On the joys of brainstorming and traveling

In the last few weeks, I’ve made very little progress on my fiction. As those of you who have been keeping up with my blog know, I was in Iceland for almost a week, and in the US traveling and visiting family for over two weeks. When I left, I’d been thinking I might be able to find time in the evenings to write, but that didn’t happen often. During our trip, I got a whopping 1100 new words written on A Wasted Land. Most of what I was writing consisted of travel reports about our Iceland trip. (If you haven’t read those those yet and are curious, the first one is here.)

I don’t feel too guilty, though. Other people take vacations; I figure writers can too. Besides, I was filling the well. I’m sure I will write something set in Iceland someday. I love to travel, and I have often used the cool places I’ve been as settings in my short stories and novels. (Egypt, Ireland, Venice, France, Cambodia, Taiwan, to name just a few …)

Since we got back, I’ve only gotten another 500 words written of Kustennin’s story, but I’ve also been brainstorming the next book in the Glassmakers Trilogy. The reason for switching projects was my niece. She was my first reader for Island of Glass, and she loved it. We were talking about it off and on while I was visiting, so those characters and that storyline were more present in my creative brain when I returned to Germany. For the most part, I’m a fairly disciplined writer, and I usually finish what I start. At the same time, however, I do believe in following where the muse leads, as long as she isn’t dragging me down completely useless and uncharted paths. And since brainstorming the rest of the novellas for the Glassmakers Series is on my shortlist of things to do, I gave her leave, sat down with plain old paper notebook and pen, and got started.

And my, has it been fun!

To be perfectly honest, I usually love the brainstorming phase of writing. At that point, when ideas are flowing and the actual writing of the thing hasn’t yet forced me to face my own limitations, the story feels like it can be anything. Pieces start falling into place, and I have one epiphany after the next. Oh, yes, that will be perfect! Of course, that’s how I have to do it! Because at this point, before I start trying to write the scenes, descending from the big picture to the nitty-gritty, I haven’t yet discovered the gaping plot holes my runaway imagination has left out; I haven’t had to find yet another interesting way of decorating a setting to keep the damn thing from suffering from white room syndrome; I haven’t yet discovered that my characters are going to be a bit stubborn about the brilliant plot I have in mind for them; and it hasn’t even occurred to me yet how many others have already come up with the same ideas I had.

The story is still a big, shiny ball of Potential.

What got this particular ball rolling so nicely was one of the things my niece suggested. Island of Glass uses several of the motifs of Cinderella: for example, Chiara, a glassmaker of Murano, makes a pair of glass slippers to give to a Prince of Venice. My niece suggested that with the other books, rather than sticking with the Cinderella theme, I use different fairy tales for each installment. So I started listing a bunch of fairy tales on one page and what I was thinking should happen in the next novella on the other. Pretty soon, I had fixed on Snow White as the underlying fairy tale for Facets of Glass, which started giving me all kinds of details I had not yet come up with. When I realized that the climax would have to be the destruction of the magic looking glass, then I also had the title for the third book in the series, Shards of Glass. And so on and so on …

On a more mundane note, I have also been harvesting. When we left, we had a grand total of ONE tomato from our garden, that’s how bad the weather was in May and June. This is what our tomatoes looked like when we got back:

The garden greets us

And this is what we harvested:

Harvest

I still need to make a big pot of tomato sauce to freeze, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

To end on a writing note, what phase of writing do you like best?

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8 thoughts on “On the joys of brainstorming and traveling”

  1. I love the brainstorming part, for all the reasons you list. But I also love revision – that’s when I take something that’s still mostly potential, and make it into something that someone else will (I hope) want to read enough to pay for. Your trip sounds wonderful – I’ve wanted to visit Iceland for a long time!

    1. Revision, huh? I’ve started liking it more lately, but I used to hate it. 🙂

      Iceland is a bit on the expensive side but fascinating. And you can do it on the way to Europe at no extra cost! *g*

  2. I love brainstorming, not just for fiction either. It’s always been a favorite aspect of the writing process for me. Your series sounds fascinating. And I’m in envy of your harvest!

    Hope you have a fantastic week.

  3. Brainstorming – wonderful … harvest – impressive! Ours is only just starting to come in … although we did do a wild harvest of squlllions of roadside blackberries and windfall apples. Yum!

  4. You describe the ‘shiny ball of potential’ perfectly, Ruth! It is a place of bliss before the back-breaking work! But the latter is worth going through for the former. I usually have those moments in the middle of the night, though! Most inconvenient.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed great travels, and hey, you returned to a plentiful harvest, too. Creatively and nutritionally. 🙂

    Shah X

    http://bit.ly/16TEmiH

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