Groundbreaking writers and musicians have repeatedly been tagged with History’s Blue Ribbon prize—acclaim that endures even after death. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jane Austen, Freddy Mercury, Margaret Mitchell, L. Frank Baum, Stevie Ray Vaughan and J. R. R. Tolkien all have one important thing in common: they busted through the barriers defining their genres, transforming them and claiming virgin ground. How did they do it?
While none of us may ever pen the next revolutionary novel, you can bust through your personal boundaries, and the first step is to take a hard look at your WIP. Where have you made story decisions that might be formulaic, predictable and stale vanilla? Do your characters have the complexity of Linus and Lucy, or do their depths rival Scarlett O’Hara’s? If your story were a song, would it play like a simple C-Major ditty, Bohemian Rhapsody or something in between?
Once you’ve tagged weak characterization, plot and prose, it’s time to push yourself. But before you sink into deep-think mode, plug into some inspiration. Depending on my mood I might choose Alanis Morissette for cutting lyrics and restive refrains, Nickel Creek for classic tones recast, or Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings soundtrack for pure thematic brilliance. And then I remind myself that even Mozart began each masterpiece with a single note.
Pick one, and begin yours.