Tag Archives: Writer’s Block

When Words Won’t Come

We’ve all shared tips on how to write every day and how to fight that devil, procrastination. Or in other words, how to nip our laziness in the bud. Laziness is indeed a real thing, but often when we think that that’s exactly what our problem is, it isn’t. It’s overwhelm. Beating ourselves up with a whole lot of self-recrimination doesn’t help either. Feeling bad about yourself in general isn’t going to give you a fabulous boost of creativity or spur you to action. More than likely you’ll just spend the whole day playing Candy Crush and then top off your day eating piles of pizza while pondering your uselessness as a writer and in general. The secret to avoiding this is to know your real enemy.

We’re all very similar. All day long most of us are inundated with reasons to fail at whatever it is that we’re doing. We have lots to do as well as our writing. Family responsibilities, marketing, day jobs, and the list goes on. Then when we do sit down to write we freeze right up and not a single word comes out. A few angsty minutes staring at the blank screen, and then hello pizza, TV, and self-recrimination.

Next time this happens to you, before setting in motion the usual procrastination-busting sequences like clearing up your work space and forcing yourself to just dive in to any first sentence, take a deep breath and have a look at whether or not you have reason to feel overwhelmed. Then be kind to yourself. Break things down. Go slow. One sentence at a time is fine. One word at a time. It’s a common human behavior when faced with something that doesn’t seem doable to freeze and do nothing at all. You have your fight or flight instincts which are quite common and discussed often, and your freeze instinct fits in with them. These days in the modern world where we don’t often have to physically defend ourselves or run for the hills, many of us find those instincts coming into play on an emotional level and often wreaking havoc with the way we live our lives. The freeze instinct can be just as damaging as the punch or run. Often when what faces us seems frighteningly undoable by us, instinct tries to save us with the old immobilize and ignore. No matter how much we want to write, we just can’t seem to start.

A good exercise here is to realise that it’s a feeling generated by inappropriate fear blown out of all proportion. Be kind to yourself and accept that the fear is reasonable to you though, and then stay right where you are and let it come. Don’t head for the pizza until the anxiety goes away. Consider that even though you might write something not particularly fabulous it won’t be the end of the world. Writing nothing will never expose you to be a rotten scribbler, but ask yourself if the stress levels of staring at the blank screen and the extra poundage from avoiding it are worth it.

Accepting that you feel overwhelmed either by the thought of writing, or the enormity of writing a whole book in the little time that you have available, and giving yourself a little imaginary hug is a great step to getting words on paper again. If you can only write two words an hour, give yourself kudos for trying rather than self abuse for the teeny wordcount. Often tough love is not what’s needed when the story won’t come out. Try a little bit a self sympathy instead, and just do the best that you can. Recognise that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. You’re human. That’s a lot more conducive to being able to write than calling yourself lazy.

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Having Fun With Procrastination

Procrastination doesn’t set in because you suddenly see your writing as work, and all work must by its very nature be nasty. Procrastination generally sets in when you subconsciously convince yourself that you are going to fail. I read a very interesting article on a pretty good way to beat procrastination. Sit down quietly and visualise yourself – you, living your life from that point on.

See yourself pointedly not writing. Making coffee, washing long departed Granny Sue’s apron by hand on the off chance that you will ever desperately need to wear it. See your manuscript – just sitting there – not growing. See this going on for the next few weeks or months – or years. Then look that future self up in your head and say, “Hi.” Tell yourself how fabulous your new jeans are, and ask your future self how she/he feels about you not making the effort to write your book way back then, when the apron seemed so important. Caring about your future self and well being is actually a very big deal in the procrastination busting department. Feel the disappointment when old Future tells you that she’s totally lost the desire to write, and that there is no way of ever knowing just how different your life would have been if that book had been brought into the world.

It’s a very odd experience feeling the hurt of hurting your future self like that by your own free choice. Odd enough maybe to just get your superhero all fired up enough to put rear in chair and get to getting on with it. If that doesn’t work though, sometimes it’s a good idea to build yourself a Procrastination Palace. I’ve been working on ideas for this for the workbook I’m working on right now, so I’ll share one of my favourites with you.

