Friday, March 3, 2023

Foundations of Writing – The Flow of Inspiration

    Let’s talk about inspiration.
    It’s the key to any good story out there. It’s what gets those creative juices flowing and helps keep the pen moving - or the keys clacking in this day and age. It’s the backbone to any writing and so knowing how to gather inspiration without stealing ideas is a valuable skill. It’s also one of the first points in my “5 Key Points for Brainstorming”.

Gathering Inspiration

    There are many, many sources of inspiration in the world and I glossed over it in my last post, but I want to go into more detail about my favorite sources of inspiration. First, though, Emily Lucas has a wonderful read in their ‘Top 10 Sources of Inspiration for Creative Writing’ that I highly recommend checking out. Some of their sources may overlap with mine but i wanted to go in depth into my own processes.

Consuming Media

Whether it be reading, watching tv shows or movies, or watching online content, any source of media can keep your creative cogs turning and keep you thinking about different ideas. If you find a character or concept that you love in content, you can always make a note of it, too. For me personally, music is the form of media that inspires me the most because of the raw emotion that goes into music.

Real Life Experiences

Even if you’re writing a fantasy story, you can take from first and second-hand experiences that you’ve had in real life. Maybe you have memories of your first crush that you want to amplify through a story of sweet, youthful romance? Maybe you have a bad experience with an ex that you want to vent about through the lens of another character? You can do all of that from your own experiences and you don’t have to worry about plagiarism if you’re weaving a story around memories.

Nature & Concepts

There is a lot of beauty in the natural world and it can be used as inspiration, especially when it comes to the aesthetics of the world and characters you’re trying to build. As cheesy as it sounds, when I’m struggling to bring a character or a setting to life, I find it fun to make mood boards or image maps for them so that I can better visualize them.

Change Your Environment

Not in the story itself of course, but in real life. If I can feel my brain struggling to put words on the page, sometimes it helps for me to change the location that I’m writing in, even if it’s just leaving my desk to go sit on the sofa instead. If you have the ability to, however, it’s extremely inspiring to go to your favorite location - be it a park, a cafe, or even a friend’s house if they are okay with it - and just see how much writing you can get done. Sometimes writer’s block can seem like an undefeatable but sometimes a change of scenery can swiftly take it down. Even if you can’t write somewhere else, just getting out for a few minutes - like a quick trip to the store - can clear your mind.

Inspiration vs Copying

    In the previous post mentioned above, I linked a wonderful post by Pam Weber that I still recommend reading but I want to go a little more into detail on how I avoid copying confidently. Before I get started, I want to bring up one tip from the post ‘Inspiration vs Copying For Creatives’. When in doubt, just give credit! Do remember that this won’t save you from blatant plagiarism, though, good inspiration practices are key.

    For me, what I like to do is just take a bit of something. If a character from popular media has certain characteristics that I like - i.e. if they are very driven but shy - I only take that trait and nothing else from them. If I like the idea of a relationship dynamic that I’ve seen - i.e. the popular boy with the shut-in boy - I will only take that dynamic and make it completely my own by changing character appearances, interests, and personality.

    If I fall in love with a setting, I pick one or two things that I like the most - the big tree in the middle of the city, the cute cafe that’s located near the pier of a lake, etc - and I make sure not to take too much and to change what I do take from the material. Sometimes, I combine multiple aspects of different settings that I like because it takes a load off of the work that goes into making a setting.

    I also love mixing in nature and real life experiences with what inspiration I’ve gathered from media and the works of others and then make it completely my own and that is my biggest tip when it comes to inspiration. Mixing and matching forms of inspiration together is how you can make something entirely your own while keeping the things that you love in mind.

Weaving Inspiration into Writing

    Okay now that you’ve gathered your inspiration and you’ve made sure to put your own spin on it, it’s time to weave that into writing. If you’re the planning type, you may want to consider making a list of all of your inspirations and applying it to the areas of your story that you want. Decide which character inspirations you want to put on each character of your story and how you want to build your setting up. If you have a lot of different ideas, it’s okay for the first planning doc to be messy; you can always clean it up later.

    For a deeper dive into this, I generally make headers in a word document that are something along the lines of “Plot & Story Arcs”, “Setting,” and “Character” and I just toss all of my ideas under their respective sections and go from there. Personally, I clean up as I go and work off of one doc for all of the planning to a series but as stated above, making a draft of planning and then a final planning doc might be an easier way to go. If you only plan to write one type of story you can also consider making or following a stricter, more formulaic outline for your planning, but the process for organizing inspiration would still be relatively the same.

