Revision, Part 2: Editing Fiction after a Long Break

Needlepoint art made for me by a friend that faces my computer.
It reminds me  every day to keep on trying, Photo by Linda Wilson

Whatever the reason for a long gap in time while writing your novel, measures can be taken to jump right back in. In the past I've tried writing an air-tight outline, or so I thought; following the plot line on 3 x 5 cards, or simply jotting the story on paper and computer as it came to me.

The magic didn't happen until I laid out the story on 12 x 18 paper. My current story has taken up four of these sheets. What a help to see at one glance the story in its entirety, to back up and make a change in the proper place when a later tidbit needs to be taken out or added in.

If you want to give this method a try, here is what you'll need.

Ready, set . . .

  • A long absence from your story: Mine was four months
  • A pencil: Mine are #2's and an electric sharpener for a sharp point, which makes me feel sharp
  • Color Sharpie or pen: To keep track of the thread of the story
  • The latest version of your story, most likely typed: Useful as a guide
  • 12 x 18 or similar size large paper: Divided into sections for chapters
  • Scratch paper: To work out problems before entry
  • 4 x 6 lined post-it paper: For story basics, i.e., story problem, list of characters, genre, age level, etc.
  • Bulletin Board: To display book title and post-it papers covering story basics
. . . Go . . .
  • Divide the 12 x 18 paper into six sections, one for each chapter. Label each section by chapter number and title, if applicable.
  • Using a past version, notecards, and/or outline, tell your story in bullets chapter by chapter
  • With color pen, include separate bullets listing the thread of your story. My story is a mystery, so I jotted down what mysterious thing(s) happened in each chapter, making these color bullets a separate list to help make sure that the story moves forward
  • At the end, use a section for questions, points not yet made but want to include, illustration notes, etc.
Post on your bulletin board the 4 x 6 post-it papers, which will include:
  • Title
  • Book Basics: Story problem, verb tense, setting, theme, etc.
  • 12 x 18 pages
  • List of characters and their role in the story
  • Include any pictures you have collected of the setting, characters, etc.
Essentially, you've wallpapered your bulletin board with your entire book written on post-its and 12 x 18 paper.

Now what?

Leave this project up on your board while you move on. Once you've worked up the next project in a similar way, leave it and go back to the original project and begin writing or re-writing your story. (My additional projects get taped to the inside doors of my office so I can view each one separately at a glance). When the original project is written, file the posted materials in case you need them again and begin sending the draft out to your writer's group, then begin marketing it. Now, time to move on to the next project, which is ready to go.

On a personal note: I don't know if I'll need to continue this process with more experience under my belt. But I'm happy to have found a method that works for me. And, I think it will work even if I spend less time away.

Please comment: Tell us what method works for you. Have you tried this method? If you haven't, do you think it could work for you?

For Revision, Part 1: please visit An Early Fiction Checklist


Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for adults and children and six short stories for children. Recently she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

It's Never Too Late! Beginning a Writing Career Later in Life

Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at age 50.

Selling 50 million copies around the world, Richard Adams published Watership Down in his early 50's.


Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she published her first "Little House" books.

After raising her family, Harriet Doerr finished her education, and at age 73, wrote Stones for Ibarra, reminiscent of her life in a Mexican mining town.

It's not time to wind down. It's time to get going! It's all about perspective. If you want to write, you will. You just need to know you can be successful, no matter your age.

Points to inspire:

  • Experience. You've accumulated a life time of it. You have something to offer whether it is a self-help book, novel, or magazine articles. Struggles and obstacles combined with creativity can have amazing results. Charles Dickens' experiences working in a factory as a youth is portrayed throughout his writing.
       Do you love to travel? Write about it! Gardening? Write about it! Cooking? 
       Write about it!
  • Education. Don't have it? Don't worry. It's not a necessity to have a college degree in order to be a successful author. Mark Twain, H. G. Wells, and Jack London did not have a college degree. Neither did Maya Angelou, Ray Bradbury, or Agatha Christie. Today, we are fortunate to have the internet. There are free and affordable online courses available to acquire writing skills and learn more about your niche. 
  • Timing. Linda Welch had a character in her mind for years. It wasn't until she arrived in the mountains of Utah, years after leaving her homeland of England and acclimating to life in America, did her character find a story.
Photo credit: DavidTurnbull / Foter / CC BY

  • Perspective. Do you believe in yourself? Will you follow your dreams?

