You're all in on this novel writing idea. You're going to do it--you're going to write your first book.
There's just one problem: What will you write about?
Over the past few years of my writing journey, I've chatted with so many people who desperately want to see their name on the cover of a novel, who want to achieve the ultimate goal of writing a book. However, many of these people never accomplish their goal. It's not because they don't want to, they don't have the drive, or they don't have the talent.
It's just that "the" idea hasn't struck them.
So how do you get around this? Unless you're J.K. Rowling who dreamed up Harry Potter on a train or Stephanie Meyer who had a dream about Edward, most of us can't just wait for inspiration to fall into our lap. We have to find it.
I've been fortunate that the idea train keeps on driving through my brain. Right now, I have more ideas for novels than I have time to write. This power for inspiration, however, only unlocked after novel one. Honestly, the more you write and the more confidence you gain, the more you realize that ideas are literally everywhere.
As a new writer, though, I know it doesn't feel that way. Below are my five tips for finding inspiration and ideas to get your novel started.
1. Ask yourself what you find intriguing.
A novel is a huge investment of time. From writing to editing to marketing, you have to be passionate about your subject matter. Ask yourself what you find intriguing or interesting in the world around you. For me, my first novel Voice of Innocence came to be because I was always fascinated with wrongful conviction.
Once you have your topic, try to think of a different angle on your topic. Many books had been written about wrongful conviction, but few focused on the loved one of a wrongfully convicted person. I saw the potential for romance from the idea. Try to think about your topic in a different way, and you just mind find an angle that will work for a new novel.
2. Look to your real life.
While many see real life as humdrum or tedious, there is actually a lot of story potential in the world around you. Keep a notebook with you and jot down ideas, events, people, or places you find interesting. Sometimes even a stranger on the street can inspire your thought process if you're paying attention.
Our own lives can also jump start ideas. One of my novels came to be when I ran into my husband's best friend from elementary school. Just like that, an idea for a new romance came to me. You must be open and willing to see inspiration in order for it to come. Be receptive, be open-minded, and be looking for it. You never know when it might strike.
3. Look to your favorite authors and books.
Let's be clear--I'm not suggesting you plagiarize. If you are going to invest your time in a novel, you want to make sure it is completely your own. However, reading in your genre can serve to inspire you. For me, it's about seeing what "holes" there are in the market.
What are the tendencies of the books in your genre? Can you break those tendencies and still be marketable? Who is being left out in your genre?
These are questions that can create idea possiblities.
4. Free write frequently.
Even now, after publishing five novels, the best inspiration I get is from free writing frequently. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboards is the best way to keep the creative juices flowing and the storytelling alive in your own mind.
Don't force yourself to write for a purpose. Let your mind wander. Sometimes, just the act of writing will create inspiration for a new story or book.
5. Give an idea time to breathe.
Found an idea you think might work?
Excellent. Now take the pressure off and give your idea time to generate itself more fully.
The way I know I've found an idea worthy of writing about is that it continues to haunt me weeks, months, even years after I've developed it.
If this is your first novel, obviously you don't want to wait years to start writing. However, give your idea some time. If in a few weeks, it still is something you're passionate about, pursue it. If not, giving it time to breathe may help you develop it and make it more complex.
Developing an idea you feel confident enough to write a novel about isn't an easy task. For some authors, the idea simply seems to fall from the sky, the heavens, or any other transcendent place. For some of us, though, it takes effort to scavenge for the novel-winning idea.
Be patient with yourself, keep your eyes open, and don't be afraid to grasp at straws for a while until you find "the" idea.
All I can tell you is that when you do find it, there will be no doubt that you've found "the" idea you're willing to put your heart out there for.
Two By Two by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"This, I remember thinking, is what life is really about. Love and laughter and friendship; happy times spent with those you care about." ~Nicholas Sparks, Two by Two, page 416
Nicholas Sparks' latest novel is completely different from his typical novels. This book is not your typical love story or about two people coming together against all odds. This book is a story of family, of parenting, and of how a year can change everything.
The book covers a year in the life of Russ, a father, husband, and successful businessman. When everything in his life begins to fall apart--his business, his family, and his love life--he has to figure out how to deal with the changes and do what is best.
