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Just write (and don’t forget to enter the Creative Writing Competition)

November 11, 2011

The 4th Annual Creative Writing Competition deadline is December 1, 2011 and is open to all CISD students in grades 3-12 (click competitions link above).  Looking for inspiration?  Read the advice below from Kimberly Smith, published author, CGA parent and competition judge. 

I love this quote from Neil Gaiman that he told a 2nd grade class after one of the students asked “where do you get your ideas”…. It’s interesting to note that he also credits “Boredom, deadlines and desperation” as ways to force an idea into revealing itself. Below is an excerpt of the essay by Gaiman — to read the entire excerpt, please click here.

You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.

You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if…?

(What if you woke up with wings? What if your sister turned into a mouse? What if you all found out that your teacher was planning to eat one of you at the end of term – but you didn’t know who?)

Another important question is, If only…

(If only real life was like it is in Hollywood musicals. If only I could shrink myself small as a button. If only a ghost would do my homework.)

And then there are the others: I wonder… (‘I wonder what she does when she’s alone…’) and If This Goes On… (‘If this goes on telephones are going to start talking to each other, and cut out the middleman…’) and Wouldn’t it be interesting if… (‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if the world used to be ruled by cats?’)…

Those questions, and others like them, and the questions they, in their turn, pose (‘Well, if cats used to rule the world, why don’t they any more? And how do they feel about that?’) are one of the places ideas come from.

An idea doesn’t have to be a plot notion, just a place to begin creating. Plots often generate themselves when one begins to ask oneself questions about whatever the starting point is.

Sometimes an idea is a person (‘There’s a boy who wants to know about magic’). Sometimes it’s a place (‘There’s a castle at the end of time, which is the only place there is…’). Sometimes it’s an image (‘A woman, sifting in a dark room filled with empty faces.’)

Often ideas come from two things coming together that haven’t come together before. (‘If a person bitten by a werewolf turns into a wolf what would happen if a goldfish was bitten by a werewolf? What would happen if a chair was bitten by a werewolf?’)

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.

And when you’ve an idea – which is, after all, merely something to hold on to as you begin – what then?

Well, then you write. You put one word after another until it’s finished – whatever it is.

Sometimes it won’t work, or not in the way you first imagined. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Sometimes you throw it out and start again.

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