Plotting Stories: Off-topic Blogs May Be The Best Growing Medium For Your Budding Novel

Posted at 01:20am on 20th November 2008

One of the benefits of modern technology is that, as a writer, you have more information at your finger tips about who is connecting with your blog personality, and which content for your blog attracts most readers, than ever you could in the real world. So it’s exciting to know that, since I began blogging four months ago, I’ve had just short of six thousand page views, from forty-eight countries around the world, including places like United Arab Emirates, Croatia, Peru, China, Indonesia and even Afghanistan, in addition to the more obvious UK and USA. Overwhelmingly, your interests have centred on creative writing tutorials and bereavement poetry, and to my great delight you’ve come back for more!

Whilst your interests are obviously paramount in terms of the online content I want to provide for you, mine tend to be eclectic, so I’ve resisted the temptation to blog exclusively about the processes of writing and publishing a book. Because I’d like to encourage you – if you’re a would-be author – to think of EVERYTHING as related to creative writing. Great online content should feed the creative juices in you. Let me explain:

ORGANIC POTTING COMPOST: FINDING PLOT IDEAS FOR YOUR BOOK IN EVERYTHING YOU READ

  • When I have a rant about the effects of illiteracy in my blog (because I can’t imagine anything more awful than to be shut off from a proper education) I hope you will allow this to sow seedling ideas for the plot of your next book. Perhaps character A, who has hidden her inability to read from the rest of the world, has the fate of character B in her hands. But the safety and success of both depends entirely upon whether character A can read the ransom note correctly.
  • When I blog about how it feels to be dealing with the death of a loved one (because I know, from my own experience) I trust you'll use this to give credibility to the emotions of a character in your book who’s suffered loss. Even if that loss is the loss of a job; a relationship; a precious possession. Create conflict in your plotting ideas by making those around this character completely lacking in understanding when it comes to supporting him.
  • When I post an article studying the nuances of character caused by birth order in a family (because patterns of ideas and behaviour intrigue me) I assume you'll take this idea and turn it around. How would it be if the eldest child in the family discovers, as a young adult, that actually they’re not the firstborn? That there is, in fact, someone who has a greater claim on the estate of their dead father, because he ‘married’ their mother bigamously? What if the displaced firstborn child has a people pleaser personality and by submitting to the claims of the ‘outsider’ falls foul of his own sibs?

Can you understand how I see all these topics as pertinent to the world of writing? They are budding ideas. And reading widely is the best potting compost when it comes to bringing buds to bloom; developing plot ideas for a story; creating conflict in a novel; credibility in your characters. Everything, but everything, should excite a novelist. Well, almost everything!

SEE CREATIVE WRITING TUTORIALS IN THE WORLD AROUND YOU

Don’t wait until you need to carry out research for you storylines. Of course accurate research is crucial. But so is experience. Soak up all that this world has to offer. Take in everything with a writer’s eye. Store those observations and experiences away like over-wintering bulbs, allow them to mature in a fertiliser made up of your personality and values, and as you write, you’ll find yourself planting kernels of truth, nuggets of knowledge, seeds of wisdom you didn’t even know you’d garnered. The experiences will be all the better for having had time to ripen.

I recall once, at a Writers’ Conference, standing with another author – one of the tutors – watching a house-fire on the far hillside. There was a part of me – I like to think the greater part – that felt compassion for those involved. And another part – voyeuristic and analytical – which made me feel vaguely ashamed.

After a while, during which my companion and I were silent, we turned towards each other and before I could say what was in my mind, Hugh said, ‘I know it sounds terrible, but I’m wondering how I can use this in a book.’ With a sense of relief, I was able to admit that I had been doing exactly the same!

The point is that, as a writer, no experience is simply an occurrence in which you are merely a participant or an observer. Some part of a writer’s brain notes the detail and squirrels it away for future use. Which is why, when a non-writing topic is flagged up on your RSS feeder – or whatever means you use to access the content of my blog – I hope that you’ll see it, in future, as the seeds, growing medium and fertiliser of the next flowering burst of creativity.

Let me know where your best ideas have come from. Leave a comment below.

Your Comments:

8th March 2009
at 1:43am

This is great advice. Too many writers, in my opinion, try to
write or think about writing only when it suits them. The world is
a wonderful inspiration playground, if people take the time to pay
attention to it.

9th March 2009
at 12:48am

Thank you, Gabriel. I'm lucky enough to have good total
recall - probably because my brain automatically makes links
between what I see and hear around me and patterns in behaviour.
Consequently, I see everything as material to be fed into my
writing. Just as well because I'm not organised enough to keep
a journal, as many writers do.

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