Friday, November 12, 2010

Is That a Gun in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Anyone who wasn’t there for Lyn Stone and Peggy Webb’s wonderful, funny and informative speeches on Saturday missed a real treat! These two ladies are two of the best romance has to offer and I learn something new from them every time I meet them.

This time I found Peggy’s talk about “triggers” to be somewhat intriguing. While I know we would all love to be able to fall asleep and dream half a novel (I really want to hate her for that, but she is just so darned cute and funny!) not many of us have that ability. BUT, I have a sneaky suspicion we all have the ability to find what our writing “triggers” are and make good use of them. Perhaps some of you already have!

I have discovered, for instance, that if I am driving along in my car and let my mind wander to any one of the stories percolating in my head, invariably I hear this great conversation or see this great scene in my head. Fabulous, right? Not so fabulous! Ever try to write down dialogue on a McDonald’s bag with an eyebrow pencil? That poor sheriff is probably STILL scratching his head! I did buy a little mini recorder for just that reason. And as soon as I figure out how to operate it I’ll be in business. So, one of my triggers is driving in my car. Got it.

I also find that if I am busier than the devil in a high wind at work my characters INSIST on piping up with some vital bit of information that they think I just have to write down at once. Fortunately I always have a pocketful of index cards handy. The girls in the bakery are used to seeing me stop in mid-sentence, hold up a hand and scribble something down before I continue whatever it was I was doing. Trigger? Who knows! Bread baking. Kids screaming. Really BAD fashion statements. Something amid the hustle and bustle of Walmart sends me to Regency England.

Now, where it becomes more difficult is when I have no trigger at all. Nothing. Zippo. Not just no trigger – no gun, no bullets. I might as well be at an anti-NRA rally! As if I’ve been strip-searched at the Frankfurt airport by a big security guard named Helga and had everything that even LOOKS like it might have a trigger thrown in the trash and been sent merrily on my way with a nice Wiedersehn from my current WIP.

That’s where Peggy Webb’s mention of writing triggers comes in. If none of my automatic triggers works then I just have to come up with some triggers on my own. Sounds easy, right? Well let me see. I do have to have tea to write. Milo’s iced tea (sweetened, of course, are you nuts?) in warm weather and Earl Gray when the weather is colder. No tea, no write. Sometimes I need music – particularly for love scenes or scenes of great emotional conflict. Instrumental music – no words. I haven’t tried lighting candles or anything of that nature, but maybe I should.

So, what are your writing triggers? What helps you to sit in the chair and pour your heart out onto the page? What helps you to get jump started when nothing else seems to work. Let’s talk about triggers, y’all. Being Southern Belles we know all about guns and ammo. What sorts of things will help us all to bag that book contract, that agent, that contest win or the prize buck of them all – that NYT Bestseller? Ready. Aim. Fire Away!


Kat Jones said...

Some of my triggers are (like you) when I'm driving & when I read the news (particularly off-the-wall stuff).

But when nothing is firing, I sit down and force a scene. Of course I hate what's written, but then I think of all the ways to 'fix' it and go from there. :)

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL at the off-the-wall stuff. Don't you love those things in the news that you have to shake your head and say "You can't make this stuff up!"

Getting anything down on paper is always good. I think it was Nora Roberts who said "Don't be afraid to write crap. You can edit crap. You can't edit a blank page!)

Carla Swafford said...

Usually it take me saying, "Time for bed" and then my trigger explodes in my face. I swear I can sit in front of my laptop for twelve hours, but get me close to bedtime and inspiration hits.


I lose a lot of sleep that way.

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL Carla! I can SO relate! Seems to me it is a conspiracy on the part of the muse union to keep all aspiring writers up into the wee hours of the morning so the muses can sleep in the rest of the time. Makes me want to smack mine!

Diana Layne said...

Same here, driving. And watching the news. Or if it's time to cook dinner, I hate cooking so anything to keep me from cooking and often the muse cooperates--she must hate cooking too. :)

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

I find busy work--the kind that occupies the hands but not the mind--can get me on track. Now to find the energy . . .

Christine said...

Love this post! Shower and personal grooming: hair/makeup/whatever. Sometimes it takes me forever to get out of the bathroom. I have index cards in the bathroom. I also have the driving one. I agree. Hard to write stuff when I'm driving LOL.

Wish I had been there to hear the ladies speak.

Next year!


Jeanie said...

