Ignite your Muse, with Danika Dinsmore

I'm delighted to welcome Danika Dinsmore, author of Brigitta of the White Forest and the Ruins of Noe, to my blog today as part of her Lightning Book Promotions tour. I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books and I'm really pleased to get to know the author better through this post. Danika Dinsmore has created an amazingly detailed White Forest, peopled with faeries full of history, character, emotion and common sense. The novels stand alone and fit together perfectly, and the world itself unfolds very naturally as tales are told.

You can find out more about the world of the White Forest and its curious faeries by following these links...

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/Iyx3c84tvAE
AND... Guess what! You could even get a free copy of The Ruins of Noe TODAY (Friday) at http://www.amazon.com/Ruins-Faerie-Tales-Forest-ebook/dp/B007Z91UNK/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AZC9TZ4UC9CFC

or look for it any other day at amazon.com  and barnesandnoble.com

But first, why not read and learn more about how the author--a wonderful teacher as well as a thoroughly enjoyable writer--ignites her muse. Over to you Danika...

Igniting your muse

Oftentimes people think that they have to form an idea in their head before getting it down on the page. In my workshops I teach idea generation on the page. I think it’s not only more productive; it’s more surprising. 

Writing generates writing. 

This may sound simplistic, but it’s surprisingly magical and it tickles me every time I teach. For instance, I just taught my Imaginary World workshop a few days ago. When the adult students sat down, they had no idea what they were going to write about. This group in particular did not have a lot of experience writing speculative fiction. That’s why they were there. 

After some initial discussion, I took them through a series of writing exercises. Within 2 hours all had at least one inspiring story idea that included a protagonist, a setting, a conflict, and some basic scenes. All brand new ideas generated during the class. All worthy of becoming fully-fledged novels.
That’s the magical part to me, that from the ethers comes this unexpected idea. It takes hold, takes shape, and suddenly it’s tangible and real.

Timed Writing Works!

I prefer timed exercises, but I know these can be a challenge when you’re by yourself, especially if this idea is new to you. If you don’t have a writers group, try it on your own with 5 minutes and work your way up to 7 or 10 minutes. 

HAND WRITE your timed exercises. This is important. Also important is to keep writing without stopping, without crossing out, without editing. Just keep your pen moving no matter what. Even if the little editor in your head says what you’re writing is really stupid. Ignore that guy.
I keep a different lined notebook for timed exercises for each novel I’m working on. This gives me more room to brainstorm outside the box. I go back later and read what I wrote, highlighting and making notes on the juicy stuff.

How do I do it?

One of the simplest exercises I use (at any time during the story creation process) is called “What if?” I often pair this with “What happens when . . .” I have been using this technique, for screenwriting as well as novel writing, for over 15 years. It works.
It’s what we call a “listing exercise” – which just means that each idea/though starts with the same words. 


Say you’re at the very early stages of your story. You know it’s a light Sci Fi. You know a woman broke up with her husband and she’s travelling to another planet where memory erasing is legal. She wants him out of her head. For good. 

But say that’s ALL you know and you want to know more. Start with a “What happens when . . .” and follow it up with a list: what if . . . what if . . . what if . . .

Do this for a MINIMUM of 5 minutes. Keep going if you’re on a roll. If one of the What If’s suddenly takes off on its own inspired direction, go with it. When that idea runs out, START OVER with another What if . . .
Keep writing, keep your pen moving, even if the next thing you write is “What if I can’t think of anything more to write about? What if the universe explodes? What if my cat feels neglected?” Whatever. Keep going.

Here’s a sample from one of my own exercises:

What if she got to the first moon and ran into her ex?
What if her ex got his memory erased first and she likes the new him and doesn’t tell him he’s her ex husband?
What if she goes to the wrong planet?
What if her ship is abducted by aliens?
What if her ex is some space commander and he rescues her? What if she falls in love with him all over again because of this?
What if on each moon she learns something about her ex which makes her not want to get her memory erased at the end?
What if the memory erasing goes wrong, only erases half of her memories of her ex and it’s just the bad stuff OR she mixes him up with someone else, like an Intergalactic terrorist?
What if the memory erasing takes time, she gets it done, then falls in love with him again, only to have her memory of him slowly disappear over time until he is a stranger.
What if she gets stranded on the first moon and finds herself in some outback station living with 3 disgruntled divorcees? 

I love the thought-process here. Some lines are related, some are out of the blue, most probably won’t be used. From here, though, I can select my favorite idea, set my timer for 7 minutes, and start again:  What happens when the aliens abduct her? What if . . .

Go ahead, try it, and see where it take you. 

Danika Dinsmore writes and teaches speculative fiction with a focus on children’s literature. She blogs about the writing life and posts “weekend workout” exercises every Friday at theaccidentalnovelist.com

Thank you Danika. I'm going to make a note of this exercise and use it at our writers' group next time we're looking for a writing prompt. It will be fun to see what we come up with. I think I'd pick the "each moon she learns something" version, but I wonder where it would go... What a neat idea!


Cherie Reich said…
Wonderful exercise and advice! Best wishes with your books, Danika! Beautiful covers. :)
danika said…
Thanks Cherie and thanks Sheila for having me on your site and for all your kind words.

Great blog! :-)
Stormi said…
Awesome guest post! Thanks Sheila for being a part of this tour.

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