Anita Bruzzese, a writer who specializes in taking control of your career says:
Most notable among the people I interviewed was their “can-do” attitude; they were willing to stretch outside their comfort zone, excited to explore new options and weren’t afraid to admit what they didn’t know. 
Don't hit a dead end because you think it's too late. Even if you don't have the support or encouragement from friends or family, go for it anyway. 

What are you waiting for? Get started today.


~~~


 After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts http://kathleenmoulton.com



Increasing Writing Productivity by Managing Your Online Activity


I had the following email exchange with a colleague this morning.
8:59 am   Friend: I am locked in a library all weekend doing research and writing.  Text or email if you need anything.  I can be in the office in 15 minutes if anything big arises.
9:01 am  Me: Happy Writing!
9:09 am  Friend: writer's block sucks!  looming deadlines suck more!! 
9:55 am   Me:  Be willing to write crap.  Then you can mold the crap into something useful during the editing process.   “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”—Margaret Attwood. 
9:59 am Friend: true, wise words.  i always have to remind myself that the search for brilliance is the enemy of finishing!  thanks for the support! 
10:01 am   Me: The other bit of advice I give writers--shut off your email and internet unless you need it for research during your writing time.  This is my last response to you today!
We easily could have kept the banter going. More emails would have seemed like short breaks from our work, but the truth is it would have been non-productive interruptions for both of us. As writer, how many times do we sit down at the computer and the first thing we do is open our email and check social media.  If you start your writing session by checking emails or commenting on Facebook, an hour or more can slip away before you write one word. This pre-writing routine can seriously decrease your writing productivity.

Blogger Michael Stelzner suggests tracking how you use your time to increase your productivity.  One way to do that is use productivity tracker software.  RescueTime offers apps and software to help track your computer use.  A free 14 day free trial service is available on their website.  Knowing how you spend your computer time will help you make changes and increase your writing productivity.

How do you maximize your writing time?  I love to hear what's worked for you.

Oh and one more thing..I might send just one email tomorrow morning to check on my friend locked up in the library with her computer. 


Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. For more information check out:


http://DoNorth.biz
http://facebook.com/DoNorth.biz  

American English

No, I am not talking about the band, but the language that we speak in the United States of America.

Last month, my blog post was about some of the business classes I've been taking.Recently, I enrolled in a class about the history of American English.We’ve talked about history, dialect, accents, words and phrases.Since we can use dialects when writing dialogue, I thought this class would be helpful.

Our English started way back in the 1600s, when people from England (perhaps some of your ancestors) sailed across the Atlantic to settle in the southeastern and northeastern parts of the United States.In 1607, Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement, was founded in Virginia.The Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts in 1620, followed by the Puritans in 1630.Over the years, other immigrants arrived, including the Quakers, Germans, Scots-Irish and many groups of people from many lands.As settlement of the US expanded, so did the language, with different dialects, spellings, and words.

A man by the name of Noah Webster, who thought that Americans should have their own language, wrote the first American dictionary.It was published in 1806.The next edition was published in 1828.It was called the American Dictionary of the English Language.You can browse that book here: http://1828.mshaffer.com/.

It’s helpful to study maps to gain a better understanding of dialects.This map covers the US and Canada and it is very detailed.You can also listen to samples of dialects on this website, http://aschmann.net/AmEng/.

How do you speak American English?You can learn more about why you talk a particular way by taking the following quiz, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/12/20/sunday-review/dialect-quiz-map.html.

I touched briefly on the history of our language here today.I will write more about American English in future blog posts.

Happy writing!

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.




Bloopers Can Be Fun ~ International English #4

This is post #4 on the subject, International English.
It can be fun hearing the bloopers made by people learning a new language or using phrases unknown to them. But as writers, if we want to include a snippet of local language in our writing, we need to be sure we get it right.

