Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spark Notes #8: Guest Post by M.x

We encourage our readers, when they find something helpful or interesting or just inspiring, to share it with us here at The Lightning and the Lightning Bug for Spark Notes, our irregular advice/inspiration post series.

This week we have indeed received our first reader-submitted Spark Note, from M. x at Fantasy Novel Project. She emailed us last week to ask if she could submit, and we said, "Of course!"

We'll put it behind a break because it's a bit longer than our usual, but do give it a read and send your thanks to M. x

What Am I - As A Writer - Influenced By?
How do I Deal With Writer’s Block?
Hi there!
Here are the ways in which I become influenced to create and write (for anyone who is genuinely interested) and here are 7 top tips I’ve come up with for anyone struggling with writer’s block. (If you’ve read my A-Z posts, you’ll understand my fascination with the number 7, expressed in my ‘S’ post!)
1)      If you’re stuck when writing or have lost the spark in a story you are desperate to finish, get a prompt and just write anything that comes into your mind! Recently, I had the worst writer’s block! Okay, I’m very busy with A Levels and the rest of my life so I could say that I’ve had other things on my mind, my, truthfully, whenever I went to look at the story I’m writing, (a fantasy story, created by my little brother and I), I felt physically ill. The amount of work that would have to go into it didn’t really faze me when I started it, but it all suddenly rushed out of nowhere and gave me a harsh whack in the stomach!
So to free myself of my predicament, I went to look for inspiration and prompts.

Firstly, I searched up things on Google Images. For example, ‘fantasy’, ‘incredible’ or ‘fascination’: things that would come up with abstract or random images, rather than a specific thing like ‘rainbow’ etc.

Here are some examples of what I found:

2)      Another way in which I freed myself was by reading through blogs and picking an interesting sounding word and developing an idea from it. I didn’t even need to write it, I just planned it out in my head and it would start to influence the rest of my writing. (Such as the name ‘Dawnie’ from thedawnieproject.com http://www.thedawnieproject.com/)
3)      A really useful thing for me is to listen to music, especially classical music, and let myself imagine a situation in a film in which that music would be used. I would then come up with some crazy story that probably made no sense, but, nevertheless, helped to undo my writer’s block. My Mum is a singing teacher, choir master (of many choirs) and also attends choirs herself. One evening, she asked me to go to a concert of hers that was really important to her. Now, I usually like classical music, but I really don’t like operatic music where four singers, the Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Base, just sing, sing, sing and never seem to stop. I had to sit through a whole two hours of this! My Mum only sang (along with the rest of the choir) once or twice! Anyway, the point of this story is that I ended up listening to the violins playing in the background of these top yodellers and created images in my mind that would fit the music.
-          Happy, sunny day, along with happy, bouncy music like that in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker
-          Suddenly drastic music! Something has happened, someone died. We must escape!
And so on. I can even create characters using this technique!
Here are some links to good classical songs on Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlvUepMa31o – Claude Debussy with Clair De Lune (A personal favourite)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg1dMpu4v7M –Tchaikovsky’s Waltz Of The Flowers from The Nutcracker
You could also look up some Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert and loads more! (They’re also great for A Level revision!)
It’s actually quite fun when you’re that bored!
Here is a trick that many must use: go and look at some art! Last Tuesday, I went to Tate Modern in London and saw Damien Hirst’s Diamond Skull:

He’s known to be a serious atheist and called the piece For The Love Of God.
Since then, I’ve become really interested in his work and how his mind works and I want to use his themes – beautifying death, questioning God, etc.
Seriously! Just take a day out of your busy schedules and go to the closest art museum! Even  if some art angers you, irritates or bores you (I get very het up about the argument around ‘What Is Art?’), it will influence you in some way!
5)      When I’m really stuck for ideas, or am tired of being cooped up inside trying to thinkthinkthink, I take my dogs on a walk in the countryside. (You obviously don’t have to have dogs to do this) Woods are incredible places. They are silent (apart from the birds) but team – even overflow – with wildlife! Animals, insects, plants, trees etc. What I love to do is take an unknown path through the heart of the woods and try to get lost. I remember the paths I’ve been on and the directions I decided to take but I do genuinely become lost sometimes because everything looks practically identical in the woods! But this experience gets your mind racing, with either excitement or genuine fear of being lost. Both of these are very healthy for your brain in my opinion! These days, our brains don’t get enough stimulation! We learn, we read, we watch, we create, but we never test our instincts! We never have to use our natural survival instincts, so simply getting lost and having to work it out using your senses and memory is a really good mind exercise. So get out there! (Bring a phone with you in case you truly are lost!)
6)      Now, a typical writer would tell you to just read, read, read. But I’m not very typical. I’m odd and quirky and I do things my own way. Of course it’s very good to read a lot, but whatever you do, try not to be too influenced by the books you discover! I guess, what lead me to my writer’s block recently was the realisation that The Hunger Games had blew me away, so much so that I started copying everything in it! For example, I’d write short stories about a girl who had to hunt in the woods! The same thing happened a few years ago when I read Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I wrote a short story about a dairy-maid that was set in Tess’ times, almost parallel to her life and resulted in execution after murdering her husband. Ring a bell? So that is my main advice. By all means, use other’s writing techniques etc. but try as hard as possible not to get strung up in their plot instead of making your own!
7)      And very lastly (and most obviously): do things, go places, and meet people! People are fascinating, and the more people you get to know, the more personalities you can successfully develop! Characters seem to be the hardest thing to create when planning a novel if you want them all to be diverse, developed and deep (Excuse my alliterated sentence!)
In the long run, experiences are really important because it means that you will be able to write better about those moments you know well or have experiences/witnessed at least once.
I hope this helped!
M. x
P.S. Feel free to ask me for advice on anything (to do with writing – or anything else if you really want) by commenting on something on my blog or by emailing me (my email is on my blog on the page titled A Strange Rant In Which I Tried To Introduce Myself). I try to answer every comment I get but that, inevitably, cannot always be accomplished. (I also may not be able to answer every question you have and will tell you when I truthfully don’t know the answer!)