I liked the overall storyline of this book because it was unique yet easy to relate to. It is a story of how love can sometimes fall apart and about how life isn't perfect. Sometimes Sparks is criticized for being unrealistic in his novels. This book has a completely different mood than many of his works. It is gritty, it is sometimes uncomfortable, and it focuses on how love doesn't always save things.
I absolutely hated the character of Vivian, which I think was sort of the point. I thought she was the most selfish witch of a character I've ever read about. Russ, however, is very forgiving of her. At times, I was exceptionally frustrated with him for dealing with her in the way he did. Even at the end, I didn't feel like her character was redeemed. I wanted to see a stronger response to her antics from Russ or his family. I felt like her character got off easy in this book, which bothered me.
I liked the focus on family and the father-daughter relationship, something we don't often see in novels. I like that in this book, the value of fathers is promoted. I also liked how it shows that women can be the villain in custody battles.
I will admit I missed the beautiful love story characteristic of Sparks' works. I missed the romance and the beautiful, saving power of love that runs through his stories. This book made a much darker commentary on love. I wasn't satisfied with Russ's relationship with Emily, either. I wanted to see more depth.
I also disliked how rushed the ending felt. I thought the entire book kept building and building in a realistic way until the ending. All of a sudden, things are neatly cleaned up in the epilogue. I disliked how the entire book focuses on a major problem that is tidied up in the last few pages without real depth or explanation.
Overall, this is not my favorite Sparks' book. It lacked his beautiful outlook on love and romance. It lacked a deep, meaningful ending or a true surprise worked in. I do applaud his ability to write a very different kind of story and step out of his comfort zone as an author. I also liked that he brought attention to the father-daughter relationship. There were some nice moments in the book, and the flashbacks were a good touch. I wish he had incorporated a deeper romantic relationship, given Russ more strength of character when dealing with Vivian, and allowed for a more intricate ending.
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One woman has become the face for female empowerment this week, and I don’t think that’s a good thing―but not for the reason you might be thinking.
So many websites are bombarding us with articles about Hillary Clinton and what she’s doing for women. Scrolling online, it feels like I’ve only seen her face coupled with headlines about women’s rights, female equality, and inspiration.
Politics aside, I think it’s dangerous when we put all of our female empowerment cards in one person, one ideal. I’m not here to rip apart Hillary, to analyze her credentials, or to make this a political statement.
I’m simply here to say: Hillary Clinton is not the only woman who has the power to inspire women.
Don’t worry, I’m not living under a rock. I understand the excitement, the impact this could have. A female president certainly is a huge stride in women’s rights,regardless of what political party you align with. I’m sure Susan B. Anthony would be leaping with joy at the prospect, along with all of the other women who paved the way for this historical event.
However, it frustrates me to see everyone only focused on Hillary. It seems like she’s the only beacon of hope in the female empowerment movement. Certainly, the presidency yields great power and respect. But is the presidency the only source of inspiration for women?
Girls and women need role models to look up to, need women who prove to us it’s okay to dream big.
However, a woman as president is not the be-all and end-all of female empowerment.There are so many ways to inspire women, to promote equality for women, and to teach girls to strive for their wildest dreams.
There are women doing amazing things outside of the campaign for the presidency who deserve to be highlighted as well.
Furthermore, I don’t think you have to have money or fame to be empowering. In my local community, I see examples of women inspiring other women all around me.
I see female empowerment in a local woman who pursued her dream of opening an animal rescue called Mending Hearts. I see female empowerment in my many female classmates from high school who have opened their own businesses, from hair salons to pet services. I see female empowerment in a writer in my hometown who blogs about finding balance between identity, spirituality, and motherhood. I see female empowerment in all the women around me who pursue their innermost goals and dreams, whatever that looks like.
I see female empowerment in the faces of my parents, who never let my gender be a qualifier of what I could or could not do. They told me education and determination would open up any opportunity I sought; they never let me believe being female would hold me back.
I see empowerment in the faces of my female students every time they raise their hands and voice their opinions. They are not afraid to be heard or to challenge something they don’t agree with.They are not afraid to take ownership for their learning or to pursue their academic goals.
Thus, I think we need to remember female empowerment isn’t embodied by one woman. Female empowerment is embodied by every single woman who is striving to promote a better, more equal version of our world.
I’m not saying Hillary Clinton isn’t doing notable, inspiring things. I think she deserves press and attention.
However, there are countless other women in every field who inspire, empower, and move us to be better. It doesn’t take a presidential candidate to remind women we are strong, powerful, and capable of achieving our wildest dreams.
Let’s take some time this week to recognize women of all walks of life who are moving the female empowerment movement forward. I’ve only mentioned a few, and these may not be women you would put at the top of the list. That’s okay; feel free to comment with women who you think are empowering women. Tweet about #empoweringwomenyoushouldknow.
Let’s teach our girls the many faces of female empowerment this week.
Lindsay Detwiler Contemporary romance author, high school English teacher, animal lover, and wife
Five years ago today, I walked down that aisle, said I do, and walked into our life together. My hands were shaking, and the aisle looked so long. We'd prepared for the day for months, but in reality, we'd prepared for years. That day was a long time coming. From the second I saw you in that 7th grade art class, I knew there was something special between us.
As the years passed, we celebrated so many milestones of growing up together. Walking down the aisle, I'd already known you for over a decade. We'd laughed together, cried together, fought with each other, and threw in the towel. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we were ready... sort of.
That day, nothing was perfect. The deejay lost power. I almost put your ring on the wrong hand. My dress straps almost came undone and your mom had to patch them before the reception. My bustle was all wrong, and the cake crumbled when we cut it. There were lots of "oh nos."
But we didn't care. We were bound together by some simple words, a white dress, and a magical day. We were wrapped up in the sheer joy of the moment, in the connection we had, even if everything wasn't quite right.
Now, looking back over the past 5 years we've had, I know the wedding was just the beginning. Over the past 5 years, we've had so many more moments of sheer joy. We've stood together, built a life together, been through so many more milestones. We found an apartment and bought our first furniture. We laughed at one of our first dinners because a friend brought a bottle of wine and we didn't even have a corkscrew. We celebrated first holidays and made new traditions. We bought a house, a dog, and collected quite a few cats along the way. We chased dreams, chased careers, chased passions.
We celebrate the little moments, too. We laugh together everyday, sharing in an inside joke from across the room without a single word. We enjoy our lazy evenings on the couch watching Netflix or taking a nap or eating Lunchables instead of cooking. We go to Applebees for appetizers just because we feel like it or buy way too much candy at the grocery store. We play pranks on each other and buy each other chocolates and sing crazy songs to drive each other nuts.
It hasn't been perfect, of course. We've shared in some rough moments, too. The inevitable, "life's not fair" moments have snuck up on us. We've mourned lost opportunities, lost pets, lost moments. We've had hurt feelings. We've hurt each other. We've been tired and broken and exhausted from this thing called life.
Still, the good definitely outweighs the bad. I'm thankful we've had the past 5 years to figure out who we are together. I'm thankful to have 5 years of amazing married life. I'm thankful to have a man who will support my crazy endeavors, whether it's going to a school musical to support the district I teach in or driving three hours in the pouring rain to sell books for my writing career. I'm thankful for a man who, even on my worst day, can make me laugh, can say what I need to hear, can tell me the truth others won't. I'm thankful to have a man who isn't afraid to laugh at himself, at life, and find joy in the simple things.
Just like our wedding day, things aren't perfectly glamorous. We live a simple life, perhaps even an ordinary life.
Still, on the anniversary of our wedding day, I know this life is exactly the life I'm meant to be living, exactly the life I'd choose if I could do it all over again because any life with you is extraordinary in its own right.
I love you. Happy anniversary.
"Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
'living it up'
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling
We never have as much time as we think.
I didn't need Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poem today to remind of this, but teaching this poem with my high school students on #NationalPoetryDay, I was thankful for the reminder.
Our lives are filled with tragic reminders of how quickly life can come to a halt. In recent weeks, I've seen my Facebook newsfeed filled with sad tragedies and lives cut too short. I've been reminded of my mortality and that, at twenty-eight, there are no guarantees for a long life.
I've been reminded in recent weeks that bucket lists should be living lists, should be "do now" lists and not "do someday" lists. I've learned that work and goals are important...but relationships are more important. I've learned to put down the computer, the cell phone, the lofty goals of fame and fortune to spend time doing what truly matters.
