Where do your ideas come from? How do you write?

I can divide my writing into three basic types, probably because people have asked me about it several times. The majority of my writing is like Hemingway said: “sit[ting] down at a typewriter and bleed[ing].” Words come slowly, with frequent pauses to stare at the waiting blank white page. I stop to do research, or to add something to my story notes.

The second type involves that stereotype of a writer who has a whole book ‘in his/her head.’ Sometimes I have a general idea, but I’m not sure how to make it work, or where I want it to go, so I write the story in my head. I write, make changes, run through a possible scene, and discard as necessary. My ideas percolate as I’m walking, eating, or standing in line, and often bubble over just as I’m trying to fall asleep. I sometimes wonder about other people. Everyone has at least the story of their life inside them, but what about the others? Do some people not have stories brewing in their heads at all? Or do they simply lack the inclination to write them down?  What happens to those stories, I wonder. Do they boil and boil until all that’s left is the caked-on, dried-up crud of a dream?

Anyway, I digress…

The third type is the fun/frightening one. Where the ideas pour out without (or with very little) interruption. Witch of Atlas started that way. I scribbled the first few lines frantically on a piece of receipt paper when I was working the register at Fuddruckers. The frightening part of this kind of writing is the knowledge that when interrupted, you nearly always lose what you were going to write. After you have that down, it’s an enormous relief, and rereading what you wrote sometimes brings back that moment of inspiration. It’s also a little scary to think of where the ideas came from—when characters dance across your mind, and you know details you’ll probably never use—pets, little quirks, family life, or even future events.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a note of a character’s pet lizards’ names before I forget.

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About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

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