Rather than just make list of your possible plot holes, get a little crafty with your writer’s block. Buy a whole pile of sticky notes, or just cut up some paper into squares. Think of this as your procrastination busting jigsaw puzzle. Write a character on a square, together with all his fabulousnesses and foibles, and the way that he looks too. Turn it over and write a bit about his role in your book. Do this especially with people who seem not to have any further direction in your story. Write out some pivotal scenes the same way. Scenes already written, scenes that you’ve been planning to write, and scenes that just pop into your head while you’re playing with your puzzle. Move them around. Talk to them. Ask them kindly if you can assist them in any way to move forward. It’s probably not a good idea to do this in a coffee shop unless everyone there already knows that you’re a writer by the way. Amazing the stuff that we can get away with. And you may also be amazed at the ideas that pop up this way while you’re seeing the parts of your story as physically different parts, and physically interacting with them, even if in a strange way.

Go ahead. Have fun with your procrastination. Wear a jolly hat and scarf to get in the mood. It’s really hard for fear (fear = blockage) to retain its grip when you’re having a ball, and before you know it you’ll be scribbling away.

Jigsaw Puzzle

Write On

Sometimes you read a book. It hooks you from the first sentence, and just keeps on getting better. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It inspires you to do better, or be better. When you reach the final page, you feel like you’ve lost the best friend you ever had. Then you open your own manuscript, and find that suddenly, from nowhere, an ominous lead ball has miraculously appeared in your gut. You could never write like the author who penned the fabulous book that you’ve just finished reading. In fact, your writing sucks. Big time. And there it is. You can’t write at all anymore. Every sentence is fiddled with. Or worse, deleted. And the next few weeks are spent trying to write just as beautifully as the magical creator of that perfect book that you can’t get out of your mind. But it’s no good. You can’t. At this point quite a few writers give up entirely, their story left to be forgotten—never to see the light of a reader’s smile.

The thing is though, that the author of that magical book probably felt exactly as you did at some point. We all feel that way sometimes. We forget that each and every writer has their very own kind of magic, but I don’t know any writers who can see that wonderful stuff. Their own magic. Writers are by their very nature sensitive. Without natural empathy, wisdom, people-savvy, and a whole lot of general knowledge, they wouldn’t be able to ply their trade very well. Sensitivity tends to go hand in hand with self-criticism a lot of the time too, so we are fabulously capable of metaphorically beating the daylights out of ourselves, without any outside help at all. Unfortunately there is quite a lot of outside help around for any scribbler looking (or even not looking) to be criticised, so we should try really hard not to do it to ourselves. Remember that Stephen King tossed Carrie into the bin, convinced that it was absolute rubbish. If his wife hadn’t fished it out—who knows where he would be today.

Don’t ever let anything stop you from writing until you’re finished. And when you’re finished don’t let anything stop you from getting published, if that is your dream. That’s when you find out whether your book is good or not—only then. And even then, you don’t know the people who will buy your book. You’ll never see the smile on their lips, or hear them laugh loudly at some little sentence that you thought was quite silly, after reading that magic book you found. But that’s alright. We don’t need to know about the readers we may have inspired, or comforted, or irritated for that matter. We just do what we must, and write on.

Writing

5 WAYS TO MOVE AHEAD IN YOUR NOVEL.

It’s the end of the ‘work’ week and I thought before we hit the weekend and more easily accessible writing time, I would do a little bit of NaNoWriMo talk.

As of the writing of this post, I am over 25,000 words on my NaNoWriMo book, Honor Bound: Monsters. Crazy, right? The thing is I wrote 13,000 of that on Wednesday. How?

Actually it took me a while to find that groove. I was stuck in research limbo over wanting a fact to bridge one scene of the book to the next scene. Yes, I hear some of you now, “Dude, that is stoopid!”

And yes, it was not quite intelligent. I got caught in a trap. A trap I knew to look out for and to avoid during a first draft of a work of FICTION.

My advice has been “Just write the freaking story.”

And I was “Stalling on a freaking point.”

Now to the how to get in to your groove.