    If you’re not the planning type, I still want to recommend at least making a brief outline of some kind and just include the inspirations in that brief outline. With shorter stories, a few sentences of planning can be a game changer if you find yourself stuck or getting bored with your writing.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Foundations of Writing – 5 Key Points for Brainstorming the Perfect Story

In our journey through the writing process, our first step has to be the brainstorming process. After all, you can’t write a story without figuring out exactly what it is you want to write. I’m keeping this in the theme of romance, but I think that my five key points can be applied to any genre… You might just have a different number of main characters, since romance typically focuses on just two. Below are my five biggest tips for starting from scratch on a story, no matter the length. And it’s perfectly okay if you already have some of these figured out, or if you’re ahead of the game on certain steps. You don’t have to do this in order; treat it like a checklist of considerations for when you’re in the planning phase.

  • Take inspiration from YOUR favorite media
  • Make the setting something personal to YOU
  • Lean on tropes
  • Set yourself up with goals
  • Make an outline


    To start off with, you should be writing something that YOU love. Whether you’re writing for fun, or for income, there has to be passion. A good, easy way to make sure you’re going to enjoy what you’re writing is to take inspiration from some kind of media you absolutely adore. This could be anything! A movie, a song, a video game, another book… The list is infinite. Heck, inspiration doesn’t even have to come from creative media. It can come from an object, someone in your life, or a memory, or any combination of things.

    Inspiration is wonderful fuel for writing, but make sure that this fuel a mix of your own ideas. If not mixed properly, inspiration can turn into plagiarism, which is something that we want to avoid as writers at all costs. It can lead to a loss of credibility as readers might see you as unoriginal or willing to steal others’ ideas, and it can even lead to legal trouble depending on the severity. My number one tip to avoid plagiarism is mixing ideas and sources of inspiration together and never drawing from one singular source, but if you want more of an idea of how to differentiate the two, check out ‘How to Make Every Idea Yours – Inspiration vs. Plagiarism’ by Pam Weber. Great read.


    After gathering inspiration, one of the first things that I like to decide is the setting because it can set up the tone of the stories and it’s easier to develop characters by knowing what kind of environment they are in. The possibilities for settings are endless and that’s why I want to guide you into choosing something that is personal to you! There are a few ways to do this.

First off, you can draw inspiration from the real world and places that you’ve lived or been - of course you can still make up establishments or even city names if you do this. Using a setting that you’re familiar with or taking inspiration from a setting that you’re familiar with can fill you with nostalgia when writing and it makes the process both more enjoyable and easier. However, if you don’t have an attachment to any real-world settings or you just want to go with something more historical or fantastical, you can still have familiarity there.

For historical settings, picking a time period that you have previously done research on - or just love researching - is a great route to go. Do you love the Roaring ‘20s so much that you could gush about it on the pages? Do you want to explore the love affairs of the ancient Greeks? Go right ahead and do so. If you pick a time period that you’re not familiar with at all, be prepared to do a lot of research for your story to be believable, even if you are doing historical fantasy. Those who know the period you’re taking inspiration from will not hesitate to point out flaws, either. However, if you are more patient than myself and love research, go ahead and pick whatever time period you want and know that I admire you.

Now, finally…. Getting to pure fantasy settings. Building an entire setting from scratch with pure fantasy takes a lot of time, but it’s not impossible. You can still use the two setting styles above to help you. Make that childhood home of yours into a fantastic castle and the town around it draped in Victorian aesthetics if you want. With fantasy, there is a lot less rigidity in the setting, but there is a lot more to think about. Perhaps I will dive into creating fantasy worlds at a later point but for now this post by Bridget Mcnulty has 5 steps to building your fantasy world.

Since this blog is centered around romance, I do want to include a big piece of advice here: Even though your story is going to be mostly centered around two characters, you must think about your setting and develop it to make your novel believable. You can go small with romance, of course. Just develop a place of work, a couple of eateries, and some activities, but the more developed your setting is the better. Plus, if you develop the setting at the beginning, you can use that setting over and over again if you make your story into a series.


