Inspiration — or Making the Moment Happen?

DJ Adamson is my guest today. She’s the author of the Lilian Dove Mystery series and Outré, a sci-fi/suspense novel for YA. She has some words of wisdom on inspiration and what it means for us as writers. DJ?

Shirley Jackson is said to have been walking her baby in its carriage through the neighborhood when the story “The Lottery” came to her. She said it came to her all at once.

A moment of grace.

So far, that moment hasn’t happened for me.

So as authors, do we wait to get inspiration before going to our computers?

I am most inspired when I am driving my car. It’s when I quiet enough to hear a couple of lines of dialog. Or at three in the morning when in my half-sleep I see the twist needed for a plot. I do attempt to write the dialog down while driving—don’t tell the LAPD—and I have a writing pad at my bedside; but, personally, I can’t afford to wait for inspirations. I’d get nothing done.

My process?

* I write every day. I get a few hours or at least 500 words down before heading to my day job. I find another couple of hours during the day…waiting for classes to begin, lunch, before bed. Just like brushing my teeth twice a day became a routine, so has my writing practice. Ideas wake me up in the morning. Characters remind me I need to get out of bed and quit complaining I never have enough time.

What else am I going to do while having my coffee? Watch the latest news? Not a good practice for optimism. Read the newspaper? Again, trying to keep positive.

* Once my characters begin speaking, I can’t always get them to shut up. I have a notebook in my purse. I use the “Record” on my cell phone.. So I don’t forget to refer to these notations, I have on my calendar a weekly reminder, “Review Journal Notes.”

* I write the first six chapters then write the synopsis. By six chapters of freewriting, I know my beginning, middle, and end. Writing the synopsis gives me a full photo shot.

* I create a notebook. This is my go-to for everything. I have a photo of each of the main characters as well as their character analysis. A map of the setting. A section where I place research notes. Another place for questions that come up while writing– a type of journal entry. From there, I pull up Scrivener.

* I have many friends who use the program for their full manuscript. So far, I haven’t been able to utilize it in this way. Yes, everything I do in my physical notebook is possible with the program, but I like different perspectives. Sometimes I don’t see on digital what I see on paper, and vice versa. Or maybe, I haven’t taken the time to learn Scriveners’ full possibilities. I do, however, love the Corkboard option. It’s become my method of outlining. By using the corkboard, keeping it open while I am writing in Word, I keep track of Chapters, Themes, Symbols, etc. I review all at a glance.

* I edit as I write. Each day, I go back and read the last three chapters before moving on to the next. It was Hemingway’s process, and it works well for me. Again, so I don’t just read and edit those three chapters, I have a required 500 words to write before leaving for work.

And, I still need my day job. I read and edit quickly. Move on…

* I can read and edit fast because I am well aware errors will be passed up, and I will catch them when I read the novel as a whole. I try to take a full day without interruption to do the full novel read…sometimes two, depending on the word count. I just read. I have a writing pad next to me for notions on content editing, and I flag the paper with a red X if I find typos I need to go back and correct.

* Then, I leave the manuscript for two weeks, if not a month. I make the changes. Print it out. Read it aloud. Lately, I have saved it as a pdf and read it on my Kindle. Again, that different perspective allows me to pull away my mind’s remembered-mental image and catch errors. I know some authors who use audible techniques to play back their manuscripts.

* The manuscript is sent to my editor.

The process I use to write is probably very little different than another author’s. We come about the words in different ways, but eventually, we are the same in needing to get those words down on paper. The point of any process…getting it done.

Thank you, DJ Adamson, for these words of wisdom. It’s given me lots to think about, and I know others will find just as much value in this post. Okay, scriveners, any comments or questions for DJ?

D. J. Adamson is the author of the Lillian Dove Mystery series and Outré, a science fiction-suspense YA. She is the editor of Le Coeur de l’Artiste, a newsletter which reviews authors and their work. She also teaches writing and literature at Los Angeles colleges. And to keep busy when she is not writing or teaching, she is the Membership Director of the Los Angeles Sisters in Crime, Vice President of Central Coast Sisters in Crime and an active member of the Southern California Mystery Writers. Her books can be found and purchased in bookstores and on Amazon.

To find her, her blog L’Artiste, or newsletter go to Make friends with her on Facebook or Goodreads.

Adamson “weaves this suspenseful tale that grabs the reader like the tornado at its core. It starts out slow, like a train leaving the station, then accelerates to a feverish pace, leaving you in a sweat.”

About Susan Tuttle

Susan Tuttle is a professional freelance editor, writing instructor and multi-award winning author of 21 books—6 nonfiction on writing (Write It Right), 6 suspense novels and 7 collections of award-winning short stories. She also has stories in both volumes of "Deadlines", the new anthology from the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Tales from a Rocky Coast, and the SLO NightWriter anthology. Under the pen name Susan Grace O'Neill, she is the author of the Journey With Jesus series: Lord, Let Me Grow (Parables) vol. 1, and Lord, Let Me Walk (Lent). She is currently working on volume #2 of her Skylark P.I. series (a PI with paranormal abilities), as well as 2 YA fantasy series. And she teaches fiction writing in both the morning and afternoon every Wednesday. Email her if you're interested in joining her class. And follow her on Twitter and FaceBook.