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Do you have a passion for zombies?


This one is easy – without passion, words are just words. Done.

Think about that for a moment. The passion in a story or for a story is what makes it come alive for the writer AND the reader. A reader can easily pick up whether the writer enjoyed creating that story or not.

Let’s say someone comes up to you and says – “I have the best idea for a story. There is a doctor who plays with DNA in his spare time. He ends up making the new strand of DNA that will bring people back from the dead. He scraps the project but then someone dies on the operating table. Distraught, he tries out the DNA strand and it works! The person comes back. And she is fine. No problems. 

A few months later, she starts having terrible dreams. She starts acting really strange. When she sleeps, she walks. She digs up a dead body, puts her blood on it – and that one comes to life. Ut-oh. Soon, the world is cluttered with these normal-by-day-killer-by-night zombie things.”

Then that person says – “You’re a writer, you’ll figure it out.”

Is that a good story? Sure. And the writer who is passionate about thrillers, horrors, science, and zombies would be able to take the idea and cut the fat off it and expand the good parts and probably a great story. For me? Not a chance in hell.

I don’t know enough about DNA to write about it. And why would I want to write about zombies? I enjoy a good zombie book or flick as the next guy, but why bother writing the same story again and again?

My point there is that if you, as the writer, can’t get behind the story, then don’t write it. Your passion as a writer comes across to the entire audience. And that audience includes agents, publishers, etc.

I’ve seen many times where a person is upset because they have a book written and can’t get an agent. Then if I ask them what the book is about – they stumble on a million words. If I ask them where the story came from – they tell me, they decided to write a book. Quickly, I can pick up if they have passion or not. And if I can, so can an agent. 

Some think of a story in the grocery line – which is great – and then hurry, write a book, and expect it to appear everywhere. The truth is, when you start that story, you need to step into the story. You need to find parts of it in your own life – and again, enter the story.

I remember driving down the street in my town and stopping at a red light. I looked around and decided that the little section where all the streets met would be my town in my book. I pictured my characters walking down the sidewalk – I absorbed each building and the atmosphere. By the time the light turned green, I felt like I was in my own book.

Passion is what makes things work – whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, writer, musician, accountant, vet, mother, father, engineer – the passion is what it’s all about. I am sure out of that list, everyone can pick one grumpy doctor, lawyer, etc. and one nice one. Those that are nice are the ones who have the passion for it.

So please don’t write about the DNA-changing-zombie-night-killers story because you think it’s “good” and will make “money”. Write about it if you feel it’s the story to tell at that time because if your passion comes across through the words, then yes, the story will work.

 

Jim

 

http://JimWisneski.com

 

The. . . Story. . .


The story.

Those two words can be very intimidating to a writer. They are to me. My story happened so fast in my head that when I thought about actually writing it, there were some major holes. That is fine – it is expected. If you plot out the entire story beginning to end in your head before writing, that is fine also. I prefer to write because you never what will happen.

As mentioned in earlier posts, I had my story originally thought to take place in Pennsylvania. As I started writing, I realized this story needed to travel. Next thing I know, I’m in a small town in Florida back to Pennsylvania over to New York City and then back again to Pennsylvania.

But it worked.

For the actual story, there is no wrong way to approach it. You can just start writing and see what happens or you can plan out each part. For me, I write. I let the idea grow, let my mind expand, and try to get caught up in the story. I think planning the story to the last detail before writing it makes it somehow robotic and loses meaning. Call me crazy, but writing has to have passion to it. 

If you as the writer don’t feel the story, how can the reader? (And personally, that is why I think some writer’s never get published; they think they have a great story, but no passion behind it.)

Writing gets everything in motion. And when things get in motion, you never know where it will end up. That’s why I simply just write. I do take notes, I do talk into a tape recorder if I have jumbled thoughts – or I’m driving. I have tried to structure my story, but mostly, I just wrote it. When I’m the middle of an important scene, I can picture the outcome three chapters later and then build up to that. 