I read recently on a website of a student in Northern India who was asked, "What do you do?"

"Main chata hoon," he replied carefully in Hindi, meaning to say, "I'm a student." He later discovered he had actually said, "I'm an umbrella." Chatra is a student; chata is an umbrella.

When my daughter was new to Venezuela, she was making her way through a crowd of people. She kept saying what she thought meant, "Excuse me," as she tried to pass people. In South Africa this would mean, "Please make wayI need to get through." She later learned she had been moving through the throng saying, "What's the matter?"

If a South African or British writer sends their heroine for a leisurely stroll along the pavement, this is good for her health. The pavement in South Africa and England is the paved area alongside the road, reserved for pedestrians. However sending her for a stroll along the pavement in America could have dire consequences as that's where the cars drive in the States.

So if we're writing about another culture, we need to make sure we not only have the correct word but that we use it in the right way.

I asked around for some more examples of easy mistakes that can be made when using English. Here are four examples.

Ruth Ann Dell in South Africa said:" When we visited friends in England, they were astonished when we talked about turning right at the robot. They couldn't see any robots on the road. We had a good laugh as we explained that back home in South Africa we called traffic lights robots"

Barbara Strohmenger in Germany shared this: "A funny thing is the wrong use of become by Germans; the German bekommen means to receive, but some think it means to become because it sounds similar; so they say I become a gift instead of I receive a gift.

Karen Shaw Fanner, formally of Zimbabwe and now living in England says: "In Africa just now means in a while, at some point. In the UK just now means immediately, right this minute. How to really annoy people in England is to tell them you'll do it just now and leave it an hour!

And one from myself, an English-speaking South African: "I nursed for many years in a paediatric ward in Krugersdorp, South Africa. Although as a Christian I don't believe in "luck", and I often prayed with parents when their little ones headed for surgery, I nevertheless fell into the practice of saying, Good luck! I'll be praying. If the patients were Afrikaans, I would translate this and say, Geluk! Ek sal bid, which I thought was Good luck! I'll be praying. One day a colleague overheard me, and with a broad grin asked me why I was congratulating the parents. Turns out that although Geluk sounds like Good luck it actually means, Congratulations! So I was sending my small patients off for surgery with the words, Congratulations! I'll be praying."

So, writers, be careful of the words you use, especially if you're trying to use a snippet of foreign language to add flavour to your work. You might just be adding the wrong flavour which could leave your readers with a bad taste. Make use of your Internet friends, and find someone who lives in the country you are writing about, or who fluently speaks the language you wish to quote.

How about you? Do you have an amusing story to share of the wrong word being used as a result of a different language or culture? If so, please comment below. Perhaps I can include them in another post for us all to enjoy.

FURTHER READING:  
What in the World Do You Mean? 
The Cultures and Greetings of Christmas Around the World


SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer has created a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Please visit Shirley through ShirleyCorder.com where she encourages writers, or at RiseAndSoar.com where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or Facebook.


Sign up to receive a short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week.

A Writer's First . . .



The new year is upon us. Last month I talked about a review of 2014, but now it's time to look at 2015 and think about the future. With that being said, January is the first month of a new year - let's get it started off on the right foot.

Start your new year off by looking at your creative space. Are there things that are cluttering your work area and distracting you from getting the words down? Now is the time to clean up your space.

1. Make sure that unnecessary clutter is removed.
2. Create places for those things that keep you moving forward - books, calendars, motivational items, etc.
3. Organize your workspace so it's easy to grab pens, pencils, notepads, clips, etc.
4.  Review your space with a critical eye - are there things that would make your space more comfortable, easier for you to concentrate or improve the ergonomics?

Now that you are comfortable, it's time to do a review.
1. Update your author's bio and photograph - bios should be updated at least yearly. Photos every 3-5 years.
2. Review your website, social media sites and blogs. Are they in need of an update? A fresh look?
3. Don't forget to review your on-line bios in places such as Goodreads, Smashwords or Amazon.com.
4. Is it time to order business cards? 

