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  • Writer's pictureDonna Norman Carbone

Seeds of Inspiration & How to Make them Blossom: Writing Process

I’m often asked where my ideas come from. The simple response is life. 

By nature, I’m an observer. I find myself constantly taking things in. A peculiar phrase on a sign, the cadence of a name, a shuffle in a person’s walk, the sound that distinguishes one bird from another, the smooth surface of the inside of a shell in contrast to its coarse exterior. I commit some details to memory, but most often I write these observations down either in the notes app on my cell phone or in a bullet journal. If I’m feeling organized, I’ll arrange them by senses or possible titles or character names or settings or first lines. I keep lists and lists that I refer to on occasion to spark an idea that, on a good day, turns into a fully formed sentence or even something bigger.

The inspiration from All That is Sacred came from two real life events: a chance meeting and message from a medium that foretold the death of one of my dearest friends a year later. The subsequent request from my friend’s sister to write something in her memory to publish in a book for her daughters. These two ideas churned over and over until I was compelled to write it all down through a fictional friendship.

The inspiration for Of Lies and Honey came from an article I read that stayed with me for years until I wrote a story to process my understanding of it. This led to a whole lot of research on many topics: debutante society, social class in the 1960s and 70s, Georgia (the Savannah area, in particular), homes for deviant girls, black market adoption, surrogacy, IVF, abortion, teen pregnancy and bees.

As a gardener, one plants sees, never knowing which of them or how many will bloom. And, as a writer, I need to plant the seeds to see what blossoms. I can’t focus on the ones that don't germinate; I need to focus on the many places the tiniest seed has led to that has flourished into something beautiful.

HOW TO take an idea and turn it into something workable in your writing process:

  1. Keep a journal (or a document of some kind) for ideas. WRITE them down. Even when you think an idea is too amazing to forget; trust me, you will forget if you don’t write it down.

  2. Walk away. Allow the idea to ruminate. 

  3. Once you have some thoughts about how to grow your idea, create a brainstorm list. Allow the initial idea to move in unexpected directions, but write EVERYTHING down. 

  4. Allow yourself to consider the many WHAT IF scenarios: 

  5. What happens if this type of character meets that type of character?

  6. What would happen if a group of people were put in this situation?

  7. What if this happened when characters A, B, C did this?

  8. Next, write down a general plot outline (even if it’s like a tagline–a one sentence summary). Get something workable onto the page.

  9. Decide on a genre, broad-scope of an audience.

  10. Play w/ character types & names, story arcs. Identify major conflicts, start to think about the POV for your story, where it will begin and end…

Once you have planted the seeds and they have begun to germinate--the broad strokes have been written down and are somewhat clear in your head, you are ready to begin. The hard part is just beginning. Do it and don’t look back. You may be surprised by the beautiful garden that emerges.

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