Here’s an example: in my novel, my lead character Jerry decides to make peace with his father. They never hated each other, they just didn’t get along. His father, John, came from the “do what your Daddy has done” mentality and Jerry is a free thinker who wanted money – mostly to share with his father.

Behind John’s words, stare, and so-called mean demeanor, there is a loveable man and the personality that Jerry inherited. Instead of saying it, I showed up. And when Jerry arrives, after the first small conversation he and his father had, I knew what to do. The story took life out of my control. I was a passenger at that point.

I had the entire time Jerry was there build up slowly until everything boils over. When the two men are nose to nose – almost ready to fight each other – the entire situation breaks and ends with both men soaked, laughing, and hugging. And it worked because it showed how both men were stubborn but desperate for each others affection.

For tomorrow, it will be all about the passion of the story.

 

Jim

 

http://www.JimWisneski.com

 

It's all about the story!


Monday – we meet again. Now, it’s time for the story. Seems simple, right? The story. It’s what you’re telling – it’s the meat and potatoes of what you are doing. But what is the story? Where did it come from? Where is it going?

Most stories, at least in my case, come from a small happening in our lives or begin with a tiny idea. Some writers will grow that idea over time and finally put the pen to paper. Others will jump at the idea of a new idea and start penning it right away. Personally, I’m option two. The second something tickles my brain, I write it down. I do this because it needs to be done! If I don’t, I run a high risk of losing the idea – not cool at all.

Did you know the story of how Stephen King’s Carrie became a novel? Please note, this is taken directly from On Writing. He was cleaning a women’s bathroom with another person. He noticed the dispenser for that one certain female product needed once a month. The other person made an off color comment about it that stuck with Stephen King. Boom – he has an idea. Then a little bit later, he hears that young girls in their teens may have telekinetic powers for whatever reasons. And there began Carrie.

My story for example. I was brushing my teeth one morning. I was thinking about how I just got my hours cut fifty percent. I thought about how hard I worked in college, how I perfected my interview with the company that just screwed me, and how much of a failure I felt that I was now struggling to pay the rent and feed my wife and then four month old son. 

I thought back to high school, to graduating, to moving out of my parent’s house two weeks after graduation and how I vowed to make something of myself. I wouldn’t get sucked into the area I lived in and be there forever. Then I had an idea – a story about a guy who loses his company and turns around to find that nobody is there to help him. And the worst part – it was his fault because he pushed them away.

With globs of Colgate hanging from my lips, I had to quickly clean up and start writing the idea down.

Four months later, I have just finished my second edit – and ready to start my third edit which includes my wife’s notes.

The story, like most stories, just happens. They just pop in our minds and we start writing. Sure, there are breaks and blocks and holes along the way, but the idea to just start writing and see what happens. 

Tomorrow, I will get into the structure of the story – do you write it out until it works? Or do you stop and plot out each part?

 

Jim

http://www.jimwisneski.com

 

(Thoughts on the blog? Email me at: Jim@jimwisneski.com)

 

 

 

Actions Speak Louder Than Words. . .


As a “new” writer, I am often amazed at the art of editing almost more than the art of writing. Like most new writer’s, I just assumed that you write and it’s done. Sure, there may be some misspellings and such – but wow, when you really get into a story, editing becomes a very intricate task. There are so many variables to consider – the pace, the theme, the structure, the dialogue, the character description . . . whew!

One thing that I have learned and one of the biggest things I see, catch, fix, edit, etc. is the action of a character. As the old saying goes – “actions speak louder than words”. That holds true with writing. Show the character – not tell. 

Here’s an example:

“No,” Bob said with an angry tone.

Not too bad.

“No!” Bob screamed angrily.

Okay – getting there.

“No!” Bob screamed as he threw his glass against the wall.

Much better. The action does it. You don’t have to put that he is angry – you get it. The exclamation point shows he is putting force behind saying the word No and then of course, the action of throwing the glass. If you use the first two then you have a lot of empty space to fill in with maybe words, maybe descriptions, but is it going to have feeling?

With the third one – the writer can then explain as Bob took heavy breaths as the vodka from his shattered glass trickled down the wall. You can build more suspense to the scene – more action – and make it more believable. 

