Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I'm happy to offer the floor today to Devon Monk, author of Magic in the Blood, Magic to the Bone, and the forthcoming Magic in the Shadows, who has some lovely thoughts to share regarding creating an Affirmation Board for your writing (or your health goals...or other career goals...or any other creative endeavor!)
My friend was tired of New Years resolutions. She wanted to start the year on a better foot. Make a better plan than just listing things she would ultimately fail at.
So she told me about the affirmation board. The affirmation board is easy. You sit down, flip through magazines while thinking about what you want to do, and better yet, what you want to happen to you in the year ahead. Then you hang that board someplace where you will see it every day–on your closet, by your TV, some place where the images and words can sink into your subconscious and remind you of your hopes and wishes and affirmations.
It sounded to me like the perfect way to make a year’s worth of writing goals.
The first time I sat down to make an affirmation board was on New Year’s eve. I bought some poster board, glue and scissors, and asked friends and family to bring their old magazines to the party.
In a house full of people, at a party I was hosting, I began flipping through magazines. I knew some of my goals: I wanted to write more and sell more. I wanted balance between all aspects of my life. I wanted health for myself, friends and family. But how would I make that into a visual inspiration?
An amazing thing happened. Halfway into the first magazine, the sounds of the party faded away. I forgot I was sitting in a room full of people. My conscious mind took the backseat, while my subconscious sorted through photos and words–and wondered, do I want that next year? Is that my hope and dream? Is that a writing goal? Is that the career I’m reaching for?
Certain words and pictures jumped out. Other concepts were difficult to find. No surprise there. Dreams are hard to spot in a recycled magazine. But trust me, dreams are in there. I cut out everything that spoke to me. More words and pictures than I could fit on a board. When it came time to assemble the board, I slid photos and words around, feeling like an artistic criminal, making a ransom note for my future.
The board turned out pretty nice. It was pleasant to look at–very important since it was going to be on my wall. I posted it above my writing desk so when I was at the computer, my eyes would wander to the board, and my subconscious would be reminded of my goals and dreams.
What was on that board? A quote: “Step of the cliff expecting to fly, not to fall.” An image: a woman in silhouette standing at the top of a mountain, the sun rising to greet her with “success” at her feet. A goal: “Editor’s pick.” A hope: “healthy children.”
But there was danger lurking in those words, too. I foolishly clipped out this quote: “See how much one woman can do” thinking it would be inspirational. It would help me see how much writing I could get done in a year, right? Wrong. Instead, I had one of the craziest, busiest years of my life! There wasn’t a last minute emergency that didn’t fall into my lap, there wasn’t a disaster that didn’t need me to handle it, there wasn’t a moment’s rest. It was crazy! Finding out just what one woman could do nearly killed me.
And it reminded me that words, even just clipped words on cardboard, or electronic pixels on a screen, or ink on a page, have power.
I’m a little more choosy about what I put on my board now. I still strive for things that will encourage me to reach my writing goals. If you look in the left hand corner of my board from last year, you’ll see a goal of mine that I haven’t reached yet. But I’m working on it.
This year, for the first time in ten years, I didn’t make a board. I miss it. I miss that beginning-of-the-year, fresh-start-hopefulness that helps me keep my chin up during the tough times, the rejections, the failures. The affirmation board is more than a concrete reminder of what I want to accomplish. It’s a visual encouragement to keep hoping and keep dreaming. And of course, to keep working toward the career I want.
And thanks to Chloe’s invitation to blog here, I think I’m going to make a middle of the year affirmation board. Because even half a year without a my writing dreams and goals is far too long.
* * * *
Alright, I have an appointment with some scissors and a glue stick. Thanks for joining us (and inspiring us), Devon!
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
But, my giant city map is looking a little worse for wear thanks to (1) too much bleed-through highlighting) and (2) the chewed-up bits on corners that have been attacked by Dog.
Solution! Jordan Ferney is about to head to Brazil, and she's provided a great post on mounting a map to foam core so that you can cover it with sweet little tags and tacks and flags. What a great idea for science fiction/fantasy writers who "map" out their universes! Don't feel constrained to keep this limited to preexisting maps. Draw or sketch your own, or use a giant map of the U.S. to plot your heroines' travels!
So sleek and shiny. I am sooooo buying foam core tonight.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It's chock full of random photography goodness (and, although not particularly relevant for me, photography tips). I can imagine flipping through it as I'm writing a scene in a city...a park...a house for interesting details.
I've always been a fan of the tiny books in the Design Index series. They're a great design resource, offering tips on layout and fonts. If you're interested in design (for your web site? your business cards?), check them out the next time you're surrounded by books.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
This would also be a fun project if you're worldbuilding. Consider it your handmade guide to your world/city/village state!
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Your turn! Writers--What do you collect? Do you have a hero or heroine who collects? Could any of these objects, found on a street corner, inspire a hero or heroine to act?
Monday, June 8, 2009
Also, a new link: Abundance shares brilliant--and often odd--photography. Do they inspire?
(Photo by Vee Speers)
Friday, June 5, 2009
And what better way to save--to savor--the refreshment of a change in the weather than by creating a seasonal style file? Here are some ideas to keep you visually inspired, even in the dead of winter:
1. Take photographs of the flora and fauna as the landscape around your home changes.
2. Save reminders and brochures from local farmer's markets.
3. Take a drive through the countryside. What do you see? Smell? Hear?
4. Clip magazines with seasonal ensembles. You might need an idea for resort wear when you're writing in winter.
5. Order up vacation brochures from the state of your choice. Start a state-by-state "scouting" file for potential scene locations.
