Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Flashes of Inspiration

It’s now almost apocryphal among my friends about when and where I first had the idea about my novel set in Egypt. The sundeck of a cruise ship moored at Aswan in the blistering afternoon sunshine combined with my visit to the amazing Valley of the Kings earlier in the week provided a wealth of ideas that eventually found their way into my novel ‘Her Only Option.’
Ideas can come from many different sources, and not necessarily as the beginning of a story. Sometimes (often?) you need those flashes of inspiration when you’re part way through a novel and you’re not sure what happens next.
They may come at the most unexpected times. Sometimes it might be something someone says that triggers an idea, or something you see on television. I’ve even heard people say they have dreamt the solution to a problem in a story-but that has never happened to me, as my dreams are usually a totally confused mish-mash that make no sense whatsoever.
Towards the end of last year, I put one story aside, as I wasn’t happy with it, even after a second re-write, once I got to about 50K words. I couldn’t define just exactly what was wrong, only that it seemed to be dragging as I struggled to get my characters from one event to the next. So I left it, and started to write a completely different story which so far (cross fingers etc) hasn’t become mired down at the 50K point.
Last Monday, having ended Chapter 16 on a small cliff hanger, I needed to work out the contents of an important letter – what should be included in it and what should be left out. I kept changing my mind, and so I distracted myself by starting to read one of the (many) unread books on my Kindle. The story happened to take place partly over the Christmas period.
I probably read about a quarter of it but then had to go out to a Social Evening with a group of friends. I was still thinking about the letter I needed for my next chapter, but then – in the middle of a game of dominoes, while I waited for someone to decide which domino to play – I suddenly thought of how to solve the problem of the novel that was ‘stuck’.
Maybe it was because the 'stuck' novel was simmering away somewhere at the back of my mind even while I was writing the new story. Maybe it was because my novel takes place partly over the Christmas period, even though it’s a completely different scenario from the one I had read earlier in the day. Or maybe it’s simply the crazy way my mind works at times! Whatever the reason, I'm always grateful for flashes of inspiration like that!  


  1. My comment disappeared. So, here it is again. I love how you were able to "meander" to inspiration for the story you put away. I think it shows perfectly how you are a pantser, rather than a plotter.

  2. You're right, Jen - I just make it up as I go along!

  3. I think sitting at the computer forces our mind to work. When we walk away, or occupy ourselves with other things, we take the pressure off.

    My inspirations come in the shower, or while doing dishes.

    Great post!

  4. Mine tend to come while I'm driving, but I've heard of other people getting inspiration while in the shower, Toni!

  5. Mine come right as I'm about to fall asleep. Which makes life difficult sometimes. ;)

  6. I have those too, Jen - and I'm always convinced I'll remember in the morning - but then I forget what it was!

  7. I do too, but sometimes I'm so certain I'll remember that I don't write it down. Often it's a conversation between the characters that is going on in my head!