The reason why is because it is easier to “see” a scene than to tell it. If I tell you that Bob is angry, what does that mean? Does he get quiet? Does he yell? Does he turn red? Does he just walk away and meditate? Does he cry? And what’s an angry tone? Deep? Screechy? Loud? Quiet?

There are too many unanswered questions.

Here is another example – take the scene from the movie American Beauty where Kevin Spacey and his family are having dinner. They are all arguing and he is asking to pass the asparagus. Writing this you can say that his voice got louder – he was mad. But it gets nothing; just like in the movie. What finally breaks it up is him walking over to the asparagus and throwing the plate against the wall. He stands there wide eyed along with his family – now he has their attention.

Action!

That’s what it’s all about. If someone throws something against the wall, they mean business. Especially if it’s their own glass and their own house because then it’s their mess to clean up. 

Here’s another example:

“I like you,” Jason said to Heather.

Eh – cliché.

With his mouth dry, Jason finally said it: “I like you, Heather.”

Okay.

Jason opened his mouth to finally confess to Heather that he likes her, but instead he leaned in and kissed her.

There it is.

Again, why have the words. We get it there. The action makes it work. And the reason why is because we have all been there – you like someone, you can’t say it, and then that wave comes over and BAM! you kiss the person.

I am satisfied that so far most of my story has had great action to it – but there are some parts where there were too many unnecessary words. And that is probably one of the biggest problems with writers – we write, we love words, but there could be too many words.

With another week ending, I wish the world a great weekend – Monday will be here soon enough!

 

Jim

 

http://jimwisneski.com/

Writing to write


There is a transition I keep making from editing to writing back to editing. . . back to writing. I know I had mentioned it before, but I find it interesting how sometimes I can sit at blank page for hours with nothing to offer, but when I’m on page 135 of my manuscript trying to figure out what the characters are really feeling, I get an idea for a story. And I can’t ignore it.

Just to give a brief example, once I was done with the novel, I took a break for a few days from it. Of course I hurried and ordered two copies – just seeing it in print made me thrilled. As it sat on my desk, I figured that since the “big” story was out of the way, it’s time to write some short stories and get some things published. You know, lay the “groundwork”.

Nothing came into my mind.

The only thing that floated around was the small holes in my novel that I knew were there. It would be like being a chef and your last plate of food you send out cold and then leave. It would bother you all night. 

But wait – finally, something came into my head. Another novel idea. Then another. And finally, one more. And to be honest, I ran these ideas by my “boss” – my wife – and she loved them. 

Now, if there is one thing I can reveal about myself that you wouldn’t know unless you’ve met me is that I want to do everything at once. My wife however acts as my buffer and keeps me from going crazy. She recommended that I stick with “one thing at a time” – I hate that saying. But she was right. So I jotted down the ideas and will get to them later. 

After actually relaxing for a couple days – no writing, no reading – I felt ready to start editing. Well, soon as my pencil touched, I had an idea. For a little horror story. Then another story came about that turned into my personal favorite short story ever. 

Then I secretly started to hand write another novel – my attempt to create a story and characters that can turn into a series. 

I know – too much at once! But it’s me and it’s what keeps me going. My idea, my creed has always been to JUST WRITE. No matter what. If it’s bad, there is a delete key. If it’s handwritten, there’s a paper shredder. But I personally do not throw anything out. Bad writing may have something in it to be used. It may be a sentence, a character, an idea – whatever – but all writing should have something useful in it.

For example – here’s a good one – I started a story a couple years ago about a lady who was forced to go on vacation. She just got done capturing a serial killer and the FBI decided she needed a break. She was a tough-chick-cop. My plan was to have her go to Aruba and the killer escape jail and find her in Aruba and get her. Then, the ending would be the FBI setting her up. Awesome, right? Not really. There was too much fluff in the story and I ended up with two pages typed and I myself was bored. I didn’t throw it out though. And here’s why.