And don't forget--these same ideas work in winter. Save memories of the frosty landscape around you to inspire your writing in the heat of the summer.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
So, when Chloe asked if I had anything to say about visual inspiration in my work as a writer I could actually say: Yes! :)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
[ Are you a writer with a favorite city/setting? Would you like to contribute your sources to WWUC? If so, send an e-mail to chloe at chloeneill dot com. - Ed.]
- Chicago (Wikipedia)
- Chicago Neighborhoods (Wikipedia)
- Frommers - Chicago
- Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau
- Explore Chicago
- Go Chicago
- Apartment Therapy - Chicago
- Chicago Architecture Foundation
- Chicago Architecture (Wikipedia)
- Chicago Landmarks (City of Chicago)
- Chicago River Virtual Tour
- Clark House Museum
- Millennium Park
- Stan Mansion
- Wheeler Mansion
- Wrigley Field
- Navy Pier
- Sears Tower
- Hancock Observatory
- Chicago Park District
- The Art Institute of Chicago
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- Chicago Arts District
- Field Museum of Natural History
- Encyclopedia of Chicago
- Chicago History Museum
- Chicago Historical Society's History Files (great vignettes on lots of topics!)
- Chicago Public Library History Resources
- Chicago History & Facts (City of Chicago)
- MetroMix Chicago
- Chicago Style Hot Dog (Wikipedia)
- Chicago Style Pizza (Wikipedia)
- Chicago Reader - The Food Chain
- Chicago Food & Walking Tours
- Thrillist - Chicago
- Daily Candy - Chicago
- Chicago Etsy Teams
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
It all started with a house.
If I had to give my current work-in-progress a tag, I’d say that on its most basic level, it’s “Jane Eyre set in the deep South.” The first spark of an idea came to me when I was posting photos on my blog of a cool Flickr stream I’d found of pictures taken in abandoned buildings.
Something about dilapidated, abandoned buildings – particularly houses – is so appealing. The neglect lends an air of infinite sadness, and the mysteries are endless. Who lived there? What were they like? Where have they gone, and why is no one around to care about this house any more? And always, always this one: was somebody murdered there?
(That last question I can chalk up to all the Nancy Drew and Mary Higgins Clark I read growing up. It’s truly sad the number of times I’ve just been walking around and thought, ‘that would make a great hiding spot for a body.’)
When you think about it, those are the same kinds of questions we ask when we’re creating our characters and our story.
I was raised in Alabama, so as I looked through the Flickr stream of abandoned houses, I wondered what it would be like to stay in a dilapidated old plantation house in the deep South. But I didn’t want to set the story in modern times, or during the actual plantation era. I eventually settled on 1919 because it was a time of change, ushering in the modern age, yet still cautiously attached (especially in the South) to a bygone era.
My sister is in Charleston getting her master’s degree in historical preservation. She loves old buildings, natch, and we e-mailed back and forth about my book idea. (She loves historical mysteries, too.) She sent me a link to this house and I fell in love:
It inspired what became my novel’s central setting: a once-great Plantation house, still home to the last members of the family line but so neglected that the damage is almost irreparable. It’s as sinister as Manderley and as tragic as Thornfield Hall.
But the funny thing about architecture is that it can inform your writing in more ways than one. I was still musing over details of the mystery surrounding my creepy plantation house when my sister sent me an e-mail with her own thoughts about the house, and why it might have sunk into disrepair in the first place:
“The comparison between the almost aristocratic way of life that the planter class carried off vs. the ‘New South’ industrialization [after the Civil War] is very interesting. Whereas in Charleston, the planters were extremely hesitant to move forward into the twentieth century, places like Alabama did not have as strong of roots (colonial) and were more willing to change. That would explain the dilapidated/forgotten plantation house in your story. If you placed it somewhere south of Birmingham, [the family] might have moved away and gotten into the iron and steel industry, while keeping the house since it was the family seat.”
And as I thought about what exactly the house and the land around it might look like, she e-mailed me again, and as I read the e-mail, I suddenly had a light-shining-down-from-above-with-angels-singing experience…OK not exactly, but this paragraph solved one particularly prickly plot point in a way I hadn’t considered:
“If there are any slave quarters/outbuildings left over [on my fictional property], and there should be some, maybe have the house servants living there, or other black people whose families used to be slaves of the old plantation. A lot of times if they didn't go north, black people would stick around and continue working for the same masters because it's all the work they'd ever known. Depending on whether the property is still being cultivated, you might not have that many black people still living around there. Maybe [character] lets certain families live there, like the family of [mystery plot point omitted here!], out of guilt or obligation or because he feels a kinship with them.”
I’d rather not reveal more about the plot, but the above paragraph really put things in perspective for me. I’d forgotten that traditional plantation architecture dictates that slave outbuildings would almost certainly still be on the property. And there it was: I had another twist to add to my mystery and the house that sits at the heart of it.
But hands-down the most inspirational writer’s resource I’ve found is actually Flickr. You could browse there for hours – days – finding photos on anything you could ever possibly need.
In the last story I wrote, I didn’t seriously consider what exactly the buildings looked like. But as I outline this novel, I’m finding that just considering the architecture and its cultural and historical relevance fuels my imagination and helps me weave a deliciously twisty plot.
* * * * *
Thanks so much for joining us, Anna Claire! I look forward to reading about your deliciously twisty plot! :)
What are we afraid of in our creative lives?
1. Messing up.
2. Thinking this is the one and only chance to tell this story so it simply must be perfect.
3. People not appreciating what we create.
4. Being seen as selfish or extravagant for indulging yourself in your creative endeavor.
5. Not getting anything done.
Any of those sound or feel familiar? Let's look a bit at the realities . . .
As I approach the final stages of drafing my third novel, FIRESPELL, I'm kneedeep in #1. The only solution I'm aware of? Keep writing.