Finally, let's think about what we want to accomplish in 2015.
1. Set long term goals - ones that may take more than a few months.
2. Set some short term goals too - monthly  or even weekly goals are great!
3. Look at how you can improve personally: are there classes you would like to take, a writer's retreat you would like to do, a writer's conference you'd like to attend, or some other way you could grow as a writer?

2015 is the time to take your writing to the next level - start now and get on track.
__________________________
D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com

You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook.

Why Niche Writing is Important for Freelance Writers

If you're a freelance writer, you're competing with hundreds of other writers. Maybe thousands of other writers.

But that's okay. You're probably a better writer than 75% of them.

And if you take a few steps to position yourself, the competition won't be a problem.

One of those steps is to choose a niche.

Why Niche Writing Works

When you choose a niche to write for you're positioning yourself as a specialist.

Specialists are experts, right? They spend all of their time, energy and attention on a singular topic or industry. That may or may not be true. However, in the eyes of your potential prospects specialization matters.

Think of it this way. If you're looking for a studio apartment – Would you hire a real estate agent who specializes in studio apartments or one who just sells anything he can?

You'd probably choose the specialist. You'd have more certainty that he knows all the great studio apartments that fit your needs and budget. You'd trust him a bit more.

The same is true for writing. Your clients want to know that you specialize in their needs. Choosing a niche helps you build your business. It helps you establish trust and credibility. Additionally, it makes it easier to justify higher fees.

Choosing a Niche

As a writer you have a few choices. You can specialize in a content format. Or you can specialize in an industry. You can also specialize in both. Here's an example:

* Format: Ebooks
* Industry: Health & Fitness
* Both: Health & Fitness Ebooks

So how do you choose a niche? Begin by taking a look at:

* Your interests and passions
* Your knowledge
* Your experience

Make a list of the formats you prefer to write in. Maybe you prefer writing shorter pieces like articles and blog posts. Maybe you enjoy the process of crafting a sales letter. Also explore the industries and topics you're interested in. This is important. If you're not interested in the topic you're writing about, it's going to be difficult to be motivated.

Once you have a list of potential niches it's time to take a look at your competition and the market for your niche.

Evaluate both demand and supply. Take a look at the market rate for those types of writers. For example, maybe you love writing blog posts about health and nutrition. There's certainly a lot of demand for it. There may also be a lot of supply. Supply can mean that the going rate for a health blog post may be lower than you want to charge. This doesn't mean you can't charge the rate you want to for this industry. You can. It just means you'll have to do some extra work marketing yourself.

Many writers avoid choosing a niche. They don't want to be pigeonholed. They don't want to feel restricted. They don't want to burn out. All of these reasons are valid. However, just because you choose a niche doesn't mean you can't write on other topics. Of course you can!

Choosing a niche simply helps you market your writing business more effectively. It helps you position your services and profit. Choosing a writing niche doesn't limit your business, it elevates it.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She offers The Morning Nudge, for writers every weekday morning. Get your free subscription at www.morningnudge.com.

January Blogging Prompts

It’s a brand new year! I know things have been busy, and that’s okay. Now it’s time to dust off your blog and get back to it.

No matter what the theme of your blog, there’s always something to write about to educate and/or entertain your readers.

Here are writing prompt topics you can use to generate blog ideas in January.

The New Year – Saw that coming, didn’t you? Share your New Years’ Resolutions or offer reasonable resolution recommendations for your readers that are relevant to your subject matter or niche. You can always do both! For example, if you write about writing, come up with a list of writing resolutions that your readers can do along with you. Food bloggers, try this with new dishes. Adventure bloggers, challenge your readers to try similar (safe) experiences and compare notes. For many of these types of resolutions, take photos and encourage your readers to do the same. That way you’ll have pics (and proof) for future blog posts. A resolution a month = 12 interesting and engaging blog posts.

Food and Fun Holidays – I’m not quite sure when claimed and created holidays became so popular, but I don’t really care. They are awesome inspiration for blog posts.