On the plane ride to Aruba, she is seated next to man. His name is Jerry – he lives in New York City – he is in finance. . . sound familiar??? It was the basic version of my lead character from my novel. Just like that, that terrible piece of writing became great. I had this character in my mind for years and was finally able to put him to good use in a bigger way than I ever thought I would. He commanded a small section of that “FBI-cover-up-in-Aruba” thing I tried writing, but he commanded an entire novel as the lead character.

Finally, my point again is to just write. No matter what. No matter when. And if your wife, husband, or writing “boss” (as I call it) tells you that you are trying to work on too much – just sneak around then and write! I’m kidding! Always listen to those around you. . . but if you have that one idea that you can’t get out of your mind, write it down and go back to editing. And speaking of editing, that’s where I’m heading now!

 

I wrote a short story about my writing – click the link to go to my site and please check it out!  The story is called NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.
http://www.jimwisneski.com/writings.html



Jim-

http://www.jimwisneski.com/

Another story published!


Just had to brag for one second!
Another one of my short stories was accepted to be published.  It is one of my thriller stories titled NIGHT SOLDIER.

It is featured on the Flashes in the Dark web site - please check it out and throw me some feedback!

Here is the link:

http://flashesinthedark.com/



Jim@JimWisneski.com
JimWisneski.com

Keep It Movin'. . .


This will probably be more of an extensive from yesterday than a stand alone blog – but that’s okay. 

Another major element that writer’s battle whether they want realize they do it or not is the pace of a story. The pace is what makes the reader read 10 pages a day or 100. You may have the greatest story in the world, but if the pace doesn’t work, the reader may take a long time to read it. Is that a bad thing? That depends on how you look at it. If you’re pace moves quickly and the reader is hooked, they will want to buy more of your books. 

The pace can be designed to leave the reader hanging each chapter, or could just be filled it non stop action – regardless of genre. Another fun thing is to build one character or scene and then move on leaving the reading want to know what happens. But then they are sucked into the next scene.

Personally, I love working with the pace. I love through curves and twists in the story to keep the reader wanting to read. Right from the first chapter in my book, the pace is fast. My lead character decides to make some sudden changes. He reasons are good, his thoughts are jumbled, and he takes action. Then after chapter two, the reader (hopefully) is looking forward to chapter three when the lead character finally makes that move – only to read chapters three as it introduces another character. 

Then I have a few chapters that bounce from Pennsylvania to Florida. One character is in Florida and at the end of the one chapter, something happens. The reader turns the page only to find themselves back in Pennsylvania hopefully saying “Oh yea, I wonder happens here. I almost forgot that. . .”

This is the pace. The reader now gets through the next chapter and I give closure with the first problem. Now we shoot back to Florida and give closure again. Almost satisfied, another MAJOR action happens and the character in Florida has to come back to Pennsylvania. The reader takes a breath, rubs their eyes, and desperately wants to read the next chapter to find out what happens.

If I may pick one author who master’s this – Dean Koontz. I have never in my life read books so fast when I’m reading Dean Koontz. Sometimes I wonder if there are only a few words in 50 pt font! He builds up two or three chapters slowly and then satisfies the reader. But of course, there is always that last sentence that sucks you right back in and you’re starting a new chapter. 

I have found myself getting so lost that hours go by. Some of his novels are designed to fast paced action. My novel rather I hope to achieve a smooth pace. I wouldn’t want to go to fast and have readers miss out on the subtext of the story and things that happen. 

It’s Wednesday – Hump Day – Half Way There Day – Third Day of the Week Day – Only Two More Days Left After Today Day. . . well, you get the point! Enjoy it while it’s heart!

Then it all comes together. . .


Writing is a funny thing. So is editing. And then so is editing again and again – and finally reading as if you were a reader for the first time. 

To me if you have a good piece of writing, you – meaning the author - can’t put it down. Yea, you know that Johnnie gets the girl in Chapter 15, but you want to read it again and again. If you achieve that, you may have something. 

Then something else can (and should) occur that will boost confidence in the story. And that is when your story begins to not just take off but everything is in line. What I mean by that is things you have written, minor details, follow the story much later and sound great. 

