Where Did My Inspiration Come From—Eight Days of Christmas?

I find inspiration all over. There is beauty and a storyline everywhere, just waiting to be written. Sometimes an idea comes to me fully formed and wrapped up with a bow. And other times—not so much. My process is usually to write out character sheets and a 1-3 page synopsis before I begin writing. I’ve written one manuscript with fully plotted scene cards. It was one of the cleanest first drafts I have ever written. The problem? I ended up falling short on word count and going back in and re-drafting it and adding in a second POV. Most of the time, I’m so anxious to begin drafting a story, that I don’t even have time to come up with every character name, or what their hair color is or even something big like their biggest flaw. I often find that when I’m drafting, my characters will flesh themselves out as I go and as I learn them more.

Plot: The inspiration for Eight Days of Christmas came when I first had the idea to write a holiday romance story. Christmas is my favorite holiday and it’s always been special to my family with lots of together time and traditions. I thought it would be so fun to combine traditions with lots of family time and what happens when family is spending so much time together. I had recently watched Sweet Home Alabama and came away from it with all the feels. It’s one of my favorite romcoms. The writing of both, the enemies-to-lovers and the second-chance-romance is pure genius. I thought, what if I wrote a book that had similar vibes and gave readers all those same feelings I get when I watch that movie? But have it be at Christmastime.

Character Names: Leo and Isabella’s names came to me quickly and as soon as I labeled these two characters, I never changed them. And I always knew that Isabella would be nicknamed Izzy and that would be a part of the story as well, how a nickname can be so important when called it by a special person. I had this vivid picture in my mind of Isabella, dark hair and eyes, a turned-up nose, a strong woman. For Leo, I had pictured someone tall, and I knew he was a former hockey player, so he had a nice physique. In my mind, he also had dark hair and eyes. And a perpetually three-day beard.

I have a note in my note’s app with name ideas for future manuscripts. I keep a list of first names and last names. But I never had to open my app for these two. I actually had Leo’s brother’s name—Landon—picked out right away too. Leo and Landon seemed to go well together and for the appearance of his characters as well. I’ve only known Landon’s in real life who are nice guys, and this Landon is not the exception. Though he has a bit of a player’s personality, so I pictured him being an attractive guy. Too attractive for his own good. Isabella’s siblings’ names Norah and Finn came to me quickly as well. But Finn took the longest. It was hard to find a name for the girls’ brother that went well with Isabella and Norah. I pictured Norah as a little taller than Isabella, sienna-brown hair, slender, and a bit like the actress Zoey Deutch.

Playlist: Music is a HUGE inspiration to me. And with this book, that was no exception. Part of the second-chance-romance was inspired by one song. Yep, you read that right. Now regardless of your feelings on country music, I believe they can tell a fulfilling story in about three minutes. So country songs are almost always on my book playlists. You guessed it; the song is a country song. Greatest Love Story by LANCO. If you don’t know the song, it’s about a couple that are teenagers and opposites but they are in love. The two go their separate ways when she goes to college and he stays in their hometown. She dates someone else until she returns and they realize there is still something there between them. It’s such a sweet and catchy song. Besides that one song, there are about fifty more songs on my book playlist. Feel free to check them out under: Eight Days of Christmas, account name: Starla_writes.

Setting: Pineridge is a fictional town in Colorado. I knew I wanted Leo and Isabella’s hometown to be a small town and since this book was going to be set at Christmas, it needed to be snowy and mountainous. In my mind, I pictured somewhere like Breckenridge, Vail, or Aspen Colorado. But I also included some inspo from the shopping in my own town that’s also a resort town near a mountain. Plus inspo from growing up in Canada, the deep snow, and the ice rink at my elementary school.

Again, there is inspiration everywhere. In the shows and movies I watch, the music I listen to, the people I follow on social media, my day job, travel, even a trip to the grocery store can spark creativity. You never know where a story idea could be lurking.

