Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saturday Surprise - FinDaBoo Inspiration

So you’ve decided this is the year you are going to finish a book.

Well the first thing you need is An Idea. Easy right? For some people the idea is the easiest thing. They have ideas coming out of their pores. They have idea notebooks full to overflowing with plot twists, character flaws, first meetings galore, just waiting for the moment they get the chance to write about them.

For others, the idea is the hardest part. A big wide open empty room in their brain just waiting for that first lick of inspiration to set them off. Time ticking away like water torture while the room stays empty.

The first question I am invariably asked when I tell people I am an author is... Where do you get your ideas? And the answer I always give? Everywhere!

Because inspiration is all around us. Walking past us on the street, looking back at us from the TV, sliding by in our dreams, locked away deep inside our memories. So how do you tap into all of these everyday opportunities to find the next big idea? How can you make sure all that inspiration doesn't pass you by? Here are some ways I have found to tap into my muse whenever inspiration strikes.

note this

Keep a notebook on you at all times! I have long since made a habit of this. You never know when the next big idea is going to hit. On a bus, at work, at three in the morning, when you’re in the shower. Yep, I have a big thing for water. Perhaps again its that drip drip drip, knocking against the inside of my head.

Often you tell yourself, "Wow! What a whopper! I will never forget this idea!" and then by the time you get home, wake up, find a piece of paper, the crux of the big idea has become mush.

WRITE IT DOWN! It's like when you wake up and your dreams are so vivid and real, but by the time you get out of the shower 90% of the dream has disappeared back into your subconscious.

If you like, keep the front of your notebook for grocery lists, and general notes to self, but keep the back for everything book related. Names, places, plots, small ideas, big ideas, funny scenarios, you won't regret it. And months from now, when you are looking for something to spark an idea, turn to the back of your old notebook and you will be pleasantly surprised by all the juicy snippets found therein.

off the wall

Keep an inspiration wall within sight of your workspace. It’s no surprise that I always cast my books. If I was making this book into a film, who would best epitomise the characters look, essence, energy? Pick a couple of pictures, plaster them on a corkboard above your monitor, use them as the background on your computer, paste them on the title page of your work in progress, do whatever you need to do to hook into the very particular sensibility and emotional hooks that each character has.

surf with no direction

Wikipedia is fabulous fun for this. For those of you who haven’t yet discovered this site, it’s an online encyclopedia, as created by all of us. I know that it is a kind of history through popular opinion but I love it.

Pick a subject you are interested in and just keep delving deeper and deeper into each page. For example, I started out looking up ‘Kuranda’ a mountaintop town that appears in my latest book, and in six easy steps found myself reading about Machu Picchu. Where can your mouse take you today?

wandering eyes

Travel with a writer's eye. MEANT-TO-BE MOTHER all began with a trip to Far North Queensland for a holiday last year. I had an idea for a book starting on a plane I had been playing with for some time, but had never made it past the first chapter.

Flying to Queensland, I suddenly decided to make my heroine a flight attendant. Flying as a passenger. On her way home. Far North Queensland has a lot of Italian immigrant families, my husband’s being one of them! So I made my heroine of an Italian background.

While there I was blogging, and as I do on occasions I clicked the “Next Blog” icon at the top of the page. Mostly when you do this you find ramblings in languages you can’t read so it’s normally a bust as far as inspiration goes, but this one time I found a blog a widower was writing about how he was coping since his wife’s death. In the space of a day’s travels, I had my story.

Piece things together from unexpected places. A funny line you wrote after hearing someone say it on a bus, together with a hero picture you found in a magazine and stuck on your wall, together with a random slice of inspiration you found while on holidays. And you will have come up with something nobody else ever has. Something very you.

Remember, inspiration is all around you. Be receptive to new ideas, keep track of all ideas big and small, and go looking for them, and you will never run out concepts from which to launch your next great work of fiction!

Ally's latest book, Harlequin Romance Meant-To-Be Mother is available now in North America and the United Kingdom.

For more about the book, with blurbs, excerpts and behind the scenes info and pics, check out her website.

Over the next eight weeks, Ally will be blogging about the process and progress of writing her current work in her Between the Sheets series... So if you'd like to see how one author makes it all the way from idea to sale, head on over for a look!


  1. I LOVED MTBM. I loved the interconnection of the 2 stories, the blogging angle and the emotion. I loved the slow reveal of the back story and the realisation for all the main characters that it was time to move on and that they were all ever so slightly living in the past. The one chance car event allowed James, Kane, Siena and her brother to experience 'love' to the full again!!

  2. Awwww 2Paw, you've made my day! My week. My month!!!

    Thanks ever so!!!


  3. Ally, that's such a great description of how books come about. They never appear cut from whole cloth, do they? They always have a little bit of an idea from here and some inspiration from there -- and maybe an off-chance meeting and a bit of serendipity. It's one of the great joys of writing (when I'm not banging my head against the wall -- or the manuscript!) just discovering the bits and pieces that will eventually make the story complete!