Building Inspiration

I made quite a bit of progress on my working vacation, and now that I’m home again, I want to keep my momentum going. I cut in half the amount of chapters I have left to edit on my current WIP. Once I finish the last few chapters, I plan to do a final read-through before prepping for querying and pitching in December. I still have my doubts about this manuscript’s quality, but then I do admit to having a perfectionist streak in me and needing to get over the fact I can’t please everyone.

Being so close to finishing this project has left me planning my next writing venture. I have partial first drafts of four other novel manuscripts to choose from, some farther along than others. Three of the four have settings similar to where I spent my vacation, and taking inspiration from that location leaves me excited to dive into those WIPs again. While I was out hiking the forest trails, I took dozens of photos to help me capture my impressions of the various characteristics of the settings I wish my characters to handle, from cold, misty mornings to tangled thickets and tripping roots to dead wood and eerie bogs.

While this forest landscape is one I’m quite familiar with after having spent much of my childhood exploring it, I still find it helpful to have photographic references for when I am stuck in the suburban sprawl which has taken over my own little portion of western Pennsylvania. Something else which can be helpful in maintaining my more sensory impressions is referencing other writers’ ideas of the setting. Whether reading fictional stories or regional magazine articles, seeing how others interpret or use the same landscapes and small-town atmospheres in their writing can help me to better understand how their impressions of these places formed. Not only can this knowledge help me in writing my settings in with greater accuracy, but it can also help me deepen my characters’ reactions to the places they find themselves visiting.

I hope you get the chance to spend some quality time in places which reflect your own stories’ settings. There is something to be said for writing what you know. It’s more than a piece of advice. Writing what you know through experience can help you create a well-rounded description which includes all the senses. Reading can only take you so far, leaving out aspects of feeling, scent, and taste that are hard to capture without firsthand knowledge. This doesn’t mean we as writers have to limited ourselves, though. But we should always seek out opportunities which inspire us to write wherever and whenever we can.



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