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I would love to be a writer. That being said, I don't have the discipline or the time needed. However, I have ideas in my head. So I'll write a paragraph here and there about completely different things, but find what I written almost mimics something I've read. How do you avoid this? How do you know what your writing isn't exactly like the book you read 6 months ago?
The only answer I can give to this is: write a lot. I think most beginning writers start off mimicing other people. It takes time, work and knowing yourself to avoid this. Here's a great Gore Vidal quote: "Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn."
You can start out writing about one topic lets say like a vacation you took several months/years ago. You could write about that and all the fun you had... What I mean is start out with a topic and just write great details, adding more and more to it.
I read on average fifteen books a month, but the good ones leaving a lasting impression and they spark ideas. I sit down to write and sometimes I feel like I am copying something I have read, but as I get to writing it always becomes mine. I just write a lot. I have options for chapters or I talk to friends who give me a better idea then what I had. So all I can say is that write plenty(even if in a five minute break) and have great to friends to talk to.
It has been said time and again that there is nothing new under the sun. There are no new writing topics. What makes us keep reading is that each writer puts their own spin on things. The voice is unique to the author.
I, like most authors, have several ideas floating around in my head. The book that I'm concentrating on most right now is about a woman who was in a long term marriage who has divorced because of her husbands infidelity. She moves to a new town to start a new life. At the time of her move, her oldest child, a daughter is in college, and her youngest, a son, has just graduated high school and will be leaving for college soon. The story is about the things that happen to the woman as she embarks on this new life, her fears, her bad experiences, and her successes.
Now tell me, haven't you heard this idea before? Even if you haven't read it, you certainly know that the idea isn't new. But it is my story and has never been told my way before. This is how it will be with your story.
A few recommendations:
1. As everyone else has said, write a lot.
Tina, you asked, 'Where do you get your ideas?'
My book that I described earlier is writing itself. The ideas came when I discovered that people were enjoying what I had to say in a game that I was playing here on PBS. Two different people PM'ed me to say that they were not playing the game that I was in, but that they were following it because they couldn't wait to see what I had to say next and that they had enjoyed my 'story' that I was telling in the game. See, one evening the game was slow. Another player and myself had been checking in. I started going on with a lot of junk. We were just talking and having fun and a story of sorts was born out of it. I had been praying for God to lead me to what I need to do to earn more income. After the second person PM'ed me and said that they were enjoying reading what I was writing in the game, I said, "God. Am I supposed to write? Will people PAY to read what I've written?" Then I said, "But I don't know what to write about." Now I have more ideas than I have time to develop.
A couple of my ideas came from dreams that I had that were unique. I jotted down as many of the details as I could remember and I want to develop them.
I have gotten a lot of ideas for my book from real life. No news break there. That's where many people get their ideas. I am not writing about things that happen to me as many people do, but rather my ideas are things I've heard people say. When you are in a waiting room at the doctors office or waiting in line to purchase tickets for a movie, etc., people are talking and you will hear things said that you can expand on and make a story out of. Or you gather bits and pieces from several people this way to add to your story.
My son and I have a sense of humor that is a bit on the sarcastic side at times but he and I can talk and really get ideas flowing. How can I explain this? For example we are riding in the car and we see a woman wearing an orange shirt and red pants. I may say, "Can you believe she looked in the mirror at herself and said, 'I'm done. I look good. I'm ready for the day. I can go out now.'" Then my son will add comments like, "Yeah, I know. I hope she isn't on her way to a job interview. Oh, hey, maybe you could have someone in your book who is going for an interview dress like that."
Now, given this odd sighting, just think of all of the possibilities that can come off of this. Is she the main character? Does she have no sense of style? Is she having a bad day? Did her house burn down and the kind helpful people who donated clothing to her gave such cast offs that no one could possibly match anything and she has not got the means to buy anything yet? Is she excentric and thinks she looks good? Is she just a side character who is applying for a job with the person whom the book is actually about?
So I guess what I'm saying is to take a small thing and run with it. See where it goes.
