Eventually every writer must come to face to face with a vacant screen or blank sheet of paper, and the words that are stored in our head start to pour out—or they don’t. The compelling story we thought we had to articulate, evades us and we fall back on the mechanical: word counts, details, research—words on a page.
And that’s okay.
Writing fiction is learned. It requires craft and discipline and more than anything it requires inspiration—the inspiration that comes from listening to the voices in our head. Voices which convert to words, which lead to characters, to scenes, to the interaction of character and scenes, and how they all build upon each other to tell a story that transports the reader.
Writers must have the courage of convictions that words, and the joining of words into sentences and the melding of sentences into paragraphs and the linking of paragraphs onto pages, will produce a book that we hope will entertain, educate and perhaps make a difference.
Because at the core of it, at the very base of our being, writers are idealists with an incessant urge to get our thoughts and stories out of our heads, onto paper, and into the hands of people we want to reach.
But what about that muse?
Our muse is always with us, except for the times we ignore her presence. We may struggle with conjuring up the right word or the next scene, and beg that she appear. She looks at us in amazement because she has never left our side.
Our muse is our imagination.
She is the free flowing ideas that pour out of our fingers and onto our keyboards. If we hit a wall or become blocked it is likely because we are trying too hard. The quickest way to turn our back on our imagination is to “think” about it. Stuck? Then take a few minutes to get up and walk around, or step outside or watch some inane show on the TV. Still stuck? Then talk to your protagonist. Ask him or her what’s going to happen next? Who’s going to walk through that door, or cause the phone to ring, or send a letter in the mail? Try to imagine the unexpected, and let your imagination kick-in.
Maybe read a book. The author, Annie Proulx is quoted: You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.
Be careful, reading can be captivating but it’s not writing, read to prime the pump.
Still stuck? Then write a few words about why you feel stuck and what could be the cause. The idea is to prime the imagination pump. That is how our muse talks to us.
It is not enough to say: I’m blocked; I don’t know where my story is going. Stop, don’t write your story, write your protagonist’s story. Or, maybe write the villain’s story. Or, maybe write the end of a story.
The important thing is: don’t stop writing.
Even if it’s just a paragraph, write every day, and you’ll discover that the muse you’re desperately seeking has been seeking you. One of my favorite quotes is from legendary western author Louis L’Amour: Start writing, no matter what. The water can’t flow until the faucet is turned on.
That’s the question I get asked the most, where do I get my ideas? Of course, all writers know that it’s impossible to answer. Ideas come constantly all day long, sometimes several in one minute. Having ideas is not usually a problem. Having the time to develop them is.
Sometimes an idea hits me that is too good to ignore, even if I don’t have the time for it. The eclipse anthology was one of those. I first heard about it on Earth and Sky, whose posts I subscribe to. The more I thought about the fact that a total solar eclipse, something I’ve never seen (although I saw a partial not too long ago), is going to happen in my back yard, the more excited I got. My front yard, too. Right at my house! So, naturally, I got ideas for short stories that happen during the blackout period, short as it is.
I put together some ideas, then, wondering what I would do with my story, had another thought. Maybe other writers would like to write eclipse stories, too. The themes are tempting and ready made. Light and dark, warm and cold, sun and shadows.
Okay, so…if others writers WOULD like to do this, then what? (“Then what” is a famous writer question, right after “What if.”) The answer to that came to me in a flash. How about approaching the publisher that the Austin Mystery Writers used for our Silver-Falchion-winning MURDER ON WHEELS? I did and they loved the idea! Yay!
So I was able to say that we already had a publisher when I put out the call for submissions. The result is DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of Eclipse, being launched by Wildside Press on July 21st, exactly a month before the eclipse. I’m gratified by the enthusiasm that has met this project, one that I had no business doing and had no time for, but had to do anyway. The stories I received, sure enough, ran the gamut. I think they are a good representation of the above themes. I hope readers will think so, too.
Sometimes those pesky ideas drop straight from the heavens onto our heads!
Preorder site for DAY OF THE DARK: https://tinyurl.com/ycus8fv3