Tag Archives: inspiration

In search of our writing mojo

mojoPhil: This Friday, we are going mojo hunting. Candice sent me an e-mail a couple of weeks ago suggesting “You and I need to do more writing as I think the reason we have lost our mojo is that we have stepped away from the thing that got us excited in the first place”

With this in mind, our plan is to meet up for no more than an hours chat followed by some writing time in either the library or a quiet pub.

That’s writing time on Book 2 with headphones in and no distractions. Not even cake.

You might wonder quite why we can’t just do this as home. In fact why is it that so many writers need to get out of the house to produce their prose? JK Rowling famously gave birth to Harry Potter at cafe tables.

Home might be where we work sometimes, it is for me, but unless you have iron discipline then it’s also full of distractions. Maybe you don’t get gossip around the water cooler, but there is plenty to take you away from whatever it is you are supposed to be doing.

Working in close proximity give us another advantage – it feels like you are working as a team. Plugging away on a novel is soul-destroying some of the time but working together is much more pleasant.

Returning to Book 2 does require one action before Friday though – we’ve both got to go back and re-read it so we know the holes to fill. I wonder if it will be as good as we remember?



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Looking at the four walls

Candice: I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road and in hotels recently.  Sometimes for fun, including a lovely break with the hubby the other week, but mainly for work.

I started a new job before Christmas and one of their offices is in Leeds so I am spending a lot of time travelling up and down the M1. Its OK, though I know exactly how long the road works are and I can’t wait until they have finished them.

However, tonight looking at the four walls of the room, I was thinking how I can use this to my advantage.  The team in our KOD books spend their time out and about working with different companies, which means they are on the road and staying in hotel rooms.  So I’m soaking it all in: the poor quality shower, the eating of crab linguine on the bed, the looking for SOMETHING to watch on the TV. I’m hoping I don’t get woken by the sounds of pole dancing from the bar, as Kate is in our first book.

Writers do this all the time, taking a part of what is happening around them and use it for fodder for their next book.  When you are writing, especially full-time, it’s probably something that is on you brain at all times.  You see characters and scenes in everything around you else you’d never have any content for your story.

So I’m going to take this time away from the hubby and the little baby and instead of moping about it, use it as a way to come up with new ideas.

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Finding inspiration from the other side

V2Phil: Have all the stories been told? Do we all need to churn out variations on the same tale?

No, we don’t. It’s just that finding the setting for your novel that is both plausible and recognisable to the reader gets harder every time another book plops out into the world. Imagination of course is infinite and sometimes you just need to, as the main character in our book would say, think outside the box.

Candice reviewed Dominion on Tuesday and this provides a good example. Set in an alternative version of history where Germany won World War II, the setting can be both familiar and totally alien to us.

I live in a perfect example of this. Leamington Spa would have become the capital of Nazi-run Britian. This is historical fact – there are plenty of documents to prove it. Thus, I can walk past a town hall that would very likely have been festooned with red banners bearing the swastika. Familiar but very alien.

Sticking with this theme, one of the books in my library is V2 written by Major-General Walter Dornberger. This describes the development of the German V1 and V2 weapons at the Peenemünde Army Research Centre from the perspective of the man in charge. The account, translated by the Special Scientific Book Cub, is a dispassionate account of the process. You see the whole thing from the point of view of those we traditionally refer to as the enemy.

There is no attempt to justify any of the actions – it’s just what a senior army officer did. Maybe the translators have produced a more dispassionate account that the original text would have us read but it’s no less fascinating for all that.

Chapter 15, Flaming Night, is the most interesting in many ways. Assuming the reader has made it this far, they are seeing people normally portrayed as monsters at least as human beings. The chapter describes an air raid by the Allies in August 1943. Suddenly, the bombs dropping are heading for the writer. It’s a novel perspective an d slightly unsettling as you find yourself hoping that everyone is OK. That’s not right – these are the enemy. As we know, they were carrying out acts of unimaginable evil – yet it’s more difficult to be on the side of the attackers than I feel entirely comfortable admitting.

So, maybe there is scope to write from the perspective of the other side? Not to justify actions but because on both sides of any conflict there are stories to be told from the perspective of ordinary people unable to influence things but still suffering the consequences.

Another options is to consider how history would be different if that air raid had been more succesful.

V weapon research might have been halted. Wernher von Braun and the other rocket scientists are buried under the rubble. Operation Paperclip, the spiriting out of the country of scientists “useful” to the Allies never takes place. Rocket science is put back at least 10 years.

How is the world different? Is the Cold War based on tanks rolling across Germany rather than people lobbing missiles at each other? Presumably, the aircraft based systems we built stay in service for longer but does this make the situation better or worse? Would the Cuban Missile crisis happen? Do we ever walk on the moon?