I found this happening numerous times for me which meant that the idea was so strong in my mind that subconsciously I was pumping out details that would match the story and previous details. It could hair color, scenery, etc. but when it happens, it’s amazing. And sometimes it the minor details that can help a story come to life. If you write that Johnnie had blue eyes, okay, you can picture blue eyes. But what if in Chapter 15 when he gets his girl she remarks about his blue eyes. The detail followed through the story and it now comes from another character. Sure, that may be a bad example, but it’s the first that popped into my mind.

For me, it more character definition and action that really let me book come alive and become believable. And you have to understand again how the structure of my book went. I wrote what was the ending first. Then I went back and entered my characters. Then I filled in the middle. And finally decided to extend it with a much better ending. So when I was writing the first ending, I had these characters saying and doing things that I wasn’t sure made sense. But for some reason, that ending was burning in me so I got it out of my system first.

Then I left it alone. I moved on to the beginning. I had my characters enter and slowly they began to interact with each other. Then my middle came and finally my “real” ending. But what happened when I read the book was that the actions my characters were taking – or the way they were talking in my first ending – matched perfectly with my description of them. And I did not – repeat NOT – have this chapter available when I started the beginning of the book. 

I sat in a chair and said – okay, I need a guy who just lost his company. He gave up everything he had for the company. And now he decides to go back and see where he went wrong and how he can fix it. Okay. Then I entered a woman, etc.

BUT the descriptions, their actions, and the way they talked flowed with the descriptions, actions, and conversation at the end which left me feeling pretty good about what I had written.

I really expected to get to the first ending and have to pencil out TONS of information – I was expected to see Amy’s hair being purple when in Chapter 3 is was brown. But in my own little twist of fate, it worked, looked great, and I couldn’t even tell where I began the story the first time because of how well it worked with the rest of it.

So the notion is simple when it comes to writing – just write. And that is the best thing to do because the story will mold itself. Yes, I did have a lot of “junk” that needed to be removed from my novel through its first and second edit, but the overall storyline held strong and the characters came to life more and more and didn’t require much editing at all. 

Enjoy your Tuesday – only a few more days until Friday again! Now that’s wishful thinking!

It's Monday and I'm tired. . .


Editing.
Need I say anymore?
I'll be the first to admit that I am not a pro when it comes to editing, but I am in the mix of it right now learning more than I ever thought I would.  I have edited short stories before and of course my college papers.  Just from those papers alone, you think I would be a pro.  But there is a major difference between writing about the predicted financial state of a Fortune 500 company and trying to make sure your character comes to life at the right time with the right words.
Editing is tricky because as the writer, we already know what we want to happen and how it happens.  So if we forget minor details on paper, our minds will throw them in and voila, we've got a great story.  Not quite.  I've been using an editing strategy that so fars works and I hope it will continue to do so.
As soon as I was done with the book, I mean typing it, I ordered two copies of it.  I picked up the copies and I stared at them.  I flipped to random pages, read two sentences and thought - I did this!  I wrote this!  Look at me!  I gave one copy to my wife and she did the same thing, praising me on an accomplishment.  But I always said through the hours of writing that the writing was going to be easy part.  And it was.

I sat on the book, not literally, for a few days. I didn’t want to finish the book and begin editing it to soon. The reason is that my feelings were so satisfied with just finishing the book that I didn’t want that to transfer into editing. If I did that, then the book would have two or three pencils marks, instead of the zillion it should have. 

My wife took her copy of the book to read and edit and I took mine. I figured if there is one person and opinion I trust with my life, it’s hers. And if there is one person I can disagree with and argue with about a sentence until the sun comes up, it’s her. AND, the most important fact, if there is one person who will argue with me about my own writing because they feel that passionate about it too – it’s her. And that person is very important because I can say now that I have sneaked a peek at her editing – just on the first chapter – and she caught at least three or four different things that I missed. And the reason why is because my mind filled in the blanks because it knew the story. Her mind doesn’t know the whole story and she reads a sentence that doesn’t make sense, her mind can’t fill it in. 

