Wednesday, 31 July 2019

5 Ways to Enhance Your Creativity

 We're born creative. However, this innate characteristic becomes buried as we get older. Our logical left brain usually takes the driver's seat. Here are 5 ways to help you unearth your creative self.

1. Surprise Your Mind. List laughable, ridiculous, outrageous and bizarre ideas. Don't limit yourself to ideas that other people consider "sane," "reasonable" or "logical." The best and most creative ideas stem from silly ones. When you're in a creative mode, you're suspending judgment on ideas you generate. You simply list them all down and never worry whether they make sense or not. Allow yourself the freedom to think outside the box.

2. Aim for Quantity. Generate loads of ideas for you to go through later. It's normal that your first few ideas won’t really be fresh. The gems will come out later so it’s important to keep going. With a large list of ideas, you'll have more to choose from, adapt or combine. Creativity is not coming up with something new from nothing; creativity is the ability to create something novel from ideas/things that already exist by combining, improving or refining them.

3. Be Playful. A relaxed and playful attitude fosters creativity. Those creative juices flow best when you're not restrained by your logical, left brain. Toy with ideas and forget about being too careful. Be a child again and play.

4. Believe that Everything has a Solution. An optimistic outlook always leads to solutions, no matter how impossible a problem or task may be. Often when a solution can't be found, all that's needed is for the problem to be redefined. Or when you think you're stumped, surprise your mind with silly solutions then work backwards, leading to the original problem. Cultivate an attitude of continuing search for solutions.

5. Let Go of Your Fear of Failure. Don't expect to do something perfectly for the first time. Thomas Edison tried about 1800 things for the perfect filament for the incandescent lamp. Fear of failure is one of the major factors that can hinder your creativity. Instead of looking at failed attempts negatively, look at your failures as learning opportunities. Failing isn't fun, but neither is doing nothing.

© 2004 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite for free - http://writesparks.com

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Writing a Blockbuster - the Formula

A student asked me this week if I knew of any successful writers that 'showed' how they took their first drafts and made them into the highly polished versions you see in the bookstores.

I could only think of a couple.

Stephen King in On Writing includes a rough draft of a paragraph and gives the reader an indication of how he goes about editing it to make it tighter. Cutting out words, changing phrases etc, generally improving the work. All very illuminating.

(Incidentally, people were so intrigued by Stephen's spontaneous example that he felt forced to turn it into a full blown story which became 1408!)

Anyway, the only other person I could think of was Ken Follett.

I remembered that I'd read a book once by Al Zuckerman which included various drafts of Ken's work as he edited his manuscripts to a publishable standard. So - I took a look at Ken's website.

On that I found a gem: a masterclass on writing a bestseller. And this is from a man who's had a few, so if anyone knows how it's done, he does!

What I found most intriguing though was that Ken seemed to think there was indeed a formula for writing a blockbuster novel - and so does Al Zuckerman, one of his highly respected agents - a guy who actually guides authors through the process of writing best selling novels!

So - rather than have you wade through books and websites trying to find illusive information, I thought I'd present what these guys say about writing a blockbuster novel - by presenting the formula here! Woohoo!

The Formula

1. Come up with a scenario whereby two or three central characters are engaged in a life or death struggle to overcome a huge problem, the bigger the better.

2. Think through the scenario and its setting, the characters and their dilemma, and ask yourself, has this been done before? If so, discard the idea and go back to 1.

3. Write down 5 to 10 bullet points that will comprise the 'meat' of the story.

4. Expand on the bullet points until you have a 25 to 40 page outline of your story told in the present tense, introducing all of your characters and all of the story in the right sequence. Each paragraph should represent a significant plot point.

5. Show this outline to anyone and everyone who will read it and make comments. This might be friends, agents, publishers, the man who collects the trash, anyone. Make note of their comments and adjust the story accordingly. Ken Follett suggests this process of creating the ultimate novel outline might take anything up to a year to complete.

6. Write the first draft. Make sure you have a significant 'story turn' every four to six pages. (I told you it was a formula!) Adhere to this rule - too many story turns too often will confuse the reader, too few and they will get bored.

7. Repeat the process mentioned in 5. with the first draft. Make adjustments accordingly. This should take between 6 months and a year to get right. The first draft may take a month or two but the rest of the time is spent re-writing to make the novel perfect.

The Writing

Now, the most important aspect of this formula is that you don't approach it necessarily as a writer. No, you approach it as a storyteller. The writing must be crystal clear, only concerned with story. If there's ever a passage that smacks of 'good writing', you must ruthlessly delete it.

Because, when you're writing a blockbuster, you're not in the business of impressing people with your writing skills. Your text should 'transparent', totally clear and focussed on telling a story.

There should be no barrier between the reader and the story. There should be no author intruding on the text - and the writing should never 'get in the way' of the characters, their actions and the ultimate resolution of their agendas.

Many writers make the mistake of thinking that merely 'being a good writer' is an end in itself. It's not. It's merely the beginning.

The ability to write well is one thing but the ability to re-write, edit, alter and change everything from the tiniest bit of punctuation to the overall theme of a novel without so much as a sigh is the sign of a true blockbuster novelist.

So, now you know how it's done, go for it!

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy