Finding Ideas for Writing

It’s sort of a cliche to say that artists get ideas from everywhere, but like most things, it’s a cliche because it’s true.

It's sort of a cliche to say that artists get ideas from everywhere, but like most things, it's a cliche because it's true. @emily_m_deardo

In my case, my ideas come from just about everywhere. A friend who grew up on a farm provided me with the inspiration for a short story in college. The Undesirables is based on my own life, but also what sort of life I’d be living in an alternative universe (being an opera singer), and current events. I dated a guy in college who spent a lot of time in Britain, and his comments about the weather were integral to the writing of The Gift of Snow. He was also initially piquing my interest in contemporary British life and culture, which play a huge role in that novel. A piece I’m currently working on involves the life of my grandmother, who apparently was a singer but never went to college to pursue it, even though she could have. Watching the film of the musical Carousel last week has also given me an idea for a story. I’ve gotten bits of character ideas from people in line at Barnes and Noble.

Music and books always play a big part in my novels. My characters like to read and sing or play instruments. Many of my current novels take place in the Midwest, because that’s where I ‘m from, and that’s what I know–but I’m also an Anglophile at heart (hence the setting of Gift).

How do you find ideas for writing, or whatever your creative muse is (composing, drawing, etc.)? Let me know in the comments.

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Writing Updates–April 27, 2015

A list of what’s been going on inside the office:

Writing updates from my desk pile @emily_m_deardo

  • I’ve written my next piece for Real Housekeeping, about kids’ books. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you’ll have a lot of fun reading it in the June edition! I’ll post here when it’s live.
  • I’ve also begun working on my next piece for RH, about keeping a well-stocked pantry so you can make many delicious meals quickly. This will go up in July.
  • I’m taking a look at the novel I started, and abandoned, for NaNoWriMo 2014. I know there’s a germ of an idea here, but I can’t seem to get it to grow appropriately.
  • I’m toying with ideas for the last section of the memoir. I’m at a point now where strictly chronological writing isn’t serving the style, and it’s not as important as it was in the beginning.  So I’m dealing with several themes that I want to incorporate. Among these in importance is my discernment process with a monastery (obviously, that didn’t work out, but it was still pretty pivotal in my life), and the church work I’m currently doing. I’mg going to scratch out some ideas in my notebook about this and see what comes of it.
  • I’m also thinking about going back to The Artist’s Way and doing the morning pages again. I hear so many other writers talk about how pivotal this is in their development that I feel like I’m missing something by not doing them. I do journal but that’s at the end of the day, usually.

Have you made any progress in your creative projects? Let me know in the comments!

How I write

I used to write when the spirit moved me, or when I had a good idea for a scene. Now, I’m much more disciplined about it, but I still find deadlines to be really helpful.

Where my ideas come from and my writing process @emily_m_deardo

I find NaNoWriMo to be really helpful in sketching out my ideas for novels. I need that initial push and the time crunch aspect to motivate myself to get the ideas down on paper and not get bogged down in a linear way. When I first started writing, I thought I had to write the story through completely, in an actual time line. Now, I’m much more likely to write big scenes or moments, and leave the little nit-picky things for later. (Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, calls this writing in big chunks, and it’s how she writes.) Giving myself permission to do this is very freeing. However, unlike Diana, I usually have some idea of where the book will go, and I do like to outline sometimes, especially if it’s a more complicated story. But I don’t always do it. I also don’t do detailed character lists before I start. Some characters I have from the beginning, but some just spring up.

Of course, this is how I write fiction. Writing non-fiction is a completely different beast, and for that, it’s best for me to go straight through so I don’t get muddled. My journals are a huge help in establishing time line and refreshing my memory of minor details. (I’ve kept a journal regularly since I was 13 years old, so I have 20 years of journals saved up.)

Usually I sit down and just write whatever is in my head for the moment. It’s easiest for me to start, of course. When I’m continuing a piece, I have to re-read what I’ve written over the past day (or many days), until I feel I’m suitably in the setting, and then I continue. Sometimes I need to review my notes to see if I have any ideas that I haven’t used, or I haven’t fully developed. I do not (or try not to) edit much in the re-read, because then I’ll get stuck and not write new material.