January food holidays: National Soup Month, National Egg Month, and Bread Machine Baking Month (not quite sure about that one).  National Coffee Break Day is January 20. Given how much writers love coffee that alone could make for a variety of different types of posts. Here are some topics off the top of my head: How Do You Order Your Favorite Coffee, Favorite Coffee Break Activity, Best Coffeehouse Writing Spots.

January fun holidays: January is National Hobby Month, which offers a world of possibilities, especially if your blog is on a topic that some people consider a hobby. You can write about how to turn that hobby into a career or the importance of hobbies alongside work. Even better, tell your readers about a hobby you enjoy. Other notable days include International Skeptics Day on the 13th, Thesaurus Day on the 18th (what are your favorite synonyms?), and National Handwriting Day on the 23rd.  

Bonus: Fiction writers, make resolution for your characters. Whether or not you actually share them is up to you. But it’s a fun way to dig into your characters and their motivations.


Blogging, just like writing, should be fun. Come up with ideas that relate to your niche and experience, and you’ll get back to your blogging mode in no time.

***


Debra Eckerling is the author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She's a writer, editor and project manager/goal coach, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. She is an editor at Social Media Examiner. Debra is also a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting and social media.


Commonly Misused Words



“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” ― Mark Twain.

Words can have more than one basic meaning and some words sound similar but have a completely different denotation. For example:
(Wrong) Older people often suffer infirmaries.
(Right) Older people often suffer infirmities.

Some words are homonyms (sound-alikes) but mean very different things. For example, principal/principle or rain/reign/rein.

Then there are words with similar but distinct meanings.
            (Wrong) Television commercials continuously (unceasingly) interrupt programming.
(Right) Television commercials continually (regularly) interrupt programming.

Which vs That. Which is used to introduce non-restrictive clauses (extra but not essential information) such as in The leftover lettuce, which is in the refrigerator, would make a good salad. Which needs a comma preceding.
That always introduces restrictive clauses: We should use the lettuce that Susan bought. (This limits the lettuce to a specific lettuce.) That  does not need a comma.

And some words have related meaning (denotation) but different connotations:
·         Pride—sense of self-worth
·         Vanity: excessive regard for oneself

·         Firm: steady, unchanging, unyielding
·         Stubborn: unreasonable, bullheaded

·         Enthusiasm: excitement
·         Mania: excessive interest or desire

“For one word a man is often deemed to be wise, and for one word he is often deemed to be foolish. We should indeed be careful what we say.” — Confucius.

What words have you run across that are interchanged in the wrong way?


----------------------------
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona.
Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, the sequel, Follow the Dream,  won the national WILLA Award, and Dare to Dream rounds out the trilogy. In addition a non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of the Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing, edits, and blogs. 


Ampersands: Avoiding Affectations for the Betterment of Your Book

readers against one other writers’ affectation similar to the ones already in that book (and in the first edition).That is overuse of ampersands. They are all affectations that keep literary agents, publishers and others in the publishing industry from taking you seriously. So here is an excerpt from that book and a little freebie balm to make those who love the looks of ampersands as much as I do.

The ampersand is a real pretty little dude, but it isn’t a letter nor even a word. It’s a logogram that represents a word. Its history goes back to classical antiquity, but interesting history and being cute are no reason to overuse it in the interest of trying to separate one’s writing from the pack. Better writers should concentrate on the techniques that make a difference rather than gimmicks that distract. Here are some legitimate uses and not-so-desirable uses for the ampersand.
  • The Writers Guild of America uses the ampersand to indicate a closer collaboration than and, in other words, to indicate a closer partnership rather than a situation in which one writer is brought in to rewrite or fix the screenplay of another. For those in the know it is a convenient way to subtly indicate that one writer has not been brought in to rewrite of fix the work of another.
  • Newspapers, journals, and others choose to use it when they are citing sources. That’s their style choice, not a grammar rule.
  • In similar citations, academia asks that the word and be spelled out.
