Don’t Just Sit There When Inspiration Strikes

Seized by an inspiring idea for a new writing project? Don’t just sit there. Grab a pen and some paper. Capture the idea before it drifts away.

The late Madeleine L’Engle once noted that when an idea for a new project taps you on the shoulder, it’s inviting you to birth it. Here are a few simple strategies for fleshing out your idea once you’ve captured it.

1. Consider whether fiction or nonfiction treatment best suits the inspired idea.

2. Determine the best form for it–screenplay, novel, nonfiction book, stage play, or poem.

3. Figure out the heart of the project and begin working on the form it will take. If you believe it’s best suited as nonfiction, you’ll need to flesh out the focus, slant, and factor (s) that distinguish it from other projects already in the marketplace. For fiction, consider what genre it would best fit (that in turn will determine length, style, and other critical elements specific to each genre such as mystery, romance, young adult, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.).

4. Do some brainstorming. I like working with a bubble chart. My main idea goes in the middle of the page inside a bubble. Spokes radiate out into tangential thoughts triggered by the idea. This technique works well for a mystery novel, for example, that needs a few suspects and motivations for them.

5. Consider whether your inspired idea could be the base of an “empire” of information, pieces of which could be spun off into multiple stories or a series. Or, would your project fit into an already existing series of books?

6. Develop a dynamite synopsis if your idea is for a novel; create a killer book proposal if the idea is for a nonfiction book. For a nonfiction project, indicate the nonfiction category such as self-help, how-to, home/garden, cooking, psychology, history, travel, photography, biography, child-rearing, autobiography, memoir, hobby, sports, and health and wellness, to name a few.

When I got the idea for a mystery based on my real-life farmette dramas, it came after I’d had nearly two dozen nonfiction books published (some were sold into an existing series such as Adams Media’s “Everything” series of books).

I’d also established a blog and had been building a brand based on my life renovating the old farmette. My first novel–A BEELINE TO MURDER–sold as a three-book contract and featured my Henny Penny Farmette brand and a farming milieu.



Working professional writers don’t wait for inspiration to strike. That said, they don’t take it for granted. Most will at least capture the idea. That way, if there isn’t time to go to work on it immediately, they can revisit it later.
















Coming Full Circle

Even as I gear up for publicity on my forthcoming book, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, I am taking a little time to reflect on my just-finished third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series. Deep breath. I confess I’m feeling a bit disoriented.

This novel is the second in the Henny Penny Farmette series that began with A BEELINE TO MURDER



It’s as though I’ve climbed a mountain that demanded a lot of mental and physical energy while writing and pacing to the finish on that third novel that arcs the series. And now that I’ve descended that mountain, my thoughts, feelings, and bodily energy must shift back to who I was before that story claimed most of my waking hours over the last year.


Nature nourishes the spirit and renews creativity


I think it must be true of all fiction writers that we leave bits of ourselves strewn throughout our stories. But in the end, we realize the scattered bits are and have always been part of us. After the writing is done, we relegate those bits to memory (where all our experiences in life are stored) and move back into our natural rhythm. Like flower stalks in the wind, we bend against the force and then when the pressure stops, we return upright. We are rooted as before albeit often changed.


Through the passage of time and the process of writing, I learn, evolve, grow older. During the writing of a book, I’m obliged to answer lots of questions and to dig deep into myself in order to understand the why’s. Poet T. S. Eliot ‘s lines ring true for me: And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And to know the place for the first time.



“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” –Rumi

With no new immediate deadline looming on a new project, I sit in my garden and write about these feelings in my journal. I watch the bees forage on the lavender and the scrub jays feed on the sunflowers that have become massive seed heads. The dry seed heads hang low on ten-foot stalks now that it’s September. The water falling from the Italian fountain coos a quiet lullaby. Breezes cool my face. Sitting, observing,and journaling is how I knit myself into wholeness again. In nature and silence and over time, I begin to feel the impulses calling me to a new beginning. I scribble out a title, describe a character, write down a name. So . . . the cycle to start a new story begins anew.