I have already finished my first edit of the book. I found tons of little errors and one hole the size of a tunnel waiting to be found and chewed up and spit out by the world. I was able to come up with a great fix that actually made my story tighter. And I gave my wife the courtesy of a heads-up on it so she didn’t waste an entire pencil telling me how it didn’t make sense. 

The other important thing about editing is that for a novel you will find repetitive things. While reading my book, all my characters did was cry. It got pathetic!  Finally, I made note that while editing to just take out all the tears. The reason why I did this is because as I was writing the book in sections, any emotional parts I just jumped the gun and stuck someone weeping to create the mood. But when the writing was placed all together as the novel it is, the mood was already set in those places by the preceding chapters and events. The crying, tears, and weeping actually killed the mood!

Now, I am halfway done with my second edit. This is where I take the notes I made and put them in electronic version and read it as I change it to make sure it all makes sense. When I’m done with that, I will have another edit, which is my wife’s edit. This will finally put everything together and hopefully once that is done, I can order another copy, read it through, and be satisfied. 

In between these blocks of editing, I stop when needed. If the words become jumbled, it I am focusing on the chip in the corner of the dining room table, or I just assume everything sounds good – I stop. I move to something else for a little while. If I don’t give editing my full attention, then the words will stay as an unedited manuscript and I will be forever stuck throwing darts at a wall with jobs written on pieces of paper on it contemplating my career. Now that’s a nightmare!

In between these little breaks, sparks of creativity have occurred. I wrote my best short story ever – yes, I am making that claim. It is the most heart felt short story I have ever done and as I passed it along to my friends and family to read, they all needed tissues. That story has been posted on my site, it is titled MEMORIES.

I also wrote a quick 1,000 word horror story that was bugging me. I thought to myself – what if you came home and found a dead body on your porch? Then my mind took over. That story isn’t placed anywhere yet – I’m still editing it. 

But look at those two extremes – emotional heart felt story to random horror story. What this did was free my mind up, took me away from my novel, and allowed me to edit better.

Finally, I started another novel. I started handwriting it. Not sure if it will go anywhere, but I am penciling down thoughts and characters and scenes as they pop in my brain. Who knows, right?

Editing is a major part of writing. If you go into it with a bad taste, you’re going to come out with a worst taste. AND your work won’t be edited at all. There are two things you need to edit – (1) an understanding that while you may have took tons of time to write something, there will be errors both small and big. FIX THEM. And (2) a person you can trust to read your work and tell you truth. NO MATTER WHAT.

There were a few ideas for stories that I came up with where my wife looked at me as if she were trying to remember a divorce lawyer’s name and phone number because she married not only an idiot, but a crazy man! 

Happy Monday world!

Editing.
Need I say anymore?
I'll be the first to admit that I am not a pro when it comes to editing, but I am in the mix of it right now learning more than I ever thought I would.  I have edited short stories before and of course my college papers.  Just from those papers alone, you think I would be a pro.  But there is a major difference between writing about the predicted financial state of a Fortune 500 company and trying to make sure your character comes to life at the right time with the right words.
Editing is tricky because as the writer, we already know what we want to happen and how it happens.  So if we forget minor details on paper, our minds will throw them in and voila, we've got a great story.  Not quite.  I've been using an editing strategy that so fars works and I hope it will continue to do so.
As soon as I was done with the book, I mean typing it, I ordered two copies of it.  I picked up the copies and I stared at them.  I flipped to random pages, read two sentences and thought - I did this!  I wrote this!  Look at me!  I gave one copy to my wife and she did the same thing, praising me on an accomplishment.  But I always said through the hours of writing that the writing was going to be easy part.  And it was.

The Art of Distraction

Yes, that title is right.  Distraction is an art - if you use the distraction the right way.  Confused?  Good.