5 Ways To Move Ahead In Your Novel

  1. Don’t get stuck on the finer details at this point. It is just a first draft.
    • How did I move from stuck to the next scene. I just went to the next scene. I knew where I was going, and I knew all I wanted was a simple dialogue scene with a touch of information in it, but I was too brain tired to get that part done, so I went on to where the ground was fertile, while making a HUGE note there was a need for a scene addition. And the great thing is, by the time I get back to that scene, I will know the characters even better and very likely have the information that I need to use in that scene. Or maybe, I will find I don’t need the bridge at all.
  2. Take a break. If you write and push through exhaustion you end up burning out and for some they end up in pain.  I do this too often, pushing. I did it Wednesday and suffered for it most of Thursday. I finally kicked back into the groove late in the day and put in a good number of words. I think begin half way to the NaNo goal isn’t bad. And when you do take a break what should you do?
  3. Leave your writing in the middle of a sentence or scene. This way you know what to pick up with next time. Walking away at the end of a scene or chapter is one of the worst things you can do.
  4. A big thing that helped me get my word count moving was being part of the facebook group for my NaNoWriMo Region. A bunch of strangers, or some are friends of each other, joining in and doing sprints. Sprints are when you write for 15 minutes as focused as you can and then time is called. You share your word count and people encourage and the like. It seriously helped me late last night. It got to the point my hands were so tired my fingers didn’t want to lift off the keys and move.
  5. A challenge buddy is also pushing me. I have one particular friend that is as competitive if not more so than I am about this. I’m not overly competitive but I like to use competition to help encourage others to push onward, and you get caught up in it.

I find it odd that last year only about 17% of those who signed up for NaNoWriMo actually finished it.  I think most of those not finishing never started, at least that’s my opinion. And if you don’t finish, at least get a habit going of writing.

Writing around 2000 words a day, writing a story that isn’t supposed to be read yet, isn’t that difficult. You keep writing and get yourself out of whatever you got yourself into.

Author and LWI Team Member Jo Robinson has a great article about Writer’s Block called Dodge Around the Blocks. Make sure to check it out for some more advice. Also the other helpful tips in the NaNoWriMo Support section might give you an idea to get you to where you want to be.



Ronovan Hester is an author, with his debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in December of 2015. He shares his life as an amnesiac and Chronic Pain sufferer through his blog RonovanWrites.WordPress.com. His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge and the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as LitWorldInterviews.com.

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Dodge Around the Blocks

When you absolutely can’t think of another single word, and the very thought of sitting down at your keyboard to carry on, or start, writing your book makes you almost come out in hives, that’s the very time to do just that. Force yourself, no matter how blank your mind seems to be. If you give in to the “I’ll do it later when I’m feeling more inspired” thought, there’s a very distinct probability that you’ll give in to that very same thought again, and then again. Habits form amazingly quickly, and bad habits even quicker than good ones, so it’s best to try not to give them any room for takeover. One unproductive hour becomes two – one day becomes two.

The path of least resistance is generally the wrong path to take in writing – in life too, but most definitely in writing. If writing a single book, let alone multiple books, was easy, then everyone would be doing it. The fact that it’s actually really hard, and that you’re doing it anyway makes you a legend. Not everyone has the ability to translate a story in their head to words on pages that people will enjoy reading. Just like art, you can see amazing things in your mind, but if you don’t have that mystical innate artistic talent that some are born with you’re not likely to transfer it exactly as you see it to canvas.

When the going gets hard, make yourself work harder. When the words on your screen look stupid, and you’re sure that your book is going to be laughed under tables, and physically thrown at walls because of the very rottenness of it, just add more words to those words. They’re very probably the opposite of rotten words. When doubt creeps in to try and steal your words, write those words down anyway. They’re there inside waiting for you to move around the fear.

When you get stuck, and we all get stuck at some point in writing our books, it’s time to firmly employ the dodge and scribble on anyway maneuver. At the end of that sentence that seems to be the last one you’ll ever be able to write, and you’re quivering in terror knowing full well that you’re an absolute fake. You’re not a writer, and never will be. Just hit the page break button and start typing something else. If you’ve hit a wall as far as what must happen next, forget about it and move on to the next chapter. You have a general idea of what will happen later in your story. Move on and write some of that. Never stop and allow the blank page to stay where it is while your doubt induced terror freezes you up even further. Move on. Write something else. Anything else. But write on.