There are stories out there, we just need to change our perspective.

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Dipping in the pot of inspiration

Phil has an idea !Phil: During our recent writing day over at Chez Nolan we knew that the only way any work is done at all is if we sit well away from each other, preferably in separate rooms so no chatting can occur. This is one of the reason libraries work so well for us but they were all shut ‘cos of Easter.  Anyway, I found myself sitting at the dining room table staring into my laptop screen trying to work out what I wanted to write.

I had a basic plan, just no idea how to form the words. A bit like a sculptor standing in front of a block of marble and trying to decide if he was going to carve a figure or unicorn.

What I wanted to do was bring the dark mystery element forward in the text. There’s a bit of whodunnit going on but we came up with it late and so the early chapters don’t mention it at all. This is rubbish as the final scenes largely revolve around this and so we need to make more of it.

But how?

As I sat there struggling, I read about 1/3rd of The Book without striking a seam of inspiration.

Then Madame came past for a glass of water and we briefly chatted. It was at this point it hit me. Not one of the famous Nolan “Jackhammer” right hooks as a punishment for producing no work while she had been slaving away to good effect. No, an idea. A way to introduce our characters to their dilemma without re-writing the entire book.

Happy, I went away and wrote a couple of pages. Which I promptly lost in a horrible computer saving incident. Still, the second go written the next day was longer, tighter and probably made more sense anyway.

Sometimes though, ideas appear just when you stop looking for them.

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Dreaming for ideas

Candice: I’ve been dreaming a lot recently.  I’m a regular dreamer, but when I’ve got things on my plate: work, house sale etc my mind goes a bit mad and creates lots of exciting scenarios when I sleep, often to my detriment as I don’t get a good night’s sleep.

Anyway, over the weekend I had such a vivid dream that it woke me up at 3am with a start.  It was scary in some way, as in that time between being half asleep and fully awake I was lying there thinking I can’t move, ‘It’ will get me. After I fell asleep again I had another totally different dream.  However, the frustration in this is that I can’t remember either of them very well, and I am sure they were really good source material for stories.  Damn!

I have read that people who are creative have pads or dictaphones by their bed, so when they wake up like this they can scribble it down or record it and then go back to sleep safe in the knowledge that they have another corker for the writing pot.  However, I don’t think I could do that as I like my sleep and need a solid eight hours to make me feel like I’ve had a good night’s sleep.  Actually fully waking up to write something down would just mean I’d struggle to go back to sleep and when you have to get up for work in the morning that doesn’t help!

Phil and I have a writing session planned for today, and I am adamant that there will be tea and cake, but there will also be writing.  We were going to work in the local library but it’s shut for a refurb so we are now meeting in a hotel reception and pretending to have a business meeting so we can scribble away. I’m going to try to bring back the memory of one of these dreams, or the others I have been having recently, and see if I can capture it.

If you see two people with laptops, iPods and pots of tea next to them next time you go to a hotel reception, you’ll know who it is.  Just don’t tell them we are blagging their electricity and WIFI in return for a quiet space!


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Stirring the creative juices

Patriotic afternoon teaPhil: It’s a couple of years since we started writing The Book and at least 12 months since we considered it finished enough to hand out to test readers. Since then, much cake has been eaten, several attempts have been made to punt the manuscript to agents. We’ve met a few people in the book publishing business. Revisions to the text have been considered.

Basically, we’ve talked a lot and written very little.

But, all this has changed recently. While generating enthusiasm for the inevitable editing and re-writing process on Kate vs The Dirtboffins has been difficult, we have become little creative powerhouses in the short story world.

Candice mentioned one of our first efforts “The Cathedral Killer” recently but since then we’ve completed another story and have two more on the stocks going through the process of being refined. Last week we met up, took the photo above, and set ourselves a deadline to each write 1000 words by the following Friday (tomorrow). We had both done our homework by Tuesday – that’s how much we wanted to do this.

Both efforts are completely different to anything else we’ve written, including the other shorts. These little side projects have freed our creative juices a bit. The vague plan is to have produced enough decent efforts to self-publish a collection by Christmas. Some of these will have been entered in writing competitions. At least two will have been picked up for major feature films which I am told will star George Clooney. Hmmmm. Well, we’ll do the book anyway.

The moral of this story appears to be that if you want to write – WRITE SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter what, just bang the keyboard. Yes, you need to plough through the big manuscript but if you aren’t enjoying it, go and write something else for a bit. You’ll need to do all the same processes on the short as the novel, but the pain will be over quicker. If we are anything to go by, it gives you fresh perspectives on the main project.


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