Note from Cassandra: I’m over at Lua’s blog today but she has left a great post here for us all to read and enjoy. Thanks Lua for sharing these thoughts with us, and wishing you all the best on your writing journey.
‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’
By Lua Fowles … says Virginia Woolf and I think she has a point. It’s not just women who need a room of their own but I think it goes for all writers; we need solitude, we need quiet and we need a door to shot out the world. The Muse is a strange creature, it wants to be alone with the artist, it requires our full attention to help us put that story on to paper. So basically, yes Virginia, we need a room to develop that idea we have into a novel.
But that makes me wonder- what about before we discover (because lets face it, ideas are discovered not created) the idea of our story? It is necessary to get into our room and close the door once we have the story idea but what are we supposed to do with all that peace, quiet and an empty room when we have no story to tell?
I love the word “frustration”. The dictionary says it means, “a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.” That feeling of dissatisfaction, that impulse to solve the unresolved problems and fulfill our needs is what drives us to tell stories. For me, telling stories is the only way to make sense of this world, to understand myself and others, to stay in balance in this chaotic world. It is the only way that I experience satisfaction and solve my problems. In that case, I suppose, it’s safe to say that I need frustration before I need a bunch of money and a room of my own.
Ideas need to develop “outside the room”. They don’t develop because we’re perfectly satisfied with ourselves and with the world around us, they don’t emerge because we don’t have any issues with the world. They emerge from dissatisfactions and frustrations. Having a room is great, once you have your story idea. Then you can go inside your room and work on it, develop it, make it a masterpiece without any distractions or interference. But before that, to find your idea- you need to go outside and get frustrated a little. No- make that “a lot”. You need to get frustrated, a lot…
Lua Fowles is an aspiring writer from Istanbul Turkey, currently working on her first novel, ‘Closed Eyes, Change of Heart’… On her blog, Bowl of Oranges, she’s talking about the difficult but joyous journey of becoming a writer. She’ll be on her way to the University of Kent to get an MA degree on Creative Writing this September.
Visit Lua’s blog here: http://likeabowloforanges.wordpress.com/
I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.
There are many tools writers need in their writing tool kits. Admittedly, mine has taken a battering recently and is threatening open rebellion. It probably goes without saying that a basic understanding of grammar and plot structure should be swimming somewhere amongst the collection of skills a writer has gathered in their time. I say probably because there are a few people who feel that this is an optional extra and as every tool kit is unique, you never know what you may, or may not, find in one.
Below is a list of things I’ve added to my tool kit that I have found invaluable.
- Binary Oppositions – I’m a fantasy writer. At the heart of so many fantasy stories, there is a duel between opposing elements (usually good and evil). I try to avoid this, as I have always found the world to be a far more complex place, however a basic understanding of the principle of opposing ideas is something I think every writer needs. As far as creating conflict, and giving people motivation, binary oppositions are useful in almost every genre.
- Bookmarks – This is one I will always kick myself for not utilising earlier. I never used to bookmark websites. If I found a really good one I would manually record the site, but that was as far as it went. I probably lost a lot of really informative sites that way. Now, bookmarking is something I couldn’t work without. And using folders correctly to file my bookmarks, so I remember what the site is about and why I bookmarked it. Saves me hours in search time trying to find information I already located.
- Trivia – Similar to bookmarks. It is amazing what some of your characters can know, if only you know it first. Besides, I find that small details add to the believability of characters and settings as a whole, so random facts can sometimes come in very handy. Unfortunately, when writing in a fantasy setting most of the trivia needs to be made up for the specific world, and you need to record it in someway so you don’t end up contradicting yourself.
- Time Management – A definite necessity for any writer. Particularly the yet to be published writer who is probably working in a different profession and is not yet really being taken seriously by family and friends so making time to write can be tricky. (Note that I said making time to write, not finding.) Using a diary, setting out blocks of writing time, and prioritising activities are all absolute essentials for writers and need to be a skill added to the tool kit.