Generally people don’t get impossible to ignore urges to do something unless it’s something that they should be doing. Doing anything worthwhile is seldom a doddle. If you have been called to write, then that’s what you should be doing. It’s not going to be easy, but it won’t always be hard either. So, never give up. Always dodge around the blocks and scribble on anyway.

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We are what we eat…

A Diary of Writing Wisdom (and other nonsense)

#THREE

We are what we eat…

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The Latin proverb simulac hoc, ergo propter hoc, which may be translated, “everything is the product of its environment,” is the basis for this writing theory.

According to this idea authors are like rivers. Rivers do not create water; they receive it from springs and streams. In the same way authors receive their ideas from the streams of thought that are flowing in the corner of the world in which they live. A middle-class Eastern author will receive middle-class Eastern ideas. A working-class Western author will receive working-class Western ideas.

To say it another way, authors “are what they eat.” This idea applies to minds as well as to bodies. It assumes that, just as my body is the product of red curry or pulled-pork BBQ (depending on my background), so also my mind is the product of French ideas or American ideas, liberal ideas or conservative ideas (depending on my background).

Growing authors, however, will realize this about themselves and seek out ways to “alternate” what they eat (every once in a while).

As a step toward becoming more aware of the kind of writer you now are. As a step toward becoming the kind of writer you someday wish to be—take time to consider not only how what you eat may be contributing to your writing, but how what you only eat may also be limiting your writing.

Variety adds spice . . . to writing life.

Have a Little Faith in You

Most normal human beings have inner critics. I think that writers and creative types get to hear them more clearly because we spend so much time inside our heads, which is bad enough, but I’ve heard that we have more to contend with than that rotten little guy who whispers in our ears that our words are rubbish and the world will die laughing if we ever publish them. Apparently it’s normal human behaviour to sabotage ourselves. That’s according to Freud by the way – he called it the death wish, and although I have absolutely no clue what the theory behind it is, I can’t deny that he’s right. This is more insidious than actually thinking that you’ll never succeed. It’s an unconscious attempt to stop you from succeeding by distracting you apparently. Could be we’re born that way, or maybe the ways that we are raised can also contribute to the unconscious belief that you’re never going to have what it takes to be a rock star so why bother trying – rather do the easy thing that you know you’ll get right. Get a proper job and stop reaching for stars you have no way of attaining.

Maybe we’re designed this way so that anything worth doing is going to take work to make us grow. Maybe overcoming obstacles to achieve things, and make more of ourselves is the whole point of why we’re here, and every little thing that you do or don’t do is important. Makes sense. I’ve often wondered about why it is that sometimes just about anything can seem more important to be doing than writing right now. Or the mind won’t stop wandering. No matter how hard you try and concentrate on what you’re trying to write, thoughts of the most arbitrary things constantly intrude. Flashes of how cool it would be to go watch a movie and eat cake. Or dire warnings that if the dishes aren’t washed right now something terrible will happen. It’s hard to concentrate on writing your book when you yourself is trying to knobble you. How do you fight yourself off and finish writing your novel?

I think that maybe the secret is not viewing your inner critic as part of you, and don’t see this strange inner force that’s trying to stop you from achieving your goals as part of you either. Visualise them as little ugly trolls in there, and then visualise a muse for yourself with a sledgehammer beating them right out of there. Writing is hard, and writing is important. The words writers share with the world inspire, teach, and bring joy, so getting your work finished is important. Maybe that’s why writers find it so difficult sometimes to get on with things – maybe the more important the work, the more challenges will be tossed your way to stop you. Apart from your listed goals for your writing, and a little bit of discipline, you must have a hearty belief in yourself and refuse to let these intrusions happen. The minute they creep in, just let them firmly know that you are indeed a writer, that you will indeed finish and publish your novel, and force them out by replacing insulting inner troll words, doubts, and urges to scrub the toilet straight away with the thoughts of future readers enjoying the words and stories that you were born to share. Follow your destiny scribblers, no matter what anyone without or within has to say. This life is entirely yours to choose what to do with, and believing in yourself is vital – you’ll be amazed at how well the words flow when you do. Your job is to make sure that the eyes out there who need to read your words one day have the chance to do so.

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Image Credit: Unsplash

Do You Love Your Book?

