Friday, August 29, 2014

Tracking Down a New Story

To be a writer is to be constantly on the lookout--for new ideas to incorporate into stories, for new friends who might provide new insight, for old methods that you might decide to give a try in new ways.  As writers we should always be examining the world around us and looking for fresh ways to tell a story and learning about new trends. But we should also be looking for where that next great new idea might come from.  It might even come from strangers on a train!

No, I’m not talking about the Hitchcock thriller where a  meets a stranger on the train who developed a plot to trade murders. But recently a day long train trip out of Denver's newly remodeled Union Station introduced me to some new friends from all around the country. We exchanged stories, then sang along as we travelled and finally they helped me plot a murder mystery as we spent six long minutes in the near total darkness of Colorado’s Moffatt Tunnel. Talk about eerie, but yes, the idea was to come out of the tunnel with a body in our midst!

We didn't get to an end of the story -- just the idea for the first body and then lots of suspects that we kept meeting along the way, the tourist group who was travelling together, but didn't really know each other, the seasoned tour guide who was volunteer and worked many of these train rides, or perhaps the nasty family who left all their trash on our table--maybe as a payback for all the noise we'd been making? The whole process reminded me it’s a never ending process to be a writer.

There is always something new to discover, to use, to tell others about in a story. As a writer and teacher I find I am always learning. Whether it is taking new classes or teaching new classes the learning process always goes on, no matter what I’m doing. To keep that never ending process going, I suggest a few simple steps you can take at just about any time:
1. Take a free class on something you’ve always wanted to learn
2. Watch for writing seminars or talks given by local writing groups
3. Look online for blogs that specialize in writing methods or trends
4. Buy or check out from the library a new book on writing
5. Watch for local one day or two day writing conferences

Some of these seem like simple things, but how often do we discount them? However, free classes from your library or recreational center might include things like photography or knitting or even local history. Ever thought  of writing a Steam Punk story? The local history museum might be a good place to start. I found myself daydreaming about historical stories in a visit to the state history museum last week. A class on pottery at the local recreational center might give you some ideas for an amateur sleuth who works out a mystery based around pottery.
Writing seminars are always good for new inspiration. Even if you find the material something you already know you might find some new ideas for character building or it might spring loose something you’ve always wanted to try.

The same goes for blogs on writing. Have you ever considered a method, but worried about trying something new, whether it be digital publishing or how to use Twitter to promote your books? Maybe you can find a blog that details a writer’s experience and learn some new information you can put to use.

New books on writing come out all the time and can be very useful, but sometimes going back through those old books you read years ago can be helpful too. Remembering the old enthusiasm or trying something you experimented with years ago can provide fresh incentive on a story.

 And mostly I like to look for local writing conferences or day long sessions with local writing groups. Even if you don’t belong to the group, usually visitors are welcome and sometimes these groups will bring in people from out of town who can provide plenty of writing knowledge. Not to mention how much fun it can be just to socialize and talk to other writers about their projects. Going to a group with people you’ve never met can also be stimulating for your own writing. You can also learn some of the new trends in various genres you might want to consider trying. I attended an all day session given by Colorado Romance Writers last weekend and learned secrets of writing steamy scenes from a bestselling erotica writer. 

Why do I suggest the never ending learning process? Well, it’s simple. You never know where the next great idea will come from.  It might even come from new and old friends aboard a train ride through the Rocky Mountains! My friends have already decided to start planning a trip down the California coast on the train.

And of course, we ended our train trip in grand fashion with a tour of Grand Junction's wineries and a great champagne tasting that had us all ready for a new adventure and looking for new ways to come up with story ideas.


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