Notebooks and inspired writing

When inspiration is abundant writing is the easiest thing in the world for me. Not to mention the most fun. If I’m in an inspired groove the words can just flow out for hours and hours, NaNoWriMo days clocking in at 10k words, and the words are good. But sometimes, (often), getting there isn’t so easy and so lately I’ve been trying to find tricks to help with that.

Right now I have two main projects going: a flash fiction notebook and NaNoWriMo prep. Though until recently I was trying to complete my fourth novel, which is maybe two thirds of the way to being done, but the inspiration for those last sections just… isn’t… coming… Sometimes it really can be like pulling teeth and then I guess the thing to do is shelve the project until that elusive lightning strikes again?

short story starterThe Very Short Story Starter is a cool flash fiction/story prompt notebook, offering a new prompt at the top of every double spread with two pages to write. I’m finding that somehow it really helps me get over the inertia of starting to write if the prompt and the page are all right there in front of me ready to go, absolutely no effort required. I’ve been working my way through at least one a day, and even if nothing particularly good has come of it  so far, I do think it’s a valuable exercise.

Flash fiction is fun because it is so short, under 500 words, so it’s not much of a time commitment, and the little segments can also be taken as so many story starters. Maybe eventually (it’s only been about a week) something will be good enough to run with, or good enough to polish up into a little piece of flash fiction to share on here. Mostly the pages I’ve completed so far are kind of prosey and moody and boring. Is it really in the nature of short stories to be dark and brooding and overly reflective of the human condition? Shouldn’t some of them be light and funny? I suppose some are but they are eluding my memory and my pen. Perhaps I should read more happy short stories for inspiration.

Example prompt I did today: Start a story with the word Songbird and end with the word song. Include the words desultory, evanescent, beseech, and insouciant. Ended up writing about someone rowing around a lake thinking about their gender dysphoria. One of my favorites so far was the very first prompt: Imagine you are on a train or at a train station when a murder takes place, expand upon this scenario in 500 words or fewer. Okay I don’t think it is just me, the prompts tend toward the somber, right? Desultory? Evanescent? Murder?

My other project has been NaNo prep. For NaNoWriMo this year I’m going to try and write a middle grade novel, (that’s a novel for 8-12 year olds, not for middle schoolers), something I haven’t attempted before. Most of what I’ve written has been young adult (13-18 year olds), with the last novel I wrote being more adult. Maybe as I get more and more bored I’ll end up sharing some of it on here?

ready set novelI’ve written a few scenes of this middle grade project and have been fiddling around in the NaNoWriMo Ready, Set, Novel! notebook for extra inspiration. I’ve never done that ahead of NaNoWriMo before, I’ve just jumped in on November 1st to see what spews out, but it seemed like it would be entertaining and helpful this time. It is: this is a very well-crafted and funny notebook with pages to build up your side characters and develop your main character’s motive, pages to work out timelines and maps and villains, and lots of clever ideas to get you brainstorming your story in new ways. Definitely recommended for anyone who, like me at the moment, has an idea to play with but no clear direction.

The middle grade idea I’m playing with is called The Orphanage Hotel and is about an orphan boy raised in a classy New York hotel by its eccentric proprietor. He spends his days roller skating around the hallways, interacting with the guests, making forts in the storage rooms, helping the pastry chef, raising pigeons on the roof, hanging out with his three devoted cats, making friends, getting into trouble, solving mysteries… Not really sure what all he’s going to get up to in the broader sense of plot, but I’ve been filling in the cast of hotel staff and permanent guests with whom he mostly interacts. Wondering if it’s going to end up having a fantasy angle, and if it should be set in the present day or around 1965? Lots of decisions still to make. I think the boy’s name will be Oliver James Moon and he will be found as a baby on the rooftop on Halloween night, and I guess we’ll see where we go from there…

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