Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

4 Ways to Find Inspiration as a Writer

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One of the most fun and most difficult parts of being a writer is finding your next story. Sometimes a bestselling idea will hit you out of nowhere, but more often than not you have to go out into the world and seek inspiration. But where do you go? And how do you do it? (more…)

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Q&A Series Part 1: Where Do I Get My Inspiration?

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First off, I have some exciting news! At the most recent American Library Association Conference, all three of my Night Buddies books were proudly on display! You can see them there at the bottom of the shelf. Just want to say a MAJOR thank you to ALA for that amazing moment and photo opp!

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I was recently looking through my Goodreads page (for any of you who want to give me a follow, follow this link) and noticed that there are so many questions people have for authors like myself. So I thought it would be a great idea to start answering some reader questions here on my blog! Once a month I’m going to be answering your questions, so feel free to start sending them my way via Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads and I’ll make sure to answer every single one of them!

To start this new series off, I picked one of the most commonly asked author question: “Where did you get the inspiration to write your books?”

The truth is, inspiration—for every author—comes in a multitude of ways. But for me, the biggest reason I had for writing the Night Buddies series was my son, John.

As many of you know, I was a single father, and John and I had to find ways to entertain each other during our time together. What started out as reading stories before bedtime quickly escalated into creating our own stories, with our own beloved character…the red crocodile Crosley. After John had grown up, I wanted to find a way to keep our memories and Crosley alive, and share the stories we invented together with other young children who might enjoy them just as much as we did. And so, the Night Buddies: Adventures After Lights Out series was born.

Some other inspirations include the fact that I am a lifelong lover of books and reading, so the opportunity to write stories and help other people fall in love with books was a huge part of my decision to become an author. Stories by Roald Dahl were another inspiration; his imaginative worlds and the way he wrote for children have always inspired me as a children’s author.

And that just about covers it! Let me know via social media or in the comments below what questions you want answered next!

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4 Parts Inspiration. 1 Part Caffeine.

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I’m very pleased to announce that this week we are featuring a post from author Laurie McKay about where she finds inspiration to write. 

One of the most common questions asked to writers is “What inspired you?” I never thought too much about inspiration until after I finished my first book and was asked that very question, but I wished I’d thought about it sooner. Now that I have a better understanding of what inspires me, I can tap into those resources when I get lost on a page or can’t figure out the next plot point of my work-in-progress. As such, here are a few of the places where I’ve found inspiration. May they inspire you as well.

 

1. STUDYING CRAFT

I own about fifty books about writing. Some of my favorites are the Writer’s Digest Collection: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, Character and Viewpoint, Plot, etc. I find inspiration (and motivation) in studying writing, in learning more about craft, in discovering more about my strengths and weaknesses as a storyteller. Learning about writing – whether it be in a book, in an article, at a writing conference – makes me excited to write and gives me new ideas and techniques to do so.

 

2. FAVORITE STORIES

Analyzing stories – the parts I liked and the parts I didn’t – is inspiring.

One of my favorite movies (also one of the first books I ever read) was The Wizard of Oz. You know, a girl is transported via tornado from Kansas to the magical land of Oz, meets some friends, fights a witch, finds a wizard. Then she returns home with some shiny red shoes and a new perspective on everything.

But what do I like about The Wizard of Oz?

I like that a character from one world travels to a new one, that she’s a fish-out-of-water. I like that her dog, Toto, is along for the adventure. Honestly, I like that she has magic shoes.

So maybe in one of my stories my character should travel from one world to another? Maybe they should have an animal friend? Magic footware – why not?

In my book VILLAIN KEEPER my main character, Caden, travels from one world to another. His magnificient stallion, Sir Horace, comes with him. He doesn’t have magic shoes but he does have an enchanted coat.

That being said, my book is nothing like The Wizard of Oz. It takes place almost wholly in North Carolina, the characters are in foster care, and it’s a contemporary fantasy complete with dragons, magic, and middle school.

Also, I think it’s good to think about what I like and what I don’t like. Writing is subjective and hard work, and if there is one person who should truly love my story, it’s me.

