|Harbury Library recently|
Whenever I do a school visit I'll inevitably be asked 'Where do you get your inspiration from?'
Before I tell them, I usually turn the question around and get them thinking about where their story ideas come from.
After that discussion, I'll usually tell them how I came to write this book ot that book. In almost every instance the idea is based around something that I've done, seen, heard or experienced in real life.
However, the more often I repeat these anecdotes, the more easy and obvious it all sounds. Probably because I'm looking back, and time and distance seems to have put it all into some clear-cut logical sequence. In reality, when considering where inspiration came from for a particular story I'm pretty certain I've lost track of the actual time factor between getting that spark of an idea and actually getting organised enough to write something on it. Perhaps weeks or even months have slipped by before a few words get woven into a first draft of a story. So in retrospect, when we (or at least I) talk about finding inspiration, it sounds a lot easier than it actually is.
I know that with The Beast I was deliberately seeking inspiration for a thriller. I'd finished writing a series for Scholastic which had taken a lot of plotting, as they were whodunnits. But then I was free and I wanted to see where my imagination would take me.
Holidaying in Scotland was the perfect location to set a story with those majestic mountains and deep forests – plenty of scope there for an adventure. And just as I advise other budding writers to do, I asked myself all those 'what ifs' which eventually led to a storyline and characters. (At least I practised what I preached there!)
So actively looking for inspiration can work. But generally it strikes when you least expect it, and sometimes the more you try the harder it gets.
A general piece of advice I give to students is to keep an 'ideas notebook' because those elusive ideas can flit into your head and vanish just as quickly. But where's my notebook? Well actually, I either fill up my notebooks and the ideas are lost somewhere between the pages; or the actual notebooks get buried under the other papers and 'stuff' on my desk.
Although I know when an idea has really taken hold, because I'll start typing it up. Sometimes though, it gets forgotten or overtaken by more pressing jobs. Then, months (even years) later I'll come across that sketchy idea again by accident and decide that it's not too bad – or alternatively, wonder what on earth was going through my head.
Inspiration is a funny old thing. Here's what a few well known writers have said on the subject. Do any of these quotes strike a chord with you?
When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand. Raymond Chandler
Thank you Mr Chandler.
And finally, Inspiration is the act of drawing up a chair to the writing desk. Anon.
How about you, do you wait for inspiration to strike, or just knuckle down and write?
Feel free to take a look at my website: http://www.annevansbooks.co.uk
Latest books: (under the pseudonym S.Carey) http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780143306986/eerie-trunk