Mae’s acoustic version of Giving It Away has long been among my favorite songs. The scene that this song reflects wasn’t in the initial outline of Love Starved, but as soon as I started writing it, I had this melody in my head.
It’s a realization I keep having over and over again – and really, maybe I should hold onto what I know already instead of trying to reinvent the wheel – that momentum is a huge deal for my writing process. And by huge, I mean able to derail it for weeks.
I need to write every day. Rain or shine, week day or weekend, sick or travelling, I need at least an hour when I am able to focus exclusively on writing. Even if I’m tired or distracted, even if I end up writing 350 words and deleting them all the next day, I need to sit down and do it anyway. Otherwise, with every skipped day it’s getting harder to write anything at all, to get my mind into the writing groove. It’s like the words are a train: once I get them going and keep them going by regularly shoveling more in, they flow smoothly, and faster with every passing day. If I let them dribble to a stop, it’s a whole big affair and a lot of effort to get them moving again later.
I know that. And yet, I keep letting other things come first – because “I don’t feel like writing today,” or family is visiting so it’s rude to leave them alone to write, or I’ve had a busy day and am tired, or my anxiety is flaring and I don’t feel mentally capable of focusing. But every single time, I regret it later, because the effort of just sitting down and doing it would have been tiny compared with restarting the momentum, which is like walking against strong wind. In knee-deep snow. Not to mention, I always feel happier and more balanced, mentally, when I do write every day. So that’s a bonus, too.
I know it’s not the same for everyone – some people need their weekends away from the words, or thrive on writing sporadically but in huge leaps, or prefer to scribble for a few minutes here and there rather than sit down an focus for hours. This is the way that works for me, though, and maybe by writing it down here, I will finally use that knowledge the next time I try to say “meh, not today.”
A theme of past experiences and how they shape and affect our lives as well as our outlooks is a recurring one throughout Love Starved. This song, Taylor Swift’s Innocent, sat in my inspiration playlist for ages, waiting for this particular story to grow from the little plot bunny into something real. Now that the novel is completed, polished and ready to fly into the world, I love how perfectly this song fits.
Perfect by Alanis Morissette is one of those songs that I’ve known and loved for years – decades, really, since it came out in 1995, when I was a teenager. It’s been on the Love Starved playlist from the very first outline of the story.
I am waiting for your book with baited breath. What was your inspiration for Love Starved?
Thank you! (And let me tell you, seeing the words “your book” still gets my heart all fluttery…)
Let’s talk inspiration 🙂
Love Starved, like so many of my other ideas, was born from a random plot bunny that got stuck in my head and grew into something much bigger than I ever expected. In this case, what sparked the fire was a single sentence I saw somewhere on the internet, years ago: Show me what it’s like to feel loved.
“Aw, what a sweet sentiment,” I thought, and scrolled past to other shiny things.
But the little bunny was persistent. Over months and years, it kept popping up occasionally, bringing plot suggestions along:
“So, how about two young people in their first serious relationship?”
“Too vague? Okay, what if one of them has never been loved?”
“Or, you know what, let’s give one of them some bad past experiences, how about that?”
“Nothing? Really? So what would be the weirdest situation for such a request?”
It took years; the sentence sat in my inspiration folder and on my “to-write” board, the plot simmering and crystallizing somewhere on the back burner, but its time eventually came when I decided it needed an original, not fanfiction setting. I took it out, dusted it off and lovingly weaved it into a story about a disenchanted romantic, an escort who prides himself on fulfilling every fantasy, and an impossible, desperate request: Show me what it’s like to feel loved.
Safe and Sound is a Taylor Swift’s song, but I first heard it as a cover – this cover, by Tiffany Alvord and Megan Nicole – a couple of years ago, and I have a soft spot for this version.
Love Starved is a bit of a roller-coaster – sweet moments intertwined with heartache, hurt with comfort. This is a song I had on repeat while writing one of the most emotional and satisfying scenes in the book. It’s all about trust, about letting someone in…
A few weeks ago, I started posting what I call “daily plot bunnies” on my Twitter. (Almost) every day, I tweet about little things that have caught my attention and given me a spark of inspiration on that particular day: some words I heard or read, a thought, a picture, a song, anything. I tag them with #DailyPlotBunny.
These are not things I’m working on right now, nor are they direct story prompts. Plot bunnies are more like story seeds, except I do visualize them as bouncy, wiggly little creatures, very much alive, that grow and move around and have minds of their own. Sometimes they meet other bunnies they like and they breed, creating a herd. (A fluffle. It’s totally called a fluffle, at least in parts of Canada. How cute is that? I want to move to Canada.) If you’re not careful, said fluffle may then take over your brain, monopolizing your attention and feeding you bits of plot and flashes of characters until all you can think of is the story they brought you. Or at least, that’s how it works for me. It’s a delight, really.
So, catching the bunnies!
Typically, when I post a daily plot bunny on Twitter, I can already see several potential stories trying to unspool from it. And that’s just me, and just in that short moment. I can’t even begin to imagine all the things other people could come up with. It’s raw potential, nothing defined. A seed.
Like, for example: “A four-year-old happily telling everyone on a playground their full name and address” could become a meet-cutie love story about single parents meeting on a playground thanks to their respective children, but it could just as well turn into a kidnapping drama, or a fantasy story where real names are magic.
“Sleep well, love. I’ll be right outside your window, guarding your dreams” can be something sweet and tender, or a nightmare. It could find its way to a romance or a tale of supernatural, or – why not – a horror short story.
And a picture or a song can be interpreted and reinterpreted in dozens of ways, each one an inspiration. I can’t count all the times I’ve excitedly shared some lyrics or a photo with a friend, buzzing with ideas and newly-hatched plot bunnies, only to hear that it gave them completely different ones. (And then there is always much brainstorming and bouncing ideas around. Rolling around in them. So much fun.)
So, this is how inspiration works for me – it’s everywhere, it has a life of its own, and it multiplies when it’s shared with other creative people. What is it like for you?
If I were to choose the song that affected me most when I was writing Love Starved, this would be it. I’ve listened to it countless times, rewatched the music video time and again, and it still never fails to strike a chord.
Adam Lambert again.
Adam Lambert was one of a few artists I was listening to on repeat while writing Love Starved. Some of his songs influenced the plot or the mood, and the three that are on this playlist served as direct inspiration for scenes that I ended up writing (and loving every minute of it).
(It’s a fun coincidence that it’s time for the first of these three songs today, because tonight I’m going to see Queen and Adam Lambert in concert. So excited!)