To see my inspiration Pinterest board for this book, please visit: https://www.pinterest.com/starlawrites/book-eight-days-of-christmas/

Drawing Inspiration From Writing Fanfiction

Regardless of your opinion, writing fanfiction can be used as a tool for more in-depth writing and can be used as inspiration as well. The same thing can be true for turning nonfiction into fiction. When I was twelve, I wrote a mixture of Saved By the Bell fanfic along with drawing from inspiration from the people/events around me. I went to my friend’s house every day that summer and we conjured up stories and wrote together. She and I were of course the main characters with specific alias. And all the supporting characters were our friends and crushes. We kept the stories short, maybe 2,000 words each. They were fun, raw, and honest. And I’m fairly certain we kept them hidden from anyone else other than ourselves.

Along with the stories, we drew and colored a map of the neighborhood/town on a long piece of white butcher paper. I found the map last summer when we cleaned out our garage, along with the binder of old stories. I have the fondest memories of that summer and since finding these gems, I’ve been thinking a lot about them. I wondered if there was something I could do with them, or if they’re too embarrassing to post on my website, (eek, the vulnerability) and how all it took was a cheesy show about friendship, a group of my own friends, and a supportive person to spark something inside of me that made me not want to quit.

If you’ve been having a difficult time writing or finding inspiration, (understandably so, as the majority of us have the past few months) I would suggest writing fan fiction. Here are some things to consider when attempting fanfiction. (*I will note here–I’m not expert in fanfiction. I was young when I began and haven’t done it much since. There are plenty of authors who are experts in this topic so I’d suggest googling them if that’s something you’re seriously considering. If you want to simply write for fun, here you go 🙂

  • Write for the love you have for the fandom
  • If you’re not a huge fan of something particular, pick a tv show or movie that inspires you
  • Choose a plot point/premise that interests you
  • What you write doesn’t have to be controversial
  • It doesn’t need to be long–you can write a flash fiction piece, (typically under 1,000 words)
  • Write for yourself–your eyes only, (unless you want to show someone)

My early fanfiction was written based on a love for friendship and first love. Ironically, I find most of my plots as an adult still center around these things. I wonder how many of us writers began this way, writing about our first love interests, or what a dysfunctional or fully functional family looked like. How teens/adults navigated friendships, peer pressure, and responsibilities. Like I did, all those years ago. My early fanfiction was written for only my friend and I. Except for today, I’m going to let you read a small excerpt. Only because, why not? (Again, eek!)

The Trouble With Boys

…..After dinner, my dad dropped Paula and I off at the skating rink. I saw Mike, my ex-boyfriend there and I was about to throw up. When we were waiting in line at the skating rink, we saw the boys there so we cut with them in line. After we got our skates on we started to skate. After a few songs, the lady over the speakers said it was time for couples skating and my friends and I didn’t know what to do. So we sat down on the benches.

In a few seconds, the boys asked us to skate with them. Nick and I held hands the whole time. After a while, we got tired so we went and got a snack. Then it was couples skating again. Before we were going to leave, Nick led me to the benches and we sat down because we were tired. We sat really close. I looked at him and he put his hand on my shoulder and leaned over and, and, and, HE KISSED ME! I couldn’t believe it!

When the boys were about to go we all said goodbye to each other and Nick and I hugged each other goodbye, then they left. My dad picked us all up and took us back to my house for a sleepover…..

And that’s it, that’s all you get of: The Trouble With Boys by 12-year-old me. It killed me to not edit this, but I’d say for a tween, it wasn’t too terrible, ha!

Thanks for reading! Hope you’re inspired to write something. If you wrote fanfiction, who or what fandom did you write about? What inspired you or still inspires you when writing fanfic? I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Creating Playlists for Your Story

As a music fanatic, sometimes a song can be what inspires an entire character or plot. So not always, but most of the time I create a playlist for each of my projects. I find the process therapeutic, inspiring, and fun!

When I sit down to write, sometimes I need complete silence, sometimes I can write in a noisy coffee shop. Sometimes I write while my kids are arguing and watching tv. But sometimes, I open up my playlist and put on my noise cancelling headphones.

On Spotify, I can create a playlist by choosing a title and searching through a ginormous library of songs and pick the ones I want on that *playlist. I typically title my playlist using the same title as my manuscript. Then I choose songs that either my character would listen to or that sets the mood and moves the plot forward.

For my most recent project, because it’s a dual character POV, I created a separate playlist for each main character. Doing this has really helped set the mood and has gotten me into that character’s voice and headspace more. I’m hoping to do this from now on with my multi-POV projects.

