Keeping the Creative Well Flowing

Reading: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Bondi Vet
Listening to: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone soundtrack

After the wonderful, joyous, entertaining, draining event that was RWOz Nationals, it was great to catch up, talk shop and share ideas and thoughts on reading and writing.  And after every conference, I always come away with one irrefutable truth that’s always reinforced during the weekend:  in order to do what we do, writers must keep the creative well flowing.

What does this mean?  It means everyone can burn out, even doing something they love.  If you write two books a year or ten, writing can take its toll.  The creative process is not always fun, it can be difficult even for the most talented writers, and it doesn’t always mean you get to daydream as you stare out the window (I wish!).   When you get to that “‘damn, I’m so sick of writing about babies/alpha males/happy ever after/the next book in my series”  then it’s time to take a mental break.

Some authors paint or draw.  Some knit, make jewellery, take photos.   Gardening and sewing is quite popular, too.  Me, I like to fiddle with blog and website design.  It’s visual and colourful, which satisfies that creative spark in me.  And it’s relatively quick, as opposed to 6+months of writing a book (I’m a instant gratification kinda gal.  :grin:)  It really doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s fun, engaging and you really enjoy doing it.  And most importantly, it gives you that down time from all that frantic brain action.

I also love TV and movies, which is just another form of story telling, really.  I love getting engaged in the stories, the characters and the plot.  And I also love it for the ideas it generates within my own storytelling brain (I really love Eugene Ionesco’s quote because it totally rings true for me:   “A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.”)

A lot of category writers I know use their time between contracts to work on writing something completely different.  This means they’re still writing but not under the pressure of a contract, flexing their writing skills but just in a different genre and also just enjoying writing something else that sparks their creativity.

I tend to have a few projects on the go at once.  That way if I need a mental break from my current characters, I can jump over to another story and work on that, until a solution for the first story presents itself.  Of course, not all writers work that way!  But that’s okay.  I know what works for me.  At the moment, I have a bunch of separate folders (both physical and computerised):

My ‘Currently Contracted’ folder
This is for books I’m currently writing and am under contract for, which have a physical deadline and a release date.  At the moment it consists of one manuscript – Promoted to Wife (out in the States in March 2010).  This gets my most attention, unless it’s at the ‘waiting for revisions’ stage (which it is).

My ‘Next Proposal’ folder
For books I have written a proposal for (30-40p, plus synopsis).  Currently, there’s one in there – Baby Plan B. This is next on the importance scale, unless it’s at the ‘waiting for the green light’ stage (which it is).  Even if I’m waiting, I’m still writing it.

My ‘Proposal Queue’ folder
These are for books I’m planning to submit to Desire after ‘next proposal’.  Currently there’s a trilogy (working title, the Billionaire’s Club), plus a Christmas in July novella.

My ”Working On” folder
These are stories that only exist in my head and on paper at the moment, huge, wide-spanning stories that find their way into my dreams, into my workout time at the gym and while I watch TV.  They niggle at me from the sidelines until I have to write it down.  Currently there’s a space opera/fantasy/erotic trilogy (with the last being a first-person urban fantasy).  There’s a young adult body-switch.  And there’s a road trip women’s fiction.   I love working on these because it’s a different style, a different narrative, different everything.  And they’re also shiny and new and not bound by anything other than my imagination – sort of like new boyfriends who are all wonderful and great at the beginning 😆

My “Backburner” folder
Stories I started years ago that I never finished.  Some I got requests for, like my date-for-hire, undercover reporter story targeted at Temptation.  And the Intimate Moments-style cops-turned-lovers who return to his childhood town.  And a few others that placed well in contests – the heroine who wins a date with Sydney’s hottest radio DJ,  a Big Brother-style forced proximity romance between best friends, a school reunion with the wall flower-turned-stunner and her high school crush.  Any finished?  Nup.  In fact, I’m a little afraid to go back and read them…  But one day, they’ll get their turn.

My “To Be Developed” folder
This is just a big box of clippings – snippets of dialog, story ideas, characters etc.

So as you can see, there’s a few things that keep my creative well flowing.  I think the biggest for me is the freedom to write something completely different, unbound by deadlines.  If I didn’t I think I’d get burnt out very quickly!


4 comments on “Keeping the Creative Well Flowing

  1. I’d love to be reading Mockingjay too but I’ve only just jumped on the bandwagon and of course they’ve all sold out :). I’m not great with the whole waiting for an ordered book thing.

    Thanks for sharing your folders with us, it’s a really great system.

    I notice that in your Backburner folder you have a variety of other lines in there. I was wondering how you knew that Desire was your fit? I love the Harlequin lines but I’m feeling more and more like I don’t quite fit anywhere (Desire seems to be the closest but I’d love it if there was some sort of hybrid between it and the Sweet Romance).

  2. Hi Lacey!

    I pre-ordered Mockingjay from and it arrived yesterday, so not long to wait at all 😀 And cheaper than the stores!

    Interesting question re: right line fit. We talked about this a lot at conference! I guess if I’d actually followed through on those other line requests, I might have had a different first sale journey. I don’t know. It just so happened my first book that sold was to Desire – I like I’d read and liked – and this was the same ms that rejected from another editor/same line, and a partial was with Presents. A lot of writers don’t know if their work will be suitable for a particular line and it can just simply be a matter of ‘submit and see’. I know Bronwyn Jameson and Yvonne Lindsay were both aiming for Presents until they subbed to Desire.

    I also know a few authors who write for multiple lines – although that’s a pressure I’m not sure I could handle!

    The Modern Heat line (out of the UK) was an alternative for those whose tone and style are different, and it’s morphing into RIVA at the moment, so it could be the time to try them while they’re looking? The lovely Nicola Marsh has one of her books in their debut line up.

  3. Hi Paula,
    Thanks for the post. Love the folders. I have bunches of those plastic A4 envelopes that I shove stuff into, depending on where it fits. Would be so wonderful if by the time you got to that story you had loads of dialogue, photos, some GMC work, etc. all ready to go.

  4. Thanks Paula! I had no idea Bronwyn and Yvonne were both targeting Presents. I can’t find much on the new RIVA line but I really should give it a go while they’re looking. Thanks again 🙂

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