Posted in Ideas generation, Writing, Writing craft

Five Tips for Generating New Writing Ideas

if you’d prefer to see me talk about this, scroll to the bottom and click to the video at Write. Fix.Repeat.

People often say that there are no new ideas, only regenerated ideas- that everything is some kind of a rehash of what’s already been done. I don’t see it this way. What’s more, if you don’t have any new and innovative ideas or are not interested in the mental gymnastics of attracting new ideas, you should stop writing. No one wants to read the same old thing over and over again.

Okay, you might use familiar frameworks (mysteries often have similar frameworks), but your story doesn’t’ have to be in any way the same as someone else’s. So, if you’re having trouble with new ideas, let me help you turn on the faucet.

  1. Pay attention to details around you. Be a keen observer. Listen to people talking. Stop walking down the street, gazing into your phone.
  2. Check on what’s trending on social media and make notes. Don’t get caught falling down an SM rabbit hole, though. This misstep can be a time suck. Be focused. Pass right on by anything that doesn’t ‘grab you sufficiently to compel you to write a note about it.
  3. Read feature stories in the news. The odder, the better. Don’t just stick to the main news stories. (I’m making the reasonable assumption that writers read the news daily.)
  4. Journal about what you see and hear. Then play “what if” with yourself in your journal.
  5. Go on an “artist date” with yourself. Plan what writer Julia Cameron[1] calls an “artist date.” Go to an art gallery, a fabric store, a museum, a free concert. Eat at a restaurant that serves ethnic food you’ve never eaten, 

Writing prompts: Best left for writing practice (not idea generation).

Here’s a link to “Inspiration Snips,” video writing prompts for all you visuals out there.

Watch this topic on Write. Fix. Repeat.

[1] Julia Cameron. 1992. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Tarcher Perigree.

Posted in Book launches, Publishing, Writing

My new book launches today: Is it historical fiction? Not so much

Historical fiction seems to be a trendy genre these days. I’ve written my share of historical fiction (Grace Note comes immediately to mind―I mean, if a book set in the twelfth century isn’t historical fiction, I’m not sure what is!).I’m launching my newest book today―Kat’s Kosmic Blues―and I’m wondering if it’s historical fiction to some people. The question is: when does a story qualify as historical fiction?

It seems clear that if a story takes place in the past and is fictional, it must, by definition, be “historical fiction.” But it seems that it’s not that clear at all.

The blurb on Masterclass that leads into Margaret Atwood’s class on creative writing says the following:

Historical fiction transports readers to another time and place, either real or imagined. Writing historical fiction requires a balance of research and creativity, and while it often includes real people and events, the genre offers a fiction writer many opportunities to tell a wholly unique story.[1]

So, any novel that transports the reader to another time and place is historical―except when it isn’t. There seems to be a notion decreed by some parts of the online community that anything set 50 years ago or earlier is historical fiction. But really? If you’re sixty-five years old and lived through the period in question, then, for you, it’s not historical fiction at all. It may not be contemporary, but a story set fifty years ago won’t feel like it is in any way in the same category as, for example, The Girl with the Pearl Earring or The Thornbirds (to mention two of my favourites).

It seems then that what is historical fiction is a bit subjective. And what about a story that starts fifty-five years ago (1965) and sweeps you all the way to 1989? Historical fiction? Probably not. And that’s what I’m launching today.

Kat’s Kosmic Blues, the prequel to The Year I Made 12 Dresses, is really a contemporary book.

In these days of COVID restrictions, we really do have to find creative ways to launch books! Please join me here…


[1] https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-historical-fiction-definition-of-the-historical-fiction-genre-and-tips-for-writing-your-historical-novel#quiz-0

Posted in Writing, Writing craft

Writers (like everyone else) need common sense: Five times they don’t show any

Years ago, one of my students returned from a semester abroad in Australia and brought me a little gift for helping her. It is a coffee coaster, and it has sat on my desk for years. It says, “Common sense is not common at all!” I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I think it warrants some further consideration.

French writer Christiane Collange once said, “Common sense is perhaps the most equally divided, but surely the most underemployed, talent in the world.” And when it comes to so many people’s writing aspirations, it seems to be so under-employed as to be practically non-existent. Let me explain.

Newbie writers can be intense. They follow the social media feeds of many other wannabe writers and writers who have garnered some success. They take part ins discussions on Facebook sites where everyone else is just as inexperienced and gullible as they are. They hang on every word of encouragement posted by every other writer and wannabe writer, and they seem, so often, to lose their sense of perspective―their common sense. Here are five times when I think writers need to get real and cultivate some common sense.

  1. Sending manuscripts to publishers and agents who don’t publish or represent your genre. Often, not only do they not represent or publish your kind of writing, they actually loathe it. Why would any aspiring writer do this? It shows a significant lack of common sense. And don’t have the audacity to think that your brilliant piece of work will sway them. Not going to happen. Remember, publishers and agents take on only a tiny fraction of the work they’re sent that they do like.
  2. Interacting only with other “writers” on social media to sell books. This makes no sense at all. If you’re trying to connect with readers, connecting solely with other writers isn’t going to get you there. Everyone on those SM sites wants what you want: they want you to read their book, but they’re not likely to read yours.
  3. Interacting on social media writers’ sites to get advice on your writing. If you’re interacting in the hope of improving your writing, unless you know the strengths and credentials of those on the site, you might as well ask you brother for his writing advice (this would demonstrate common sense only if your brother happens to be a well-established writer or writing teacher!). The best writing advice comes from successful, well-established writers not from barely literate members of Facebook groups for beginning writers. Use some common sense!
  4. Not spending every minute you can when not writing or working on whatever else you do reading. If you’re spending more time watching Netflix than reading, you are not demonstrating common sense. We learn to write by reading widely―which means not just in you own genre. Open your mind. If you don’t read, you’re going to be a shitty writer. End of discussion.
  5. Thinking that writing just comes naturally. In what world does it make any sense that you don’t’ have to learn your craft? There is such a thing as talent, but talent is not enough. Talent needs to be cultivated and supported. Many talented writers never get anywhere because they fail to see that there is still a lot they have to learn. There was a learning curve in learning to drive a car, knit, bake cookies, ride a horse. Writing isn’t any different.

“Common sense” is generally defined along the lines of sound judgment applied to practical matters. Apart from the actual writing effort itself, much of what we do as writers is of a practical nature―editing, marketing, searching for agents and publishers, making publishing decisions etc. Don’t you think it’s a good idea to apply sound judgment?