Tag Archives: tips

Inspiration – What Makes It Happen?

So, this is my first post on this blog for a year or more now. It’s interesting, then, that I should write something about inspiration as I have not seemed to have it for the past year or more. And while that’s not entirely true, I did want to sit back and comment on a few things that I think writers have some trouble with and some easy remedies as I have found that these things have helped me more than I know. Hence, the reason I am writing now.

#1 Problem = Coming up with Ideas

Whenever I tell people that I have written a novel they always ask me two questions to begin. (A) “What is your book about?” … And after I tell them typically the second question is (B) “How did you think of it?”

The second question is the one I want to answer here. To be honest, one of my best friends in high school had a collection of drawings of people and figures. I was fascinated with it and in middle school we went through the process of creating a card game from these figures based off of something like Yu-Gi-Oh. It was an interesting concept with it’s own twist. Anyways, these cards became the characters for a short story that I wrote in school. And then three years later as I was cleaning out my room in high school I found that short story again and I thought to myself, “Well, what would happen if I continued writing it.” So, after many many revisions and character additions and reductions, I arrived at The Trials of the Core by Michael E. Thies. My first novel.

And, although this may be self-explanatory, I wrote because I saw things. It seems elementary but if you take a look at any writer one of their greatest tools is the power of observation — to see something that is beyond the page or beyond the person in question. In Californication, for example, during the first season we see the author protagonist, Hank Moody (David Duchovny), tell a woman who she is based off merely the power of observation. She gets mad (because Moody is not very tactful) and storms off, but under that an analysis is that perhaps she was embarrassed that he was right about her. In the second season we see him shadow the life of a rockstar in order to write a book about him.

And that’s what we do as author, we observe. So, when I saw those drawings in my friends book of sketches, I saw more than just figures I saw people that were dying to come off of the page and hop into a story. And, now, I have actually gotten many inspirational ideas through sleep. I have crazy dreams, and I mean crazy dreams, that I wake up and wonder, “Well, what if that turned into a novel…” So, I jot down what I remember quickly into one of my notepads for writing and at a future date maybe I’ll get back to it and actually write a story or short story about it. Right now, I can’t, because I’m focused on Guardian of the Core but when I finish that series I will need something new to write about and who knows by then!

So, in essence, we get inspiration because we use our eyes and not just physical ones, but a mental eye (your brain as it dreams) and it’s imagination, as well.

Problem #2 = Coming up with sentences

Alright, another problem. Maybe you have a vivid imagination. Maybe you have an idea for a story. But, you don’t have the words. Where can you draw your inspiration from then? Well, I have had this problem, too, with inspiration. Honestly, this is how I solve it.

I read.

I remember that my writing improved so greatly after I started reading The Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. After reading such a great book like that, it makes you want to write. It makes you want to see if you can craft a sentence as perfectly constructed as he does. At least, this was the side effect I had.

Even if a book isn’t necessarily good, like the book I am reading now, I still find it an inspiration, but an inspiration in a different sense. I want to write to write better. i see the flaws of that work and I write and make sure I don’t see any of the same flaws happen in my own book.

But, regardless of if it’s a good book or a bad book there are still ways that it can enhance your writing. Vocabulary, for instance, is something that is built through reading.

Problem #3 = Time for writing

This is probably the hardest issue to deal with. It’s true, there is just not enough time in the day. It gets more complicated when you have a family and a job. I am extremely fortunate that I have a profession, an English teacher, that allows me time for writing. In the States it would be during the summer when I don’t have the hustle and bustle of the school year to contend with. Now, while I’m over in Chile, it’s when I go on vacation to renew my passport. My mother came down to take me on a cruise from Valparaíso down around Cape Horn up to Buenos Aires. It was the best 14 days of my life. And, while on that cruise, I managed to write five to six chapters. I had never been more into my writing (besides when I’ve had to write for a deadline). It was fantastic and I wish I could live on a permanent vacation, but, alas, my books aren’t popular enough for that yet haha. But, maybe one day.

Anyways, like I was saying before, as a teacher not only do I get vacation time, but I get the luxury of being able to teach anywhere. I am currently taking a position to teach English overseas in China for a year, or more, and I’ll have lots of time to explore and write about the places I see. I am positive that Chile and my experiences here will turn up in my writing eventually. In fact, unknowingly, it already has, but it wasn’t as intentional as I would have liked.

So, what happens if you don’t have a profession like mine?

Then you have to go above and beyond in order to tackle this boundary to inspiration. Like the Corona commercials you have to “Find your beach.” Meaning, find a place that relaxes you and where you can write. Ideally, this is a beach, but not everyone has a beach in their backyard. So, without a beach, maybe you can have a beach be your writing den, or living room before the kids wake up, or the kitchen area. The idea is, though, that you need to create a routine that works for you in a setting that works for you.