Writer's need to read.  They read to enjoy books like the rest of the world, but they also read to see what other writer's are capable of.  Sometimes us writer's read and think - "I can do better than that."  Other times we think - "I can never write like that."  Regardless, we read, we absorb, and we soon become our own machine.
The same could be said for music.  Musicians listen to music.  They have to.  If they don't, how can they learn?  Let me explain my story for a moment.  When I decided to take guitar seriously, I (and I mean this LITERALLY) went to a music store, bought a tablature book for Guns n' Roses, Appetite for Destruction and locked myself in my bedroom for an entire summer.  I listened to the album at least ten times a day and one by one, I learned each song.  And what this did was make me learn how to pick out each guitar part, understand how notes went together to make music - how to play lead, how to do cool things with a guitar, etc.  And if anyone ever asks me how - "How do I learn how to play guitar?" - I tell them one thing:  pick an album you can listen to ten times a day, go get the tab book, and lock yourself in your room for a summer.  Prove your commitment.
Take writing - when I was a kid and I wanted to be a writer, I read Stephen King novels like they were going to vanish.  I remember being in Elementary school watching kids reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle.  Now, to not get me wrong, that book is great.  But when they pulled out that book to read - I had already polished it off over the weekend.  I slid out a fresh copy of Pet Sematary.  Then I became the werid kid who read scary books. 

For me, I write better after I have read.  And I write better music while listening to music.  This is the art of distraction.  When I read, I am focused on two things:  the world the author has created for me and the world I would create if I were reading.  Now, by all means, I do NOT copy what the author is writing.  When I'm reading and all the symbolism, adjectives and descriptions are jumping off the page at me, my own creativity gets lit up and I can't help it.  For example, last night - I was reading Odd Hours by Dean Koontz.  He has a PERFECT scene about fog over taking a town.  It actually made me shiver.  As this is happening, in the back of my mind, I start to create this character and before I know it, I'm planning potentially a novel about this character and his steps through life with funny true stories about mine.  Is that anything like Odd Hours?  No.  It's just that my creative juices started flowing.  The only thing that could is related is that I thought about writing this character through first person, which is something I have never done before.
Same thing with music.  I will put Springsteen on - or Zeppelin - or Gn'R - and let the volume lower.  Then I'll grab my guitar and start strumming and before I know it, I have a new song.  And I guarantee you it is not the one I was listening too.  Yesterday again - I want to learn how to play harmonica so I can cover Springsteen songs.  My new trick is to play my harmonica while driving to and from work along with Springsteen songs.  Safe?  NO.  Fun?  YES. 
Yesterday, I let the live version of Sandy play while I strummed along.  Then I walked away to where the song was only a dull roar and started playing a song I thought of.  I never liked it too much, but when I threw some harmonica to it - it came to life.  Before I knew it, I turned off Springsteen and was walking around the upstairs playing my own song over and over again.

My point with all this is that as writer's, we need to read just as much as we write.  And we need to read a variety of stuff.  I personally force myself to read at least one book I can't stand every two months.  I do this because I want to get a perception from EVERYONE.  If were up to me, I would read nothing but Dean Koontz.  He is my favorite author.  BUT, by doing that, I will end up writng Dean Koontz novels.  Not that it's a bad gig - but it's already taken.
So I mix - I add in some classics - Shakespeare, Steinbeck, etc.  I add in some non-fiction books about writing to help me with the craft - and to argue some of the author's statements.  Then, I will sneak over to my wife's books and steal one and read it.  Now, while some of it doesn't flow with me, some of the books do.  And that is where my novel comes from.  It's mixed with everything.  And the reason why is because on my book jacket, I don't want it to have any other author's name but mine.  Sure, reviewers can compare me to Nicholas Sparks because I am a hopeless romantic and it comes across in my book - but I am also passionate about description like Dean Koontz is and a big fan of paragraph structure like Stephen King - and have a way of creating an everday story line that keeps the reader hooked like Steinbeck.
Now, I do not want to be any three of those author's - I want to be Jim Wisneski.  And whether that is a good or bad thing, I don't know yet.  But I don know, it's fun.  It's fun waking up at two in the morning with an idea for a character or scene and lying there awake for a few moments memorizing it so I can pen it the next morning.  It's fun cramming myself inside the hallway near the attic of the apartment to record a new song that probably only a handful of people will listen too and understand.  But all in all - it's fun.  And that's what it's all about.  If you aren't having fun, then STOP.  Stop right now.  Find something that is fun and do it.