Writing inspiration: 52 dates for writers


Writing inspiration: 52 dates for writers

52 Dates for Writers: Book Review

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I have been reading Claire Wingfield‘s 52 Dates for Writers on The Pigeonhole. I promised a review so here it is.

Below is my review as it appears on Goodreads:

52 dates for writers will give you fresh ideas to help a novel or short story in need of inspiration. Each date is designed to get you out of the house to hone your observational skills or give you a new perspective on some aspect of your story. Once you return from your date then there are suggestions of ways to incorporate new ideas into you book. Some dates might help you write a new scene, or encourage you to rewrite your story from different perspectives to help you get to know both your story and your characters.

The genius of this apparently simple book is that it gives you the perfect excuse to leave your desk and have some fun, whilst still feeling like you’re being productive and working on your book. And of course, the chance to more closely observe the real world can only be beneficial to making the fictional world of the story you are writing come to life.

The book also contains some useful tips for editing and maintaining a writing habit.

Of course, not every idea will be useful for whatever you are working on, but there are so many great ideas that you can keep coming back whenever you’re feeling stuck on how to proceed in your writing.

And one final point, although most of the writing exercises are aimed at someone with a manuscript in progress and at fiction writers, you could just as much easily use the dates to spark a new project or to work on a non-fiction piece.

My experiences with the dates

I already wrote about the Graveyard visit, that didn’t quite work out as hoped. The second date I tried out and from which I did manage to generate some writing from, was #34 to visit my favourite coffee shop. It may actually say cafe, but it’s all the same.

In truth, I don’t have a favourite coffee shop, or cafe, but I do spend an inexcusable amount of time (and money) in Starbucks. I was once kicked out of a Japanese chain coffee shop (Dotour) for staying for more than an hour. So now I stick with SB because no one cares if you stay there all day. If you order coffee the receipt allows you to order the same drink again for just ¥100. Which is their subtle way of saying don’t stay forever without ordering a second drink. But no one is checking.

So, the book is arranged into dates designed to help you to focus on the various areas of craft  in your novel. This particular date was about mastering Point of View. The task was to write a description of the coffee shop before you go and then add to it once you get there. It is then suggested that you rewrite the description from the POV of two different characters from your novel or short story.

When I tried to remember what it looked like and other details before I left home, I couldn’t remember all that much. Just the arrangement of the tables and the general layout. Details like the colour of the floor or the paintings on the wall were impossible to recall.

And when I wrote from the characters’ POV I found the actual description wasn’t that important. I was interested in how the characters reacted to the surroundings, and why they were there. Perhaps people go to Starbucks to escape the everyday world and to read or study uninterrupted. Most are not paying attention to what the place looks like.

I’m not actually working on a novel (yet) so I ended up creating new characters for the task. I did try to write about the character from a short story I’m working on. But it didn’t happen. I found myself channeling my EFL teaching days instead. Starbucks in Japan is somewhere a lot of foreigners hang out, even those who would not do so in their home country. So rather than sticking closely to the brief as described in the book, I let my imagination have free reign.

And, although the dates have specific suggestions about what to do and which area of your manuscript to focus on, there’s no reason not to just allow inspiration to take you where it will. No one’s checking after all. So even though at first I felt like the dates weren’t relevant for me as I didn’t have a novel I am working on, that really wasn’t the case at all.

(I totally forgot to take a photo on my writer’s date, so I’m using a stock image from pixabay.)

The next step?

All of which has got me thinking about writing a longer piece than I have done so far. A.k.a., a novel, but I’m trying not to say that word out loud, in case it gets scared and runs away. NaNoWriMo is rapidly approaching. And I keep running into articles with tips about how to prepare. Like this one.

Last November I’d just started writing again. I gave it a shot and wrote some garbage about all the things that were bothering me as a new mum. I haven’t read it back, but I’m sure it was one big rant. I think I managed about 5000 words. I had no clear plan of what I wanted to achieve.

But this year I have made massive progress on developing a regular writing habit. I actually have one! And a hiatus over the summer notwithstanding, I have been consistently blogging for almost a year now.

So I’m wondering if I start planning now, is NaNoWriMo a realistic aim for me? Or is this one of those “wait until the kid is in pre-school” things?

Is anyone else doing it this year?

If you’ve done it in the past, do you have any tips to make it a successful experience?


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