 

3. FEELINGS

There’s a part in my second book, QUEST MAKER, where my characters Caden and Brynne are being chased through a pitch-black hallway by a monstrous long-limbed villain who can crawl on the ceiling. Truth be told, that isn’t something I’ve personally experienced. But I imagine in that situation my heart would pound, my body shake, my breaths come out in rapid pants. In short, I’d be scared. And I know what it feels like to be scared.

It’s common advice to ‘write what you know’. I might have never fought a dragon, had a loved one assassinated, or been stranded in an alternate land far from home (all things that happen to my main character) – but I’ve had to fight and face my fears, I’ve lost loved ones, and I know what it feels like to be homesick.

These same feelings can be translated to my characters and the things they go through. They can inspire how my characters feel, act, and react.

 

4. WRITING

I went to the NC Writer’s Conference at Wrightsville Beach a few years ago. The author – and I’m sorry I don’t remember her name – told the room when she was stuck and uninspired, she made herself write anyway. Oftentimes, when she’d look back at her work days later, she’d find the words she wrote in uninspired times were just as good or better than her words on days when the ideas and sentences seemed to flow.

That is some of the best writing advice I’ve gotten. Sometimes, I’ve seen this referred to as Permission to Write Badly. Write something. Anything. The plot, the writing, and the details can be tweaked later in rounds of revisions.

Now, when I’m stuck, when I can’t figure out where my story should go next or how my main character should proceed, one of the greatest wells for inspiration is in the physical act of writing (or typing in my case). If I can force myself to write something, anything, no matter how rough or horrible, I start getting ideas.

For example, I recently wrote a synopsis for a new story idea I’m working on. I had a vague idea of the plot, and I had written the first few chapters, but beyond that, I was stuck. It was just a fuzzy cloud of scenes and scenarios. Once I started punching keys, however, everything came into focus. I find when I allow myself to write and don’t get bogged down in things being perfect, or even good, ideas and inspiration follow.

 

5. COFFEE

On occasion, a nice cup of coffee on a cool morning makes writing a bit more enjoyable. What’s more inspirational that that?

 

Laurie McKay is an author and biology instructor who lives in Durham, NC. When she’s not working, she spends time with her family and her two elderly dogs. Her debut MG fantasy novel, VILLAIN KEEPER (The Last Dragon Charmer #1) and her second book QUEST MAKER (The Last Dragon Charmer #2) are available now. To learn more about her or to see pictures of her dogs (and her family) follow her at lauriemckay.net or on Twitter or Facebook. You can find her book at GoodreadsIndieboundAmazonBN, and wherever books are sold.

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How Roald Dahl Inspired Me as a Children’s Book Writer

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Even before I got into writing the Night Buddies books I was a fan of Roald Dahl—author of books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach. He is known as one of the 20th century’s best children’s authors, and I can certainly say that as a reader his books never failed to captivate my imagination and pull me inside the stories; he had me hooked from his first word to his last. But when I took on the task of writing my own book series, I started looking to Roald Dahl not only as my favorite author, but also as one of my biggest writing inspirations.

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Dahl began his writing career by writing down the things that he knew. His first published story was about his experience as a fighter pilot in World War II, and his first children’s book, The Gremlins, was about “mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore.” This is where I learned my first lesson in storytelling: writing what you know, even in books that take place in worlds far from reality, will always get you the best results. In Night Buddies, even though the books are entirely fictional, I had to use emotions, situations, and types of relationships that I knew in my life in order to make them come alive on the page.

Books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reach children because they are unique, they are told from the voices of children who differ from the norm, and they use more imagination than most people could ever dream of having. Dahl didn’t feel the need to make everything in his books “pretty,” the way some children’s authors do, and is in fact known for his dark humor and sometimes grotesque scenarios. This kind of writing inspired me to write the Night Buddies books in the most real, authentic way I knew. The creativity he used in his stories inspired me to keep thinking further outside the box in order to create books I can now say I am proud to have written and feel confident that children will love.

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“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful.”

This quote by Dahl stuck with me throughout my writing experience, and should inspire any of you attempting to write your own children’s books. In the process of writing a book, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in using impressive language or trying to come up with sweeping universal themes, but remembering that what children need is a book that they are going to have fun reading makes the entire writing process much less intimidating, and always leads to a better book being written.

If you haven’t read one of his books, I suggest you drop everything and go pick one up now. You’ll be a happy reader—and a better writer—for it.

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