- Speed/Skim Reading – Not necessarily an essential, but if I was working on a project and have since abandoned it, and then suddenly been completely inspired, returning to the project can be quite difficult. Particularly if I don’t recall all of the nitty-gritty details, and particularly if – like most of my projects – the outline I wrote at the beginning was rendered useless by my creative diversions in the plot. Reading the entire project could take days and by them whatever flash of inspiration will probably have withered with neglect and died, so skim reading to get myself up to speed within about twenty minutes is essential. Get the inspiration down, then skim through again to see if it fits.
- Dictionaries of everything – Actual dictionaries, dictionary of first names, dictionary of place names, dictionary of popular foods, dictionary of obscure herbs, dictionary of religious terminology… On and on the list goes. Collect and store for future use. My favourite at the moment is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, but the Claremont’s Dictionary of First Names (pocket sized) has a permanent place on the shelf under my computer desk. Dictionaries are the best, quick reference tool for any writer and the more you have, the easier life can be.
- Friends and Family – Remember what I said before about friends and family taking time, so worth it. Even if it does eat in to writing time, friends and family are an invaluable part of the tool kit. They give you inspiration, encouragement, at times outlines for characters, dialogue, reasons to get away from the computer and into the world, editing assistance, audience assistance, sound boarding, etc, etc…
That was a peek in my tool kit. I would really love to know what is in yours.
And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.
Lua Fowles on Bowl of Oranges wrote a post about how to annoy a rookie writer which was an excellent read. I particularly like her second point where someone suggests to her that she should write about their friend who is cool. I love her response to that.
A couple of days ago I was ‘offered’ a kind story suggestion from someone. They’d made a comment about time travel, or gaps in time, or something that I hadn’t particularly listened to. Anyway, the next thing I know they are telling me I can use this for an idea in my next story.
They thought they were being helpful but I considered it this way. If I go to a restaurant with a mixed bag of groceries, march into the kitchen and drop them on the work bench before announcing, “You can use these to make a meal”, am I being helpful or annoying?
At the time I simply pointed out that time travel wasn’t really my thing because it leant itself far more to science fiction than to fantasy (though it is used in fantasy and quite well but I don’t really want to deal with overcoming paradoxes and the like so I’ll leave time travel to others for now). I additionally pointed out that I’m in the middle of a project at the moment and won’t be thinking about a next story for several months at least with the project I’m working on and projects I already have written but need to do some serious editing work on.
I didn’t get annoyed by this. They thought it was a great idea and maybe it had been a great idea (I probably should listen better to people). They weren’t being condescending or rude or anything like that. They just weren’t very helpful.
I’m the cook and I already went out and found my ingredients after pouring through all the recipes I might have considered. I’ve already done the prep work and cut up all the ingredients and half of them are in the pot cooking. And having gone through the bag that I was delivered I don’t even know a recipe I can cook with that particular combination of food stuffs so I’m really unlikely to use them.
The problem here was that as a non-writer this person didn’t really get the time and dedication required to work on an idea. To them, here is an idea, write the story, done. The thought that I wasn’t looking for new ideas and didn’t really want that idea hadn’t really occurred to him.
Do people do this to you? How do you deal with ‘helpful’ suggestions?
I am constantly asking questions. “What if” is my favourite question because it usually means I am chasing down a new plot or idea for a story. “Why” bugs me a little because it means that I’ve just written something illogical and I am now trying desperately hard to rationalise it but ultimately I’m going to have to scrap the idea and try something else because if I’m asking why it means no one else is ever going to understand what I was thinking. Wow, that was a long sentence.
What if can be a great game. It can be productive. It can be entertaining. It can get your mind to move away from all those boxed in ideas you think have to be and start you thinking about something fresh and new.
Another fun game is “If I were a…” Part of the fun comes from understanding yourself, but I like to play this game with my characters as well. It helps me to realise what I know and don’t know about them.
If I were a flower what kind would I be? I’d probably say I am lavender but many will disagree. I’m choosing lavender because it is tougher than it looks but needs to be handled with care. If I were to answer the same question for one of my characters would I know what to say?
What is your favourite ‘if I were’ question?
If you were a flower what sort would you be?