Analysis 

For me, inspiration comes and goes like the wind, although I definitely do have more inspiration in any of the three situations I outlined above. Unless if I have to, I never force myself to write, because when I do it doesn’t come out as well as I want it to. That is why I stopped writing this blog a year ago when I was cranking out a post per week. Now, I want to continue but at my own pace, maybe at once every two weeks or once a month. I don’t know the exact time table but I had the itch to write a blog post today and that is what I did.

So, the next time you have any type of writer’s block, don’t feel that you have to write. It may be more painful for you to do so. Instead, perhaps try one of the methods outlined above, and then see how you feel. Welcome writing, don’t worship it or feel inclined to do it.

-Michael E. Thies

Words You Should Cut in Your Writing

Hey everyone!

So, I was cleaning my room up and I came across a sheet of paper that I always had taped to my desk in college while I was writing. Before this I read the book “How to Write a Damn Good Novel” by James Frey and so much of the advice comes from there. But, I figured, since I found it, I would share it!

Nice, Beautiful, Interesting, Wonderful, Amazing: All of these words you should replace with more specificity. Let’s take, for example, the word beautiful. What is beautiful really saying? That something is really gorgeous? Well, what does really gorgeous mean? Perhaps that the individual in this situation is “A woman with lush lips as red as her hair walked in with a dress of sparkling gold cut off at the thighs. Her sun-kissed skin hid the slight freckles on her cheeks. Her green eyes shot through me, intriguing me to come closer.”

Which is better? I am assuming many people will agree with the last option because of its specificity. I am describing how she is “beautiful” and from there readers can either choose to agree with the narrator, or not. Yes, this adds on more words, but the amount of words you add doing important things like this can be made up by cutting some of these really unnecessary words I talk about next.

Here are some of the words you should actually Delete:

First off, the adverbs when possible. Use that search function on Microsoft Office Word and find those “ly” words and see if you can adjust them. Run quickly? How about sprint?

Very and Really: Ask yourself, what does “very” really do for your sentence? If you say “The building is very sturdy.” vs. “The building is sturdy.” Are people really going to interpret that any differently? When I read a building sturdy, I don’t find myself wondering how sturdy, I know it’s sturdy and I trust the narrator. Or, how about, “It was a really hard piece of food that I ate.” Why not just say, “It was a hard piece of food that I ate?” Or, even better, “I ate stale food.” Now, that’s tightening for you because the stale implies hard and now you managed to rearrange the sentence to take care of unnecessary words.

So: Sooo what? “He was so inconsiderate. I hate him so much.” Great, the guys a douche bag we can see that. But, convey it to us in not as many words. “He was inconsiderate. I loathe him.” I changed a weak word like “hate” to a stronger word that deletes words. And what is “so inconsiderate” compared to “inconsiderate”? Can you tell me a difference? Probably not. So, delete it when possible 😉

Quite: I find that when people use this word they want to make an “almost 100% statement.” It is another filler word for the likes of “very” and “really”. For example, “He is quite intelligent.” Same as “He is really intelligent.” But you know what’s even better. “He is a genius.” Now, this particular example doesn’t delete words but it makes the sentence stronger because of the words you are using.

That: OMG That. It’s a dirty word. And it pops up everywhere. I mean everywhere. Some times it’s needed. But, make sure you read your sentences before accepting it into your troupe. For example, “That is the building that Jack used to live in,” Adam said. Did you really need two thats? No. “Jack used to live there,” Adam said. No that and a lot less words.

Just: You are “just” able to do something. He managed to just grab the ledge. The sun was just rising up. You can really delete this word in almost every instance. It just doesn’t add anything to your writing 😉  How about “He grabbed the ledge.” “The sun rose.” Or, “The sun was on the horizon.” The latter is more true to the meaning of the sentence above. 99% of the time you can delete your just. Just make sure you look at it 🙂

Started to do something: I hate this phrase so much. Sometimes I need to catch myself using it or wondering if I need to use it. “He started to walk towards the man with the beard.” When do you start something? When you are doing it. “He walked towards the bearded man.” Is so much stronger than the sentence above.

Those are the ones that are my biggest pet peeves and the ones I make a conscious effort of in avoiding for my writing. When you have strong writing, you have the attention of readers, and when you have that, you will have a good short story, essay, novel–whatever it is that you write. Now, go find those words and try deleting them. This one signal method (as well as rewriting some of my novel) took a third draft of 173,000 words to a concise one of 123,000 words. That is a difference, but everything is still the same and I even added in more description and character traits and still managed to come in 50,000 less. It goes to show you the power or rewriting and deleting the necessary words and saving space for the ones that matter–the descriptions, character building, world building, etc.