My first book took the longest time to write because I spent a lot of time angsting over every tiny little detail of it, and backtracking all the time, although angst or not, I loved every step of the process. These days I write much faster. A couple of times though, I’ve started a story and it’s taken days just to get a paragraph down. I’m a stubborn old mule though so I generally used to try and persevere, and force myself on. Not anymore though. Even though I’m one of the write every day tribe whether you feel like it or not, and I do write every day, I don’t see any point in carrying on with writing something I don’t love just because I started it.

It got me wondering how many writers try to force themselves to write something that they really don’t want to write, thinking that their daily groan as they stare at the blank screen is simply some virulent form of writers block which will pass if they just keep on trying. These days with all of us scribblers floating around the world wide web, getting started on a new book is a lovely thing to share. We chat about when we think it will be published, and excitedly zoom on in, only to find after one chapter in, that the well has totally dried up. But now everyone knows about it, and if we don’t finish it and publish it they’ll think we’re losers, so we keep on slogging away, pushing any thought of failure out of the realm of possibility.

I don’t think that it’s failure to put aside something that you hate doing. I’ve written a couple of articles that I really didn’t enjoy doing, but I was being paid for those, so I gave them my very best. Books aren’t the same. Could it be that you decided to start writing a book because of a popular and lucrative genre you happened to notice? If you don’t actually enjoy reading that genre, you’re very unlikely to enjoy writing it. Maybe an idea you thought was fabulous a year ago doesn’t truly float your boat anymore, and you’re simply forcing yourself because you always finish what you start.

I think that if you always find it really difficult to add to any specific manuscript, and find yourself forcing yourself to find the words every day for months and months on end, it might be time to take a little break from it and try a bit of freeform writing. Just have at that keyboard and write something that makes you happy. Anything at all that brings on those scribbling joy bubbles. Maybe if you find your fingers flying across your keyboard then, you don’t have grade four hive-inducing writer’s block. Could be you just hate what you’re writing.

Obviously we can have weeks when the writing doesn’t always flow, and days when it just stops entirely. Writing on through even though the words are rubbish at times like these really does work, but if it goes on for months and months on end, then I for one would not endure the torture, and move on to another project. The beauty of being an Indie means that only you get to decide what you write and when. You can also allow yourself to shelve something for a while or forever if you choose to. You never know. Maybe finding it again after finishing something that you really did love to write could ignite a spark again. So be kind to yourself if you ever find yourself falling totally out of love with an idea, and allow yourself to move on.

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Image Credit: Pixabay

How to come up with a book idea.

You have a goal to write a novel. Perhaps you want to do so in one month’s time. You are pumped and ready to go. You sit down at your keyboard and

 

 

 

You got it, nothing happens. Blank. Headache. Pit level feeling of nausea. Despair.

I know of what I speak. I think I just proved that. What do do about it.

How to come up with a book idea.

Thousands of books are unleashed upon the world every day. Therefore there must be thousands of ideas floating around out there somewhere. But you want yours to be original and not a copy of someone else. I get that, I really do. I actually avoid reading at times because I want my story to be my story.

How do I come up with ideas?

I’ve written perhaps . . . well we’ll say in the double digit numbers of books, ranging from children’s fantasy to adult paranormal detective. A lot of weird ideas float around in this bruised brain of mine.

  • I wrote a little girl a bedtime story that turned into perhaps 5 fantasy books.
  • A book I am working on now I found the bases of from a literary agent who said what they would like to see. It clicked with me and I in turn knew exactly who to use as a model for the main character, at least visually. And the story has gone from there and into more stories.
  • I took a prompt challenge to write a scary story, which isn’t my style, but the short story came out pretty good. I am thinking of expanding it.
  • I have  a favorite video game that I spun off into a YA science fiction/action novel.
    • This is probably an easy one to let yourself loose on. You know what you like about the video game and you have thought about it being real in your mind. Put that on paper, but of course change it up so it’s not the video game but your own world with your own names and creations. You are the hero or heroine or whatever. I wonder how many novels Zelda has inspired.
  • If you must, look at an old story, a classic novel, or your favorite book, and put it into a different setting. Take Gone with the Wind as an example. Take that and put it in the future and have the war be over some type of whatever that might be valuable or maybe a piece of land that whoever controls it controls all of the lands around it and thus controls that realm. Just make sure you make it your own story, names and all.
  • Write about yourself. Who do you know better than you? Turn yourself into a character and write a book about you. Perhaps you are a hero or perhaps you are named President of the USA. Think about that. What would you really do and include humorous things as well as serious. Be sarcastic if you like or very matter of fact about things you would do that just make sense to you to solve world problems.
  • Just looking around you, your friends, events that happen in your area, world events, relationships you have with your family, all of these things can be turned into books. For some you just turn the things up a notch or three. You amplify or pump up what is real and turn it into the fantastic and overboard type things. Sure you can keep it real if you like, but if you just want to have fun, have fun.
  • Is there an unfairness that you see that you want to change? Write about it and how it affects you and what you would do to change it.
  • Is there a recent national event that happened in your area? Write a book based on that and use your emotions and your knowledge of it to tell your point of view. It can be a work of fiction just based on the events.

