else is passing you by. Just. Keep. Working. You gave your word. You have to follow through.

This is where knowing your underlying motivation for writing will pull you through.

I’m not talking about surface motivation: Writing is fun. It’s fun to make up characters and tell stories. Writing is creative. It’s my outlet.

None of those will get you through those rough stages.  At least not time after time, book after book.

Only recognizing and honoring your core motivation will keep you focused and give you the purpose you need to push up that hill.

So, why do you need to write?

Yes, it can be a creative outlet, but it had better be one that speaks to your soul. One you feel empty without. One that can’t be filled with any other creative media, because I’ve tried many, and they’re all a hell of a lot easier than writing. And most pay more, too.

Yes, it can even be for the money, but that sale must be something that validates you on a visceral level, because there are far easier ways to earn a paycheck—bigger, faster and in an equally creative field.

I’ve know for a long time that writing for me is both a curse and a calling.  In my gut I know I couldn’t stop writing, no matter how grueling.

Only after going through all the above stages twice, first with the revisions of my debut novel, FEVER, and again with the completion of my second novel, BLAZE, which shares an overarching plot and characters in common, did I discover why.

My underlying motivation to write is communication.


At the deepest part of me, I need to communicate. First and foremost, with a core part of myself. But just as important to the process is sharing the result of that communication with the reader. 

I am a lover of prose.  Not purple prose, but purposeful prose.  I craft and recraft and recraft sentences and paragraphs and scenes with the ultimate goal of expressing whatever deep emotion simmers within my character. Whatever it is he or she needs to voice in order to grow and change and ultimately find happiness.

That’s what we all seek, isn’t it?  Happiness in one form or another?

My goal, I discovered, is piecing words together in an effort to find the most powerful way to express my character’s struggles on the path to reaching this goal.  The battle of their individual inner demons.  I strive to portray situations and characters and ultimately toil a compelling story that speaks to the reader through emotion.

And story is emotion.

So in the darkest moments of writing, when I’m sure I’ll never weave the threads I’ve pulled from the bolt into the tapestry I imagined, I remember that base need to communicate.  

I need to communicate in order to understand myself and others. I need to understand myself and others in order to make sense of this world and my life and all that happens day to day.  

I need to write in order to be me. Authentically.

Why do you write?

Stars Aligned

>I’ve found that when I am particularly “in tune” with my work, the universe cooperates accordingly.

I’ve been working on a plot for my light paranormal romantic suspsense (how’s that for genre blending?). I plot it out on paper, I muse over it for hours in the car, I brainstorm with my CP. I meditate, I dream, I struggle for days…weeks even.

Then one day the following happens–all in the same day. In fact, all in the same morning while I was at work:

  • Two nurses in the NICU were discussing their true life experiences with twin telepathy.
    (I eavesdropped as I scanned another baby.)
  • A patient and her companion were discussing NASA and alien spacecraft
    (I eavesdropped as I waited for my doctor to read my scan.)
  • I went onto CNN and found this article: The future of brain-controlled devices
    (So totally excited about this info — using it and other ideas combined to develop an awesome plot for the wip-the second book in my Rising Phoenix series/trilogy.)
  • Continuing that theme, another article popped up on CNN: Somali Pirates Hijack Fourth Vessel in a Week
    (Turns out there wasn’t a lot of info in the article, but it still lit off a firestorm of ideas in my head for a second book in another potential series/trilogy.)

There’s no telling when the inspiration will hit, only that if you cultivate the creativity enough, it will.

>Stars Aligned

>I’ve found that when I am particularly “in tune” with my work, the universe cooperates accordingly.

I’ve been working on a plot for my light paranormal romantic suspsense (how’s that for genre blending?). I plot it out on paper, I muse over it for hours in the car, I brainstorm with my CP. I meditate, I dream, I struggle for days…weeks even.

Then one day the following happens–all in the same day. In fact, all in the same morning while I was at work:

  • Two nurses in the NICU were discussing their true life experiences with twin telepathy.
    (I eavesdropped as I scanned another baby.)
  • A patient and her companion were discussing NASA and alien spacecraft
    (I eavesdropped as I waited for my doctor to read my scan.)
  • I went onto CNN and found this article: The future of brain-controlled devices
    (So totally excited about this info — using it and other ideas combined to develop an awesome plot for the wip-the second book in my Rising Phoenix series/trilogy.)
  • Continuing that theme, another article popped up on CNN: Somali Pirates Hijack Fourth Vessel in a Week
    (Turns out there wasn’t a lot of info in the article, but it still lit off a firestorm of ideas in my head for a second book in another potential series/trilogy.)

There’s no telling when the inspiration will hit, only that if you cultivate the creativity enough, it will.