By Katherine Reay
My second novel, Lizzy & Jane, released three days ago – and while helping the sisters find their way into the world is a top priority for me, it’s not for you. Writing that next great read is and that’s what we’re here to discuss…
And that, for me, is where running comes in. I’m taking it to a bit of an extreme this weekend and am, today, winging my way to New York to run the marathon on Sunday. I’ll confess this particular run has nothing to do with writing because all great, good or even semi-decent ideas flee my brain after 15 miles and I turn into a drone on stick legs.
But shorter runs do yield all my best ideas. In Dear Mr. Knightley, Sam got attacked, Professor Muir suffered a heart attack… and lest you think it’s all pain… Kyle got adopted and some serious flirtations developed between Sam and Alex! And in Lizzy & Jane… Well, you’ve got to check that one out for yourself.
I’m not advocating you all run, by the way. I’m simply saying what works for me. For you it might be knitting, needlepoint, walking, bike riding, swimming… Any activity in which you can direct your body in one direction and let your mind wander toward another.
It’s so tough to stop that critical voice or even the reasonable one that tells us, “My character wouldn’t say that, do that, think that.” Perhaps she would, but until we get out of the way, we’ll never know.
We don’t want formulaic fiction. We don’t readers to know what our characters will say and do before they do it. We want stories that delight, surprise, push, pull and explode off the page. And they can – if we get out of their way.
So my advice today is DON’T WRITE. Find something else to do and set the stage: Think of your big plot points, the characters involved and any concerns you have, and then let your mind roam. Don’t reign it in, don’t even consciously think about it – let the characters talk and the situations drift by. You may be surprised by what they say, do, think, feel… and that’s where the real fun begins!
And if you have other thoughts, please share them. What do you like to do to idea-generate? What helps most? I would love to hear from you and share our best ideas.
Thanks for being here.
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries, probably fed by the few years her family lived in London and Ireland.
After working for several years in marketing and moving several places, Katherine and her family now live in Chicago, IL, where she runs, writes, cooks and tries to clean the house. You can also find Katherine at www.katherinereay.com and lurking somewhere within the pages of her novels, Dear Mr. Knightley and Lizzy & Jane.