Discussion: Getting Ideas


This is the final few days before National Novel Writing Month begins. If you’re committed to participating and do not yet have an idea for your novel, I’d say you’re in trouble! But where do those ideas come from? Where does any writer get his or her ideas? It can be a difficult question to answer, but it might be the most-asked question that authors get. Every author has a different answer. Before I give my answer, here’s what Neil Gaiman had to say:

“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…?…Another important question is, If only…And then there are the others: I wonder…”

Now, I really respect Neil Gaiman and I love his answer. But I also don’t want to steal his answer, so I’m going to try to come up with my own. Where do I get ideas? If the timing of my inspirational bursts proves anything, then shower water must be where I get my ideas from. I’m sure many of us get ideas in the shower, and I think that’s because your mind is not doing anything taxing in the shower. Your mind is left to wander and that’s when the best ideas come.

But where do the ideas come from? I guess I would have to say that I get ideas from what I read, what I watch, and what I would like to see in the fictional world. If I would like to read about wizards in the suburbs, then that’s what I’m going to write (spoiler alert: that’s my National Novel Writing Month idea this year). Many different sources converge in my brain to come up with ideas, and I think that’s true for all of us. And it takes each of our unique brains to come with our own, unique ideas.

So, go forth and create! And please share in the comments where you get your ideas from.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Wrting Advice: Finishing


As I have already said, National Novel Writing Month is coming up in November! This past weekend I went to one of my region’s NaNoWriMo prep sessions. This one was all about preparing for the month ahead and for surviving the whole process. I thought it was a great prep session, and one of the things that really stuck with me was the importance of finishing.

Now, the way to “finish” National Novel Writing Month is, technically, to reach the 50,000-word goal before midnight on November 30th. But another way is to finish the actual story that you set out to write in that time while also reaching 50,000 words. This means that, by the end of the month, you are able to write the words “the end” on your manuscript. That point may come around 50,000 words, or you may end up writing more than that during November and also reaching the end of your story.

To be completely honest with you, I am not very good at following this advice. I have participated in NaNoWriMo seven times before and have never come to the actual end of the story I’m writing. I’ve reached the 50,000-word goal, but I haven’t finished my story. In the past, this hasn’t really bothered me because I’ve done NaNoWriMo for fun. But recently I’m becoming more interested in finishing a first draft and crafting a good story. This year, I hope to finish the story that I’m writing within the month of November, so that I can work on editing it in the new year.

To close this post, I want to include a quote from Neil Gaiman. Gaiman said, “Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”

Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Advice: Feeling Like a Writer


Every once in a while there are posts on various blogs about how to be a “real writer.” Some of them are in jest, some of them stand by a need to be publishing in order to be a writer, and others seek to debunk that claim. Personally, I don’t think you need to be published to be considered a “real” writer. All you need to do is write. There are plenty of people who sit around talking about writing and expressing their desire to begin writing, but the only way to distinguish yourself as a “real” writer is to sit down and put down the words. As long as you are in the process of writing something, then you are a writer.

Recently I found a quote on Goodreads from Neil Gaiman about the act of writing, and identity as a writer. In the quote, Gaiman says: “I’m writing. The pages are starting to stack up. My morale is improving the more I feel like a writer.”

I love this quote and I think it describes the same way I feel when I’m in the midst of writing something. Whether you’re seeing pages stack up, or pages whiz by on your Word document, making progress in your writing is a great feeling. And making that progress will make you feel more like a writer because you’re creating more and producing more. When you have a document on your computer or a binder full of paper, it’s also easier to tell people that you’re a writer, because you’ve actually done some writing.

So I guess the advice I want to impart in this post is to take the leap and get started on a writing project. Or, if you’ve already begun and are stalled in the middle, get back to it! It can be difficult to sit down and actually perform the act of writing, but I can almost guarantee that you’ll feel better and more motivated once you’ve sat down and done the deed. Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Writing Advice: You Must Go On


Here we are at the end of my week-long break from writing. After the month of writing at a breakneck speed for National Novel Writing Month, I needed a very brief breather. Now that that’s over, though, it’s time to dive back in, as I said in last week’s post. It can be tough to come back to a piece of writing after you’ve put some space between you and the words you chose. Even if it’s a brief amount of time, you might feel strange sitting back down to write in that world, or you may feel like you’re not doing a very good job this time around. Those feelings are natural, of course, but you must go on and you must push past them to be productive.

