Friday, January 8, 2016

Tips on Innovating and Developing New Fiction By Jacqueline Seewald

I am often asked this question by readers: where do you get the ideas for your stories and novels? I answer this question by saying I don’t just sit at my computer all day and pull ideas out of thin air. Here are a few ideas or tips on how I generate new fiction that may prove helpful.

One: Ideas for fiction originate from living life as fully as possible. I am interested in the people and places around me. I talk with friends and family. I communicate with other people. I even listen in on conversations I overhear in restaurants and at gatherings. I pay attention. I observe with all of my senses. Reality gets mixed with imagination in fiction writing. Setting, plot, theme and characterization often originate from living life in the real world and observing what is happening there.

Writers are people, many of whom live interesting and unusual lives. However, some of us tend to find the unusual in the ordinary. It all plays a part in what writers ultimately designate as “fiction.”

Two: Reading sparks ideas. I am a voracious reader as are many other authors. I read a great variety of books, magazines and newspapers. I read both fiction and nonfiction. Reading the work of other writers, both fiction and nonfiction, stirs my imagination and encourages creativity.

Some things I’ve found helpful that may help spark creativity:
·        Visit a bookstore and browse. Buy a new book or magazine you’d like to read.
·        Visit a library and browse. Borrow a print book or audio that looks interesting.

Three: Journal writing serves as a source for ideas. I faithfully write in a journal each day. It is not necessarily great literature but I use journaling to describe things, increasing my powers of observation. For example, I might describe places: houses, sidewalks, backyards and streets, cities. I consider my journal as a kind of travelogue. I often describe people, interesting or unusual, the ordinary as well.

I might jot down snatches of conversation. I think of my journal as a treasure trove or jewel box in which to place gems (quotes, pithy ideas, epigrams, insights, puns, nutshell wisdom). I write a little, think a lot.
I also consider the journal as a laboratory for experiment, a way to try  different writing styles, see what suits, what fits and what doesn't.

In journaling, I can have a record of thought associations, stream-of-consciousness. Journaling can provide fine raw material for future writing.
When I was teaching English at the high school level, I wrote in my journal regularly. A lot of those thoughts, comments, and descriptions came into play when I wrote THE TRUTH SLEUTH. Readers who have also taught commented that this mystery novel has the ring of veracity about it--not surprising since the book is the real deal, one of the benefits of writing what I actually know about. The same was true of THE INFERNO COLLECTION, the original idea for which was sparked by my time working as an academic reference librarian at the university.

Even my YA novels are sparked by real events. In THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, I’ve written reality from my own high school days mixed with the paranormal in a romantic allegorical story.

 In STACY’S SONG, the main character is a girl with a sense of humor but handling many of the insecurities I and others typically dealt with as teenagers.

Four: Exercise is important. I go for walks, paying attention to my surroundings. If the weather is too cold, I either use a treadmill or walk in a mall. My husband does interval training. Jogging works too. Some people like to swim or bicycle. Some like to dance or do yoga. It’s all good! Exercise sends blood to the brain and produces a sense of well-being that lends itself to creativity.

Five: What else can we do to spark our life force, rev up our engines? I’m not just talking about in the creative arts. Every human being needs revitalization at some point. If you’ve become discouraged, suffered a loss of productivity in your field of endeavor, there are ways to deal with it.

Get started by making some life changes in this new year. Get out of your normal rut or routine. Consider doing things you’ve never tried before or haven’t done lately. They don’t have to be dangerous or extreme either. 

Meditation is not something new but certainly beneficial. It’s been referred to as “mindfulness.” Here’s some easy ways to start:
·        Breathe deeply concentrating on the act itself
·        Hug someone, focusing on the interaction
·        Eat slowly while paying attention to what you are eating
The key is to keep focus on the activity and not let your mind wander or worry.
This is just one positive method of increasing your creativity which can lead to increased productivity.

Visit an art gallery, a museum, or travel somewhere you’ve never been before.

Six: Writers need to write. Choose a time that’s good for you and write consistently each day. I prefer the early morning when there are fewer distractions or interruptions. But you may be a night person. Do what’s comfortable. Just make writing a daily habit.

All of these things stimulate creativity which in turn helps originate new writing.

Comments welcome!


Krysten said...

great post! Lots of good tips here :)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks, Krysten, I see you're another early riser! I hope the ideas here prove helpful to you.

Patricia Gligor said...

What a great post, Jacquie! Informative and inspirational! Thanks!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks, Pat. Glad you enjoyed the post.

L.K Kuhl said...

Very good tips, Jacqueline! I enjoyed it!!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks, L.K. You are most welcome here!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

These are great ideas for creating stories and characters.
Thanks for sharing!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Pam,

I'm glad you found them useful!

Kathy McIntosh said...

Wow. Great post. Your approach to journaling is fantastic and might get me back into it. Do you write it in longhand or on your laptop?
Thanks for some excellent ideas.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I still write my journals in longhand. Good question! I guess I'm old-fashioned in that regard, but it's easier for me to thumb through them that way. Not long ago my sister-in-law asked me what happened on a given day several years ago and I had it very easily.

Allan J. Emerson said...

Great tips, Jacqueline. "Find the unusual in the ordinary" especially rang a bell with me.

Nancy Means Wright said...

I'm sure your thoughts/ideas will help many people, Jacquie. I would underline the importance of exercise. It not only helps the brain, but refreshes the complexion--something we all need in gloomy winter.

Betty Gordon said...

Interesting post, Jacquie. I like all your tips, but particularly enjoyed the section on keeping a journal. I do keep one on and off -- mostly off I'm sorry to say, but you have inspired me to begin again. I particularly like the idea of a jewel box. A treasure!!!!

Thanks once again or your interest in ALL of us.

Betty Gordon

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Allan, Nancy, Betty,

You each have left wonderful comments! Thank you for your input.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Lots of good advice here, Jacquie. I agree with all of them but especially with the advice to live life fully. Sometimes I think non-writers believe I sit in my room and write all day, never seeing other people. But I love having a social life (now that I'm retired and have the time) and trying new things. People are endlessly fascinating. Good post.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Susan,

Imagination is important but it doesn't exist in splendid isolation--or it shouldn't. Good writing requires what is believable and real as well.

Earl Staggs said...

Good stuff, Jacqueline. I watch and listen to people around me but I should take notes.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Earl,

I love your writing. Seems to me you're doing just fine.

Susan Coryell said...

Love your points--I do most of them already, except for journaling, which I avoid due to so many years of teaching English and reading student journals! Inspiration comes in many forms for me, as it does you and other writers. Research is anther helpful writing tip for many of my "new" ideas. Thanks!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Susan,

I enjoy doing research too. It's especially interesting if I'm working on historical fiction.

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

You have described such good points for writers to consider. Your high school experiences which came into play with your YA novels is one that resonates with me now, for I have taken THE RED COCKADE out of publication for a time. It should turn out to be a reciprocal plan.It will give 7th & 8th graders of a local school time to read it. and get a bit of early American history, and hopefully, they will give me good observations and suggestions that I can use to edit the book.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


I think that's a good idea. Getting input from teens can only make the novel stronger. Best wishes!

Bonnie Tharp said...

Excellent post, Jacqui - right on as usual. Ideas can surprise us, we just have to be open to them.

June Shaw said...

Great post, Jacqui. You jarred some stale thoughts and inspired new ones. Thank you!