By Laura Childs, author of Mumbo Gumbo Murder
One of the great perks of being an author is meeting new people at book signings, bookshops, libraries, and writing conferences. And while I adore folks who are passionate about reading, many of them are also secretly longing to become authors.
So I’m inevitably asked the following questions: How on earth can you write three books a year? How do you keep plots and characters straight in your head? How do you cope with writer’s block? And then there’s the biggie – how do you come up with all those ideas?
The answer, of course, is that most ideas spring from the imagination. And here I’m talking about all sorts of ideas – whether you’re trying to craft a novel, short story, book of poetry, or just want to infuse a spark of creativity into your job or everyday life.
The good news is that revving up your creativity isn’t nearly as tough as you think. But if you’re stuck, here are a few of my favorite tricks to get started:
Carry a notebook around with you. When ideas, words, phrases, or images run through your mind, jot them down. I’ve had concepts like “ghost train” and “shooting party” turn into entire book plots.
Try to work when you’re at your best. (I think this used to have something to do with biorhythms). But, seriously, you know when you’re best able to buckle down and work smart. For me, I start to pick up speed around four o’clock. That’s when my motor kicks in and I can write like the devil for the next four hours.
Doodle your ideas. Use circles, arrows, boxes, whatever. I do this when I’m plotting a book. I take a huge piece of paper and start sketching out murderous openings, then I try to connect them with suspects, plot twists, and a few more nefarious acts.
Don’t be afraid to ditch out and take a break. If you’re working on something and your mind starts to wander, stop and do something else. Take a catnap, read a chapter in a book, go outside and walk around, eat some chocolate. I also find that going to museums, concerts, and movies help recharge my batteries.
Try some collaboration. If you’re in a writer’s group, why not pitch ideas to each other? Often you can help build on each other’s themes and story lines.
Music unlocks the brain and sometimes stimulates it. I write to classical music, Stephen King writes to hard rock.
Go ahead and outline your book, your business plan, or the rest of your life. Write it down on paper, keep tinkering with it, and update as needed. Remember that each of us has been gifted with a brilliant, vivid imagination that’s fizzing with ideas. We just have to unlock those ideas to make our novel, poem, or movie script happen!
Best of luck!
Laura Childs is the author of the Scrapbook Mysteries, Tea Shop Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. All have been on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller lists. Recently, Book Riot named her mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In her previous life Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, and has a new Chinese Shar-Pei puppy.