  • Occasionally the term etc. is abbreviated to &c, though I can see no reason for confusing a reader with this. Etc. is already an abbreviation of et cetera and the ampersand version saves but one letter and isn’t commonly recognized.
  • Ampersands are sometimes used instead of the conjunction to which we’ve become accustomed when the and is part of a name or when naming a series of items, though here, too, it feels like a stretch and more confusing than helpful. Wikipedia gives this example: “Rock, pop, rhythm & blues and hip hop” as an acceptable use. But it, too, is an unnecessary affectation when we could clarify our intent with the traditional serial comma like this: “Rock, pop, rhythm and blues, and hip hop.”
For a little style guide from the point of view of academia go to https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/03/. To see a graphic artist’s creative use of the ampersand, one based on the authenticity of its simply being visually attractive, go to http://amperart.com. Chaz DeSimone, the cover artist for my Frugal Editor and Frugal Book Promoter, offers you a poster featuring ampersands every month with a subscription to his monthly letter which is also free.

-----
 Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Travel for Writing Inspiration

Dívčí Kámen, Czech Republic
Great inspiration for my current historic novel
All photos by Melinda Brasher
Many people resolve every year to travel more.  It's not just fun, interesting, and mind-broadening.  It also provides grist for your writing mill.  Article writers, of course, already know this.  But you can also find a wealth of inspiration for your fiction.  Here are some tips to use travel to enrich your writing.

1)  Steal from History.  This isn't only for historical fiction or academic articles.  History--told well--is one long story.  Visit museums, read informational plaques, take walking tours.  You'll find fascinating details of history's crazy characters and its dark and bright moments.  Take elements from here and there and twist them into your own story.  When I was in Znojmo, Czech Republic, the history of the catacombs there fascinated me.  I later incorporated them--in my own style, with many details changed--into my novel, Far-Knowing.

Volunteering at a village school in Guatemala
Seeing different ways of life is good for my writing.
2)  Meet People.  Talk to locals in trains, shops, and restaurants.  Get their stories.  See things through their eyes.  Stay in hostels and meet international travellers with backgrounds and experiences enough to fill hundreds of novels.  If you have time, organize a volunteer vacation to really interact with people.  Of course, you don't want to violate anyone's privacy or steal entire life stories, but let people's tales serve as the seeds of your own work.  On a train to Budapest, I met two Brits who told me a story about having to get off a train once in the middle of nowhere and walk to the nearest station with all the other passengers.  And that's what happens in "On the Train to Warsaw," my first published short story.  All the details and the internal conflict are my own, but I still owe the external conflict to those friendly travellers.

Hah!  The perfect place to drop my poor miserable characters
3)  Explore Nature.  Get out there in the elements, especially in climates and landscapes you're not used to.  Pay attention to the plants, the smells, the feel of it all.  Then plunk your characters down in the harshness or beauty or crazy variety of nature you've discovered and see what they do.  One scene from the novel I'm working on now came from my own scary experience in a Slovakian forest.

4)  Visit Libraries.  Depending on where you travel, libraries may serve as cultural or historic centers.  If you speak the language, ask for their local section of books and see what you find.  In El Salvador once, tired of "sights," I spent the morning in the library, reading local folktales.  One inspired me to write "A Learned Man."

Znojmo, Czech Republic
Which served as inspiration for a setting
 in my novel, Far-Knowing
5)  Imagine your Characters at the Sights you See.  While you're strolling the grounds of a castle or taking in the hum of a modern metropolis, imagine characters there with you.  What kind of people are they?  What are they doing here? How do they react to what they see?  What do they want that they can't have?  What problems lurk for them around the corner?

Record it!
Whenever you travel, carry a little notebook with you to write down these ideas and story kernels.  Then, even if you don't use something right away, you can go back to this idea bank for later inspiration.  Good travels!




Melinda Brasher loves to travel and has filled numerous notebooks with the things she sees on her journeys.  She's also lived abroad in Spain, Poland, Mexico, and the Czech Republic.  To read some of the work inspired by her travels, click the links above or check out Leaving Home, a collection of travel narratives and short stories, many of which were written on buses up mountain roads, in foreign town squares, or sitting in castle windows.  Visit her online at www.melindabrasher.com