    Let’s talk about tropes. A lot of people give tropes a bad rep, but especially when it comes to character creation, they are a great tool to use… Just make sure that you make your story more than just one cookie-cutter trope! If you look into some of your favorite media, you’ll likely find that there is some kind of trope associated with them and perhaps you can lean on that. Or if there is just a trope for a character - i.e. the introverted nerd, the bad boy, the girl next door - that you just really love you can use that and base the story around that in some way. Introverted nerd learning how to come out of their shell more because they fell in love with the extroverted star athlete?

    Tropes can help lay the foundation for your character or even for the overarching plot to your story, so it’s best to use them, especially if you are just starting your writing journey. Effective use of them will draw in readers who find comfort in specific tropes and overall, it’s a win-win for everyone.


    What’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Sorry for the dad joke phrasing, but the same is true for writing a story. It’s easier if it’s done little by little so that’s why clear goals can help with that. Deciding approximately how long you want your story to be - you can check out this article by Nicole H on general lengths of different types of stories - is a good idea to start forming your first goals. Once you’ve decided a word length, breaking that down by either month, week, or even day can set the basis for your first goal. From there, you can even use your typing speed to find out how long you should write for each day, or vice versa if you only have limited time to write and see how much you write within that time frame to set up benchmarks.

    Outside of time and word-based goals, you can also set goals for what you want to accomplish inside the story. Do you want to make sure that you touch on certain parts of the characters’ personalities? Do you want to have the climax at a certain page or word-count? Do you want to tell a story that is inspiring or uplifting?

    No matter what you want to set out to do with your story, you should motivate yourself with clear, achievable goals with writing and keep track of them. I personally constantly have goals set for myself and keep my agenda on my desk to remind myself of what I’m working towards.


    From making your goals, it’s easy to go into making an outline for your story next. For romance, I mentioned Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes but there are many formulas to follow for all genres of books. If you’re someone who likes to have a good, structured outline it can be a good idea to follow one of these formulas and maybe even tie in word-count or time goals to each of the bullet points within them.

But what if you’re more of a free-flow writer? I totally understand that. However, I do still recommend even doing a very basic outline so that you can follow to avoid writing yourself in a corner. Trust me, as someone who used to mostly free-flow write, I’ve been there. I’ve written myself into a situation where either I couldn’t figure out how to jump to the next story beat, or I’ve found myself rambling and getting tired of my own writing, slowly building a wall of words around myself that no one wants to read. So don’t be like me and make something to remind your brain of where you want to go in the story!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

I Awake from a Dream of Sunflowers… Hi Everyone!

      …And welcome to my space - not the ancient social media site, though.

    Now that I’ve shown my age, my name is Aletta and I am a long-time writer of many genres of both fiction and nonfiction. However, this blog is going to focus on one of my favorites… Romance! Specifically LGBTQ+ romance. My own romance writing often follows the structure in Romancing the Beat, which is a spectacular read. Gwen Hayes does an amazing job covering structure, but I am hoping to cover a broader spectrum here, while also giving everyone a glance into my own novel writing process.
    My goals in particular for this blog is to eventually go over the entire writing process with keeping the sweet and spicy flavors of love in mind - though some extra toppings of fantasy, horror, and mystery might be added in from time to time. Over my years as a writer, I’ve gotten many questions on my process and how I come up with some of the things I come up with and I want this to be a place where all of my advice - and madwoman ramblings - can be archived in a nice and hopefully neat website.
    Just in case you all are wondering about my credentials… I have been writing since I was very young, elementary school in fact. It started with books about hamsters and over the years it’s evolved into just about every genre I can sink my teeth into. In college, I took many classes on writing and even started doing freelance work and the rest is history. Basically, writing has been most of my life and there aren’t many days that I go without writing something. I’m also working on getting into the self-publishing business and that’s the part of my writing journey that will be documented here.
     My inspirations for writing are all pretty… nerdy if I do say so. I watch a lot of anime and read manga and I also play Dungeons & Dragons. I also take a lot of inspiration from video games and visual novels. Maybe I’ll dive more into my interests at some point but I could easily spend thousands of words gushing so I will leave it at that.
    Thank you for your time and I hope that this blog will be a place for you to learn, seek advice, and grow as a writer! I also hope that you will enjoy my writing because I am excited to let the flowers bloom and add a bit more mushy, gushy love to the world! Please check me out on Twitter as well if you have the time and feel free to send me questions and interact with me there!

Foundations of Writing – The Flow of Inspiration

    Let’s talk about inspiration.          It’s the key to any good story out there. It’s what gets those creative juices flowing and helps ...