Once the new material exists as a first draft, I let it sit for awhile–usually a month or so–and let it marinate. If I try to edit when I’m too close to it, it’s not a good edit. So when enough time has passed, I’ll go back to the work and edit it. I’ll do this a few times. Then it’s time for beta-readers. This is where I am with the memoir.

The readers send their feedback, and I work it in–or not. Then I edit again, and then I consider it “done.” There is  only one finished piece I have; that’s Pilate’s Wife, which I now need to publish. (More on that soon, I promise.)

Eventually there’s a point where you need to stop editing and realize that it’s as done as it’s going to get. There are always things you could change, I suppose, but then nothing would ever be finished, and readers would have nothing to read!

“Come into my room”

Like Mr. Bennet, I have a book room that’s also my office. Virginia Woolf was right that a woman needs a “room of her own”. In my case, I have an entire home of my own, so I can really write anywhere, but the office/book room is a place where I come to be focused on my writing and social media work, because here there’s no TV, no refrigerator, and no knitting to distract me. (There are, however, books…but I try not to let them distract me!) This room is designed as the second bedroom, but I’ve converted it.

As a writer, this is how I set up my office so I can be creative and productive by @emily_m_deardo
Come Into My Room Emily DeArdo

 

Let me give you a tour:

So this is the command center, as it were–my desk.

 

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(The posters are from A Vintage Poster, and the small cards are from Lara Casey.)

The navy and white magazine holder is the place where I keep my file of current projects and writing notebooks, so when I sit down to write, I know exactly what is going to be worked on, and all my notes and documents are close to hand.  There’s also my notepads, because I’m always scribbling things down on paper to remind me to do things (buy more printer ink, ideas, notes to send, etc.)

A few reference books are on my desk–the CCC, the Ignatius Bible, books about Italy, and some of the writing books I’m working through. I also keep my stationery items here (yes, I write real letters to people), as well as my Disney desk calendar, because every day needs a dose of Disney. There is always a fresh stack of paper for the printer! My printer is a Canon  MG7120, which I adore.

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To the right of the desk is my cabinet of office supplies and software and my cork board. The cork board is a place where I stick notes to myself (like how the scanner works!) and a weekly overview of content that helps drive my editorial calendar. I brainstorm ideas first, and then I break them down between content that gets posted here, or gets posted on Living Adventurously. Then I assign due dates so I know what’s due to go up when. The “Make it Happen” is a constant reminder to myself to get things done.

You can see that Thursday is devoted solely to writing manuscripts. That was an inspired Cristina idea!

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And yes, the book cases and books….everywhere. They are organized. The bookshelves are supremely organized. Fiction/poetry/history/theology/kid-YA lit are shelved in this room; biography, current events, and the start of the fiction (and the Shelf of Jane References) are downstairs. (I am really picky about how I organize my books. I have to know where they all are, and I can tell people where are they at all times. It’s sort of scary. )

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One of my favorite parts of this room is the light. I love the windows. The view of the parking lot isn’t exactly edifying, but I do like the trees and a bit of green space beyond that. And since I can see the parking lot, I can see if the UPS guy comes to deliver while I’m upstairs writing (very useful).

 

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I keep a lot of magazine files around, or files of research, because one never knows when things may come in handy. So those are stored in here as well. In the memory boxes, I have my girl scout badges, high school letters, special cards and notes and programs from special events. I also store my journals in this room, which are invaluable when it comes to filling in gaps while I’m writing the memoir and helping with the timeline.

(I linked to all the things I like so you can get them, too, if you want–a lot of people ask me where I got my posters and other items, so I wanted to have it there for you! I don’t get a commission or anything, I just really like these products.)

Manuscript update

Hi everyone!

First of all, thank you, new followers, for coming on board! I so appreciate it! Explore the page and let me know if you have any questions/comments.

This update is short, but I’m proud of it. I’ve finished the second edit of my NaNo 2013 novel, The Gift of Snow (more about that here), and, with the exception of a few bits I need to add it, it’s in a completed state. I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s much simpler than I expected it would be, when I first started writing it, but there are parts which really please me. The parts that don’t please me are what I’m tweaking. So I’ll soon be able to update that page with an excerpt, I think.

I’m also working on some free goodie things to give to you guys as a thank you! So watch for that.