Because, as Ferlinghetti's poem reminded me today, death can come anytime.
When we're living life, thinking we've got years stretched before us, death can come for us. In the midst of joy, sorrow can strike. Tragedy can strike. Life can come to a screeching halt, all of the unfinished business on our list left undone.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poem is a depressing poem, in some ways, but the urgency of the words rings through the final word. Life is beautiful. The world is beautiful. But it is not guaranteed. We must enjoy the love scene and the flowers and everything in between while we still can. We must not take any small joys for granted or loved ones for granted.
The world is truly a beautiful place...but we must take time to appreciate it.
I had just graduated high school when the Amanda Knox scandal began.
It was terrifying to me how a girl not much older than me was brutally slaughtered. It was also terrifying how a girl not much older than me was facing the prospect of the majority of her life behind bars for a crime she claimed she didn't commit. Both were unthinkable. For some reason, though, the intrigue of Amanda Knox being attacked in the media, especially if she were innocent, bothered me. How must she feel if she were truly innocent? How would it feel to be one of the most hated, denounced, and insulted college girls if you really didn't do it?
These are questions the new documentary called Amanda Knox explores. I liked how Amanda Knox actually appeared in the documentary present-day. To see the case through her older, wiser, and somewhat broken eyes was enlightening.
The documentary takes you through the damning evidence of the case first. During the first half of the show, I was convinced she was guilty. She made a lot of mistakes, and you could see how the media could latch on to certain aspects of the crime. There was the knife with DNA, the testimony, the changed stories.
Yet, by the last half, you learn the truth about the investigation. You see how the justice system can actually twist justice to fit their needs. By the end, it is evident that although Knox is no saint, she had no credible evidence putting her at the scene. Crime scene tampering, botched evidence collection methods, and a lack of objectivity of prosecutors and police led her down the dark, deep path of lies. By the end, it was apparent to me at least that Knox was a sometimes senseless, wild college girl who became a victim of a different kind the day of the murder.
Amanda Knox shows us that the media will believe what it wants, and you never know if you're getting the full story unless you're living it. Also, it made me very skeptical of the veracity and reliability of the justice system to allow these mistakes to happen. Wrongful conviction is a truth our society doesn't like to see. Hopefully Amanda Knox will open up the conversation again.
At the end of it, there are no winners. Meredith Kercher is still dead, a victim of a brutal murder. Amanda Knox spent almost a decade fighting for her life and freedom. The entire tale is a sad example of how life can change on a dime and how even the young aren't spared from life's harsh injustices.
After reading Ransom Riggs' amazing debut novel this summer, I was thrilled to go see the movie adaptation. With my 3-D glasses and super sized soda, I was ready for some thrills, some magical moments, and the depth I got from the book.
At the beginning, I was thrilled about the adaptation. While I gave the book a 4 out of 5 star because it moved too slowly at the beginning, the movie jumped right in. Some changes were made, but I was okay with them because I enjoyed getting to Miss Peregrine's Home sooner.
The first half of the movie was pure magic. I loved the actress who played Emma and thought she had good chemistry with Jake. I also loved Miss Peregrine's portrayal in the movie as it stuck to the book for the most part. Burton managed to give us the magic of the home while also showing some of the horrors, some of the negatives. It had a thoroughly creepy feel mixed with magic, a difficult feat to pull off.
The last portion of the movie, however, ruined everything for me. Suddenly there were strange, killing skeletons that were more cheesy than creepy. The suspense Burton had been building collapsed in a semi-goofy, odd scene that really lost the wonderful, creepy feel we had up until this point. I think Burton would have been better off to stick to Riggs' initial vision for the story line; although the book's ending was less dramatic perhaps than the version in the movie, I think it stayed true to the characters and the plot. The last twenty minutes of the movie made me want toss my terrible 3D glasses early and head out the door with my popcorn.
Typically, a movie has a hard time living up to my expectation after a book. I understand things have to be adapted, I do. If the ending hadn't become so oddly corny, I would have been okay with the other changes. However, I think whoever approved the ending of this movie lost sight of the initial mood and feel of both the book and movie.
Overall, I would rate the movie a 3 out of 5 star watch. If there is a sequel produced, I'm honestly not sure I'd be running to see it at this point.
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