Inspiration is an odd phenomenon. Many writers refer to their “muse,” that ephemeral something that gives them ideas. I’ve never felt like I had a muse, whether tangible or intangible. That’s just not how I visualize the creative process for me (so if you have a muse, go on with your bad self and enjoy it.) My process is more like “ideas in -> ideas out.” I need to consume a lot of creative content in order to get my creative process going. Books, movies, shows, conversations- all of the above. For this reason, I often take a break from writing to collect a giant pile of library books and give myself a few days to just read.
As I’ve mentioned before, my first story idea came in middle school biology class when I first learned about human cloning. The second was a result of watching too many Star Trek movies in a row (hey Chris Pine!) which coalesced in a dream which I eventually shaped into the first book I actually put on paper. I plowed through Mosiac over a few months, then started work on No Man’s Land, but while I was very productive, writing-wise, I was stalled out in terms of new ideas. I told myself that I was working really hard to *write* so it was completely fine that I didn’t have any other ideas for future books, but if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I harbored major dread that I just didn’t have any other ideas coming, period. A writing career, DOA.
It didn’t help that I discovered twitter, specifically YA book twitter, during this time period. Suddenly I had found so many writers, so many books, and so many creative people casually mentioning the giant lists of story ideas that they had accumulated! One of my favorite authors tweeted once about how she was drowning in ideas and didn’t know how she would ever manage to turn them all into books.
Giant lists of story ideas, I thought. Oh, sure, yeah. Every writer has long lists of ideas, right? Yeah, me… too.
Liar. I had nothing. Blank notebooks everywhere. I had nothing. No ideas. So I buried myself in my works in progress, figuring I would finish editing and polishing them and then I would figure out how to brainstorm new ideas, or just hope for the best. If I had no more ideas, well at least I would have completed two books, probably three, since the NML sequel is underway. Not too shabby. Still, it bothered me.
Meanwhile, a boxed trilogy was sitting on my bookshelf. Not actually shelved. Just sitting there, untouched. It had been there for about six months, just staring at me every time I got in bed.
See, my oldest daughter taught herself to read this summer. When she started burrowing into books, my father went out and bought her Anne McCaffrey’s DragonSinger trilogy, a trio of books within the larger DragonRiders of Pern series. He included a note that said,
“In the hope that they work the same magic with granddaughters as they did with a daughter. Here’s hoping for another generation that dreams of dragons.”
Are you tearing up? Because I am.
I can’t even remember when I first read one of the Dragonrider books, but I do know that I was hooked instantly. In the decades since, I have spent countless hours reading and re-reading them all (there are a LOT.) Now they are waiting for my girls. My oldest wasn’t quite ready for them, so we put them aside.
Now it was December, and my girls got a doll for Christmas which came with a chapter book. My oldest came to us the morning after Christmas and announced, “I read to page 28!” This is a LEGIT chapter book, and this tiny child, barely six years old, was really truly reading it. We were stunned and so proud we could have popped. I was immediately overcome with excitement to share all of my favorite books with her. Harry Potter, Dragons, here we come!
That night as soon as I got in bed and turned the lights off I had an idea, a fully formed plot complete with characters, just BOOM, in my head. Unlike my previous books, which began with a nugget of an idea, this one just showed up, full grown. I think the tedium of editing, the excitement of watching my girl pick up a chapter book, and the books sitting on my shelf just day after day must have merged in my head and sparked something.
I’m very very very excited. The working title for my next book is “The Dragon Thief” and it’s going to be a middle-grade novel, intended for younger readers. I’ve wanted to write a story about dragons ever since I first read about Anne McCaffrey’s glorious beasts. I used to lay in bed dreaming up what I now realize was basically fan-fiction. Now, my book will be very different, with a different style of dragons. I’m not writing fanfic here (though there’s nothing wrong with fan fic!) but my book will be Fantasy rather than Science Fiction (yes, her dragon books are SciFi, not Fantasy- the dragons are products of advanced genetic manipulation of an alien species) but it will still be my little homage to a brilliant writer who shaped my youth.
I’m going to spend the next few weeks plotting and outlining (I know, what? Me, planning?) before I really get started. I’ll still be editing and polishing NML as I go.
Wish me luck!