If you’re someone who isn’t able to listen to music while you write, I often find just listening to the playlist while doing other things can inspire me to write. Listening to my book playlists has also helped to cure my writer’s block. I recommend giving it a try sometime.

If you’re interested, here are some links to my playlists for my current project. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2SFJbbMbFjX8hbz1WUfDJM?si=leYtVqA9R6u6Ep_gIoso2g https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3WEzYHGqGxkswJCkg3MFpd?si=pPey0x3RSrOwp7D1MT_t-w

*Spotify has the free version, (which is the one I’m currently using) and the premium version. The free version will shuffle the songs you choose and if you don’t have enough added, Spotify will add their own songs to your playlist. The premium version will play only the songs you’ve chosen and will play them in order.

Where To Find Inspiration

Since I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember, sometimes it can be difficult for me to notice just where my inspiration comes from. At times, a full-blown plot idea will manifest out of nowhere. Other times, it’s bits and pieces that come while I’m working the day job, taking a shower, or in the car. When my mind seems to be busy on something completely unrelated to writing or story telling, that’s usually when an ideal strikes.

What I do know is, when I’m facing writer’s block or feeling uninspired, there are things that I try that sometimes help. If you’re new to writing and want to stretch yourself by trying your hand at writing fiction or a short story, or if you’re feeling uninspired lately or facing writer’s block, maybe these ideas will help you.

-Listen to music: Sometimes, just listening to a certain genre or song can help inspire me to write. It can either help me figure out a plot or inspire a new character. Country music usually does the trick for me. Their ability to write a song that tells a story in about 3 1/2 is pretty inspiring.

-Read a book: Often, new writers think reading a book will confuse or interfere with their own writing. Most of the time, when I’m reading a book, it triggers and fuels my own creativity. I can pinpoint where the shift in the character arc is. It can show me what works with my own writing and maybe what doesn’t.

-Take a walk: Getting outside and breathing in fresh air is great for the brain. It gives you oxygen and energizes the soul. Stepping out into nature is rejuvenating, triggering your creative mind to feel rested and ready to develop that plot or flesh out those characters.

-Watch a movie: Watching a movie can be so helpful for plot flow and character arcs. I pay attention to plot holes and slow burn romances. Looking for the humor, the heart, what triggers natural emotions.

-Write by hand: When I write by hand, it takes me back to when I first started writing. It can feel fresh and raw.

-Journal: Taking a step away from writing fiction and writing in a journal about your thoughts and feelings and your day can get you in the flow of writing again if you’ve been dealing with writer’s block.

-Do something else creative: Spending time on another hobby can get your writing creative juices flowing. If you enjoy drawing, painting, knitting, or something else, honing that craft can possibly help you in honing your writing.

I hope some of these ideas help inspire your writing or get you out of your writer’s block. What helps inspire your writing?

Creating Aesthetics For Your Story

Before I begin writing any manuscript, I create a visual. A lot of writers I know do this as well. Plenty have their favorite process and favorite app for creating an aesthetic. If you’ve never made one and you’re interested in doing so, you might want to try a couple different apps before you land on your favorite.

The method to my aesthetic madness goes something like this: I create a board on *Pinterest first, pulling photos of inspiration of characters, settings, and other plot points. Let’s say my character suffers from an anxiety disorder and visits a therapist, I can add pins on anxiety and what to expect when seeing a licensed therapist. Then I choose 5-9 or so photos and create a collage on Canva. Sometimes I find quotes on Pinterest that fit my story, so I may use those. Or, if I have my own line or quote already floating around in my mind I’ll use that. In the past, I’ve also tried using the Picollage app. It works well too but I like the clean lines, the ability to add typing, and the filter options on Canva. They also have their own photo stocks that you can use.

There are other websites that have free stock photos like, Unsplash, Pixababy, and Stock Snap. I like grabbing my photos from Pinterest because I can create an entire board there. Creating a Pinterest board and/or an aesthetic can help if I’m feeling uninspired, stuck on my plot or helping with writer’s block.

If you create aesthetics, what’s your favorite app or website to use? If you’ve never created one and do so after reading this post, I’d love to hear about your experience.

*Be sure to always credit the artist/author/photographer/creator when using their work and not using it at all if they specifically state not to.