There are a lot of ways to come up with an idea for a book. These are just a few and perhaps not even a great few. But I know people are sitting and thinking about writing a book and are frozen in place. Here’s the best piece of advice I can give you about writing a book, about getting that idea going. You ready? Write. You see that advice all the time. Write. The reason you see it is because when you start writing the thoughts start flowing and your brain kicks into gear. And guess what? If you don’t like what you write, who will know? You don’t have to share it. Write.

 

I hope this gives you a way to jump start your own thoughts into how you can come up with an idea.

 

Ronovan

Ron_LWI

 

 

 

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Writer’s Block

I love it when those super productive plot bunnies come to visit.  Those days when ideas for new plots, or new exciting twists for a work in process come streaming in hard and fast, and supply writing fodder for years to come.  But then sometimes you have those moments when you hit a brick wall writing a story.  You’re scribbling away, and then—.  Something needs to happen, and you realise that you haven’t got a clue what that something should be.  You think, and you think, and you stare at the screen.  You squish your face with the effort and hurl expletives at the world in general.  But still nothing comes.  A great big pile of nada.  It can be quite a frightening moment, and if you carry on pushing yourself for days or weeks to think of what comes next to the exclusion of anything else, you will end up scaring yourself into the back of a cupboard somewhere, quivering and muttering profanely turgid sentences about the tragic ending of your yellow brick writing road.

For me, rather than wasting time, and upsetting myself with thoughts of my absolute lack of any writing talent at all, or verbally abusing innocent passersby, there are a couple of things that I try to do instead, and one way or another that missing happening always arrives when it’s ready.  Without fail.  The first and easiest thing is to type in a whole lot of bold red exes so that there’s no chance of losing that plot black hole, and then carry on writing on the other side.  You obviously know why you need this event to happen – it is the cause for some outcome in your book, so just carry right on into the outcome and the event will eventually be revealed to you.  Promise.

If you’re just way too angry at your own ineptitude to write anything at all, then walk away from your computer and do something else.  It’s amazing how being tense can block up all creativity, just as it is the way being relaxed or doing something totally different can unplug that old blockage.  Run around your house – hop up and down in the garden – windmill your arms, or do the Makarena while singing it loudly.  Writers are supposed to get moving every hour anyway, to prevent the entire body from oozing downwards and pooling around your ankles after years spent unmoving in front of a computer.  Not a good look I would imagine.  Any old physical thing generally gets me going.  Get all those endorphins on the move, while at the same time gaining inspiration for future scribbles from the reactions to your awesome activities from your family and neighbours.

Edit.  Work on ideas for your covers.  Do some research.  Either for the event that has you stumped, or for any other project.  While you’re cramming up on the merits of murder by lily bulb, your brain is working on your problem behind the scenes, and the solution could pop up at any time.  Have a little faith in your writer’s mind – it’s probably more than a little strange, but it won’t let you down in the end.

Ideas come from the strangest places, as all you scribblers already know.  Television is great for inspiration, and for me, watching shows like Ancient Aliens classifies as research.  So get out the ice-cream or other equally healthy snack and settle into your couch to do some work.  Or for a little bit of fun, go play with a Random Plot Generator.  You never know what could be lurking in a bit of silliness to inspire you. Click on the image to read the brilliant computer generated story, and see – reviews too!

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