Hmm. I think I have more of a process than a trigger(s). When I sit down to write, I always read back over what I wrote the day before. That sort of gets me back in the groove. And when I'm really stuck or struggling, I pray for guidance and inspiration. Always works!

Also, my characters like to talk to me on the way to work. Drive time is when I mull things over and worry with whatever scene I'm working on at the moment.

A man called Valance said...

'Strip-searched at Frankfurt airport by a big security guard named Helga'

Well if that ain't a trigger I don't know what is.


Mister V (Just happy to see you)

Beth Trissel said...

I loved your post, Louisa. :) Very witty and sounds so familiar. I also must have tea and the right music is essential. I get inspiration at the oddest times as well and need to supply myself with a mini tape recorder and or note cards. Excellent suggestions.

Stern Rake Studio said...

My trigger events occur when I'm working out and I can relate to Gwynlyn's busy-work comment.

I've flown into Frankfurt International and never ran into Helga. So I guess I'll count myself as lucky.

Your title is a definate attention-grabber.


Teresa Thomas Bohannon said...

I have a reliable trigger...unfortunately it is as limiting as it is reliable. I find that I'm only able to genuinely write creative fiction for the first couple of hours after I wake up in the morning--which sucks on days that I have to go to work! After that Regency Romances and other pleasant fantasies fade away and reality--and all those other nasty distractions--become far too insistent too ignore....

Fortunately, Louisa Cornell/Nora Roberts is right when she said you can edit crap...thank heavens--which means I can go ahead and get something/anything written when time and circumstance allow!

Smiles and Good Fortune,

Cindy said...

Music....lots of music, country music, classical music, romantic music....I can listen and BAMM, right then, I'll think of something else that needs written. Excellent post, Pixie-pal!


M.V.Freeman said...

Love this post Louisa,
My trigger...its driving. One of these days I'm going to get in a wreck as I try to scribble something down.

Other triggers, talking to other writers, walking, working out..and like you TEA. LOVE it.

And sometimes a nap works too.

Louisa Cornell said...

Diana ! A muse that hates cooking! Now that is my kind of muse. I cook at the bakery all day. When I get home I am lucky if I have the ambition to slap together a sandwich!

Louisa Cornell said...


I know what you mean about finding the energy! And something like cleaning, knitting those sorts of things can definitely set my mind free to wander.

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey, Christine! We missed you! Next year for sure.

Come to think of it it, the shower can sometimes be a great "think tank" for me. I too, keep index cards in the bathroom. We writers are an odd bunch, aren't we? :)

Louisa Cornell said...


Reading over the previous day's work can be a trigger for me unless I stopped where I got stuck in the first place!

Seems like there is a lot of writing going on on the highways!

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL Mister V ! Why thank you, sir!

And yes, the search at the Frankfurt Airport did trigger something. Terror! And the thought "I will never bring a Black Forest cuckoo clock in my luggage ever again." If we are lucky Helga is retired by now.

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey Beth! Always great to see my Pixie Sisters here!

Those index cards are real life savers. I can never remember scene long enough to wait until I get ready to write. Or if I do it is never as good as that first flash of inspiration!

Another music lover I see. Sound tracks are always great for me.

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey, Ted !

When I lived in Germany there were great walking paths and I plotted many a novel on those paths.

Count yourself very lucky indeed that you never encountered Helga in Frankfurt. I met her on one of my flights home for Christmas right after the Pan Am flight blew up over Scotland. She gave new meaning to the word "zeal."

Louisa Cornell said...

Hello, Teresa!

Wow waking up ready to write is great, but as you said, if you have to take off to the DDJ (Dreaded Day Job) I can imagine being torn!

Louisa Cornell said...

Hello Cindy!

Now why am I not surprised to hear that music is your trigger - especially country western music!

Cindy writes some sweepingly gorgeous Civil War era romances that I KNOW are going to be on the shelves for all of us to enjoy soon!

Check out her website. It's new and it looks FABULOUS!

Louisa Cornell said...

There is nothing like a really good cup of tea, is there, M.V. ? Oh, and I love it when I am talking to another writer, plotting and bouncing ideas off each other. It really does help!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Great post, Louisa! I love your sense of humor. I wish I could have been at the luncheon, so thanks for a little recap. My absolute best trigger is jogging. When I'm totally stuck it works like nothing else. Barring that, walking the dog, driving (very popular, apparently), or lying down to think it out helps (as does the inevitable nap that follows or precedes this daydreaming). And hot tea. I like mint green. =)