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/

How Songs Inspire Writing

Have you ever had a song touch you in a way that you’ve been inspired to write how it made you feel? There’s a song by a country artist I continued to hear on the radio every time I was with my husband in the truck. I remember telling him, not only how much I loved the song, but how catchy it was and most important, it told a full length story in a matter of a few minutes.

I said, “How can a country song tell a story in a few minutes and sometimes I have a hard time doing it in 80,000 words?” His response, “I challenge you to write a novel based on one song.”

Within minutes, a story formed in my head–not fully detailed, but the basics–and that’s all I needed. I said, “Challenge accepted.”

That story turned out to be my 2018 Nanowrimo project I originally had titled as Eight Days of Christmas–an adult romcom, with a comp title of Sweet Home Alabama and the song Greatest Love Story by Lanco.

Because of the revisions needed for a different project I had on submission at the time, I had to set this one aside. At one point during Covid-19/quarantine, I picked it up again. I revised it, revised it again, sent it out to beta readers and CP’s, and edited the project again. It’s currently my secret project that has been bringing me joy during these, sometimes dark and uncertain times.

The Pitch: Isabella hasn’t celebrated her family’s tradition since she broke Leo’s heart six years ago. Now, she must return to her hometown in Colorado for her sister’s wedding and spend eight days completing holiday activities with the guy she still hates to love.

Here’s the song that inspired this story: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aHl0tlUYDBI

Here’s the Pinterest board for this story: https://www.pinterest.com/starlawrites/book-lets-meet-in-between/

Have you been inspired by a particular song? In what way? Has it inspired your writing? Prompted a particular story? I’d love to hear about it!

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.