Most of all, have fun with your writing. I look at my writing this way. If I get published, great. If I do not get published, then I've had a most enjoyable hobby. Again, good luck.
Hey, this just came to mind. As an exercise to get your creative juices flowing, pick a cartoon or television show that you loved that was from years ago. Let's use for example, Rug Rats. I know that they cartoon developed into the kids being older and have had times when they imagine themselves as adults, but use Tommy as your experiment. Make a story about Tommy as a 30 year old adult. You know his childhood, his family and his friends. Write about his adult life. You could do this as a serious character, not intended to be a cartoon. You can change his name as well as all of the others involved and if you like what has developed, you don't even have to tell anyone that the book is Tommy all grown up. Just let it be.
What did happen to Velma when the Scooby Doo gang grew older and split up? Does she work as a private investigator? Does she find herself as a soccer mom who believes her husband is trying to murder her? Exactly what did happen to her?
For that matter, remember the popular girl from school? The one whom you have no idea what is going on in her life now. Based on what you know about her, invent her present day life. Did you like her? Did you despise her? Do you hope her life is a shambles? Write it.
I'm not saying that you need to do this, it is just an example of one way you can generate ideas. I thought of sharing this idea with you because I have a book idea that is NOT about my grandmother, but it is about a young woman and a young man who meet and begin dating the exact same way that my grandmother and grandfather did. I absolutely love the way they met and am going to use it for my character.
Seriously some of my best ideas come from my dreams. Yesterday afternoon, in the midst of a benadryl induceded haze (love allergies, not), I had a wicked dream. Woke up and thought, that is a great start to a story. wrote the dream down. One of my works in progress also came from a dream and has turned into a triology.
A book on writing with some prompts can be helpful to get you started. Sometimes you simply have to sit down and write and allow you style to come through.
I'm with you there, Paula. The book I'm wanting to finish hopefully came from dreams that I had.
Sometimes I like to write little disjointed paragraphs. They aren't part of any "grand scheme", just thoughts in my head. Usually what I'll do is just close my eyes at my computer and let my fingers go. I type without thinking about what I'm writing, trying to capture thoughts as quickly as possible. It's just a writing excercise, kind of based on Modernism and even a bit of Dadaism and other European Lit movements where you're stripping things down from conscious thought. It's basically like free association. Sometimes I'll use these paragraphs in whatever I'm writing. Sometimes I'll read it over and catch an idea of how I can incorporate a thought. I find it kind of fun to do and it seperates you from reiterating the things you've previously read.
I think anyone who is into writing has probably heard the phrase "write what you know" when beginning as a writer. The cool thing about human conciousness (sp??) is that nobody else could ever know exactly what is going on in someone else's head, and nobody ever experiences things exactly the same as someone else. So even if your idea is similar to something you've read...write it "your" way, the way you would imagine experiencing the situation.
The most helpful thing to me is being adventurous. Try new things whenever you can, experience anything you're able to and put yourself in situations you normally wouldn't. Experiences can inspire writing and also aids if you are writing from the perspective of someone else.
And of course, as others have already said, write all the time. It doesn't matter if anyone else reads everything you write, just write write write. I haven't found it useful to sit down and say "okay, I'm going to write a novel today", instead I write bits and pieces whenever I feel inspired to do so, and eventually I can go back and "fill in the blanks". Like anything, practice will help you improve :)
Couldn't agree more, Meg. On the Supernatural board that I am on, I have seen tons of writers that gave up on their fics or almost did, because they were getting no responses from readers. People are always reminding them that for one, not everyone posts a response when they read a story. And secondly, even if a lot of people never read anything that you write, the writing itself makes you feel so much more relaxed and whole as well.
My ideas come to me. I know that sounds horrid and trite, but they do.
I hear a sentence (or, weirdly, see one) -- or stumble across an freeze frame of a scene -- and then I'm off.
This is both a blessing and a curse. While my overactive imagination is always giving me insiration and work -- my overactive imagination is always giving me insiration and work. Thankfully most of these are short stories, but I have half a dozen novels queuing impatiently.