Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Nikki Moore: What Inspires Writers to Write?

It’s great to welcome Nikki Moore back to the blog to write this thoughtful piece about inspiration. Over to you, Nikki.

I’ve been thinking about writing inspiration recently, because I’ve talked about it a lot for the release of my #LoveLondon series over the last nine months. Almost all of the interviews I’ve done have included a question about where I got my inspiration for the series from. I suppose it’s because readers are fascinated by where writers find their ideas. I know that’s definitely the case for me as a reader. When I finish a brilliant book, I often wonder, how on earth did the author dream that up?
I do occasionally have writer’s block, but that’s more about procrastination aka spending lots of time on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon UK or when I have an issue with a character or plot and don’t know how to resolve it (I find that time away from the manuscript and Pinot Grigio usually helps). I actually consider myself very lucky because I’ve never had an issue finding inspiration. If anything, I have too many ideas for books and find it difficult focusing on just one. My head is full of characters who speak to me, demanding that their stories be told.

To me, the world is a rich, intriguing place full of colour and noise that constantly makes me think, what if…? Or wouldn’t it be interesting if…? I think of my writing inspiration as a tapestry; with different segments sewn together to make a whole. Those segments are made up of music, films, books, news stories and current affairs, people, dreams, my experiences and other people’s experiences, as well as those what if ponderings.
For the #LoveLondon series, I was commissioned to write a series of romance novellas set in London that would go with my second novel Picnics in Hyde Park. So when I sat down to write them I knew the setting and genre, that they’d be linked to Picnics in some way, and for some of them, what the time of year would be e.g. New Year at The Ritz. All of these things gave me a backdrop and sense of context, but I still had to create individual stories with characters that breathed and plotlines that touched and entertained readers. So I thought about what love means to people, and the different ways in which it can happen e.g. first love, or romance growing from friendship, and what kinds of characters that might happen to, how they might react and what their goals might be. And from there, I thought a lot, made notes and listened to music according to my mood and the characters, and slowly the stories unfolded.
I asked fellow authors where they find writing inspiration, and/or what to do if they get stuck.
Samantha Birch writes both fiction and non-fiction, and has different ways of finding inspiration for both. ‘The High-Street Bride's Guide was inspired by my time working in-house at a wedding magazine and planning my own wedding, which I did over four years. Both exposed me to all manner of wedding suppliers, gave me some idea of what quality to expect for my money and gave me an insight into how different types of suppliers think and how we could negotiate in ways that benefited both of us.’ She’s currently working on a Steampunk fantasy, ‘For that I use pictures, games, films, articles, books and life experiences. I've got a collection of unusual books that I pick up sometimes when I'm struggling to get excited about a scene.’
By My Side was inspired by a dressing down I got from a consultant surgeon when I was a junior doctor,’ Wendy Lou Jones explains, ‘I felt it was completely out of order but he was so scary and so senior to me that I ended up quaking in my boots. My episode was not remotely related to romance, but I was determined my characters would be different.’ Her latest book is The Summer We Loved, by HarperImpulse.
One of D.R Graham’s newest releases is a Young Adult book, The Handler by Entangled Publishing. ‘I typically find inspiration in things that emotionally resonate with me. The emotional trigger often comes from a news story, song lyrics, the expression on a person's face, or something I have dealt with in my practice as a counsellor.’
Best-selling author Katherine Garbera, whose latest release is Eye Candy by HarperImpulse, is a news junkie. ‘I hit all the major news websites every day (BBC, SKY News, CNN, USA TODAY, New York Times, The Guardian, etc).  I read blogs such as Buzzfeed and Huffington Post because they often capture what’s happening culturally right now.  I love these sites and they feed the back of my mind with ideas that eventually become stories, such as the Somalian hijackings, which I used as inspiration for The Pirate.’ She sometimes uses Pinterest to put together pictures and get the ideas flowing if she needs inspiration.
Jill Knapp, whose forthcoming release is You’ll Find Me In Manhattan (HarperImpulse) told me that a lot of her inspiration comes from music and great television shows, and the way they make her feel. ‘I recently wrote a short story that was inspired by Taylor Swift's song, “Red.” My series about NYC was inspired by life experiences, other people's stories, and a few songs like "Face Up", by Lights. Some of the show's that have inspired me to write are Dawson's Creek, Alias, and more recently The Vampire Diaries.’ She likes to listen to music in the shower if she’s stuck on a story.
 Bridget Hodder, whose debut novel The Rat Prince is released in August 2016 by Macmillan, Farrar Straus & Giroux, offers this advice if you’re stuck for inspiration. ‘Try asking yourself: Am I writing this to please someone else, or to please myself? There's no surer way to dry up the flow of ideas than to be thinking of your agent, your editor, "the market" or even your beloved readers as you write. It's a bit like the instructions they give you on an airplane: put on your oxygen mask first, so that you can then turn around and help others. You should write first and foremost about things that delight YOU. Then you can send your stories out in the world to delight readers. Which they surely will!’
My advice is to look at the world around you; look at the sad things, the joyful things and the great things, open yourself up to new experiences and people, and then:
  • Write from the heart.
  • Write about things that are important to you and that you believe in.
  • Write about things that move you.
  • Write about things that are going to matter to other people – humans have common goals e.g. love, happiness, revenge, approval, family etc.

Are you an author or aspiring writer? Where do you get your inspiration from? We’d love to hear your thoughts J

Thank you, Nikki, you’ve certainly provided us with food for thought.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on elaineeverest@ol.com


Sue Moorcroft said...

Great post. The #LoveLondon series really worked well. x

lynneconnolly said...

I find a character, then think, "what's the worst thing that can happen to him? What will force him to face whatever he's been running from for years?" Then I make it happen.

Gabrielle said...

Thanks for this inclusive look at inspiration. I find I hear wonderful things on public transport - or waiting for it! Makes me feel that my time is not really being wasted!

Emily Royal said...

I like to think about what would push a character to the limits of their endurance - then I push them some more. I also like taking a character, via their actions/thoughts etc, right up to the brink of being beyond redemption - then redeem them!

Rae Cowie said...

I love reading novels with a strong sense of location. Clever idea to start with setting and let the characters flow from there.

Rhoda Baxter said...

I love the oxygen mask analogy. Must make a note of that one!

Unknown said...

A great blog. Thank you all for contributing. I love to create a sense of place, an interesting character - then thrown brick at her!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the comments Sue, Lynne, Gabrielle, Emily, Rae, Rhoda and Elaine :)

This post has started some interesting conversations and it's great to hear where others get their inspiration from. It's a fascinating subject and I could have written a lot more on it! Interviewing other authors was especially interesting.

I must admit to accidentally eavesdropping sometimes, which starts off all sorts of ideas...


Victoria J. Coe said...

What great advice from Bridget Hodder to write for yourself first! I so often get caught in the trap of trying to write to please others - my critique partners, my agent, my editor, or the market. Finding the joy in writing - writing for myself - is the greatest reason to write! Surely that joy will translate into the finished product!

Bridget Hodder said...

Great post, Nikki-- you inspired a lot of discussion!

Unknown said...

There are some great nuggets of wisdom in this piece! I was happy to be reminded to write what delights me as I dive back into writing Book 2 in a series.

Unknown said...

Great post and congratulations on the huge success of your wonderful books. x