There is a quote from Stephen King that talks about this pushing forward notion. King says,  “Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when if feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.” He’s absolutely right. There are times when you’re going to feel like you’re not getting anywhere, like you’re just moving words around, and like you’re not doing anything right in your writing. I’m no stranger to those times, but the key is to get past them somehow. What helps you do that? What can get you through those discouraging feelings?

One thing that really helps me is having a support group of fellow writers around me. One of the best things about NaNoWriMo, for me, is that thousands of other writers are undertaking the same challenge as you. Everyone is trying this crazy thing at the same time, and that dynamic somehow pushes you through any rough patches you may come across.

Something I’m going to try in the coming months is to replicate that group dynamic that NaNoWriMo brings with it. I am a member of a year-round writing group that contains many of the same people I write alongside in November. Some of these folks have set up an accountability group. In this group, we’ll meet each month to set out our writing goals and update each other on our progress. Hopefully this will lend itself to a group dynamic similar to NaNoWriMo and push us all through those discouraging moments.

And, of course, it’s always best to remember the cardinal rule that I like to tout around the blog: keep on writing! Even if you’re feeling discouraged, it’s better to get words on the page than to let those feelings get you down. As Neil Gaiman says (pictured above), “Write. Finish things. Keep writing.”

I hope you find that thing that helps you push on through and keep going in your writing project. And I hope you can maintain that in the months to come. Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://bookriot.com/2013/09/30/ libraries-rich-famous/

Amazingly Extravagant Libraries

I think we can all agree that libraries are awesome. But they’re also outside your home and require you to put on pants before visiting. Unless, that is, you happen to have a personal library. Of course, this privilege is only reserved for the mega-wealthy, or at least those with an extra room and some DIY skills. But we can dream! And one of my most dearly held dreams for my future home is for it to have a library in it. It doesn’t have to be huge, I just want a nice, cozy space where I can keep my book collection. And if my library happens to look like any of the libraries I’m going to talk about today, I will be one lucky gal.

Recently, the Book Riot blog did a great post about Libraries of the Rich and Famous. These are all folks — mostly authors and actors — who clearly value books and have chosen to give them a place of prominence in their homes. Some of these are just breathtaking, while others aren’t really up my alley. You should go check out the post to see them all, but I wanted to talk about a few of them in particular.

My personal favorite on this list is Neil Gaiman’s library. I think I’ve posted about it before on the blog and it’s just unbelievable. He has amassed an amazing collection of books and he displays them in a way that makes it look as though he has his very own secondhand bookshop in his home. The award for the Most Stately Personal Library definitely goes to Sting and his Victorian, studious design.

Which personal library do I want my own library to look like some day? Either Keith Richards (cozy, comfortable, crammed with books) or Julia Child (homey, inviting). But, in actuality, whose library will my own end up looking like? Probably Professor Richard A. Macksey. It’s a bit messy, but it looks like there’s a method to all of the madness. And I love the abundance of chairs, so that you can sit down wherever you are in the room to peruse some books.

Which personal library is your favorite? Why do you like it? Which library do you want your own to look like someday? Share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Summer Reading Redux


A couple of weeks ago I did a post about summer reading. I had originally intended for it to be all about the “summer blockbuster” books that are coming out this year, but it ended up being about the nostalgia of being a kid who read a lot in the summer. If you’re interested in that, go check out the post. But this week we really are doing the summer blockbuster list. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, then proceed!

Recently, Paste magazine compiled a list of 20 New Books to Read This Summer. The list seems to contain something for everyone, so you’re bound to find something you’ll like. Neil Gaiman has a new book out entitled The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is about modern fantasy for adults. This list also contains the rather hilarious selection of A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook. I wonder if there are ideas for what to serve at The Red Wedding (too soon?). There’s also Khaled Hosseini’s new book, And the Mountains Echoed. If you read and loved The Kite Runner, you’ll probably love Hosseini’s latest work.

For those who might enjoy shorter stories rather than full-length novels, there is The Color Master: Stories by Aimee Bender. I studied Bender’s stories in one of my creative writing courses at college and just recently got my hands on a copy of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, so I’d be interested in this latest collection of stories.

As I said, the list encompasses both intellectual reads and beach reads. Fantasy and reality, novels and short stories are all included here. If you’re looking for something new to read and want to read the latest books, check out the article here.

What “summer blockbuster” books are you looking forward to? Are there any not included on this list that you’re excited for? Share your summer reading plans, whether they include the best-sellers or not, in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan