How To Write A Novel: The First-Time Author's Course

On finding inspiration

They say true writers can find inspiration anywhere. For me, there’s one place in particular; a shallow creek tucked away in the forests behind my home. I think of it as my private oasis, grandiose as that may sound; an escape from my everyday worries, reserved for just me and my thoughts. If you go there about an hour before sunrise, you can see the gold scatter off the water; let your worries be carried off by the soft autumn breeze-

Sike. When I say you can find inspiration anywhere, I really do mean anywhere. In the shower. Cooking dinner. Fixing duct-tape with more duct-tape. Anywhere.

Too often, we romanticize the writer’s life as one of poetic beauty and endless inspiration. Then, when we’re smacked in the face by bills and deadlines and mismatched socks, the burden of reality brings us down and we end up throwing in the towel. And that’s a waste, because there’s beautiful stories hidden in our everyday lives. The trick, of course, is to find inspiration in whatever cards you’ve been dealt.

My own life, for example, is tragically devoid of archery and swordfights, yet much of my historical fiction debut was inspired by real life. Lifelong friendships; quirky passers-by; the sight of a beehive hanging from a gutter: at one point or another, they’ve all found their way into my novel. The news, too, often gets my cogs turning, as do documentaries, Humans of New York, and even my high school history lessons. Point being: your life doesn’t have to be all that ‘grammable to serve as a source of inspiration. 

Besides, there’s plenty of fictional worlds you can turn to. That includes other novels, sure, but not just other novels. We live in the Golden Age of Television, don’t forget, as well as own magical devices that can make every film ever appear in an instant. And have you seen how far video games have come, or comic books? As a storyteller, it really is a good time to be alive.

For far too long, the literary world has looked down upon popular culture, but that sort of misplaced snobbery is completely and utterly to our own detriment. In fact, I’d argue that venturing outside our own medium can help us think outside the box; to create storyworlds that are more vivid and colourful than ever before.

So here’s a fun one:

Think of something you’re struggling with as a writer. Watch an episode of your favourite series, and take note of how they get that thing right — or wrong.

It could be plot, or pacing, or introducing your protagonist — just pick something and go with it. As a writer, it pays off to always keep your story in mind; even when you’re procrastinating. In fact, many writers like to carry around a notebook, so that they can jot down any bolt of inspiration while it’s still fresh. As always: whatever works for you.

When you’ve freed yourself from the shackles of unintentional binge watching, come find me in the next lesson.

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About the author

Creator of Nearly Complete and author of Dav Iven. Very fond of semicolons.

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about the teacher

Creator of Nearly Complete and author of Dav Iven. Very fond of semicolons.

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