Make your inspiration count

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Ten top tips to help you turn your creative inspiration into effective new writing

After all the inspiration we hope has been flowing to you and from you during #InspirationMonth, it’s time for a reality check. What have you produced this month? How are you going to turn it into a piece of writing you’re proud of? What are you going to do about getting it out into the world?

To help ensure that the work you’ve produced during inspiration month grows strong creative roots, we’ve set out some guidelines to help you take stock and move your writing in the direction of success.

1. Did you start something new?

Perhaps you were inspired to make a start on something new. That’s fantastic. If you’re excited by the new work, crack on with it! Getting a decent amount of words down on paper will make your new piece begin to feel like a substantial piece of writing. It will also give you a feel for ways to progress the work, and areas you’d like to concentrate on. It might also be a good idea, at this point, to make notes about the overall shape, and any future developments that you’d like to incorporate. If you started in a flash of inspiration, now is a good time to start thinking about a useful structure that will give you solid foundations to build on.

2. Did you embark on a new direction?

Keep on exploring it! Perhaps you’ve found yourself writing poetry when you saw yourself as a crime writer. Maybe you’ve embarked on a monologue, or a memoir, that has taken you by surprise. Don’t worry if you’re not yet sure where you’re going. Go with it and see where it takes you. One of the best ways to ensure we don’t get stale in writing is to continually be open to new creative possibilities. You don’t need to have an endgame here – keep writing, see where it takes you and enjoy the process of discovery.

3. Did you find a new flow?

Perhaps you’ve been inspired to find a new way of approaching your writing, or improving your writing practice. Maybe you’ve allowed yourself to allocate some of your writing time to experimenting – writing for writing’s sake, without the need to concentrate on a particular project. It could be that you’ve discovered a new fluency that comes with writing in longhand, on paper. Whatever you’ve discovered, if it’s brought you benefits, incorporate it into your regular writing practice.

4. Did your inspiration take you by surprise?

Did you allow yourself to try something different, and find yourself inspired to write something that was a bit leftfield? Came out of the blue? How did that make you feel? Was it exciting to allow yourself to write something unexpected, or to make room for a brand new idea? If you found yourself surprised, in a good way, learn how to channel that inspiration and give yourself the chance to experience the effect again. It might not feel quite as spontaneous as that first exhilarating ‘aha’ moment but it’s a very useful element to have in your writers’ toolkit.

5. Where do you see your work fitting?

Have you been inspired to work on something, and can see that it might have potential? Think about what you’d like to achieve with it, and work towards that. Could it be worked into a submission for a competition, readership, agent, publisher or market? Do your research. Once your piece has a shape and you’ve got a sense of what you’re doing with it, and what you need to do to complete it and make it as good as possible, think a little about practical matters like wordcount and genre, and where you might think about finding it a home.

6. Is it time to evaluate the piece with a critical eye?

No matter how much you may have loved getting your inspired words on the page, there’s a point where you have to put your editor’s hat on and look at it critically. Is it going anywhere? Is it worth keeping? Building on? Is it actually rubbish? (There isn’t one of us who hasn’t written a big pile of rubbish at some point – it’s fine). How could you make it better? How could you make it less worse? And so on. It may be that all your piece needs is some superfluous words trimming. It may be that it needs a major rewrite. Remember that editing is your friend, and you owe it to your initial flash of inspiration to do everything you can to make the new writing the best it can be.

If you're ready to edit, check out An expert's guide to editing your writing

7. Have you looked for places where it might fit?

This is the time to turn your attention to practical matters. Look for suitable competitions to enter, calls for submission that are a match, paying markets where your piece would stand a chance. Check out the Writers’ App and the Writers’ News pages in WM for the latest competitions and opportunities, the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for agents and publishers, online news-stands for magazines where you might be able to place your work. Perhaps you’ve been inspired to write something for a particular competition or call for submission! In that case, you’ve already given yourself a head start, writing with fresh enthusiasm on a theme or topic that excites you.

8. What have you learned about yourself as a writer?

Good writers are always open to learning, and that includes gaining self-knowledge. Have you had any new insights into how and what you write? It may be that you’ve allowed yourself to try new things, or new ways of writing them. Maybe you’ve discovered that you express different aspects of your creativity in different mediums. Perhaps trying a poem has enabled you to access a new way of writing about emotions. Maybe you’ve discovered that you like writing funny best. Perhaps you’ve realised your biggest strength is in character creation. You might have realised you’re really creative in five-minute bursts. Whatever you’ve learned, let it enhance your future writing practice.

9. Has it made you want to learn more?

For many of us, when inspiration strikes it can make us passionate to learn and discover more. Maybe you’ve been inspired to follow your dreams and become the best writer you can. Why not sign up for a workshop or course in the area you'd most like to succeed in? A course can give you a solid framework of writing skills to help you move up to the next level. If enhancing your writing skills sounds like something you’re interested in exploring, why not check out the Writing Magazine Creative Writing Courses?

10. Where would you like your inspiration to lead you?

Having a firm idea of where you’d like to see your writing is an inspiration in itself. Is your dream to be a published writer? Be inspired to work towards it. Get your manuscript into the best possible shape so it stands a chance. Would having a byline in a particular magazine be an ambition fulfilled? Be inspired to do the groundwork and send in some ideas. Would you love to give an author talk, and share your ideas with other writers? Be inspired to firm up your ideas, send off the emails, make the contacts. Remember inspiration is the first part of a process. Now it’s time to take the next steps, and give your writing dream the chance of coming true.

Read more about finding inspiration to fuel your writing here.