Friday, August 10, 2012

Inspiration, at Home and Abroad

In the continuing saga of me and  my manuscript ...

Well, I did finish my revisions … a little over my deadline of May 31st but not by too much, and with good reasons for running late (a revolving door of sick family members being one of them) so I’m happy with that. Even better, I got everything done just in time to pack my bags and head off for a vacation … to Paris.

Here's the proof.

("Children? What children?")

Ah, Paris. The city I’ve longed to visit ever since I can remember and the setting of my book, no less. I spent my ten days there pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, and have come back with a ton of fodder for my book and with my batteries fully recharged for another round of revisions.

And I mean revisions; not the wholesale re-writing that the last few go-throughs of my manuscript has entailed, which I’m mighty happy about.  I’ve chiseled away enough of the first (and second, and third and fourth ...) draft of my manuscript and can now see the full shape of my story. It’s lumpy and bumpy and in need of a good smoothing over and final polish, that’s for sure, but at least I’m at the stage where I’m swapping the heavy duty mallet and chisel work for the finer rasp and file business.

Anyways … rolling up my sleeves to get stuck into my manuscript once again got me thinking about the things that help keep up our enthusiasm for projects that take a long time to come to fruition. For it can start to seem all too hard and pointless, especially when the creative well has run dry or that vinegar-lipped lady is on your shoulder sniping that your writing is crap.

One thing that works for me it to step back from the keyboard, to go out into the world and visit museums and art galleries, take walks in the park, listen to music or catch a movie (or, cough, go to Paris), all of which serve to clear my mind and top up my creative juices so that I come back to my writing with renewed drive and fresh perspective.

But when I don’t have the time or the ability to do these things, my bookshelf is my best battery re-charger. I have a handful of authors whose works I can dip into, just for a page or so, and I’m guaranteed to come away awed and inspired. Their writing grabs me, reminds me of what I’m aspiring to, and the swell of excitement and hope that I feel compels me to get my butt back into my chair and write.

Not every writer does this for me, but a few are guaranteed to. Writers such as Deanna Raybourne, Jo Bourne, C.S. Harris, Ariana Franklin, Thomas Harris, Sarah Waters, Louis Bayard, Imogen Robertson, Geraldine Brooks, to name but a few.

And all the ladies here at ATWOP, of course.

I know some might find it a depressing exercise to read polished, published work, then dive into the hot festering messes they’re working on, but I don’t. They urge me on to do better, and to ignore that vinegar-lipped bitch and write some more.

So tell me: whose work inspires you?


  1. Lovely post! I'm very envious of your trip! How wonderful!

    As for my inspirations, I have some reliable "go to" sources, like museums (LOVE going to museums and finding items from the time period I'm writing in...and imagining what significance they could have in my story). But sometimes just a nice quiet walk will do as well...time to clear my head and let it wander.

    As for books that inspire me, that's tougher...because some books I love are as likely to make me feel like "I can't possibly do what s/he does...I'll never been *that* good! I might as well quit!" as to rejuvenate me. I tend to find JoB and Diana Gabaldon motivating...especially in that I feel a greater sense of freedom as a writer when I read them. I can play and explore and then worry about revising and polishing later. I tend to go back to books like A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS when I want POV and voice inspiration and stuff by Jane Austen and George Eliot when I want to be steeped in language and diction and social commentary.

  2. Awesome, Rachel! Nothing better than hands-on research. So excited to hear that you've gotten down to the finer editing.

  3. @ Amara: " ... I feel a greater sense of freedom as a writer when I read them ..." Yes, exactly! And I love your "go-to" reads for POV and voice and language. All good stuff for firing up the creative furnace.

    @ Deniz: I was a very lucky girl to go to Paris. I guess turning 40 isn't so bad when you get a trip like that as your surprise present. ;-)

  4. Hey Rachel, I have a little piece of nature behind the museum here in Topeka that inspires me. Great place to get your think on.

    I thought your readers might enjoy hearing the question that goes with the answer 42. It's posted here.



  5. Just found this blog and related immediately to your post since I love Paris, too. The great French author, Sidonie Colette, was my childhood inspiration and on my first trip to Paris I took a train to Saint Sauveur en Puisaye, the village where she was born. Now I'm a novelist, too, and video camera in hand I also trot off to cities and countries where my novels take place. I just have a new one out and am busy on the next, this time aching to get on a plane to Tanzania! I admire your ability to read other authors when you're writing. My mind is so sponge-like when it comes to words, if I read Hemingway, I'll find myself writing like Hemingway, etc. For me it's music or a walk in the park that provides inspiration when I can't travel.

  6. Traveling is the best, I find, for shaking off routine and re-engaging sleepy synapses. If that's not on the menu, I agree that reading is a great help...but only seriously good books. I've found great inspiration lately in the work of Pat Barker and Ron Hansen, to name just a couple: writers who make you go, "Wow, look what can be done with the language."

  7. Hmm, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson are always the authors I'll look to, but recently I've been really drawn in by the works of Megan Whalen Turner. Anyway, I'd love to visit Paris! It's something that I'd love to do some day (after I visit England and 221B Baker Street). Oh and Patrick Rothfuss is the one that really makes me want to write though (writing at his level is a drive that keeps me going).

    Anyway, really like your blog! Can't wait to read more about you guys!


  8. Sarah Waters I've read, and like. Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" is the rare smash hit which is also a great book.

  9. I like Jennifer Lynn Barnes, who said writing had become a part of her daily routine.